Dawn over at Random Bits RV is doing a little series on her blog called Around the Campfire Stories. Her post for Halloween was about an experience I think a lot of us have with those who have passed through into the next world. It has to do with our olfactory gland — you know, our nose! It’s a great post. I hope you’ll go have a read. As for me, my experience with loved ones who have passed on has been more one of movement.
Of Squirrels and Tablecloths… (repost from 10/19/14)
Have you ever had a truly spooky experience? A friend of mine asked me this week to write something for a Halloween episode of her podcast. Figured I’d use it for my post today. It is NOT, however, a story of imagination. It’s a compilation of two paranormal incidents his lordship and I have had. If YOU have any spooky stories to tell, write about them and post them in the reply box. I’d love to hear them.
I remember getting up to go to the bathroom, the annoying red digital display on the alarm clock insisting it was 2:20 as I squirmed carefully back under the sheet. It was April, and a warm one at that, but just cool enough in our basement apartment in the old Chandler house to be great sleeping weather. I laid there for a long time drifting in and out of sleep. I adjusted myself trying to get comfortable on our bumpy old mattress, then adjusted myself again. And again. I was just about ready to admit defeat and get up, when I rolled back over to my side of the bed and saw someone standing next to me, someone in a red checked bathrobe.
Being a little on the superstitious side, my first reaction was, “Oh God! Dad died!” It took me a minute to remember dad didn’t HAVE a robe like that. And then I noticed the hands, hands that hung down to both sides, an old man’s hands. They were wrinkled and wasted, the parchment skin stretched tightly across the framework of his bones.
I didn’t look up above the hands, above where the belt was tied in a square knot. Oh Lord, you are soooo dreaming, I said to myself, and flipped the sheet up over my head. I laid very still for several minutes, then, unable to resist, inched the sheet down from my face. He was still there, standing perfectly still, arms stiff at his side. The hair on my arms stood straight up, a shiver started at the base of my skull and rippled its way down my back. It was then I noticed how cold the air in the room had gotten, that when I breathed out, I could see my breath form inches from my lips. The figured hadn’t moved, but I was too afraid to look up. Instead, I reached over to grab my husband to have HIM look. But all I found was empty bed. That’s when I started to scream.
I heard the African violet get knocked off the plant stand in the living room, a couple damn-it-all-to-hells, then my much-annoyed husband came back into the bedroom dragging a stubbed-toed foot.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, flipping on the light switch, then stopping suddenly in the doorway. He could feel the cold permeating the room. Blowing out, he watched as his hoary, pale breath drifted into nothingness. I rolled back over and looked at the side of the bed. The man was gone. Arn limped to the bed and sat down, wrapping his arms around me. My skin was cold to the touch and I was shivering like crazy.
“Where WERE you?” I demanded, still feeling the waves of fear quivering along my arms and back.
“Timbuktu, I guess. Man! I think I was sleep walking! I’ve never done that before.”
For a moment I tried to rationalize the whole episode, tried to convince myself it had been him walking in his sleep who’d been standing confused by the bed. But that was obviously not true as he didn’t even own a bathrobe. Still caught up in the frightening moment, I explained what I’d seen. I couldn’t stop shaking. The cold had seeped into my very bones, and the whole thing had literally scared the piss out of me. I rolled over to his side of the bed and got up intending to go to the bathroom. When I crossed the threshold to the living room, I stopped. And so did the cold. I turned to watch Arn follow me, his breath preceding his every step.
It occurred to me that old Mr. Chandler who lived upstairs might have wandered down the basement in his sleep unlatching the door that led from the apartment to the basement proper, but in the kitchen, our side was still locked. There was no way he could have gotten in. Then it hit me that the rest of the apartment was toasty warm. We went back to the bedroom thinking we had imagined the whole thing, but we hadn’t. The chilly air felt stale and smothering, like a mausoleum.
We heard the commotion in the kitchen. A scrape and a crash. “Someone’s coming in the kitchen window,” I whispered to Arn. We crept quietly (which wasn’t hard on a carpeted-concrete floor) to the door and peeked in. Not a burglar. Our set of steak knives had fallen off the wall. I hurried to pick them up and stopped dead in my tracks.
In the living room the old rocker we’d bought at a garage sale to start our nursery with, was creaking in loud, slow, rolling groans. I looked at Arn. His face drained of color. Forgetting the knives we went back to the living room. The rocker was perfectly still. But in the bedroom, the little ceramic squirrel I’d bought as a gift for my grandmother then retrieved as a memento when she died, fell over on the dresser. We stood rooted to the spot for what seemed like hours.
In the end, there was no way we could sleep in that tomb-cold bedroom. I called and woke my parents to tell them what happened, and that we were on our way to their house for the night. When we came home the next day, the bedroom was fine. We hung the knives back up, I put the squirrel in my underwear drawer, and after a few tense moments trying to settle back in that night, things got back to normal. Until a week later.
I came home from work to find a package on my doorstep where the mailman had left it. Opening it, I found two hand-crocheted tablecloths and a note from my Aunt Dolores. “I was cleaning out the closet last week and found these tablecloths mom made when us kids were young. I had the strangest feeling that she wanted you and Cindy to have them. Enjoy! Love ever, Aunt D.” My grandmother had been gone eight years. As I stood there in the living room thinking I’d call my sister, I heard the rattle in the bedroom. Not again, I thought. Shit! It’s broad daylight for cryin’ out loud!
In my don’t-give-me-a-hard-way-to-go mode, I charged into the bedroom and stood stock still as I realized the rattling was coming from my underwear drawer. I didn’t open it. I curled up on the bed with the tablecloths in my arms crying. That’s where Arn found me 45 minutes later when he got home from work, still too spooked to move.
The strange happenings stopped that day. I still have my grandmother’s tablecloth and her ceramic squirrel. There was no mystery to be solved according to my dad. He was convinced that my grandparents had come calling. I’ve since heard that when there are children present, especially babies, there can be increased paranormal activity. Whether that applies to babies still in the womb or not, I have no clue.
Superstitious body that I am, however, I figured if that WAS my paternal grandmother, the most formidable 96-pound-soakin’-wet little woman I’d ever known, rattling that figurine in the drawer, then by criminy I wanted that sucker guarding my house! To this day it sits on the corner cupboard right inside our front door. But thank God it’s not had any rattling fits since then! Oh, and I did manage to salvage the African violet.