When I look back on my freshman year at college, I sometimes have difficulty believing that I, or the people I associated with, emerged from it alive. Most of the drama and difficulty arose from my sleeping patterns.
Before college, I had never been a particularly active sleeper, but soon after my arrival at Ithaca College my nights became more exhausting than my days.
I had been sleeping at a friend's off campus apartment most of the time because I found it impossible to sleep in my dorm room. He reported to me at first that I talked a lot and moved a lot as I slept. Then he began waking me up at night saying that I had been struggling for breath. Then I began to have violent, recurring nightmares...to summarize, things escalated untill a typical night for me involved anything from extended, lucid conversation to screaming and pounding the walls, to rearranging furniture, to attempting to jump out of windows and off balconies...all while sound asleep. By this time I was staying with my friend every night because he was afraid to let me sleep alone.
Early in the second semester, after a particularly horrendous night, I finally decided to seek counseling for my sleep troubles and things began to improve.
I was sleeping in my own room most of the time, I wasn't sleepwalking very much, and I didn't talk nearly as much as I had been in the habit of doing. Though the reasons for my sleep activity had largely to do with extremely stressful events in my waking life, I also believe that the energy of my town contributed to these disturbed sleep patterns as well.
I attend Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, a town noted for its magnetic energy. The campus itself is surrounded by woods. Now, ordinarily, I am someone who loves the woods and cannot spend enough time in them. But the Ithaca woods are decidedly eerie. Almost every student I know, whether of a supernatural bent or not, can relate a bizarre experience from those woods.
My friend's apartment is located right on the edge of the woods, and I often walked through them at all hours to get to his house. I am someone who is unusually accepting of strange energy, and I believe that my sleeping problems were due in part to my simple acceptance of this energy. Once I began to deal with it, things improved.
However, once in the early spring, after my sleeping had once again become normal, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. in the shower, gripping the phone in my hand and shouting "HELLO? HELLO?" into the receiver. I quickly turned off the water and dragged myself back to my room. I was not too shaken, as this was a relatively mild incident compared to the previous semester's events. I simply went back to bed and tried to remember what I had been dreaming that made me get into the shower with the telephone. I have always been able to remember what was going on in my mind during sleepwalking episodes, but that night I was absolutely unable to do so. I didn't let it bother me, though, and went back to sleep easily and passed an uneventful remainder of the night.
The next evening, I was feeling a little down and I decided to go for a walk alone in the woods. I was certain a solitary ramble among the dark, wet trees and the melting snow would cure my blues. It was one of the most beautiful dusks I have ever seen. The sky was a pure royal blue, the clouds silver mountains over Lake Cayuga, the sunset a low orange fire on the hills. The deep upstate snows were melting off, and many small paths were newly available from the main paths. I thought it would be enchanting to get lost in the wooded hills. I wasn't worried, because the woods behind school are not very big and I didn't expect to get irreversibly lost.
After trying for about an hour to loose myself, I realized that the light was fading very rapidly. I had not planned to be out too late and had lots of homework to finish, and so I started heading back to campus. However, I soon discovered that my plan to get lost had worked a bit too well. I had absolutely no idea where I was or how to return to school.
I first tried to retrace my own footsteps, but the snow was so liquid that I could not discern my footsteps from natural pits in the snow. But it didn't seem that I had any choice but to pick a direction and walk in it until I came to something...after all, the woods weren't that big.
After about a half an hour, I stumbled across a wide path in the woods that seemed vaguely familiar and decided to follow it down the hill. As I was rounding a bend in the path, I suddenly stopped short in my tracks. There, standing about ten feet off in the woods, was a very tall man in a long black coat and a black hat. He simply stood and stared at me, and I wondered whether he was human. I had some previous experiences with spirits and had developed a very keen awareness of them. Somehow, he didn't give me the same feeling that "ordinary" apparitions did -- and yet he didn't quite seem like a person.
After a moment of staring at him, I realized that I couldn't stand still forever. So, I put myself on the defensive and continued along the path. As I walked past him, he continued to stare at me, but made no move in my direction and did not speak a word to me. I was pretty sure by this time that he was some sort of paranormal being and ignored him, since he made no move to communicate with me. I soon found my way out of the woods and back to campus with a great sense of lightness and relief.
After a short period of procrastination, I sat down at my desk to do some homework. I happened to glance in the mirror to my left and nearly fainted with shock. There, in the reflection, was the man from the woods, standing at my right shoulder. I whipped my head around to see...an empty room. I looked back to the mirror. There he was. He was almost as tall as the ceiling and had shoulder length black hair and dark eyes. I could not tell how old he was or what his race was. He seemed to be a composite of every man on the planet. I immediately dashed to friend's room down the hall and tried to calm down. With her help, I convinced myself that it had been a figment of my imagination and regained my composure. As I was turning to leave her room, I caught a glimpse of myself in her full length mirror, and again saw HIM standing at my right shoulder. I calmly left her room and returned to my own, where I again looked in the mirror and addressed him. "I don't know what you are or what you want," I said," but you are frightening me and I wish you would leave. OK, Oscar?" I don't know why I called him Oscar...it just came into my head. I covered every reflective surface in my room and finished my homework.
As I was getting ready for bed later on, I began to think about Oscar. He was very unusual for a number of reasons. 1) I could only see him in reflections, when I usually saw "things" directly. 2) I could not feel his presence in the room at all. If I could not see him, it was like he wasn't there. 3) He had followed me....and OH MY GOD! 4) The previous night, I had dreamed I was talking to him on the phone and that he wasn't saying anything! The sudden memory made me sick to my stomach. What was he? Was he an ordinary ghost? A guardian? A devil of some sort? I had not idea, but I made a cup of tea to calm myself and went to bed, certain that Oscar and I had an agreement and that he would leave me alone.
The next morning, however, there he was in the bathroom mirror when I brushed my teeth, in the reflection of glass doors, windows...he followed me everywhere for almost two weeks and my sleep again became very disturbed. I had horrible, recurring nightmares, insomnia, and episodes of sleepwalking. I even made some phone calls in my sleep. I consulted all kinds of sources, but could not figure out what he was or how to dispel him. I tried talking to him, but he would not communicate. I tried ignoring him, but he was persistent. I tried sending him away, but he would not leave. I avoided being alone, covered every reflective surface I could get my hands on, and did not go into the woods at all.
During this time, a friend of mine who had graduated from Ithaca and was living in Boston came up for a visit. We met up one Sunday afternoon in the music building. As we were hugging our hellos, she looked at me significantly and said, "You look like you need a walk in the woods." I hesitated, watching Oscar's reflection in the glass of the nearby doors. "Trust me," she said, "you need a walk in the woods." So I relented. My friend is a very intuitive, spiritual person with many paranormal experiences of her own, and I gathered that she was somehow aware of Oscar and trusted her judgement. We walked pleasantly in the woods behind campus for about two hours, talking of the weather, our lives, mutual friends, and very briefly, the spookiness of the woods, even on a beautiful, sunny day. After our walk, she had obligations to other people and I had homework to do, and we parted ways untill later that evening. I returned to my room and sat down at my desk. The mirror was still covered. I wondered. Did I dare? Swiftly, I stood up and removed the drape from my mirror, bracing myself, and saw...an empty room.
Oscar, or anyone of his sort, has never been back, for which I am grateful. To this day I have no idea what kind of spirit he was, what he wanted, or what made him latch on to me. Perhaps he was not really malicious, perhaps not even conscious of me in a material way. But I hope never to deal with anything like it again.