When I was thirteen years old, my family moved from our place in the country into town. My big, creepy house in the woods had been the source of much anxiety as a child, but I was sure that I would feel safe in this snug little split-level with neighbors on both sides.
The first time I realized that there was something amiss, though, it was such a commonplace occurence that while I couldn't dismiss it, I really wasn't too frightened, either. It was night-time, but my family was home and the lights were on in the kitchen, where my mom was doing dishes. I was standing in the next room and talking to her over the counter top when I glanced into the darkened living room. There stood a little boy with the kind of bowl cut kids used to wear when I was very young. I glanced at my mom to see if she noticed and then looked back. There was no one there, but I was still doing a double-take.
"Did you just see that?" I asked her.
"A little boy, standing in the living room. He had a haircut like Nick Byrnes had in preschool." She gave me a dirty look. "Don't talk like that. You'll scare your brother."
And that was the end of the matter.
Not long after, I was baby-sitting for my little brother (who had spiky red hair, not any kind of a bowl cut) while my mom and dad were out for the evening. He had been asleep for awhile when I finally got to bed. As soon as I got comfortable under my cover, though, I heard something. As I am a very light sleeper and cannot tolerate any noise at night, I was irritated rather than scared. I got up to see if my radio was maybe turned on very low, but it wasn't. I was closer to the door, though, and I could clearly hear two voices: a man and a little boy. The little boy sounded sad, protesting; the man sounded angry.
"Oh, Christ," I thought. "Dad's home and Greg got out of bed, now they're going to be talking half the night." I opened the door and stormed into the hallway to tell them to keep it down, and stopped short. I saw nothing. No lights, no people.
Not to be deterred, I looked into my brother's room. He was lying in bed, dead to the world. I backed out into the hall. The house was dark but not silent--I could still distinctly hear two voices.
I ran back to my room, scared to death, and covered my head with my pillow until I finally fell asleep.
I started to believe that the house was possibly haunted by two spirits--a man and a small boy. I had seen the boy; soon someone would see the man.
My boyfriend at the time was driving me home one night from his house. We had been watching horror movies on TV and I knew I would be going home to an empty house, and so I was a little nervous. When we turned onto my street, I asked Eric if he would come inside with me just to check things out so I would feel okay. He agreed, but when we turned into my driveway, he said, "I don't need to go inside. I just saw your dad in the window."
I said good-bye and walked up to the house and opened the garage door. Once again--nothing. No one was home.
I ran back to the truck and told Eric that whoever he saw wasn't my dad, and he had better come inside with me. We walked inside together and searched the entire house, and found it to be empty. Eric started to say that perhaps he had imagined the face in the window, but I realized that I knew better.
Things happened in the daylight, too. My friend and I were standing one my front stoop when my family was gone one summer afternoon when we both heard her name: "Natalie." We turned to each other wide-eyed. It had come from my brother's open window behind us. That same summer, I was home--again, alone--talking on the phone when I heard a crash in the downstairs pantry. I was running down the stairs, yelling at the dog because I was sure he had knocked something over. I had just reached the door of the pantry when I heard the dog come bounding down the steps behind me. I stared at him, then at the closed door of the pantry. When I opened it, every pot and pan that had been on the shelves was on the ground. No shelves were broken, nothing had come loose. The pans had been thrown down.
When I was eighteen we moved out of that house. While sometimes I hear house sounds still that creep me out, I have never experienced again the same assurance of another presence as I did in that house.