I’m sensitive. No, really, I am. I’m a grown man scared of ghosts.
Eli’s horror movie phase only lasted about a year. As a young teenager, he blew through an extensive list of well-known titles. The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Shining, et al. Trying to participate, I suggested we watch the 1982 film Poltergeist as a family. “This is the scariest movie you’ll ever see!” I never know when to keep my mouth shut. As the closing credits rolled: “Dad, that movie was really lame. How about I pick the next movie.” We never did that.
Besides Poltergeist, I can’t really think of any supernatural horror films I watched during my teenage years. This was the era of slasher movies; they seemed to release something new every few months—specifically Halloween and Friday the 13th, (I, II, III, IV…). Those slasher movies don’t really bother me. Sure, I jump and spill my popcorn like everyone else when an owl flies out from behind the water heater, but these movies don’t give me nightmares. They don’t keep me out of my poorly lit basement. Ghosts do that.
For a couple of weeks during my high school summers, the Minogue family asked me to house-sit. This entailed watering plants and caring for their big, dopey golden retriever named Mack. They lived right behind us, so I simply hopped the back fence for meals and fresh clothing, but at night, at bedtime, I felt a world away. When my nighttime TV options dwindled away, I’d face the prospect of going to sleep in a big, empty house. Their basement, well on its way to becoming a hoarder’s den, featured a maze of passageways through boxes stacked to the ceiling. Each night, Mack and I crept around the maze corners, assuring myself that the house was free of… what? I wasn’t worried about a hockey-masked psychopath. More likely a creepy little girl in a nightgown.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E1YjIHMxAs <== Must watch video!
The last horror movie I watched (other than my attempt to frighten my family with Poltergeist) was the Sixth Sense. Susan and I saw this movie in a theater twenty-three years ago. I vowed to never see another horror film. Decades later, I’m still unable to make a midnight bathroom run without adverting my half-closed eyes towards the floor. I never look in the mirror, certain that I don’t want to see what’s lurking behind me. Like many (most?) people, dead children creep me out, and the Sixth Sense has no shortage of them. The scene that pops into my head at two-thirty in the morning is the little boy wandering the halls of Haley Joel Osment’s house. “Come on. I’ll show you where my dad keeps his gun.” The boy turns away and displays the half of his face missing from the gun accident that killed him.
In my first living situation after college, I rented a house with three friends. Scotty and I took the upstairs: two bedrooms, one bath, while my roommates had a similar setup downstairs. Our bathroom, Scotty’s and mine, had a moderate sized storage room adjoining it. The doorway into that room was one of those slat-doors, the kind that look like Venetian blinds. Looking straight at the door, it was impossible to see through, but if you got up close on your hands and knees, you could look up and see into the next room. Every time I walked into the bathroom, I envisioned someone on the other side of the door watching my feet.
I probably entered that storage room three or four times during the year I lived there. The dingy black and while tiled floor resembled something you might find in an elementary school from the forties. A bare bulb on a pull-string illuminated the room. No one stored a single item in that room, not the landlord and not us renters. Everyone was terrified of the room. Regardless of the temperature, I got chills whenever I walked into the bathroom. At night, I never looked at the door.
The Sixth Sense showed us that ghosts are everywhere. For those unfortunate to see or sense them, ghosts are an ongoing fact of life. Living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, often touted as one of the most haunted places on earth, I see countless ghost tours up and down main street anytime I’m out after dark. With almost eighteen thousand soldiers dead or missing in the three-day civil war battle, plenty of disrupted souls may still lurk here. I once had a dream that the ghosts in my bedroom decided to make themselves visible to me. A dozen of them, young to old suddenly appeared a few feet away.
Like many people, a handful of times, I’ve encountered strange and unexplainable events—three of those times were in that rental house. I see the probability of ghosts existing like I see the potential for extraterrestrial life. Given the sheer numbers of possibilities (dead people throughout history, planets within the universe) it seems almost impossible that a few spirits aren’t hanging out among us. For me, it’s a love hate circumstance. There’s nothing I’d love more than a clear, undeniable paranormal encounter. But God, I’d hate for that to happen.
Another ghost story I blogged about: