Tag Archives: haunted

From far beneath our home

I have a story to tell. It’s not mine, it was given to me by my mother, about her father and a house we all shared.

My grandfather was a pragmatic man, often seen with a cigar in his mouth and a drink in his hand. His were not the ways of whimsy.

He had fought in World War II, running away to join the military when he was fifteen. He saw things, though I never knew what, and that made him tough, unflappable. When he returned Stateside, he met my grandmother and the two of them later married. They lived a nomadic life, running a restaurant in one town for a few years, a farm in another. My grandfather was always on the move, even after ensconcing his family in some house or another throughout the midwest. That was just his nature, I suppose, always trailing the Next Big Thing. That’s what brought him to Colorado.

When his first two grandchildren came along, my grandfather became “Poppop” and he settled a bit. By that time, he and ZZ  lived in a yellow brick rancher with my aunt and a pair of Siamese cats in Colorado Springs. My mom and I lived with them. As far as I remember, it was wonderful. I was close to my mom, my aunt and especially my grandmother and I sure did love my Poppop. I still remember his smell, even after all this time. Nonetheless, I intrinsically understood that Poppop, though a jokester, was not prone to flights of fancy. Nothing rattled him. He showed anger, but never fear, never worry. He had an explanation and a plan for everything. He was a solid, down-to-earth man.

Many Colorado towns are built over old mines. Miners would stake their claims, dig their holes, and once prosperity hit, a town would grow up, buildings rising from the rocky ground like weeds. As time passed, the mines shut down but the towns continued to grow and spread until they were over the top of these abandoned man-made tunnels in the earth. There are some years, especially in wet springs, when sidewalks, houses, entire streets will sink suddenly down a collapsed mineshaft.

And there are also nights when the souls of miners who perished under the earth, away from the sun, far from loved ones, resurface to find their ways home. Poppop met one of these miners.

Chelton road

Our story takes place in this neat, quiet neighborhood.

After ZZ & PopPop moved into the little yellow brick house, the women-folk of the family started feeling things: a malevolent presence, something bad. Poppop laughed at his wife and daughters, made fun of them, did not believe them, yet, still, they warned him: there was something not right in the house.

He was a land salesman at the time and early one morning, he was getting ready to go to work. He finished his bathroom ablations, smacking aftershave on his newly-smoothed cheeks, then he crossed the hallway and walked into the living room, no doubt thinking of the day before him. As he turned toward the kitchen where the coffee waited, he happened to glance to his right and saw someone sitting on the couch. Not someone who lived in his house, though. There was an old miner, sitting, waiting. He looked at my grandfather…and then he faded away.

Colorado miners

“Skip 750 ft. under ground in Colorado mine”
Are any of these men currently haunting people in their living rooms?

The man who felt no fear, who mocked his family for their otherworld sensitivities, who never ran away with his imagination had just seen a ghost and it freaked him out. He was so alarmed, he rushed to tell ZZ what had happened, admitting she’d been right, the house was haunted.  He was still visibly shaken or, as he may have put it, “scared shitless,” by the time my mom heard his tale. I imagine she felt rather smug seeing her father in a tizzy over a ghost when the rest of the family had been living with it all along.

After enough time passed, he stopped talking about his experience. In fact, he never spoke of it again. But he also never tried to convince anyone that ghosts don’t exist again, either.

As it turns out, the ghost of the miner was just passing through. It wasn’t the source of the hateful feeling found in the house. No, that one stayed and you’ll hear more about it next week.

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Filed under My Dearly Beloveds, My journey to writerhood

‘Tis the season to be scary

The spiced cider is burbling away in the kitchen, candles are flickering, and there’s a strong wind rattling the windows. Have a seat in my little cabin and let me tell you a story, a mild tale intended more for wonder than fright.

Years ago, I worked with a delightful woman. Her name was Karen (I say “was” because she is no longer with us, though maybe she is with us right now, listening to this tale) She was awesome. And crazy. And hilarious. We worked late together, alone in our office, long past the time when streetlights came on. We would sit at our desks, cackling and carrying on, sometimes to the point that people from other departments had to walk over and tell us to shush.

Karen was one of those good souls, the type of person everybody should be blessed with as a friend. She would call me when I was home sick to give me the day’s work-related news; she always remembered my birthday; she did recon on one of my ex-boyfriends and we said horrid things about him and his post-me lifestyle; she gave me her unwise shoe purchases (she couldn’t wear heels above 2 inches but bought them anyhow. Then she’d try to wear them but would fail and end up giving them to me because they were “just too cute to go to waste”) When I was looking for a new place to live, she just happened to be looking for a tenant for her parents’ house, a place that had been rented-out since her parents had died years before.

It was a wonderful house – split level on a corner with a landscaped yard. My friend and I, we moved in right away and later, Noelle and Little B joined us later. I loved living there, some of my favorite memories come from our time in that little home we’d made for ourselves. Except for the downstairs bathroom. I didn’t love it so much. It was an eyesore – small and rectangular, covered in a ghastly wallpaper that made a person dizzy. It wasn’t much different from this, actually, just smaller print in a much smaller space:

The color scheme was the same – red on cream – and the busy-ness was there. Our wallpaper, though, was made of a bunch of small, red diamonds that were actually made of four dots. It really did make a person dizzy to be locked in such a tiny room with such dotty/diamondy wallpaper.

So one day, I asked Karen if I could re-do the bathroom. She told me to have at it and I did. Only, here’s the thing: The wallpaper, the monstrous, eye-hurting wallpaper, had been glued directly to the drywall. That meant that even with steaming, removing the wallpaper brought giant chunks of plasterboard with it. It was horrible. I had friends come over and help and every single one left crying. My roomie and I spent two weeks denuding the walls and every single day, I cursed the moron who stuck wallpaper glue directly to drywall and didn’t think of future house-dwellers who might need to remove said wallpaper.

Around that same time, Karen started looking worn down. She said she wasn’t sleeping well at night. She felt jittery all day. One evening, quite a way into my renovation project, she said, “I’ve been having terrible dreams.” She looked awful, bags under the eyes, bruisey skin.

I asked, “Dreams about what?”

She said, “About my mother. In my dreams, my mother is terribly upset because she’s misplaced her purse and I’m trying to help her find it but I don’t know where it is and she’s so angry.”

She mentioned a similar dream a couple of days later. A little bell chimed in the back of my brain. I said, “Hey, Karen, the bathroom downstairs, who put up the wallpaper?”

She said, “My mom. She’d been so proud of it. She hung it all by herself, decorated that room all by herself.” I nodded, put my head down, and got back to work.

The minute I got home that night, I ran downstairs, stood in the bathroom with its pockmarked, crumbling walls from whence wallpaper had been ripped violently away, and yelled,

I AM SORRY! I DIDN’T KNOW! I AM SURE IT WAS BEAUTIFUL AT THE TIME. I NOW UNDERSTAND THAT YOU LOVED THIS ROOM BECAUSE YOU MADE IT YOURSELF! I DIDN’T KNOW AND I SHOULD HAVE ASKED BEFORE CHANGING IT. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR DAUGHTER ALONE! I AM SO SORRY FOR EVERYTHING I SAID!

Then I sat down and explained my vision – grayblue wainscotting with sky blue wall and ceiling, clouds dotted up top. I’d paint a tranquil sea along the trim and my roommate would decorate the room with seashells and lighthouses. I mentioned that it would be a peaceful place in an otherwise dark corner of the basement, just as she’d originally intended. Then I got to work. The rest of the wallpaper came off like I was peeling skin from a sunburn.

I was sitting at my desk the next day when Karen walked in. She looked great! No more dark circles or saggy skin. I asked how she’d slept and she said, “I haven’t slept that well in I don’t know how long.”

“So, no dreams about your mother?”

She thought about it and said, “No. She’s fine now.”

I apologized to Karen for causing her such trouble and when she asked what I was talking about, I told her, “Your mother knows.”

For Karen: I hope the afterlife is everything you wished it to be. I miss laughing with you.

And for Dana since you got to share this adventure with me. We had some good times there, didn’t we?

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Filed under Adventures, For my short story collection, In my backyard, My journey to writerhood