By Susan Govern
Halloween is just a few days away but the entire month of October has been, for as long as I can recall, a time for some scary fun. Sometimes as early as the last weekend of September I will start to see advertising for “Boo at the Zoo” and Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends. Haunted Houses and Haunted Laboratories are open for the entire month. It’s all meant as good, clean, safe fun to have the life scared out of you.
But even though there are commercial “haunted” places to visit this time of year, there are other places that boast of being truly haunted 365 days of the year. Travel to New Orleans, Gettysburg, Southern Plantation Mansions, Old West Graveyards (think Boot Hill by Tombstone Arizona) – these are just a few of many places where you can go for a good scare just by listening to the tour guides.
For me to experience a haunted house, all I had to do was live there. Yep – I’m one of probably thousands of people who believe they have experienced the “supernatural”. Laugh if you will, but until you experience something out of the ordinary yourself – well to those of us who have it’s not funny.
I grew up in a normal house in a suburb of Cleveland; a pretty little Cape-Cod style house that was built by a man who was a wood shop teacher. My parents as newlyweds bought the house from him with everything but the upstairs dormer finished off. Even that was “roughed-in” so there could be a master bedroom, full bath and small extra bedroom connected by a hallway whenever someone wanted to take the time to finish it.
That someone turned out to be my dad about the time he and mom found out she was expecting me. Building that house had been a labor of love for that teacher, and the work on that dormer by my dad was also.
Now I have read things over the years that state some restless spirits roam because they have unfinished business left in this life. I have a feeling that was the case in that house, and with the original builder.
Many nights as a child I would be in bed only to wake up with the strong feeling someone was standing in my bedroom watching me. After several minutes, when the feeling wouldn’t leave, I would give in to the fear and yell for my mom without opening my eyes. Then as soon as I heard her footsteps in the hallway, whatever it was that had been in my room would be gone and the room felt “normal” again. Typical childhood fears – right?! Except I found out many years later, after we moved from that house, that my mom (a grown woman) often felt she wasn’t alone whenever she was cleaning the upstairs or making the beds. She would sense someone watching her and turn to see no one there. So much for a child’s imagination.
Move forward some years to when I was in the seventh grade. In those years you could leave a pre-teen alone for a short time during the day and it was pretty safe. One Saturday both my parents were out shopping leaving me and a friend at my house for a couple of hours. We were down in my basement playing a board game when we heard what sounded like someone walking above us. I knew the upstairs doors were locked because my parent said they were locking them when they left, and they would have called to us to let us know if they were back.
We became very quiet and listened. Heard nothing and shrugged it off. We began the game again and heard the footsteps again. This time we both were sure we were not alone. At first we hid in a closet in the basement, then as we heard the steps again between the kitchen and the steps to the dormer, I decided I wasn’t going to let someone get away with being in my house (and this was way before the original Home Alone Movie). Grabbing a couple of hammers from my dad’s tool bench, my friend and I made our way as silently as possible to the main floor. I motioned for her to go one way – through the dining room, then living room and to the small hall at the foot of the upstairs steps. I went the other way through the kitchen. We met in that hallway by the stairs and saw no one. Then we heard a creak on the floor of the upstairs hallway. I threw open the door to the upstairs steps and called out that we were going to get the police. No more sound could be heard as we didn’t move for an entire few minutes – that is until my mom walked in the side door and scared us half to death.
We told my parents who just looked at each other and then they pointed out the doors were all still locked and so were the windows. Try as they did to convince me and my friend it was our imaginations working over-time, we KNEW what we had heard.
Wish I could say that was the end of the mysterious footsteps, but it wasn’t. Not too long after this my mom picked me up from school one nice Fall afternoon – I developed a bad sore throat and a slight fever at school and the nurse called my mom. Mom took me home then had to go back to the bank where she worked part-time as a Teller. Before she left she reminded me that dad would be home in a couple of hours, I should take it easy, and to keep all the doors locked; all the usual instructions.
Normally when I would get home from school and be alone on her working days, I let myself in, locked the door behind me, called mom to say I was home then I could watch T.V. or listen to the radio while reading till dad or mom got home from their jobs. It was all very routine; not this day. I started out listening to the radio and settled in a chair by the living room window to read. From that chair I could see across the living room and into the dining room. I could also see the door to the upstairs steps, which we kept closed. After a while I got bored with the radio and shut it off. That’s when things got – shall we say – interesting.
Everything was quiet and I could now concentrate on my book. Above my head upstairs was the doorway of the master bedroom. That’s where the sound started.
Very distinctly I heard on the wooden floors someone take three or four steps out into the hallway then stop. I looked up at the ceiling and a chill ran down my spine. As I stared up, three more steps continued then stopped. I could actually follow the steps from below while looking up. Now my stomach felt tight and my heart was pounding. After a moment, the footsteps started again, at a normal pace of someone walking across the hallway on the wood floors and then I heard the distinctive creak of someone stepping onto the top landing. As the sound of someone coming down the steps continued, I was at the front door and unlocking it as fast as I could. Just about the time I heard the footsteps reach the bottom of the staircase, I was out the door and running down our front steps into the yard. Sick or not sick…there was no way I was going to stay in that house by myself. For the next couple of hours I paced around my front yard waiting for my dad to get home from work.
Why didn’t I go to a neighbor? There were other mom’s who didn’t work and they were home, but I didn’t want to look like an idiot telling them I think I heard a possible ghost walking in my house – and in my mind it had to be that because all the windows were closed and locked and so were the doors.
My dad finally came home and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him about running out of the house like a frightened cat. So I simply said I was worried someone had broken in through a back window and had been hiding upstairs. I heard them walking because they probably thought I had left when I turned off the radio. Dad walked around the entire outside of the house with me and showed me all the windows were ok. Then he laughed it off and said I just heard an old house “settling” which makes creaks and pops sometimes.
Now I loved my dad and trusted him but even though I didn’t say it to him – I didn’t believe his explanation. Again…I know what I heard, I know how I felt, I KNOW I experienced something strange, but I couldn’t prove or recreate what I heard so I let it go.
Many years later I was watching the recent T.V. show Ghost Hunters on the Syfy Channel and they captured a recording – taped while the house they were investigating was empty of any of their crew. In the recording was the sound of footsteps on a wooden floor above where the audio recorder was set up. As I listened to the playback on t.v., I got a chill down my spine, my stomach went tight and my heart was pounding – their recording of several footsteps walking across a wooden floored hallway was EXACTLY what I heard all those years ago. And the kicker to all this was the video camera in the upstairs hall they had set up for investigating showed no one walking around at the time.
So many places appear to have things go “bump in the night” or even in the daytime. Graveyards, battle fields, castles and such can boast their share of spooky happenings, but I’ve learned through experience that even the most normal looking places may not be so normal after all.