I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scare easy. I jump when my husband creeps behind me in the mirror while I’m blow-drying my hair – the sonic noise ringing in my ear, too loud to hear his footsteps. I’ve always been afraid of the dark, and until I was in college, I’d sleep with the closet light on. I usually cover my eyes during scary movies, knowing a scary face or image will burn into the back of my eyes and stick with me while I’m trying to sleep. And speaking of sleep, a childhood fear of vampires has left me needing to keep my comforter wedged behind my neck, even if it’s summer and 80 degrees in my bedroom.
Let’s make it easy and say I have a vivid imagination.
But the spookiest thing that’s ever happened to me…that wasn’t my imagination running wild…was real. And terrifying. Similar to the sighting of a towering figure in an Icelandic snowstorm, it left me frightened. But it was more tangible than that blurry grey shape my eyes could have conjured. It really happened, and I don’t know how to explain it.
So maybe you’ll have an explanation for me…
It was years ago. I was living in California at the time, and visiting my family on the east coast for the holidays. Our family home is old, an aging Tudor that once boasted a sprawling rose garden and private tennis courts (both long gone). The interior is dappled with oak paneling, and brown is the overwhelming color of the home due to the abundance of dark varnished wood. Needless to say the old house, with its leaded windows and drafty closets, is a bit spooky.
One evening during my visit, my mother and I stayed up late to watch her favorite guilty-pleasure show, Ghost Hunters. It’s silly and spooky, and my mother has always liked to be creeped out (she’s an original X-Files fan), so I do my best to play along, my fears much more palpable than her own. We laughed and watched in the television room, sprawled on the big couch, snacking on Cheerios and almonds while I’d occasionally throw my hands in front of my eyes during their chilling reenactments. Once the show ended, my mother went up to bed, and I stayed on (as I usually do) to watch a happy, carefree program to clear out the spooky cobwebs from my imagination. It was something like the Simpsons or a mundane sitcom – a show to elicit laughter and reduce fear.
I decided soon after to turn in for the night. As I climbed the stairs and padded through the dark corridors of the silent house, I couldn’t quite shake a feeling of nervousness. A tingling at the back of my neck wouldn’t go away, try as I did to push any creepy thoughts out of my mind. I washed my face, brushed my teeth and changed into my cuddly PJs. Then slipped under the sage duvet to a feeling of safety.
Moments later, as I stared out into my darkened bedroom, I could not rid my thoughts of the ghostly visions I had seen on the television. They kept replaying in my head, and I clung to the comforter, hiking it up to my neck as I watched the shadows of trees play on the ceiling. After a few silent minutes, my eyes unblinking, I had had enough.
“Eva,” I said out loud to the black room, “you’re acting stupid. There is no such thing as ghosts.” And at the moment I breathed out those words, as the tension slipped from my jaw and shoulders, it happened.
I heard a massive crash from somewhere in the house. It very nearly stopped my heart. In a flurry of blankets and socks, I ran out of the bed and into my mother’s room, shouting like a ninny.
“Did you hear that noise, oh my god!” My mother sat bolt upright in her bed, pulling the earplug out of her right ear. She shook her head. She had been deep asleep and hadn’t heard anything.
Adrenaline on overdrive made me braver than before, and I stalked down the stairs, desperate to find the source of the massive bang. It didn’t take me long. There, at the foot of the stairs, by the front door was a large painting that had fallen off of its nail. Now at rest, sitting as innocently as the flowers it displayed, the frame had fallen to the ground, unbroken and leaning against the oak-paneled wall as if it was in a gallery, waiting to be hung. The 10-pound picture must have fallen three to four feet, but looked fine – the glass didn’t even have a crack.
How it happened, that right at the moment I spoke aloud refuting the presence of ghosts the frame fell, I have no idea. As far as I know, there had never been a single picture to fall in the house, nor since, and as that painting still hangs in the exact spot, it’s never dropped again. I also never figured out how it had fallen. The nail sticks straight out of the top of the paneling towards the ceiling, and the hanging cord was intact. There wasn’t much of a logical explanation, despite my efforts at finding one.
I’m still not sure if I believe in ghosts, but all I can think was something otherworldly was telling me otherwise.
What’s the spookiest thing that’s ever happened to you? Share your chilling tale in the comments below!