A Haunted House

by Dave Hanks

I grew up in a haunted house - or at least I thought so a long time ago. It was isolated country living with the closest neighbor a quarter of a mile away. The house was two stories with a full attic and a full basement. Being positioned on a hill allowed the building to respond to every bit of wind that might pass - it's many windows and doors rattling at any provocation.

It was with joy and relief that I greeted the dawn each day. Apprehensions were sharpened by stories related by other family members. One tale involved my mother. She was just newly married and home alone one night. To pass the time until my Dad returned home, she decided to play the piano. While thus engaged, the door quietly opened and someone slipped softly into the room. Mom knew that the person was standing behind her but had the presence of mind to pretend that nothing was there and continued to play the piano. The presence stayed there, watching over her shoulder for some time and then just as quietly left the house. My mother then hurriedly locked all the doors before breaking down with emotional relief. That same night, a woman on the same road who lived a mile away was attacked and beaten. Mother felt very fortunate.

Other stories were furnished by my older sisters and involved evil spirits. About people who awoke during the night to see Satan sitting on their beds, staring at them. Cold clammy feelings and an inability to move or function seemed to always be an intricate part of each episode. Anyway they certainly put the fear into me. A fear rooted so deep that it took years to overcome it.

You could deal somewhat with outdoor darkness. With clothes and shoes on, one could run, fight, or defend himself in some way. But in bed - so helpless laying there, undressed and vulnerable. A night-light was most comforting but was prohibited because electricity must be conserved. Silhouettes and other forms lurked there in the darkness. Faces were always looking through the windows. The fact that we never had curtains, or at least ones that shut out the night, enhanced the problem. In this house you were constantly watched.

Somehow these forms were not as real if I couldn't see them. This necessitated sleeping with my head under the covers, which was tough because of the scarcity of oxygen. I developed a technique in which the edge of the covers were rolled in one hand to allow just my nose to extend far enough to receive the required amount of air. Nevertheless, it was most uncomfortable. When the morning sun finally brought light into my room, so that my whole head could emerge, was the only time I got any true rest. It then became difficult to arise later when it was time to get up.

It was especially bad when home alone. Many a night I've laid in bed listening to the noises. Outside the wind would moan but inside there were doors that would open and shut throughout the night. Downstairs I could hear this activity although no one was supposed to be there. One thing I always did before going to bed was to check all doors to make sure they were firmly closed. This included closets. Closets were rich in eerie things at night. I'll never forget my mother's story about bad children. These children had to sleep "a-way....up....stairs....!" ( That was where I usually slept ) If these children mis-behaved, evil beings would come to sweep them through the closet and into the attic - never to be seen again. My room was next to the attic.

The only advantage of a haunted house is that it makes a great spook alley. That was exactly what ours became every Halloween. The basement was primitive and therefore received the major assignment. A string was tied along it's walls as a guide. To navigate the entire basement was most effective. In the pitch blackness, one person would go alone into it to traverse the circuit by running their hand along the string. Nothing was ever done to the basement. It didn't need it. Imaginations ran keen and there were plenty of things to bump into along the course to make it a most scary experience. With peer group present, a boy had to pretend bravery and unhesitatingly go down into the darkness when his turn arrived. It was my home but I felt the apprehensions as strongly as anyone else.

The spook alley was mild however when compared to spending the whole night down there - alone.Occasionally, relatives would stop at our house to spend the night. I usually hated those times because they caused me to give-up my bed upstairs and go downstairs to the basement. There was no doubt in my mind that personages from the other world were down there with me. Attempting to sleep there was unbearable. When my father was safely asleep for the night, I would sneak out of bed to turn the light on and then turn it off again before he arose in the morning - which was always at a very early hour in order to milk the cows.

I have since taken over the house as my home. We have added drapes to the windows, locks to the doors, and no one sleeps in the basement anymore. The downstairs is a little more modern than it used to be and I have come to be able to relax among the spooks that live there with me. They aren't as frightening as they used to be. My parents have died but they still seem to be there at times. Surprisingly, this is more comforting than otherwise.

Even though the house has been improved and I have grown past that frightened stage; the old house on the right night, with the right circumstances, can still be a little eerie.