Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

When I was little, I believed that ghosts were friendly creatures with good senses of humor and a keen sense of fun. Oh, how deceiving those “Casper the Friendly Ghost” morning reruns were.

Today, I honestly don’t know what to believe.

I’d like to say that I’m a skeptic, but, in reality, I’m too superstitious for my own good. Every time I watch a scary movie, I turn on all the lights at home, afraid of every dark crevice. I’m embarrassed to admit that my electricity bill skyrocketed in the days after I watched “The Grudge.”

The real reason I am unable to rule out the existence of ghosts is because of an experience with the paranormal that, unfortunately, cannot be definitively disproven. Like all ghost stories, mine is fraught with ambiguous details that leave one’s interpretation of reality open to the listener.

Fact or fiction? You decide.

Picture a two-story house, tall and spacious. A beautiful wood staircase sweeps dramatically from the top of the house to the bottom; beige stone tiles line the floor of the kitchen; the rooms on the building’s top level possess million-dollar views of the surrounding neighborhood – rows of neatly maintained yards and streets visible with mere glimpses through any of the windows.

This was my new home at nine years old. After having grown up in a cramped, one-story house, I’d been ecstatic to move into what I’d perceived as a veritable castle.

Enter the first night in my new home. Tired but restless, I wandered the halls of the house, unable to fall asleep, hoping that a drink of water from the kitchen would help calm my nerves.

I maneuvered tepidly around boxes of still-unpacked items casting eerie shadows onto the floor, peering imperceptibly into my surroundings, chills sprinting a marathon up and down my spine. When you are nine years old, the dark is a formidable enemy. When you are nine and you see a silhouette shaped like a person waiting for you in the distance, your natural reaction is to turn and run the other way.

And then the lights switched on, except I hadn’t been anywhere near a light switch.

Trembling uncontrollably, I willed myself to turn around and look.

My mother. She’d heard me shuffling around the house and wanted to check on me. I attributed the vague uneasiness in my stomach to my unfamiliarity with the house. I assumed that it would soon dissipate.

The next nights came and went days soon turning into weeks, weeks later melting away into months. And still, the feeling remained. For the rest of the year and halfway into the next, sleep came reluctantly and an unspoken cloud of tension seemed to hover over the household.

It was only when my dad was fit to move the family out the following August that my tenuous relationship with this house became but a distant memory relegated to the annals of the past. Several years passed without a second thought about my prior experience.

Until one fateful night. I had been watching ghost documentaries on TV with my sister. I playfully asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

She answered without hesitation, “Yes.”

I implored her to elaborate, startled because she isn’t the superstitious type. This certainly wasn’t the answer I had expected.

“Well, you remember our old house, don’t you? And how you were never able to fall asleep – same as me – and how there was always this strange vibe in there?”

A pang of familiarity struck me, and I only nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I’m not sure what to believe, but the thing is that weird, unexplainable things kept happening in that house. There was a bar of soap that nobody touched … and it kept shrinking over time, like somebody was using it to shower with. And when we first moved in, we had stacks of boxes everywhere, some of them that kept getting moved around … except that we weren’t doing the moving.”

At this I shuddered involuntarily, remembering the first night that I had walked around these same boxes en route to the kitchen.

“And, well … objects randomly shifting here and there, that strange feeling we always got in there– “

A pause.

“Our family thinks that house is haunted.”

I was thunderstruck, but more importantly, frightened because my sister’s words were making a lot of sense, because they explained so much about why I could never relax in our former house, why I could never sleep comfortably.

Being the stickler for reason that I am, I refuse to adamantly declare my belief in ghosts. But due to my experience, reason also dictates that I can’t rule out the possibility of their existence – friendly ghosts with their own TV shows or otherwise. As it turns out, Casper may be more sinister than I’d originally believed.