I thought I'd posted this story online before, but it didn't show up after an Internet search. So, I'm posting it for my readers this Halloween. I hope you enjoy!
If you've had a ghostly experience, please share it with us in the comment section.
A Haunted House in the Suburbs
When I think about haunted houses, my mind conjures up old, dark, abandoned dwellings in poor condition or ancient castles and mansions with ugly gargoyles keeping out intruders. Not single story ranch style homes with cement foundations that sit on paved streets not more than fifteen feet from the house next door. Now, it’s my understanding that when a realtor sells a property, they must inform the prospective buyers if a death has occurred in the residence, and if it was natural or violent. When we bought the house in Fort Worth in 1972, we received no such news, so, of course our modest abode, in a clean, neat neighborhood wasn’t a candidate for ghost activity.
I must admit that one night I heard what sounded like someone fighting for their life. My husband liked to watch TV while lying on the sofa, and invariably he’d fall asleep. Our bedroom was right off the den, the TV sat just outside our doorway. Usually, the noise didn’t bother me, or even wake me. But on this particular night, the horrible, loud sounds of choking, gurgling, and screams had me springing from the bed in fright.
My first thought was a heart attack, but the yells of terror nixed that. The only thing that registered in my brain was an intruder was attacking my husband.
My soul mate slept peacefully, but the woman on the TV screen being sucked dry by a vampire wasn’t. I hit the knob on the tube to turn it off. In that day and time, we didn’t have remote controls. Switching channels required getting up to turn the dial, a major pain. Being a portable set sitting on a flimsy stand, it rocked from the blow.
Furious, I left him snoring serenely and went back to bed. Beating my pillow into submission, I mumbled a few unkind words to let off steam. My heart rate hadn’t slowed yet, so I took several deep breaths. I might not have been so frightened if we’d not had several break-ins in the neighborhood in the past few months. TV’s, jewelry, and other easy to carry items had disappeared, but the burglaries occurred during the day when everyone was at work. No one had been hurt, but there was always a first time.
Before I get to my story about my haunting experience, first let me say, if there is a foreign sound in the house I will hear it and wake up. I don’t know if it’s a mother thing, ESP, or what. One night I awoke and heard a faint noise I couldn’t identify. I rose and walked all over the house trying to find the source. At first I thought it was water running in one of the toilets, but neither were the problem. It was the water heater. A hole had formed in the bottom allowing water to leak onto the raised platform on which it sat. The slow drip, drip, drip is what woke me.
For once my husband didn’t complain about being woken in the night about some noise. In fact, he was grateful. “If you hadn’t heard that slow drip, we’d have a mess to clean up in the morning.” He turned off the gas flame, and with a hose, drained the tank.
On another occasion, around two a.m., something woke me. I don’t have a clue what it was, if I’d heard some sound or what. I lay there awhile, still and afraid, listening for the noise to be repeated so I could hone it on what had nudged me from slumber. My heart thundered in my chest as I waited. When I didn’t hear anything, I opened my eyes. You’re probably wondering why I hadn’t opened my eyes sooner. If someone was in the house, I didn’t want them to know I was awake. Hearing nothing, I opened my eyes. A man stood in front of the TV just outside our bedroom door staring inside. His body was positioned partially toward us, but his head was turned, looking in our bedroom. I could see fairly well as he stood in the glow of the nightlight we leave on for the kids. He wasn’t moving, so I figured I was dreaming. Fear churning in my belly, I continued to gape, taking in his clothes and posture. Of less than medium height for a man, stocky, or maybe the loose clothes he wore made him appear so. About five feet, five inches tall, he wore olive green or khaki pants and a matching jacket that hit him about mid thigh. I know it was a jacket because the hem didn’t curve and I could see that it hung open. His hat was the same color as his clothes, one of those cloth types with a brim turned slightly down, almost like a fishing hat but the brim was wider. Though the light wasn’t bright, I could see enough to make me believe the man was neat and clean.
He remained unmoving and didn’t make a sound. If he was a thief, he’d be quietly gathering loot – a murderer, there would be a weapon of some kind. This had to be a dream. To test my theory, I thought, if I sit up and it’s just a nightmare, I’ll awaken. I sat up in the bed and waited. He bent slightly at the waist and cocked his head in my direction. My mouth was open, a scream gathering in my throat, when his image broke apart and began pulling away. The same way cigarette smoke dissipates if fluttered by a slight breeze.
I glanced at my sleeping husband trying to make up my mind whether to wake him or not. Deciding no, I got up, tiptoed to the door, and peered around the corner. Nothing. I pulled back quickly, and holding my breath, took another fast peek. No one. I released the air in my lungs and leaned against the door frame to steady my shaky legs. Like most mothers, I couldn’t go back to bed until I’d checked on my children, every door, and window in the house. Everything was locked down for the night as it should be.
For a long time, I lay still in the bed staring at the ceiling, afraid to go back to sleep. Was it possible to be so deep in slumber that you could envision something thinking it real? I don’t think so. As a child, I walked in my sleep on occasion. But in those situations, I interacted with my environment. The minute I woke, I knew I’d been asleep. And felt pretty darn stupid afterwards. Especially the time I walked into my brother’s room and started beating on him.
Whatever I’d seen was totally different. I’d swear he was real, and his head and body did move. I didn’t have a sense of waking, I was already awake. In my mind, I know I saw a ghost. Where this ghost came from or why he was there, I don’t have a clue. If ghosts have temperaments, I’d say this ghost was kind and good. At no time did I feel threatened. Scared yes, but not so much by him as by the fact that I’d seen him period.
The next morning, I told my husband about our visitor. Being the analytical person he is, he scoffed at the idea of my seeing a ghost. His answer was I’d been dreaming, again. I do have vivid nightmares, ones in living color. If only I could remember them, I’d have tons of ideas for story plots. On occasion I can remember parts of them and make notes for future reference. But, make no mistake, on this occasion, I was awake. I know the difference between a dream and an apparition, ghost, whatever, standing at my door and making eye contact. I’d been haunted – well, not really haunted since I only saw him once.
Over the next few months, I thought of who this individual might be. Across the street and down a steep hill from our house was a railroad track and trains come through regularly. Is it possible he was once a hobo who jumped off the train and fell to his death? Or starved to death, or had been murdered? It didn’t sound likely. He was too clean to be a homeless man. There were numerous possibilities.
Our housing addition sits on soap stone. Until we moved there, I’d never heard of its existence. But when it gets wet, it is slick. As a result, rain washed away parts of the cliff across the street. Back yards slid down the hill, and two vacant lots remained empty where houses had once been. Is it possible that while the streets had been laid out, dirt moved, piled up to form barriers that the land had shifted burying one of the workers? That was a terrible thought.
When I decided to write this story, a fact that puzzled me was the hat the man wore. It was not one I’d seen before. I discussed it with several people and received different answers. I searched the Internet and looked for pictures. Frustrated, I shared my dilemma with my husband. He responded, “It sounds like a jungle hat to me, a Boonie or Daisy Mae.” And sure enough, it was, but not camouflage like the modern ones. After more searching, I found the hat in WWII Army gear – a fatigue Boonie hat to match the jungle fatigues worn in the Pacific.
It was then I realized what he’d worn was a uniform, one when fatigues were standard Army issue, not the camouflage type worn today. Of course, workmen often wore khakis, but I doubt they’d have worn a jacket like my visitor. After further thought, I believe his jacket was a field jacket because my husband still has the one he wore while in the Army in the late 1960’s hanging in his closet.
Our house was built in the early 1960’s, after the Korean War but before Vietnam. Is it possible the people who lived there before us lost a loved one and he’d come seeking them? Or was it someone we had known? It’s possible the ghost didn’t come to see anyone, but something in the house, an item he was attached to. As far as actual antiques, I didn’t have any in the house, but I did have some collectibles and garage sale items.
When our children were small, there were times when they’d wake in the night claiming, “Someone was in my room.” After a thorough search, we found nothing so chalked it up as a dream or moonlight shining through the curtains and highlighting objects on the wall. As for me, I never saw him again.
In the early 1980’s we moved to another town and friends bought the house. When I decided to write this story, I called to see if they’d had any unusual experiences while living there. She asked what kind of oddities I had in mind. I have to give her credit, she didn’t laugh when I said – a ghost. “No, I haven’t and as far as I know, none of the others have either, or if they did, they didn’t mention it to me. But I’ll ask them.” Darn, I was disappointed. I needed some backup, verification that what I’d seen was real.
One afternoon my son, now grown, came over and helped me with some work on my computer. I explained what I was writing and asked him if he’d seen anything unusual, like a ghost when we lived in Fort Worth. Many young men would’ve burst out laughing, but not my son. He’s more like me in his thinking, and doesn’t automatically deny the possibility of unusual happenings. His answer was, no, not in that house, but he and his sister both had seen something in our new home. He continued. “We talked about feeling spooked, and we both saw the exact same thing. Sometimes at night, when we first turned on the light in our bedroom, we’d see the dark shadow of a man. The vision only lasted a second.”
When I described what I’d seen that night, he snapped his fingers, pointed at me, and said, “That’s the kind of hat our shadow wore.”
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Happy Reading and Writing!