Friday, October 29, 2010

My Haunted House

This is a slightly revised re-post of a submission I made over at the Hog's Head (dot org) this week.

The house where I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky felt Gothic. Friends would be amazed when they finally came over for the first time. My Dad collected antiques and was a bit of an eccentric. We had a fountain in the dining room. One of the walls had golden velvet wallpaper. There was an old chair that had rope across the arms to let people know that it was just for looks. You know, like a museum. Our bathtub had brass claws.

Going back there now it seems so small and normal. My Dad doesn’t live there anymore and the house has been sold to a pretty regular family. The walls are now beige.

The house is old and southern. It looks a bit like the one in “The Amityville Horror”. It has a face. The stairs creaked. When I was a kid, the shadows lengthened on the dark walls from candles in large black stands that used to adorn the altar of an old church. Dad would put on a robe at night and go lighting candles while chanting monks sang from the record player. Faces from antiquity peered down at you from oil paintings: Moses, the lawgiver, Jesus on the cross, Mary being assumed to heaven surrounded by cherubs.

The backyard was long and overgrown back to an alleyway. A grape arbor covered the sidewalk past a large statue (who I now think must have been Artemis the Huntress) in an unkempt garden. The leaves of the Magnolia tree clicked in Autumn wind. It was my job to take the garbage out. I remember being so scarred of that statue as I carried the trash out late at night. I imagined her turning her head toward me ala Ray Harryhousen and chasing me. I would run back to the house in a panic, all but feeling her breath on my neck.

For a while, my bedroom was in the basement. Half storage for Dad’s old stuff, half my room. Statues and old things sat cockeyed in boxes just beyond a curtain. Shadows played in that place and when the gas furnace turned on it roared and had a fiery face that lit up with blue flame. This was a scary place to be a kid.

We watched “Psycho” once as a family downstairs and halfway through the film, Dad disappeared for awhile. The electrical set up of this house was still very old and my sister’s room had a peculiarity about it. When you flipped the switch on, the light would flicker for a bit until it was all the way on. Dad reappeared for the end of the movie and kinda smiled as he wished us goodnight.

We heard a scream a few minutes later as my sister flicked her peculiar switch and found an old mannequin with a shawl and a wig in a rocking chair sitting with it’s back toward her in the flickering light.

Dad told us that when he and Mom were first moving in they were cleaning and getting the place ready. He remembered cleaning on hands and knees on the front porch and feeling a presence watching him. Out of his peripheral vision, he could see the shape of a woman looking down on him from the dining room window above. He thought my Mom was trying to creep him out for a joke so he didn’t give her the satisfaction of looking right at her or reacting. Minutes later, my Mom pulled up in her car. She hadn’t been home.

He told us that he never saw the woman again and was sure that this apparition meant us no harm. My Dad loved a good, scary story and a good practical joke. His antics and eccentricity is there in me now with my kids. Ghost or no, there was definitely a Spirit that haunted our house that made my childhood home a great place to remember.

Happy Halloween!

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