Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Haunting in San Dimas, or A Long Story About a Girl and a Ghost

Do you like ghost stories? I love a good ghost story. Unless I'm living a ghost story. Then I'm not so excited about them.

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So my parents have been in Hawaii this week because my father has his first case in Hawaii and was asked to come and visit the scene and bring his wife along for a mini vacation. Because it's not like we have perpetual summer in Southern California anyway.

Since the 'rents have been out of town, though, it has fallen upon my shoulders to supervise things on the home front. Most importantly: caring for my sisters, freshly 16 year old high school sophomores. This involves a lot of driving. A lot of driving. To and from school, to and from band practice, girl scouts, competitions, church, homework club, plus driving myself back home to pick up Gatsby and change my clothes and then drive back to work twice a day. Lots of driving. (Also lots of annoying requests to go places without any regard for the fact that even though I'm their acting guardian, I still have a full-time job and can't just go spend two hours at Target in the middle of the afternoon.)

All of this means that I've been spending a great deal more time at my childhood home than I have in a considerable while (since the last time my parents went out of town with or without my sisters, basically). In the last days I've noticed things - disturbing things. The first of these was actually on the first day our parents were gone and I was in the house by myself for several hours while my sisters were at a football game (marching band and color guard). The first instance was at about 5:30pm and I was in the family room. We have a big, ranch-style house so the family room, kitchen, dining room, and living room are mostly a large, open space with bedrooms and bathrooms book-ending these living areas. The "family room" is right next to the kitchen and the hallway to the bedrooms runs perpendicularly to it. The door separating this hallway from the rest of the house is usually left open. I was standing in the family room adjusting the lights to the kitchen and sorting the mail when I saw it, not quite in the corner of my eye.

A slinking, black shadow had darted across the hallway and into my sister's bedroom.

I stood frozen trying to convince myself that my eyes were playing tricks on me but I was so, so certain that they weren't. I said a quick Hail Mary and went after it, turning on every light within my reach as I went. When I reached my sister's room I turned on all the lights, shone my phone's flashlight into her closet and in all the dark nooks and corners but found nothing. I shook off the icky feeling in the pit of my stomach, turned off the lights, and went back to sorting the mail. I thought, "Hey, it must've been one of the cats. If our cats are three times the normal size of a cat, amorphous, and inky-black like smoke. Sure."

About 2 hours later, I was in the garden. (The open living area of the house opens into the backyard via a wide, sliding glass door, so you can see from the house into the yard and from the yard into the house.) I was trying to locate the cats and make sure they were safely in the house or in the garage for the night. It was pretty out so I sat on one of the patio benches looking into the house to enjoy the night air and the sounds of the windchimes. After a few minutes of admiring the garden and how nice the new kitchen looks, I saw it and this time there was no way my eyes were fooling me because it passed right in front of me.

That slinking, low to the ground black shadow slithered out of the family room, through the dining room/entry way and out of sight towards my parents' bedroom.

Thoroughly freaked out, I went back inside and started lighting every candle I could find. I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish with excessive candle lighting, but it made me feel a little better. I turned on the radio and found the Christmas music station and cranked that up loud, then settled onto a kitchen counter next to the radio and some candles and focused on knitting for another 2 1/2 hours until I could go and pick up my sisters. When I did pick them up I told them the whole story and they, of course, believed me. They've had their own experiences with this thing and know it's no joke. So we lit my St. Michael candle and said a rosary and went to bed early.

The next morning I called my parents to check in and tell them what had happened. Our mom was familiar with it because she's had experiences with it as well but what really surprised me was that my dad had seen the shadow, too. My father is a Bible thumping Protestant (sorry, Protestant friends) and doesn't go in for our "superstitious Catholic silliness," but told me he thought his eyes were playing tricks, too. Then, my mother gave me instructions on how to go about sage cleansing the house.

Understand: I'm Catholic. I teach catechism and study Catholic teachings and I take my faith and the teachings of my Church very seriously. I'm not a fan of superstition or New Age spiritualism or Reiki or alternative medicine (even though my mother is a massage therapist and I do consider that an authentic form of holistic health practice). But I was so freaked out and downright scared that I found a bundle of dried white sage and an abalone shell and opened up all of the windows in the house and wafted sage smoke into every corner of the house. Did I feel silly? Sure. Did it work? Well, I'm not superstitious, but I also haven't seen any slinky black shadows or heard footsteps or other weirdness since.

This isn't the first encounter we've had with spirits in my childhood home, either. Growing up there were always noises, some which could be explained - it's an old house, it creaks - and others that couldn't. Things would fall off of shelves, doors would slam or open, random cold spots... Yet these are things I've experienced on occasion in other houses. But when one of my mom's clients comes into the house and randomly wanders into the living room and then tells us that "She's cold and wants you to light her a fire," that's not normal. (That happened a few years ago while I was still in college, though I was present for that particular interaction.)

My sisters had an ugly altercation with something last fall, when they were home alone while in the bathroom brushing their teeth. They heard someone (thing?) come into the main part of the house (at which point they shut the bathroom door), footsteps in the hallway (at which point they locked the bathroom door), and then whatever it was banging and pulling on the door trying to get it open. The cops came and even used a heat sensor thingy which picked up the body heat from the chickens and the cops that had been through the house but nothing else. We've heard footsteps in the hallway at night, seen reflections in windows of things that aren't there, and so on.  We're not really sure what it is; it's not really malevolent, but I don't know if it's simply lost, either.

Whatever it is, my childhood home is haunted.

 Stay tuned, there may be more to come on the ghost front. I think I need to research the previous homeowners or something...


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