Down through the years Mom and I have had a number of odd experiences in our modest home. Built in 1949 from boards and timbers salvaged from an earlier house on the site, it has six rooms, a bath (added on to the back porch), and a long hall.
The hall, quite simply, is haunted. From the time we moved here, forty-two years ago this past March, Mom–who lived in at least one haunted house growing up–has heard, deep in the night, women’s voices and the sound of footsteps walking down it at irregular intervals. I began hearing these sounds after Dad died, almost eighteen years ago; I did not know at the time that Mom had been hearing them already for a quarter of a century. I have since noticed that there are also men’s voices in the hall, but farther back toward the kitchen; the women’s voices tend to congregate around the front door. The strange thing about these voices is that although they are recognizably male or female, they are never loud enough to make out words; just conversations, conducted in a low murmur, out of the air. More than once, when I first heard them, I would actually get out of bed and go to listen, thinking someone was out in the yard talking, only to find that A) the yard was always empty and B) the voices were indisputably in the hall.
I’ve had the creepy but quite common experience of someone sitting down on my bed when no one was in the house except Mom and me–and she was on the other side of the house. Our most curious phenomenon, however, is the one we refer to as the Phantom Gunshot. It has woken me more than once over the past several years. It’s a sound exactly like a gunshot from a fairly powerful weapon–but there’s no echo. One night it happened twice; behind the headboard of my bed, and, some ten minutes later, about six feet along the wall. Again, one night last week, it sounded as if it were coming from the far corner of the room.
No one was ever shot in the house or on the property that we know of. Don’t know what brought it on.
There have been other phenomena too: the smells of hyacinths, wildly out of season, which I have associated with Gran, my paternal grandmother, and of cigar smoke, which is indisputably Dad, who was in the act of lighting his first of the day when he dropped dead. Smells, so say people who study these things, are most closely associated with our memory banks. That must explain why, yesterday, while I was linking Porter Wagoner and Buck Owens songs here, I smelled cigars and almost without thinking said to empty air, “Hi, Dad. How’s it goin’?”
We’re not the only ones who have noticed odd things either. A couple of years ago a contractor was spooked by something in a corner of Mom’s room while installing electrical outlets; we assume that was Dad, who always had fits if we made any improvements. (Dad was a piece of work. Let’s leave it at that.) And then there was the guy, ten years ago, who stopped by for a viewing at a time when we had the house on the market. He was like us a hillbilly, and he went all through the house and around the outside, and without turning a hair asked, “Is this house haunted?”
Since at the time we wanted to sell, we told him no. We’ve since salved our consciences with the reflection that, had he bought the place, he’d have found out soon enough.
Which brings us to our most recent phenomenon. There have of course been miscellaneous incidents of our names being called out of thin air. (For what it’s worth, somebody woke my mom out of a sound sleep calling her name the morning my paternal grandfather died in March of 1963. We were living in another house then, and she swears the voice belonged to Gran, although Gran was in fact over two miles away at the time.) In my case, I can never recognize the voices, and they call me Kathy–a variant of my real first name; Mom always calls me Katie, so it’s not her. After a spell a couple of months ago when I was woken from a sound sleep by this voice–it’s always a woman’s, by the way–five times in a ten day stretch, I’d had enough. After returning to bed once Mom assured me she hadn’t called me, I sat up and said, “Okay, whoever the hell you are–this crap is gonna stop! Don’t you DARE wake me up that way again.”
So far, she hasn’t–whoever she is.
One morning, before daylight, still black dark outside, I was wakened from a sound sleep by what I could swear was Mom answering the telephone. “Hello?”
When the phone rings that early in the morning, it’s never good news, so I got up–wide awake–and opened my bedroom door. “Who was on the phone, Mom?”
She’s a light sleeper and usually awake by five AM. She said, puzzled, “Nobody.”
So we’re left with a conundrum: either Mom was talking in her sleep, I was having an unusually vivid dream, or it was one of our disembodied voices letting us know it was home, waking us up, just checking in, or playing a prank.
About the oddest thing that’s happened, though, was a couple of years ago, and involved a book, a Shakespeare play and a knock at my bedroom door.
I was reading a book about Lady Macbeth, the wife of the great Scots king. (He was; contemporary Scots sources show that, unlike his portrayal in Shakespeare’s eponymous play, Macbeth was regarded as a great ruler and is, in fact, buried on the island of Iona with the true kings of Scotland.) On the night of August 17th–the date on which tradition says Macbeth died, of battle wounds, in 1057–I was awakened at two o’clock in the morning by the sound of knocking at my bedroom door.
Coincidence? After all, in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth is interrupted, right after the murder of King Duncan (great drama, bad history), by the sound of knocking at the gate—
There were no sounds other than that knocking: no footsteps, nothing outside the house; Mom, asleep in her recliner in the living room and a fitful sleeper at the best of times, didn’t hear a thing.
Being of Scots blood myself, I can’t help but wonder what kind of summons that was–
I still don’t know. That was a single, and so far unrepeated, incident.
Oh well. Whoever it was, it fits right in, and right comfortably, with the rest of our unseen crew. 🙂