Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Terrified Toddler: My First Haunted House

Yes, I believe in ghosts.  I have good reason to, having lived in at least two haunted houses.  The first of these my family moved into when I was only two.

Having been so young, my memories of that converted garage rental in Newport, North Carolina, are spotty for the most part.  I remember the day the stove caught on fire and my mom carrying me out.  I remember there was a swingset in the back yard.  All the rest of my memories from that place are of the strange things I saw and the terror I felt living there.

I don’t recall telling my mother that witches were trying to get me.  She remembers it well though, and I was convincing enough in my fear to have her put a cross necklace around my neck.  She prayed fervently over me that God would keep me safe from whatever made me scream at night.  That what made me run from one room to another, searching for protection, would leave me alone.

What I do remember was my tiny bedroom after dark, lit by the cheerfully smiling face painted on my nightlight.  This bizarre room had a habit of changing size and proportions before my confused stare.  The corner of my room, only two feet away from the foot of my bed, would suddenly stretch several yards away.  My bedroom door was so far as to be unreachable should something pounce out of the shadows.  It was a funhouse effect that wasn’t fun to see at all. 

Most often were the shadows that wandered into our living room, shadows which belonged to no one.  I huddled as small as I could make myself in my father’s recliner as one, two, three shadows entered the room, came close to each other and gesticulated as if having conversation (though I heard nothing), then leaving again.   This occurred at least half a dozen times during the months we lived in that house.

The most frightening thing of all that happened, I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday.  I had gone to bed and was lying facing the wall it butted up against.  My pulse was loud in my ears, loud enough to nearly drown out the sound of my parents’ conversation in their room, which was right beside mine.  That steady whooshing of blood rushing through my veins bothered me for some reason.  As I lay there, the beating of my heart sped up as if to warn of impending danger.  I thought perhaps lying on my other side would make it go away.  I rolled over.

Looming over me was the dark figure of a headless man.  I saw him in glaring relief; his long, black coat belted at the waist, every fold and crease sharp in the nightlight’s glow.  Above its neckline – nothing.  It was tall and broadshouldered, much bigger than my father even without its head. 

The apparition simply stood there for the brief moment I beheld him.  If he ever moved to threaten me, I didn’t know it.  I was up and out of the bed in an instant, screaming as I bolted out of my room.  Of course when my parents went in, turning on the light to banish this ‘bogey man’, he was gone.

It could be that whatever roamed that house wasn’t looking to attack or even frighten a small child.  Perhaps the fact that I was the only one that could see them made one reach out to me for help.  Whatever the intent, I was too young and too frightened to encourage the experience.

Now I’m intrigued by the paranormal.  If I saw independent shadows on the wall, I’d be doing my best Ghost Hunters imitation, trying to record EVPs and inviting any unseen entity to knock ‘Shave and a Haircut’ back at me.  But my terrifying ordeal as a pre-schooler has left its mark.  To this day I hate the sound of my pulse  in my ears when I’m lying in my bed at night.  And I never turn my back to the room, as if keeping watch alone will ward off any ghost who wishes to creep up and surprise me.  Some scares you just never get over.

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