living in haunted houses


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.

So the house is doing that “manifestation” thing again. It’s a silent one as lights in the basement, hallway and the master bedroom are seemingly turning themselves on.

Oh, sure. It could be forgetfulness. Rob and I are getting on in our forties and Dee is a kid. You know how feeble brained 40 somethings are and kids just think electricity flows as freely as tap water.

But, over the last week, the basement stairs have lit up at least twice with the most memorable being when we arrived home from the city on Saturday evening. I’d had anatomy in a dicey area of the city, so Rob drove me in and picked me up. It was after dark when we got home and he noticed the light shining up from the downstairs as we walked in the front door.

“Did you forget to turn off the basement lights?” he asked Dee.

Her playroom is in an old bedroom space downstairs.

“No,” she replied.

“Well they are on,” he needlessly pointed out.

“Well I turned them off,” she said. “Remember, I checked.”

Cue the Twilight Zone music and then crank it to eleven because I’d discovered the lamp next to my side of the bed blazing the night before when there hadn’t been anyone upstairs at all since the afternoon, so there was no reason for a light to even have been used.

And in the middle of the night Saturday, Rob headed down to the bathroom where the hallway light was ablaze as though someone had anticipated his arrival.

“Maybe we should take Stephanie’s advice and ask what’s up?” he mused.

Frankly, I don’t want to know. The last bit of “activity” preceded the death of my late husband’s best friend’s eleven year old son. Whatever the spirits have to say, they can keep to themselves.

Just to clarify, I get song signs from my late husband, Will, and that’s it. There’s never been anything more aside from a couple of dreams here and there where he has more or less been just an extra. He doesn’t speak to me or rattle windows or make the floorboards squeak. In the early months after his death, he – according to Dee – would stop by and play with her and there was that picture he showed his face in, but he saves visitations for Rob.

I’m not kidding. He visits Rob in dreams.

I woke Friday morning to find that Rob was up even earlier then usual and dressing in the shell of our not quite finished walk-in closet. Allergies are currently beating me about the sinuses and ear tubes due to the fall harvest ringing our little hamlet with a thick dusty residue making uninterrupted sleep impossible, so I lay in bed for a bit to get my bearings. The other night I’d heard my name being called from the corner of the room by the wall cupboard and for some reason I glanced over there this morning. I saw a bright glow behind the door that quickly skipped to the middle of the room and vanished on a run towards the blinds.

“Was it headlights maybe?” Rob asked when I told him.

No, headlights aren’t yellow or perfectly round and they leave streaks.

But I digress because I only mentioned the voice and the light to Rob after he told me about the dream that woke him up early.

“I was sitting at a lunch counter with Will,” he said. “He was on one side and I was on the other. There was a third person too that I didn’t know and seemed to be facilitating our conversation.”

I searched the first husband archives in my brain for a place that matched the description. Nothing matched. We didn’t have haunts like that though something makes me believe it was a place where Will used to play pool. Perhaps in one of the little hole in the wall southern Iowa towns in Warren county.

“I wasn’t sure it was him at first because he had longish hair and was leaning forward so the hair covered the sides of his face,” Rob continued.

Will started losing hair shortly after we were married. It vexed him horribly because male pattern baldness ran on both sides of his family and, in addition, he was sprouting hair on his chest for the first time.

“I’m going to be bald and have a hairy back,” he would complain. “Great.”

But when he was young, and unemployed, he had long hair and really wanted to find a job that would sanction long hair. He kept his hair short – sometimes shaved to the wood – for comfort in the stuffy warehouse were he worked and then later because of the fact that his hair was falling out, but he really was a Kurt Cobain wanna-be with his flannel shirts, dreams of long locks and a dark inner poet.

“We had a long conversation, and I don’t remember it all but two things stood out,” Rob told me. “He said he wanted to take a bike trip in Mesa Verde with you and that he thought I was doing a great job with Dee.”

Will talked a lot about the Boy Scout camp down in New Mexico. It was his favorite place after the mountains. We schemed for a while about making a move to Denver after we were married, and he always talked about wanting to make sure that at some point we took our children to visit his favorite places out West.

“And then there was a group hug at the end,” Rob finished.

The last time Will visited Rob in a dream, he hugged Rob. Hugging was something he picked up from my mother – who basically forced the whole huggy culture thing on our family when she went through her middle-life crisis and was a Charismatic for a while. The hugging stuck and the talking in tongues mercifully faded into family folklore.

I have to admit that sometimes I am a bit annoyed by the surreptitious way Will keeps tabs and inserts himself. However, I am glad for the mini-updates on him, knowing that he is getting on with his existence on whatever plane he is residing and is happy with the way things are going here.