Halloween is coming. I’m already binge-watching any paranormal shows I can find that I haven’t already seen. My favorites right now are the ones that deal with investigating ghost stories. When I was little I was terrified I might see a ghost. When I was 14, I actually saw one.
During the winter of 1980-something, we were in Pennsylvania visiting my relatives. I know that I was 14 because I had my driver’s permit and my cousin, Kara, who was a year older than me, didn’t (different rules in PA than here I guess). Since she always got to do everything first, I was kinda excited about that. We went to stay with my uncle who lived in a wooded area. The house was pretty isolated. My cousin’s bedroom was downstairs in the walk-out basement. The basement also contained a bathroom, a nice living area, a bar, and a storage room. Ooh! And a pinball game! I stayed in Kara’s room with her and the rest of the family stayed upstairs.
Since Kara’s room was toward the back of the house, she only had one small window (the size of a loaf of bread) toward the top of one wall. The window was at ground level outside. Since we were in the woods, there was no light coming in. She had one of those lamps where you could adjust the light so it was very low, like a nightlight, and she slept with that on.
When The Ghost Appeared
One night I woke up because I was really hot. The bed had this heavy velvet coverlet and I guess I wasn’t used to the temperature. As I went to throw off the coverlet, I glanced up and saw my cousin standing near the doorway with her robe on. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. But something was bugging me. I didn’t hear her moving around. The bathroom was right across the hall, so if she was headed that way I would have heard something. If she was coming back, I would have heard the toilet tank refilling, right? I thought maybe since she saw me moving around, she was being very still and trying not to wake me. So I kept my eyes closed and waited.
Then a story my Dad told me once sprang to memory (I’ll save that one for another time). I looked over, and Kara was sound asleep beside me! I’m sure you can guess how terrifying that was. I could not bring myself to look back toward the door. I grabbed the discarded coverlet and threw it over my head like the scared little kid I was. I’m pretty sure I passed out from fear (or from a lack of oxygen, or heat stroke) because I didn’t wake up until morning.
When it’s daylight stuff doesn’t seem as scary. I looked up at the window considering whether any light could have come in and played tricks on me. I looked behind the door for anything that might look like a person – a poster, some shadows, anything. Nada. Finally, I ran upstairs (my cousin was already up there) and asked my Aunt if she had hung anything on the door that she had taken off that morning. She said no and asked why. I told her, but my two younger cousins were in the room, so the conversation died. Pun intended.
When I thought back to what the person looked like, I realized it wasn’t a robe, but maybe a dressing gown over a floor-length white garment that poofed out a little bit at the bottom. She had dark hair that was pulled up and back. She wasn’t staring at me, just still and staring straight ahead. It was almost like a still picture, only life-sized and 3-D. But then, all this is from a glance that lasted maybe a second. My rational brain mistook the ghost for my cousin because my cousin had short, dark hair at the time. And since it was winter, I assumed she put her robe on. But who puts a robe on in a warm house to walk 10 steps across the hall?
It turns out there have been a number of weird things that have happened in and near their house over the years (I found out many, many years later). My aunt has actually seen a little old man leaning over her in the middle of the night. My aunt and uncle have woken up in the middle of the night to find all of the lights on in their room. My Dad even swore he heard my cousins playing at the back of the house when no one was home. But the weirdest thing I heard them talk about was a bag of warm McDonald’s french fries that they found in the bottom of their coat closet one day. I should mention that the nearest McDonalds at the time was a 45-minute drive away. Warm? Freaky!
Apparently, my Uncle’s house sits on or near the site of an old sawmill. I don’t know much about it, but I know they have a wall full of artifacts decorating their basement including a large saw blade, various tools, and even some old spectacles. Do the folks who used to live or work there still hang out in my uncle’s house? Maybe. You could probably come up with logical explanations for all the strange happenings – even my ghost sighting. I have stayed there since and nothing else weird happened. All I know is this: I would never have slept in that house at age 14 if I had suspected it was haunted. But it’s kinda cool that I have my own ghost story to tell.