Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's a Long Story...

Ok, so I have been promising/threatening to tell you all my ghost stories. Some of you have heard a few of these already. I decided to get these down so that I could explore what happened. From the poll I took a while ago, about half of you are skeptical about the existence of ghosts and the other half are believers. Whatever you think, this is just my interpretation. Your mileage may vary.

When we moved to Corona, it was the summer of 1989, an incredibly hot summer in the Inland Empire. My parents bought the house from a couple with older children and a small dog. I remember how amazed I was that our tiny 2 bedroom bungalow in Hawthorne went for more money than a big 5 bedroom two-story house with a pool. I looked very very forward to having my own room. I shared a room with two younger brothers until I was 12. You can imagine the intense desire for my own personal space. In order to manage the house payment, my dad drove from Manhattan Beach to Corona every day to his job as a mechanic in an auto shop. We totally dug our new house.

It surprised us to later find out from the neighbors that the couple who had owned the house were recently married. In fact, the man's previous wife had died not more than 6 months before we moved in. We didn't know that until later though, but it's important. Our house was big and beautiful and..........haunted. Don't know how else to really explain what happened there. I give you several accounts of events that took place there that are suspect and in retrospect, very "haunty."

Experience #1: "Mom!"
People in my house were constantly hearing someone calling. My mom heard me calling her, I heard her calling me, it was endless. And since we weren't used to being so far away from each other, we thought it was quite the chore to go see what the other person wanted. And then you'd get there and the person would say "I didn't call you," or worse, "You called ME. What do you want?" Totally confusing. One day my dad and two brothers went out to the store and my mom and I were in the kitchen. I was talking to her while she washed dishes. We both heard someone say "Mom" from just outside the kitchen. Our eyes got big and we stared at each other (to make sure we both really heard what we just heard). I said "Who was that?" and went looking for some kind of intruder. It didn't sound like my brothers or anyone I knew. My mom realized it was not really explainable, so she just said, "we must have been hearing someone from outside." Phones would also ring when they were unplugged or off the hook. Somebody was always calling and nobody was ever there.

Experience #2: This Never Happened
At Christmastime my family went all out. We had a big house (at least to us it was big), a lot of room, so we got a huge tree and all kinds of decorations. My dad made a big deal out of getting a train set to go around the base of the tree. My mom got a wreath that had a motion detector in it so that when you passed by it, it sang "Jingle Bells." She put it in the small hallway that we used to get to the master bedroom, so it wouldn't go off all the time. Given the insane amount of electronic decorations in our house, my parents made sure we unplugged everything so the new house wouldn't burn down. Unlike in our old tiny house, by the time you smelled smoke, it might be too late. So imagine all of our surprise one middle of the night when the train started blaring and choo-chooing around the track. We all got up and ran to the living room to see who was playing with the train and there it was, going around lit up....and unplugged. And do you know what we all did? We turned around and went back to bed and never spoke of it again. To speak of it again would be to admit that you were crazy and that as a family, we were all crazy. The same thing happened with our little motion-detecting wreath. We were taking a family photo in front of the tree. My aunt was taking the picture and everyone else in the house was right there in front of the tree. Lo and behold, just as we were about to say cheese, we jumped ten feet high because "Jingle Bells" started playing. And we laughed it off as an electronic malfunction. It happened more than once when we were all together. And we either joked about it or didn't say anything.

Experience #3: This Isn't Happening
The master bathroom in our house had some hideous, but very expensive wallpaper. It was an ivory-pearly color embossed with blue and pink sea shells. My mother hated it and begged my dad to tear it out. One Sunday he decided to tackle the bath and it was a big hassle. He cut himself several times and got very frustrated. The water bucket broke. Twice. It was a pain from beginning to end, but he got it all off. Later that night, he was talking to my mom about how he couldn't beleive his bad luck with this project. It seemed like he was unable to aim the screwdriver, the trowel or the sponge correctly. He fell in a bathroom that wasn't too large and he couldn't figure out how he managed to fall. As my mom lay sleeping that night, she woke up to the sound of the cabinets in the bathroom opening and closing on their own. And a shower curtain being pulled from left to right. And this is the part that really scared her because there wasn't a shower curtain in there, just shower doors. So she woke up completely to make sure it wasn't a dream. My dad woke up too and as he was about to get up to see it for himself, it stopped. This is when things started to be too strange to deny.

Experience #4: No Thanks.
My brother was about 6 when we moved in and took the room across from the bathroom on the second floor. All of our rooms were on the second floor, while my parents' master suite was on the first floor. For some reason, he never used the upstairs bathroom. He would go all the way downstairs to use the bathroom, to bathe, to wash his hands. It was totally odd behavior for a 6 year old. He just wouldn't go in there. And that bathroom was amazing. It was at least ten feet across, with a shower stall on one side and a tub on the other. It had two sinks and tons of room to store things. I miss that bathroom so much right now! I thought it was odd, but in keeping with the new family tradition, I didn't ask why for fear of the answer. Years later I found out why he never went in there. He and my cousin had seen the faucets going on and off by themselves in the bathroom! Having another person there when you have one of these experiences tends to make them more real and undeniable.

Experience #5: Um, I think it's not my imagination.
After the bathroom event, my parents started to actually talk about what was going on around the house. Stuff moved. A lot. Things were in different places than where you put them. They were having an argument about whether or not this was some kind of ghost or part of a set of five overactive imaginations or just bad wiring. Well, during the conversation, as they sat up in bed (with the lights and the TV on) they watched a glass that was set upon the dresser scoot across it on its own and fall on the carpet. At that point, there was no denying something was messing with them that they could not see. But not even a year into a 30 year mortgage, there wasn't much they could do.

Secondary Source: A neighbor once asked my mother if she had any "problems" with the house, on account of its history. Mr. Archer and his new wife were having problems with the house and were unable to sleep. With a little prodding, the neighbor admitted that Mrs. Archer, the first wife of the previous owner had committed suicide in the garage. She hung herself and was found by her teenage daughter on her way in to do the laundry. Mrs. Archer had worked in a cancer hospice and when she found out she was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to end her life.

And very quickly after her death, her husband married another woman and moved her into his home. I often wonder if it was she that haunted the place, since her death was so traumatic and it happened on the property. Maybe she didn't like us changing the bathroom wallpaper because she chose it herself. Maybe she wanted us to leave the house. I don't know if Mrs. Archer haunted the place, but something was scary about it and it made its impression on more than just us. When my parents divorced, my dad stayed in the house and the rest of us moved to an apartment, which still sticks in my craw by the way, because it makes no sense that one man should stay in a big house and four people should move into an apartment, but I digress. My dad invited a friend from work over to experience the house, since nobody believed his stories. His friend never said why, but he left at about 3am. Couldn't get through one night.

It wasn't until years later that we put all of this stuff together. Some of these experiences were explained away by our parents as they happened. Even though I doubted their explanations, it was easier to believe them than to admit something hinky was going on in that house.

Is this all explainable in a rational way? Did we have group hallucinations? Is our willingness to call it a haunting because we were brought up what I call "Mystical Catholic"? It could be a result of me being 12 when we moved. Most adolescents go through an intense almost schizo period in which everything is either "the best thing that ever happened" or "the worst thing that ever happened." I remember becoming all gothy in that house. Getting teenager-depressed and listening to The Cure while laying sprawled out on my bedroom floor wishing I wasn't such a freak. I was sometimes scared to go to sleep at night there. But that doesn't explain how my parents and brothers felt the same way.

Whatever it was, I still drive by that house (my mom currently lives about 10 houses away on the same block!) and feel bad for the people in there. I hope they aren't wondering if they are crazy. I have since lived in more than a few places, none of which gave me the same feelings. The apartment we moved into was fine. My mom's house now is fine. I never got that tight feeling in my stomach that preceded a moment of paralytic fear. I wonder what it was, in that house, that felt the need to mess with us. Maybe it was a racist ghost who didn't like hearing spanish or seeing statues of the virgin Mary around her house. Maybe she's bitter about the husband's quick marriage after her death. Maybe it is all random coincidences and there was no haunting at all. Let's just say that today, if I hear something out of the ordinary, I go CHECK IT OUT. And I find myself calling out to nobody saying things like "You better find someone else to haunt, honey, because I do not have time for this bullshit today."

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