My last post was about my own ghost. That ghost is benevolent. Not all are. Some are vampiric.
This post is about them.
(Before I go much further, I should issue a Content Advisory, as there are brief mentions of home invasion and sexual assault.)
I was a bright, vibrant, successfully-masking high school graduate, leaving the parental bubble for the first time, setting off to stake my claim in the world, to carve out my path, to blaze my trail. I had been accepted easily into the first lower-aspiration (but still respectable) university I had applied to, and I figured that if I could make the transition from remote rural area to major metropolis, I could also be downwardly compatible with a small town, downshifting gears. I could land a job and form a small circle of friends within the first month or so.
The house in the northern Midwestern (American) college town seemed innocuous enough. Cozy, even. Maybe even warm and inviting. As in, settle in for a while.
And yes, it really is the one in the picture above.
I liked it for its quirks–the closets and cupboards that made furniture almost optional, the secret nooks and crannies in which an entire human being could comfortably hide for hours, the history of the place (as it was built in 1928 and I had never lived in such an old house), and so on. My mom loved it, too, especially for its location a mere 5 blocks from the university and 3 extra bedrooms that could be rented out to the college friends I would make, a revenue stream sufficient to cover the mortgage payment.
I had no reason to suspect any malicious vibes when we toured the place. We even took pictures, the kind you had to take to the photo shop to get developed.
The envelopes of pictures didn’t give away any secrets then, either.
I thought I had it all together.
But what I didn’t know is that houses have spirits of their own, too. And they can be manipulative.
My mom and I moved my stuff up in just a few carloads in July of ’96. Then, for reasons of the setting sun and congenital astigmatism hampering night vision, my mom gave me a big hug…
…and left. To go back home. A home that, although I would always be welcome, was no longer mine.
I lived here now.
Almost immediately, the house revealed its true colors. It had waited until after we were locked into the deal, and the wiser ones had left.
My little cat, then 11 years old and very dependent upon “momma” (me), refused to come up the stairs. She meowed and meowed at the bottom of the staircase. She wanted to be with me, but would not come upstairs herself.
And it became obvious that she didn’t want me to be up there, either. I heard concern in her voice, as though she was scared for me, pleading with me to come down.
My theory that she was trying to protect me was clinched as self-evident when, while working on my first university homework assignment at the kitchen table, she came up on my shoulder as always, but then proceeded to sit on my head, a behavior that was unprecedented.
And then, the nightmares began. Of an nondescript young male intruder. Of him coming down the upstairs hall, into my room. Of him holding me down and raping me.
Waking up was a relief, but the relief was never complete. Because there would be nagging feelings that I was not alone. Inklings that somewhere, someone was hiding, lying in wait, calculating the opportune time to pounce.
Within the first month, I adopted and perfected a routine. I would come home from work, a dinner rush shift at a fast food chain, and check every single cupboard, passageway, nook, and cranny, to ensure that no one else was there. I scolded myself for doing this, for I always locked the house whenever I left, but it became a ritual prerequisite to my being able to rest.
As it turns out, I didn’t end up cultivating any circle of friends at school. I met one and only one, at the new student orientation, a guy 5 years my senior, next to whom I sat, and we struck up a conversation.
The lease on his apartment across town would come to an end at the end of that calendar year, so then he moved in with me, renting one of the other bedrooms.
I was relieved to have the company. I had begun to suspect that this house was genuinely haunted.
One night, I was vindicated.
One night, I came home from work, and found my roommate (who had also become my boyfriend by then) doing homework in his room. He seemed surprised that I hadn’t yet taken off my jacket.
He thought I’d been home for at least an hour already.
…Because he had heard someone cough downstairs.
“It wasn’t me,” I told him.
He looked confused. “Oh. OK. But I could’ve sworn I heard someone downstairs.”
And I knew that as a weekend security guard for a major company in town and an all-around stand-up guy whose father was a police officer with integrity, that he was as conscientious about locking the doors, even when he was home. Having to use my keys to get in when I got home confirmed that he hadn’t somehow forgotten that day, either.
He turned to me and said, “yep, I think this place is haunted.”
It wasn’t just the house, either.
It seemed to affect the whole town to an extent.
Everybody walked around like half-dead zombies. They had no soul, no spirit, no dreams, no aspirations. They were gaunt, all of them, and this town on the river at the edge of the windy northern plains, was the end of the road for them.
What’s worse is, they were OK with that.
What’s even worse than that is, I could feel it beginning to consume me, too.
At one point in time, I had decided to major in Business, and I worked evenings and weekends as a cocktail waitress in a local VFW, and I began to settle in, to feel content, to begin to think that if I never did anything else in my life, that would be OK.
Usually, feelings of contentment are desirable. But not there. This was not the kind of place you wanted to feel content, not the kind of place a healthy, normal person would resign themselves to settling down in.
To feel OK in a not-OK place is not OK. It’s a sign of sickness, a spiritual or soul-esque disease.
After 3 years there, I knew I had to get out, but I didn’t have the money–and worse, I didn’t have the energy–to leave. By the time I realized just how much of my soul had already been sucked away and devoured, I was already so tired that I couldn’t do anything about it. By the time I realized what had to be done, I had lost the energy it would take to do it.
Talk about a desolate catch-22.
Truthfully, I almost didn’t make it out of there. I felt like the young adolescent warrior in the movie The Neverending Story, who is plodding through the Swamps of Sadness, while Gmork, the malific wolf, hunts him down. The warrior is slowly being overcome by the vibrational murk of the place and each step is getting harder; meanwhile, the wolf is gaining on him. Just in the nick of time, a flying white dog, known as the Luck Dragon, swoops down and lifts him out of the swamp, carrying him away to a better place.
That’s kind of what happened to me.
The house–and the town itself–was like the Swamps of Sadness, eating away at my essence, leaving only a hollowed-out shadow in its wake.
And I met my now-partner just in time (my former boyfriend had been reverted back to roommate status shortly before, since he was renting a room, and moved out entirely to go to graduate school in another state shortly thereafter).
My now-partner was (and remains) my Luck Dragon. We took ownership of the house and sold it, by the skin of someone else’s teeth.
When we obtained the deed to the house, we saw that it had changed hands several times, and one particular transaction stood out to us.
In the 1930s or ’40s, there had been a divorce that necessitated the sale of the house. The reason cited was incest of one of the children.
That must have been it. Perhaps that explains what I sensed.
There are some places in which one can sense a change; Yoda from Star Wars would call it a “disturbance in the force”. My partner and I call it a sort of energy vortex, holding the belief in the possibility of various magnetic “mini-poles”, along the same lines as the North and South Poles, but much smaller. They’re not enough to change the weather or the tilt of the earth, but they could hold enough influence on the flow of Qi, which, according to the Chinese, does not exist only inside the body, but flows in varying quantity and strength throughout the environment, too. Hilly terrain and trees increase the local amount of Qi, while flat plains and nothingness preserve very little Qi; in the former scenario, the hills and trees prevent a sort of “Qi erosion”, while the latter has no such advantage or capability.
I wouldn’t doubt any of that. I have lived and felt it, in many places. It’s just one of those things you know.
My ex went to graduate school and married. I have not kept in touch with him.
My partner and I have been together for 18 years, and he is still my Luck Dragon (at least, most of the time).
The house has changed several more hands.
I’m sure it’s still haunted.