The house I grew up in was haunted.
We lived in a two-story farm house that was built in the late 1800’s. When I was really young it was painted a pea-green with white polka dots. The polka dots were actually little plugs where insulation had been put in, but a kid never sees things like that as practical necessity. To me, they were polka dots for the sake of being polka dots and I loved them. I was the only kid I knew who had a polka-dotted house, a fact that I carried around like a badge of childhood honor, thank you very much.
Later, my mom had the house painted a lovely shade of blue. With the old red shed (teeming with cats more often than not) standing watch behind it, and the towering walnut trees around it, it made for a very pretty picture.
My sister and I used to try to scare each other with stories of Old Man Brockway – the builder of said house. He committed suicide in the not-so-beautiful barn that was falling down on the far side of the property. We weren’t especially afraid of Old Man Brockway – we both felt he was a friendly ghost – but he was still a ghost. Even convivial ghosts have that creepy dead-not-dead factor, and many late nights were spent on the pull-out sofa eating popcorn and talking about our latest encounter with Brockway the Friendly Ghost.
Mostly it was little things: window shades that would fly up on their own – especially startling at night. The sound of footsteps on the stairs when there was no one there. Random things just magically tumbling off our shelves. Old Man Brockway was a clumsy soul, even in the afterlife.
One evening my mom joined in the story-telling, and her story made all the little things that could have been written off as childhood fancy (doors opening on their own, disorderly toys put back into order while our backs were turned) seem both insignificant and probable.
When I was an infant, our house caught on fire. We used a wood stove for heat, and the chimney went up through my sister’s closet; the fire started there. It was the middle of the night, and my parents, in a sleepy panic, scooped my sister up and carried her downstairs to safety…but they forgot about me. (If you’re thinking WHAT THE HELL, PARENTS? HOW CAN YOU FORGET YOUR INFANT? GET IT TOGETHER WOULD YA? you’re not alone…)
They were outside, standing in the snow, waiting for the fire trucks to show up when my mom realized their mistake. She bolted back inside and dashed into the smoke. It soon became clear that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the second story where I was – the smoke was too thick. But then a figure emerged on the landing. Hovering in the haze was Old Man Brockway. And in his arms,
He handed me to her, and disappeared.
My mom was an ornery soul, but she was always very serious when she told this story. Even now I get goosebumps when I think about her telling it. My sister and I have re-hashed it over and over again, and we’re both inclined to believe something supernatural happened that night.
And so, Old Man Brockway, with all his window-shade flapping and knocking books off shelves, will always be a happy thought in my head.
Do you believe in ghosts? Have you had any unexplainable experiences with things supernatural? Let’s discuss!
(This post was written in response to my previous I’m Lying to You post. You can check it out here.)