First, let me say that I have no interest in the many paranormal “ghost hunting” reality shows. They are filled with cold spots, “what was that?”, and various sensing. The few times I have strayed on to the programs all I saw was green images with spooky eyes. Frightening enough! Plus, my religious training, and basic beliefs do not line up with mediums, witches, spectral beings, seances, or quija boards.
All the same, I have often said, I mostly grew up in a haunted house. Until I have a better understanding it seems to be the most honest way of expressing my experience.
It began when I was about four or five years old. We were living in the wartime housing provided for the workers in the Kaiser shipyards. My father was not big on planning, and probably thought that the cheap rent would go on forever. The fact that we were the last tenants in the block was barely noticed. My mother on the other hand, was hard at work looking at everything available, having a friend drive her around, and using the bus system to look at open houses. Finally, she found something not too far away, a two bedroom house built centered on two standard lots. Small, but it appeared land rich.
My father agreed and the papers were filed. A Mr. Stotts had purchased the two lots and designed, then hand built the structure. Typical 1950s, smallish bedrooms, single bath, single garage. But it had a dining room off the kitchen, and a laundry room in the back, and curiously enough, there was an interior window from the dining room into the laundry room. This was fuel for many comments when visitors came over.
I don’t remember moving, I just remember suddenly I was living somewhere else and we didn’t have upstairs neighbors. The new house seemed huge to me, and the yard was tremendous. The ideal place to grow up.
We had moved in for about a month when we had a visitor. I remember it distinctly because my father identified the visitor as Mr. Stotts, the builder of our house. He had a long conversation with my father that I didn’t quite understand, but my father later explained that he had changed his mind and now wanted to buy the house back, with a nice profit offered to sweeten the deal. My father was always the one to make a little money, but my mother was certain that we would never find another home. We said no thanks.
It is still a memory today, I saw Mr. Stotts, wearing a fedora, go to the passenger side of his car, open the door, sit in the seat and then open the glove compartment. He then reached in and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. I was shocked, this was a thing that happened in the movies. Film Noir movies at that. And my father accepted, right out of the bottle. After shaking hands, Mr. Stotts said he understood, then drove away without the deal. Apparently, his wife had left him and he thought he would rather live in the house he had built, instead of some apartment building.
So Mr. Stotts drove back to his apartment building and shot himself in the head. Yep, shot dead, suicide, right after leaving our house. We read it in the paper the next day. We were shocked, but after a few days we thought no more about it.
We met the neighbors, nice people around us. We even had a back alley behind the house, and nice neighbors there as well. One neighbor did have a small incident the year before we moved in. Apparently she came out of the house naked and began walking down the street claiming that she was the Virgin Mary and her young daughter was the baby Jesus. Okay, that was a little weird, and she spent some time in the state hospital, but she eventually came back and used to offer me donuts from her kitchen window. I even had a little crush on the girl that was formerly baby Jesus.
It was probably three months later when I heard my mother say something odd to my father. It was the typical time of day to download the day’s events, my father would come home, sit in the chair and look at the mail, and my mother would bring coffee and tell of her day. Oh, and there was the lighting of a Camel cigarette, no filter. Only this time there was the statement, ” Oh, Billie. Fer crying out loud!” It was a favorite saying of my father’s, and it always drew my attention.
My mother had said that a neighbor in the back, on the other side of the alley, had seen a man walking around in our backyard, late at night. She thought it was strange, and she also thought that it looked a bit like Mr. Stotts. The famous fedora hat. The neighbor also shared this with the Virgin Mary neighbor. The tale got around. My mother thought that people were trying to scare her away, and reacted with some anger. Time passed on, and neighbors were treated with some suspicion.
I began to notice that my mother rarely sat down during the day, in fact, during the evening as well. In the center of the house there was a gas wall heater, and my mother wore the varnish off the floor by standing directly in front of it all the time. When I asked, she said she was cold. In the middle of a sweltering summer, she said it was a habit. Later, after we moved away, she said it was the only place where she could see the whole house. She spent eleven years on guard.
I never felt much of anything until I was about eight. My father often pulled a double shift, sometimes even to graveyard hours. I loved this because I would get up early and hit the lunch bag that was in the refrigerator, provided by Chevron. Square, white sandwich bread, that my mother would not buy, and loaded with mayo and baloney, topped with a slice of Velveta cheese. No nutritional value at all, but it was oddly attractive.
My father was at work, or at least I thought. I woke up in my brother and my corner bedroom. My mother was sitting in his bed, holding his hand, while my brother was staring at the window. My mother staring at the other one. I found it strange so I asked what was up, only to be immediately shushed. Then I heard the footsteps. My father was walking outside on the newly poured sidewalk that lead to the backyard. I could hear his steps just below the window. Then he must have reached over the gate to release the latch, drawing the bolt back. The gate would swing open and the footsteps could be heard under the window that my brother was watching. Oh yeah, before that you could hear the gate close with some force, and the bolt slammed shut, transmitted quite noisily because the bolt went into a hole drilled into the house.
I heard this routine several times, coming back and forth, so I innocently asked what my father was looking for? The response from my mother was that he was still at work. This was troubling, because there was no one else that was available, no older brothers, no uncles, no body. So I immediately was frightened but I wanted to look to see who it was. Both my older brother and my mother said “No, he might see you!” This made sense to me, but the randomness of walking back and forth for at least twenty minutes was beginning to freak me out. Then it stopped, and we waited for my father to come home.
What I wasn’t told until years later, that my brother heard it first, looked out the window, and didn’t see anything, just heard the footsteps, then he brought my mother in and she looked out, saw nothing, heard the footsteps, and that’s when I woke up. All this was reported to my father, who said “Oh, Billie! Fer crying out loud!” And not much more was made of it.
The next unusual thing happened only to me. I was home alone, waiting for a friend to come over, and we would then go someplace local. I had taken up my mother’s habit of standing by the heater in order to see everything. I saw my friend come up the driveway, so I went to the front door. It appeared to be locked, or maybe stuck. I tried my best to open but it remained shut solid. I yelled to my friend on the front porch, through the porch windows that I was going to the back door then around to the front. He nodded that he understood. So I went to the back of the house.
Passing by the central heater I noticed my steps were getting a little quicker, and by the time I got to the back door I was full tilt. That door wouldn’t open either. The garage was just on the other side so we didn’t have a lock, just a deadbolt. The deadbolt moved but I couldn’t open the door. Now I freaked, and ran back to the front, still no luck. So I opened the front windows to the porch and jumped out. I was a little surprised that they opened.
I explained to my friend what had happened and I noticed he had moved to the sidewalk and was not remaining on the porch. After a few minutes I went back on the porch and opened the door easily. Back door as well. My friend never came over again.
The final big incident was years later, and it really happened to my brother, but we witnessed the impact as well. My older brother was a teenager and no longer wanted to go on our weekend camping excursions. He was old enough to stay home, and was basically trustworthy. Well, there was some discussion about that, but on this occasion he stayed home, while the rest of us went up river, or up mountain to some sort of a camp ground. We returned to an empty house, calling out my brother’s name was pointless. My father was opening the garage to put away the camping gear, I retreated to my bedroom to avoid the work in the garage, and my mother went to the kitchen to store what was left in the cooler. Then I heard a scream and my father’s name. That can’t be good. A few seconds later, I heard the famous, “Oh, Billie, Fer crying out loud!” That brought me running.
My parents were standing in the dining area, looking directly at the kitchen opposite. The gas range was in the left corner. The ceiling paint above the range had started to blister and change color. That was bad. On the far right there was a counter area just beyond the sink, below the counter was a standard, pull out, cutting board. There was a brand new loaf of beard on the cutting board. I think it must have been our favorite, the soft, white, WonderBread, with the waxed paper wrapping, printed with red, blue and yellow balloons. Except that you couldn’t really see the paper because it had been fully shredded down from the top, exposing the whole loaf, like some sacrificial offering.
That was strange enough, but in addition there was our kitchen broom, completely impaling the naked loaf of bread, end slice to end slice. Now that was just creepy.
There was a half hearted attempt to blame my missing brother, but he was no where to be found, so we disposed of the bread. We did keep the broom.
A few hours later my brother came home, looking a little…hmm, wary. He explained that he had been home alone and had just left for a little while, less than an hour. When he came back he immediately sensed that something was wrong, he went into the kitchen and saw the burners, he turned them off, but he glanced to the right and saw the bread with the broom stick. That was enough, so he hit the door running and did not look back.
I still remember all these things vividly, and I do not have a reasonable explanation. We did have some unusual neighbors, and my brother did run with a semi-rough crowd. Still, the odd cold feelings that were almost constant, coupled with the big events, made the home just a little uncomfortable. We were all glad that we moved, even my father was eager to live somewhere else.