Did you just hear something?
[Insert ghost noises here]
[Insert blood-curdling scream]
It’s that time of year, friends. [Dracula voice] The svookiest veek of the year: HALLOWEEN!
If you’re like me, you’re equal parts interested in and terrified of ghost stories. During Halloween time, I listen to ghost story podcasts and watch creepy tv shows and swap scary stories with friends all day long — and then dusk rolls around and I’m too scared to walk to the bathroom without someone escorting me. (Thanks Bryan!) That’s what happened this week.
Here, play this to set the mood:
On Monday, during the light of day when I was feeling brave, I read a blog post of real-life ghost stories. Let me tell you, friend, they were SCARY AS FCK. I don’t know what I was thinking reading those. They haunted me all evening, in the middle of the night, and still the next morning when the house was dark and I had to step out of bed. (Everyone knows there are monsters under the bed.)
I managed to leap out of bed far enough that the monster couldn’t grab my ankles (this time) and tip-toed into the kitchen. I started a pot of coffee, all the while looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t being watched. Someone is standing behind me.
The coffee started percolating, and I headed off to shower. About 30 seconds later, just as I walked into the bathroom and was feeling around for the light switch, I heard the water turn on in the kitchen sink.
OH HELL NO.
I froze. In the darkness, I could see Batman’s glowing cat eyes looking back at me, wide as saucers. I could tell what he was thinking.
OH MEOW NO.
I took a deep breath and walked slowly toward the kitchen. Sure enough, I could see from the hallway that the water faucet was running at full force. A poltergeist is in this house! I thought. (I knew that was reasonable, because I’ve seen a lot of tv documentaries about real-life hauntings, and poltergeists are always doing these kinds of things in kitchens.)
Bravely, I pushed forward, stepping gingerly until I was directly in front of the sink. Turkey, standing at his food bowl, meowed, causing me to jump 10 feet in the air. When I landed, I realized what had happened: a wet dish rag, which I had used and then hung on the curve of the faucet to drip dry, had slid down and landed on the handle, turning the on the water.
Phew. What a relief! I had just finished unpacking this house, after all, and I really didn’t want to pull all of those boxes out of the basement to re-pack. Partly because moving is a pain, and mostly because the basement is terrifying and most definitely haunted.
Having solved the mystery, I headed back to the bathroom and stepped in the shower. Just as I closed my eyes to lather shampoo in my hair, I heard the shower curtain start to rustle. Naturally, I jumped back, knowing it was a demonic clown with pointy teeth trying to stab me, but when I opened my eyes, I saw that it was just Turkey trying to peek in.
I had signed up to attend an early yoga class before work, so it was still dark outside when I stepped out of the house. While part of me knew that it was silly to be afraid of monsters, poltergeists and demonic clowns inside my house, the rest of me had a harder time overcoming the terrors of the outside world. I mean, have you seen the news lately? Who knows who could be waiting in the back yard for me?!
I stuck my head out the door, stretched my neck as farrrrrr as I could and cautiously looked left, then right, before fully exiting the door frame. It was raining, and the ground reflected the street lights above. Ominous. Quickly, I grabbed my car keys, hit the unlock button, sprinted to my car, opened the door and dove in, slamming the door behind me. I pressed “lock” over and over and over again to make sure the axe murderer who was surely waiting under my car wouldn’t be able to get inside.
I put my car in reverse, refusing to look at the back up camera screen. (I must confess, ever since I watched American Horror Story Freak Show, I’m convinced that one day, I’ll look in that screen to see a murderous clown standing in the dark behind me.)
Then it occurred to me.
What if he was already inside the car?
My eyes opened wide. In every urban legend, there’s always, always a murderer with a knife in the back seat. He waits until you’ve just pulled onto the road, away from the safety of your home, and then SLICE! Before you know it, your throat is slit and there’s blood gushing everywhere. Oh my word.
I wrestled with myself.
You should have checked the trunk before you got in, Jillian.
No, no. That’s silly. Of course there’s no one in the trunk.
That’s exactly what people think just before their throats get slit by the masked murderer hiding in the trunk.
No, be rational, Jillian. Think rationally!
He’s waiting for you to start driving.
Even Oprah would tell you to trust your instincts.
I remember that episode.
Finally, I reasoned that it was more likely there would be a murderer outside of my car than inside, (“reasoned” being the operative word), so I backed up and pulled onto the road, glancing into the rear view mirror each time I passed under a street light.
How would I react when I saw him materialize behind me? I wondered. How will I defend myself? No! Just turn the corner and head toward the highway.This is all in your mind.
The highway. THE HIGHWAY!
It was then that I remembered the blog I’d read the day before. It included a terrifying story about a demon stalking a man on a highway as he drove to work.
A DEMON IS STALKING ME ON THE HIGHWAY AS I’M DRIVING TO WORK! Well, to yoga and THEN TO WORK!
My mind started racing, remembering the way the writer described the demon. I couldn’t get his image out of my brain:
I noticed emergency flashers on the side of the road up ahead. A guy was standing with his thumb out just ahead of his car, illuminated by the headlights. It was maybe 18 degrees and he just wore a hoodie. I almost stopped, but as I slowed, I noticed dark brown stains on his yellow sweatshirt… His mouth seemed too wide and his teeth looked too small and there were too many of them.
OK, WTF THAT IS TERRIFYING. Driving there, in the dark, I could just imagine that scary, evil face. A face like a human, but not quite right —
And that’s when I saw it. A car, pulled over on the side of the road in front of me, flashers on. Its headlights illuminated something big and dark as they flashed. A person? I squinted. No, a trash can. A trash can overflowing with shiny, slippery garbage bags, dripping with rain. Nothing scary there. But, as I got closer, I saw one of the trash bags begin to pulsate – growing wider, taller, moving, stretching up out of the can. What the…?
The nearer I got, the more clearly I could see it. The car’s headlights flashed once more, and I could see the bag had a face. A FACE. I am not joking IT HAD A FACE! I stared at it, it stared back at me.
And then, before I knew it, the bag was in the road, racing toward me. RUNNING TOWARD ME!
WHAT IS HAPPENING?! My screams splintered, bouncing around my brain as I tried to comprehend what I was seeing. What is happening, what is happening, what is happening?
I winced and slammed on my breaks. The bag was right next to me and then in front of me. And then… kept going? Across the street, toward a house?
By the time the trash bag stepped onto the house’s front porch, I realized what was happening. It was, which seems rather obvious now, a man wearing a thin, yellow, hooded poncho, rolling his trash can to the curb. It was garbage day.
For the love, he looked like garbage coming to life. Any sane person would have thought the same.
I collected myself and carefully drove the rest of the way to yoga. By the time I reached the studio and settled into class, I had managed to slow my heartbeat to a normal pace.
By afternoon, I was feeling better again — well enough to take up talking about ghost stories again. I fell into conversation with a couple of coworkers who were swapping stories about real-life experiences they’ve had with ghosts. Turns out there are lots of ghosts of Confederate soldiers all around Nashville. There are lots of haunted houses all around the city, because many houses are built on top of soldiers’ unmarked graves.
Many houses are built on top of soldiers’ unmarked graves.
P.S. If you think you’re brave enough, here’s that blog post of scary stories I mentioned. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.