Living with ghosts

I just ran up the basement stairs. The laundry is down there, unfolded, heaped on the washing machine. The dryer is running and there are some clothes in the washer but it’s not filled and it’s not about to be until it’s daylight. I won’t go back downstairs by myself when it’s dark.
We have ghosts in our house.
We moved to this solid one hundred and seventy year-old house in 2008. It was on-and-off the market for nearly three years. The housing bubble was collapsing in this area in an interesting way: mortgage companies started declining loan applications so houses that were under agreement and off the market suddenly went back on the market two to three months after they had a “sale pending” sign posted. We’d made a low offer in early 2006 when it was first listed at an astronomical price and got turned down immediatey. From what we learned since buying it, this house was “under agreement” at least three times before we bought it. The price dropped slightly each time it went back up for sale. I think three years of showing their home on weekends and enduring home inspections was enough. They accepted our original offer.
Moving was both easy and difficult. It was a mile from out old house, that was easy. It was difficult because I was working long days at a job really didn’t like and couldn’t take any time off for the move so our big move happened over one weekend.
It took a long time to settle in because we lived among so much unpacked stuff. It didn’t feel like home because I went charging out of it before seven in the morning and returned after five each day. It was a place where I just slept for the first several months of living there.
Yes, weekends were mainly unpacking but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t settling in. The house felt so strange and large–it was bigger than our old house but there was more. I was uneasy when I was alone in it. There were unfamiliar sounds and noises that I knew were the houses “sounds” and I had to get used to them but they sounded very much like a person walking up the stairs when I was on the first floor.
Then I realized I was not just uneasy but uncomfortable when I was in the basement after dark. Of course the laundry is in the basement and that was the only time I had to do it: after work. Our washing machine and dryer was in the basement at our old house and it never phased me to start at load at any time of night. Hell, the fuse box was in the back of that basement and I knew how to flip a switch in the pitch dark! It never bothered me.
But this was creepy. There were noises like someone on the stairs and a rustling sound that really sounded like someone sliding along the wall. I went flying up the stairs in terror the first time I heard it.
My husband, an engineer thought I was funny. He is so concrete. It’s not that he would not believe in ghosts, he has seen not one shred of evidence that they exist here and until he does there are no ghosts. I found that reassuring but after I was frightened upstairs from thinking I heard someone down in the cellar with me, laundry wasn’t getting done.
Then my youngest son started having night terrors. This wasn’t like the first week we moved in and he’s in a strange new place and awakens in an unfamiliar room and calls for his mom and dad. This started about 6 months after we moved in! It was a middle-of-the-night shriek after shriek until, after suffering 7 heart attacks apiece from being awakened from a sound sleep,my husband and I ran in to calm him. He wouldn’t say what frightened him or if it was a nightmare and he would fall back to sleep if one of us stayed with him. These night terrors were happening with increasing frequency although we were putting the dog (a fearful terrier) in bed with him. Finally I told him I needed to know what was happening so I could help him (really find out if he needed a therapist?) and he said he wakes up and thinks he sees someone standing in the corner looking at him which makes him start to scream. O.K., my blood just went cold. His bedroom was a finished attic, a beautiful room with a fireplace and sunny windows in the daytime. At night it’s got a lot of shadows and I wondered if this little kid really wanted to sleep there when we first moved in–which he was sure he did until the night terrors. We moved him down to the 2nd floor, next to our bedroom which had put an end, for the most part, to the nightmares.
Things seemed to settle after my yougest son moved from the 3rd floor to the 2nd. I chose not to do any laundry after dark and the sounds of footsteps on stairs either ceased or became an identifiable noise of the house. Doors would still slam shut when the windows were opened, I could say it was the wind and not be bothered but it would cross my mind that there wasn’t a wind. My husband would just smile at me if there was something amiss or if the dog came tearing through in some unknown terror and say, “Maybe it’s the ghost!”
My job situation improved drastically last summer. I changed from a full time management postition to a 24 hr/week flexible schedule and everything looked better! The last boxes were finally unpacked and I had some time to relax and enjoy this house without feeling like my days off were filled with laundry and chores that needed to be done before the work grind started again.
I had full days alone and it gave me time to determine if I really felt we had a ghost or if I was feeding off my anxiety of working way too much in a job I absolutely hated.
In my comfort and life of ease, thoughts of a ghost receded. If I did think about it, for some reason I thought it was an old lady who maybe got used to us the same way we got used to the house. Then one sunny morning I was sitting in the kitchen listening to the radio when I looked up and I saw in the kitchen window reflection (a crank out window) a round, bald headed man in a white dress shirt and grey pants with suspenders standing in the driveway. He looked out of place or more truthfully, out of time. His clothes reminded me of the 1940’s. I went to the back door and there, of course, was absolutely no one there. Creeeeeeeeeepy! Two ghosts? More? Oh crap.
There are still noises, still glimpses of things in the corner of my eye that disappear when I look straight on. There has been more activity before Christmas and when we have visitors and they leave. It’s like when the house is in an uproar, the ghosts are unsettled.
So what do I do? I’m not going to get any ghost hunters or paranormal visionists because I figure they were here first and we just have to figure out a way to live together. I don’t feel like it’s an evil presence; I’d get a priest and have an all-out exorcist and then move across country if that was the case. I do announce my presence when I go downstairs or up to the third floor: “Hi there, I’m coming down to do the laundry. It’s me and I don’t want to surprise anyone just like I don’t want to be surprised or frightened! (yeah, I do emphasize that in a friendly but ernest tone). My husband gets a kick out of that too but I tell him if he thinks it’s crazy, he can do the laundry.
It seems to be working, my dialogue seems to have provided a happy peace for among all of us until I see or hear something and hightail it up the basement stairs like I just did.

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About EF Sweetman

bees, baseball, beverly, ma, culture, manners, society, writing
This entry was posted in 1, Blogroll, cautionary tales, essay, Observations and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Living with ghosts

  1. Pingback: HALLOWEEN!!! and How Not To Ruin Your Children’s Lives | Of bees, baseball, bicycles… and other things

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