haunted houses


Ghost

Ghost (Photo credit: Pétur Gauti)

I have written about how Rob and I are haunted.

In the past I’ve attributed much of the goings on to the house itself. Speculated that it’s perhaps a conduit. But I think more and more that it’s just Rob and I. We attract a lot of – largely unwelcome – contact from “the other side”.

Well-meaning though it is, I myself am weary of the advanced spiritual warning system the departed whom I am closely, and not all that closely, connected to feel I need.

Twice in the last week, I’ve received shout outs.  Literally and by name. From the “beyond”.

Both times it was morning and I was abed. The first occurred after the neighbor woke me – again – when he started up his piece of shit diesel truck so it could idle the necessary 15 minutes before he left for work. Fifteen minutes. From 6:15 AM to 6:30 AM.  I wouldn’t need an alarm if I felt at all inclined to get up 45 minutes earlier than I absolutely have to on a weekday morning.

That morning, as I lay there wishing that the neighbor was working nights this week instead of days, I heard my name.  Rob was curled like a hedgehog to my right and clearly not moved by the sputtering outside, but the voice was on the other side of the bedroom door and not Dee’s though at first I thought it was her and that she was already up and downstairs.

I listened.  Nothing but engine in dire need of a tune-up could be heard.

The second time was just last Thursday.  I woke at 5 AM for reasons best explained by the fact that I am almost 49 and the plumbing is in various stages of being decommissioned.  I am zen about the early awakenings accompanied by sleep loss. It’s temporary – though “temporary” is relative – and I just endure, but on mornings when I begin my day two hours into sleep debt, I generally go back to bed once I have the child on the bus and Rob bundled off to work.

As I snuggled in, I heard a man call out my name in an urgent tone.  Like “hey, pay attention!”.  Which I did but nothing followed.  At first I thought Rob had returned because it sounded like him but then I realized it was my father’s voice.

Thanks, Dad.

The first incident I wrote off to randomness. After all, I’d experienced odd rattling of the blinds in the office a few times over the preceding weeks that amounted to nothing as well.  Sometimes the dear departed are just rattling about aimlessly.  Voices, however, are never without motive.  Ever.  If they bother to put something to vocals, something is up.

I endeavoured to remain calm.  I didn’t mention it to Rob.  He’d had a terrible week that began with semi-competent dentistry and a summons from his cardiologist for his yearly stress test.

“Do you want me to come along?” I asked.

“You can if you want,” he said.

In the back of both of our minds is the example of his sister, LW, whose husband dropped dead during his stress test.

But the second calling spooked me.  Dee was heading off to Girl Guides camp for the weekend and Rob was still recouping from 5 hours of dental surgery/torture/malpractice, and then there are elderly family, my sister’s husband heading out into the wilds of Iowa with a crossbow for the start of hunting season and the fact that the United States seems to be on the verge of imploding.

What the fuck, Dad? You couldn’t clue me as to what to focus on?

But now it is Sunday night.  Dee arrived home from camp with tales of blind people, their dogs and how haunted houses should have “medium” scary settings for children her age, and Rob hasn’t injured himself at all as he reno’d about this weekend.

As far as I know, no one in the family died, and the Frankenstorm might generate enough “love thy neighbor” vibe to curb the American tendency to get a bit “dramatic” in whatever aftermath the election gods – in their perverse way of deciding things – blesses the country with this time.

Voices from … elsewhere … nearly always reveal their intentions within a relatively short frame of time, so I sit with one shoe on the floor and the other waiting to drop from another dimension as though this were a Poltergeist sequel.


Hamlet, I, 5 - Hamlet and the ghost.

Image via Wikipedia

Can’t remember whose theory on dreams and the subconscious gave the most weight to the symbolic nature of the people, objects and situations that make up the scenery of our nightly home movies.

I blame Pat Robertson and the Progressive Left in any case for last night’s visitation regardless.

Normally, my dreams are populated only with people I know and the setting is most often a variation of the town where I attended university or a school building I once worked in. I don’t know why and I haven’t bothered to research what it means or doesn’t.

Dead people seldom have starring roles in my dreams. If the departed do appear, they have cameos at best. But last night, Will showed up, which shouldn’t come as a surprise thanks to the Robertson faux uproar, but I have to be honest – I was surprised because he has only deigned to grace my dreams a handful of times in the past five plus years and never as more than a walk on. Ever.

I was back in school. It was – god help me – the 80’s with  clothing and the hair styles so jarring that I actually commented on it to another character completely out of context to the situation.

I found myself back on Currier E2 in my old corner room (minus the high-strung room-mate) and Will shows up to visit me for the weekend. And you could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the door and it was him. Normally, it’s Rob who rides shot-gun in my dreams. Very seldom do I dream that Rob doesn’t figure at some or all points.

Here’s the odd thing – as if dreams with dead husbands stopping in for visit aren’t odd enough – he was not young. His hair was longer, curled like Dee’s does at the nape, around the ears and that same cowlick that drives her to distraction and salted with gray. His face was lined a bit and his goatee salted as well.

This has happened once before where someone who’s been gone a while showing up in a dream looking his real age. My Uncle Jim popped into a dream not long before Will and I married, looking very much like the 65-year-old man he would have been and not the 39-year-old man he was when he died.

When I asked him what he was doing there, he said,

“I thought I should visit now.”

I had been on my way out to meet friends, but his arrival prompted me to suggest we stay in. He didn’t want me to change plans. He would come along after he changed into a clean shirt.

He was not the 30-year-old I remembered from before the ravages of illness. More solid. A bit thicker and hairy, but not on the order of a grizzly.

Throughout I was aware that he shouldn’t have been there but I got no further explanation from him about why other than he deemed the visit “necessary”. I sorta felt like he was less happy to see me than I was to see him and that the visit wasn’t for pleasure but one of those dutiful things a person does.

He watched me with an appraising sort of look. He seemed tired as though he’d come a long distance to spend time with me, but whatever he’d left behind him was still on his mind. He mentioned at one point that he wouldn’t be able to stay for more than the night. He had to get back. I didn’t ask where or why, and he didn’t volunteer any more information.

I’ve thought about it all day and I can’t figure out why – after all these years – he put in an actual appearance in my dreams. He has never felt the need before. It has a ghost of Hamlet’s father feel to it. Blunted purpose chiding? Perhaps.


Graves at Old Holy Cross Cemetery

Image by Fritz Liess via Flickr

Last Thursday, the ghost tickled the crown of Rob’s head while he stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. Not an “attaboy”. Rob performs housework without the need for warm affirmations or pats on the head. It was a “heads up”.

So, when the call came later that evening to let us know that his uncle had passed away, the ghostliness of the day made sense.

But it was hardly the only sign this month, lights have been on that shouldn’t have been and there was that incidence with the shadow in Dee’s room. For myself personally, it’s been this persistent feeling that someone was going to die soon. It’s caused me no end of anxiety. First with Dee’s class taking a field trip into the city during the icy weather earlier in the month and then Edie and Silver driving through the mountains to and from Vancouver on their vacation.

It’s not as if we didn’t know about Uncle Francis. He had lung cancer and recently went into hospice, but death comes in threes. It just does. What’s true for the rich and (in)famous holds true for we lesser mortals.

This morning I awoke from a bad dream about a dinosaur trying to bite me (long back story that I’ll go into another day) to see Rob sitting up next to me. At least, I thought it was Rob. The room was Devil’s Den cave midnight. I couldn’t see my own hand when I reached up and then had to bring my hand down to find Rob, who was lying down and asleep next to me.

It was frightening. I sat up and noted that there were dark shadows ringing the bed and then I lay down and went back to sleep.

Tonight, we returned home after depositing Rob’s mom and future step-father at a hotel near the airport. They are heading home on an early flight. A message was waiting on the machine from my mother. My Aunt Peach died last night sometime.

You might remember Peach. I’ve written about her before. She would have been 103 this coming March. She was my grandmother’s youngest sister and the last of the Fagan siblings alive.

Gran lived to 94. She might have gone longer but for the dementia. Uncle Fran and Auntie Anna were 102 and 104 respectively when they passed on. The ones that cancer didn’t get young lived to 75 at the youngest and if they didn’t have bad hearts 90 and beyond. Remarkably long-lived, my dad’s relatives. If Dad hadn’t queered the deal with his drinking and smoking, he’d have cleared 100 easy, I’m sure. He still has two siblings – though I fear for not much longer – who are in their mid-80’s.

Will one of them be the third?

I really hope not though I know many folks who would roll their eyes and say that living to extremely ripe to bursting old age is long enough for anyone, so what’s the big deal?

It is a big deal to die, regardless of when. Death is one of the milestones. It represents fruition – which is a big fucking deal – and opportunity, which is nothing to sneeze at either.

Aunt Peach always made me a bit uncomfortable as a child and teen. She was forceful and larger than life though I towered over her even as a 10-year-old.

The last time I saw her was on our visit to Iowa last spring. She was playing bridge. It took us a good twenty minutes to track her down. No one knew where she was though everyone in the nursing home knew who she was.

She gave Dee a doll and probably more of her interest than she’d given me since I was that age myself. She barely acknowledged Rob or my mother, who was with us.

There’s quite the family reunion going on, if I know my dad’s relations – and I do.

I wonder if they are waiting on anyone?


La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

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Halloween once marked the beginning of the holiday season that stretched from October’s end to the New Year.

When I finally became a homeowner in the summer of 1997, I felt free to decorate and celebrate with abandon. I dressed up for Halloween to hand out candies and had pumpkins and lights.

And it only became more awesome when Will and I became a couple the following fall and the tradition of building and working the Jaycee Haunted House began.

I was a Corpse Bride long before Tim Burton thought of it. In a tattered white gown with a purple-streaked black wig, skeleton mask and black leggings, I sprayed my exposed arms with white hairspray and slipped skeletal gloves over my hands to slink along the hallways of a pitch dark maze, scaring the bejeezus out of teenagers.

Hand me a chainsaw (defanged, naturally) and I floored them literally. There is nothing like that revving roar to turn people around and create a terrific panic.

By the time Will was too sick to notice Halloween, there was Dee to consider. While our friends reared their kids in the corridors of the construction of the haunted house and had them running about during the running, Dee has always been too .. tender … for that. Her dad’s illness aside, we would have ended that tradition anyway.

So this naturally shifted to fairy and princess costumes and Trick or Treat. Beggar’s Night it was called in Des Moines. An odd tradition of kids telling jokes for treats and the celebration was never held on the 31st. Don’t ask me why. I tried to ascertain the rationale for shifting it to the 30th but never heard the same explanation and as nearly as I could figure it grew out of a mixture of the rabid Christian culture and a misguided notion that teens would be less inclined toward mayhem if it wasn’t the actual Halloween date.

And then we came to Canada.

The first year I suggested decorating the yard as a cemetery, but Rob wasn’t keen even though he’d once endured the scorn of his Bible thumping Kansas neighbors over a fake cemetery he erected in their yard when the older girls were a bit older than Dee.

Shelley, I am told, loved Halloween and dressing up in elaborate costumes. She’s passed this along to both Edie and Mick. This year, for example, Mick designed and sewed costumes based on Alice in Wonderland. And Mick always had multiple costumes a year as they make the rounds of the various to-do’s in the city.

Dee also has a box of costumes that she adds to every year. She is a huge fan of dress up play anyway and I have done nothing to squelch this instinct. Her scariest costume is a ghost number that I picked up at Walmart a few days after Dad died in ’08 and we Trick or Treated old school suburbia with DNOS, BIL, our two and a gaggle of neighborhood kids.

Day of the Dead, however, is not Halloween. Even Halloween is a corruption if original intent counts for anything.

The 7th grade team I worked with in middle school got it into their heads to construct a cooperative unit around Day of the Dead one year. One of our teachers was enamoured of the Hispanic tradition and being a former nun had more affinity to the November 1st Christian observance than the 31st.

At any rate, we weren’t allowed to celebrate Halloween. Our population had a sizable number of extremely wing-nut Christians. One of the local churches actually bordered scarily on “cult”, so my co-worker pushed the Day of the Dead idea, which is ironic because it is more objectionable than costumes and candies on many levels.

I was lukewarm.

First, it’s a tradition that is not symbolic and one really needs to be raised in it to not find it distasteful and/or morbid. North Americans are death fearing to the point that most of us see death as a personal affront that simply should not happen in our modern times. That death is the natural progression and that much of the early death that occurs is due to modern times collateral damage – we simply don’t want to acknowledge.

Second, I loathed dealing with the family trauma that bubbled like toxic sludge just below the surface of most of our students’ lives. Parents who would be skeptical or hostile and require much coddling and cajoling* also factored into my reluctance.

Finally, Day of the Dead is religious. There is no getting around it and we were a public school. Separation of church and state and all that entails. If we weren’t studying the traditions surrounding death in all cultures in addition to Day of the Dead then what we were doing was highly questionable.

But, we did it anyway.

And it was a minor disaster that dredged up emotional muck, angered some parents, offended the über-Christians and was a small joke to a small segment of the students, who insisted on honoring their dead pets.

Traditions that honor the departed are widespread around the world. The more death-fearing a culture, however, the less likely one is to find them. What one notices instead is a fixation on the grisly and horrific.

When I was young, November 1st was the anti-climax. We went to mass. It was boring in comparison to the evening before which meant running the neighborhoods in costume with hordes of other children, trailed by uninterested parents or older siblings. In my family, the dead were considered honored through masses and living our lives to their full potential. They also endured through the wonderful memories passed along through stories.

So here is one for you:

My dad and his siblings had a couple of horses they shared between them. Co-ownership was not unusual. The family was poor and there were five children. For example, they had a single pair of skis that they took turns with out in the pasture until my dad’s oldest brother collided with a pig and broke the poles.

One of the horse’s was a gray mare named Blue. Dad’s youngest brother, who died when he was 39, took Blue one day when he and a neighbor were heading to the creek – probably the one at my now departed as well Great-Uncle’s place down the road. When they arrived and dismounted, my uncle left Blue standing by a tree.

“Aren’t you going to tie him up?” his friend asked.

“Nah,” he replied and continued walking.

The friend ran to catch up, casting a glance back at the horse which appeared to be content and uninterested in wandering off.

“Well, aren’t you afraid she’ll run off?

To which my uncle said, “Blue’s blind. She don’t even know we’ve left.”

There is no record of what the friend thought about having traversed a good mile up and down hilly fields and narrow dirt paths on a blind horse that my uncle barely bothered to “steer”.

A happy and peaceful day of the dead to you and yours.


I’m betting that Sylvia Brown kicked herself a good one when iTunes started hawking its latest app, a virtual Ouija board.

Satan at one’s fingertips, say some, but with so many of us related to the dead, turning our cellphones into a conduit to the other-side is an improvement over giving us a brain tumor and simply sending us there in person.

Touch screens being a fit made in … the beyond … the Ouija app is a must-have for anyone whose ever stored a loved one’s last voice message. No word on if the two can be interfaced.

The Ouija has a gruesome reputation thanks to Hollywood though Christianity besmirched it first, but whether one believes that the departed can be contacted or not, this app has a creepy feel.

I don’t have a phone that does anything other than be a phone, so I can’t speak to the appeal or use of apps in general, but I can’t imagine why anyone would spend actual money on an app that could potentially unleash poltergeists into their natural habitats – electronics. Doesn’t anyone remember Carol Anne and the television? Spielberg is probably ordering up a new sequel using a touch screen even as I type.

Though, now that I think about it, convincing the spirits that knock around our place to live in one of our cell phones could be a potential winner. If it helps them be less cryptic, I’d be all for it.


Today marked Canada Day, the offspring of the old Dominion Days, here in the other part of America.

No, it’s not like the Fourth of July. Canadians acquired their independence quiet peacefully and not under the pretense of seeking democracy when they really are just peeved about paying taxes.

We attended the parade in Fort Saskatchewan. It started a half hour late and inexplicably broke down and stalled about midway for nearly ten minutes.

Favorite float?

The Paranormal Explorers from Edmonton.

Why yes, that is a hearse with a ghoulie crawling towards the crowd with gaping jaw and menacing intent. But it got even better.

Nothing says “happy observance of your independent nation status” like a zombie baby from Salem’s Lot.

Today’s parade was sponsored by so many businesses that briefly longed with the farm implement laden small town parades of an Iowa 4th of July.

In case you need a bit of ghost busting though,

Edmonton is a hotbed of psychic activity, but they will travel – for expenses.

Final photo for the day,

Parade viewing is exhausting, so if you can  – make up your truck bed and snuggle in with a beverage.

Happy Canada Day!


… I am not sure which.

I mentioned not long ago that the house ghosts are fiddling with the lights again. The one that leads to the basement, the lamps on either side of our bed (though they prefer mine – it’s probably an effect thing as you can’t see mine until you are all the way in the room. Our ghosts have a wicked sense of humor.)

In the last week and a half, I have heard someone call “Mom” in the night which, as any mother will tell you, can rouse one from the deepest slumber to near full battle-stations in less time than it takes to draw in a breath.

Nearly every night since the weekend, I am awakened by footsteps. Either on the stairs going up or down from the main floor or in the landing between the bedrooms.

Last week, my last alone during the day as Dee is now out of school for the summer, the basement was alive with pops and bumps and rattles throughout the morning and then again in the afternoon.

This evening marked the first physical encounter in a while.

Rob had finished folding laundry* and he was leaving the bedroom when he felt something brush along the top of his head. It was substantial enough that he ducked a little and looked up to the door frame to see if anything was hanging from it.

“I thought Dee must have hung a ribbon up there or something,” he told me.

Which is silly in retrospect because Dee is barely four feet tall. Standing on a chair – and there are no chairs upstairs – she still wouldn’t be able to reach the top of the door to hang anything from it.

This comes on the heels of Monday evening when I heard one of the bedroom doors open as I was walking out the back door to check on Rob in the garage. The doors have new knobs, close securely and make a very distinct noise when they are opened or closed. Rob and I have to be very careful when opening or closing bedroom doors when Dee is asleep because the noise is loud enough to wake her.

After I came back in, I walked upstairs to check the status of the bedroom doors. They were both closed earlier. Dee, in fact, has been pretending to lock hers with a key.

Hers was open.

Dee’s room isn’t a hotspot.  Nothing has occurred there since 2007 when something in the corner spooked her enough to call for me in the middle of the night. This was in the midst of our first “get acquainted” with the unseen inhabitants here and to say I was not amused would be playing the incident at a very low key.

I was irate and I gave my late husband a sound verbal “this is your territory buddy, so get on it” lashing.

Most of the time, spirit agitation is tied to impending death. The last rattlings occurred just before my BFF called to let me know that the 11 year old son of my late husband’s best friend, Wally, had tragically died.

But, the ghosties get hopped up by anniversaries. Wedding anniversaries past seem to provoke visitations.

I am weary of the attention and the alerts. Really. I’d rather just be surprised by death like everyone else and the Hallmark rememberances  really aren’t necessary. Really, really.

*Yes, he is a gem.