And now...some ghost stories.
Seeing as we're in the days leading to Halloween, I've decided to "come out of the closet" with some strange experiences I've had. Ever since I was a little kid, I've been seeing things I KNOW are there in front of me, but I cannot explain. The earliest I remember is an old house in Chicago where my aunt and uncle used to live. The latest...well, is in the apartment in which I currently reside.
Now click on the ghetto blaster, and let's get this muhfukkin party started, aight?
And giving credit where credit is due, that above photo was taken on my roof one windy, freezing August night by my friend Jason Collins, who currently resides in Los Angeles.
Let's just say...I don't neccessarily believe in "ghosts" per se, I just can't come to any conclusions either way. I'm not a cleric. I'm not a scientist. Most importantly, I'm nobody who can say with any certainty that there is or isn't a "supernatural" force that is out there, but can't be explained.
All I know is what I've seen, heard, smelled, and experienced.
And speaking of experiences, I'll just lay them all out here, and let you all decide for yourselves if I'm crazy or not.
Chicago, Illinois, circa 1973-4
Note: The house pictured above is not in Chicago, but is actually next to a gas station on Divisadero Street here in San Francisco. It just looks spooky and run-down, that's all.
I don't really remember why I was in Chicago, but I do remember flashbulb memories of the old house. I was with my parents, who were visiting my mother's sister and husband before they moved to southern California. I think we had flown out there...I remember the crazy graphics on the airplane, the roar of the pre-noise controlled engines, the wild seat covers, and the "stewardesses" with huge hair and drag-queen makeup who looked like they had just stepped off the set of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" (am I dating myself or what?) and the smell of cigarette smoke everywhere.
Yeah, I'm in my thirties. Shut up already.
The strange incident I remember happened when I woke up in the middle of the night having to use the bathroom. I walked to the bedroom door, and opened it...it made a spooky-sounding squeak, and if I recall correctly, the glass crystal doorknob felt cold in my hand.
The hallway was pitch black, and I couldn't see a damn thing. I stepped outside the bedroom, and placed my hand on a wall so I could get some bearing. Suddenly, I saw a glowing, grayishly-fuzzy, shadowy figure standing at the end of the hallway. I wasn't frightened, as I was too young to know what a "ghost" was, and to be honest, I thought maybe it was my dad coming to help me find the bathroom. I didn't say a word, I just stared at the strange figure at the end of the hallway. Suddenly, it started walking towards me with long, confident, yet gentle and friendly strides. As it got closer, it extended its arms towards me, as if it wanted to take my hand and lead me to the bathroom. I held out my right hand, my left one still on the wall, and suddenly the figure stopped, seemed to turn around quickly, and the hallway light abruptly turned on, the old-style lightswitch making a loud snapping noise.
The shadowy figure vanished.
My 30 year-old father was at the end of the hallway, looking scruffy, sleepy, and bleary-eyed. Well, everyone kinda looked like that in the early 70's, so it was hard to tell.
"What are you doing up, Duder?" he asked me. ("Duder" was a nickname he had for me, a variation of "Dude")
I was baffled...but I really had to pee, and soon I stopped thinking about the shadow person. However, I've never forgotten it completely. What could have it been?
Who knows. I sure don't, and I suspect I never will.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, 1974-1991
Ever since I was a little kid, when my parents moved from the townhouse in Euclid to the house in Cleveland Heights, many of us in my family, the dog included, have heard strange noises in the house and backyard from time to time. As it turns out, a woman died in the house (the TV room) and her husband suffered a heart attack or aneurysm just after starting his car in the garage and putting it in reverse. He went barrelling across the backyard, and hit the house next door; you can still see the damage to the brickwork to this day.
When I would go to bed, I would hear my folks downstairs watching television for a while, then I'd hear them talking, turning off the lights, bolting the back door, securing the basement door, calling the dog to come upstairs, bolting the front door, shutting the foyer door and locking it, and finally, trudging upstairs...first my mom, then my dad. The exact same order, every night. They'd go to bed, and the house would be silent, save for the passing cars or the wind whispering through the huge trees outside, the distant "whuff" of the furnace kicking on, the steam pipes clanking, my parents' snores, a leaky toilet tank refilling for a few seconds, an occasional radiator whistle, or assorted creaks and groans of an old house settling. Stuff that I had grown to love, that would lull me to sleep.
However, sometimes, that wouldn't be all, and my peaceful slumber would be interrupted.
I would hear someone else coming up the stairs, slowly, methodically, ploddingly. I would recognize the order of the steps creaking, as whoever it was would slowly walk down the stairs again after reaching the top. This would go on for a few minutes, up and down, up and down, then I'd either fall asleep with the covers tightly pulled over my head or it would stop.
Now, a few years later, I was talking to one of my sisters, and asked her if she had ever heard that. Her eyes flew open and her face turned white..."YES!" she exclaimed. We asked our other sister, who had also heard the strange footsteps on the stairs. It's strange...all of us heard it, but we NEVER talked about it. Maybe we were afraid everyone would think we were crazy.
But the craziest thing didn't happen until around 1989 or so...my best friend Chuck and I were downstairs one Friday or Saturday at 3:30 in the morning. We had just come home from dancing at the industrial clubs and more or less getting into trouble in downtown Cleveland. We had just finished a meal of chicken parmesan (Chuck was a chef at an Italian restaurant), and decided to raid my parents' well-stocked liquor cabinet in the breakfast nook for an after-dinner nightcap.
We chose to drink some scotch, and were in the process of pouring it, when suddenly, we heard a creak on the stairs.
"Fuck," I whispered to Chuck, "I think my parents are up." We froze in place (I was 19, Chuck was 18, and my mom didn't approve of underage drinking...dad said to just keep it under control on the weekends when we didn't have to drive anywhere).
We heard the distant snores of my parents, and Chuck said, "It must be that freaky ghost of yours." He had heard it before.
I heard the dog start growling from her basket in the upstairs hallway, but she abruptly stopped.
"Yeah right," I said, pouring myself a shot. Suddenly, we heard someone come pounding down the stairs, quite loudly, I might add.
I choked on the whiskey I had just sipped, and as we hastily returned the bottle to the cabinet, the heavy stomping on the stairs, which was actually shaking the entire house, continued unseen across the living room, through the dining room, and stopped at the kitchen door.
Chuck looked at me, wide-eyed, and we crept towards the kitchen door and peeked into the dark dining room.
I turned on the light. Again, nobody.
I poked my head through the passageway into the living room, which was also devoid of any sort of entity, human or otherwise. I heard the dual snores of my parents come from their bedroom, so I crept up the stairs, taking care not to make any of the stairs squeak.
The dog was cowering in her basket, shaking, thumping her tail when she saw it was me. I bent down and nuzzled her for a second; the poor Dalmatian was totally spooked about something, and I pet her for a few seconds until she curled back up into a ball and closed her eyes. I cracked open my sisters' bedroom doors...one was gone for the night for a sleepover, and the other one was obviously sound asleep in her bed with a long line of drool running down her face. Even if she HAD run down the stairs, she couldn't have done so without making the dog bark frantically, PLUS she would have made a ton of noise running back upstairs, opening her bedroom door, closing it, climbing back into bed, and drooling on herself.
I went back downstairs...and made some stiff drinks for Chuck and me. At that point, we needed them.
Incidentally, Chuck never spent the night at my house ever again...and only visited me during daylight hours.
Next...Biloxi, Mississippi, New Orleans, Louisiana, and San Francisco, California.
By the way, if you have an interesting or scary ghost story (ahem, Ed) just email it to me and I'll put it up here.