Children are near and dear to my heart, especially my own. Perhaps this is why this haunting struck the deepest core of my heart.
We had just moved to town. Kelly and I and our two boys, Jack and Quinn, were excited about settling in our new house. The house itself wasn't new, being built in the late 1980's, but it was new to us. In our first week at home, we did all of the customary things new residents do. We accepted neighboring visitors with house-warming gifts into our house as well as casually met the other neighbors while our children played together in the front yard. Nothing seemed extraordinary about our neighbors or the neighborhood, just friendly people getting acquainted...so it seemed.
Our children were very young at the time, 2 and 3 years old. Even being so young, Kelly and I had stored many of the "baby" items we weren't using in the basement. I'm not sure why people (including us) keep many of the things they do, but a few items in particular I wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. One of these things was the musical mobile that we used to hang over Jack’s crib that played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star until the sweet boy fell asleep. The mobile had four little bears strung to it and spun around when the music played after winding it up. The center of the winding mechanism had a glow-in-the dark crescent moon.
Jack and Quinn had outgrown sleeping in the crib so we took the crib apart along with the mobile and stored it in the basement, leaning it up against the unfinished cinder block wall in the corner. We stored the mobile directly under the crib in a flimsy cardboard shirt box with a lid. Before we ascended back up the basement stairs, I took one final look at the mobile and reminisced about Jack being a baby and thought about how I missed him being so little. I know he’s only three now and I wouldn't change anything after struggling through the tough times of babyhood, but I still miss those precious moments of having a baby in the house. I hoped that someday someone we knew would have a baby that we could offer the mobile to who could create their own special memories with it, as Kelly and I had. Little did I know at the time that I would have new memories about it that would stay with me the rest of my life.
Both Jack and Quinn had steadily been sleeping through the night for some time now, until we moved into the new house. Ever since the first night we spent in the house, both kids were waking up at the wee hours and calling out for Momma and Daddy. Neither Kelly nor I thought this to be unusual, after all we were in a new and different place. The kids probably are adjusting to their new surroundings. Often times, Jack would ask for some milk and I would trudge downstairs to the kitchen at 2:30 a.m. to oblige him.
On one such particular occurrence, I was passing the basement door on my way back upstairs with the milk when I thought I heard something come from down in the basement. I immediately stopped in my tracks in the hallway and listened intently. After a few seconds, I passed it off as my imagination. After all, it was 2:30 in the morning, I was half dead with lack of sleep, and Jack was waiting for his milk. Unfortunately for me, the 2:30 a.m. awakenings were becoming routine and nightly.
As predicted, Jack awoke the following night and again requested his milk. I again hauled myself down to the kitchen. After placing my foot on the first step back up the stairs, I heard it. There it was...the noise. Not a really frightening sound, more like a gentle whisper, but I definitely heard it. I set the milk on the stair bannister and re-traced my steps back to the basement door. The only thing I could hear now was my heart thumping in my throat. I stood perfectly still in the darkness outside the six paneled door leading down to the basement. We always kept the door locked from the outside to keep the boys from opening it and falling down the flight of wooden stairs. I placed my hand on the door handle and gave it a slight twist. I discovered it was still locked and I slowly removed my sweaty palm from the knob. As I did, the whisper came again, more distinct this time, and I could hear what sounded like wind chimes blowing in the wind. Obviously with the door locked from the outside, anyone or "thing" that could be in the basement came in through one of the four basement well windows.
I thought about going upstairs to get Kelly, but decided against it. Gathering up as much courage as I could, I turned the lock on the door knob and the door opened without a sound. I heard a giggle this time and more chimes from the pitch black of the basement. My mouth was dry and my palms were sweaty as I stepped onto the landing at the top of the basement steps. Where were the sounds coming from? We had a crawl space to the right of the basement steps, filled with nothing but dirt and spider webs. I stood on the landing waiting for another sound so I could try to pinpoint the location. Another giggle. The sound was coming from around the corner on the left side of the basement, not from the damp and dirty crawl space. I slowly descended down the steps. Being a wooden staircase, each step I took creaked, but the giggling and the song continued unabated.
When I reached the bottom of the stairs, the hair on the nape of my neck was on end. I was trying to breathe quietly but couldn't help feeling a heaving in my chest with each inhale. There were slivers of light coming from the basement windows. The giggling and the song were definitely coming from the left side of the basement, in the corner. I peered around the corner into the main part of the basement. What I saw, I'll never forget even though I wish I could.
There, in the far corner of the basement, past the water heater and the furnace, was the shallow and billowy image of a small child no older than two. I let out a slight shriek and the child turned toward me and giggled. The song I heard was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The child had Jack’s mobile in his hands, the glow of the crescent moon was unmistakable. As if showing me what he was playing with, the child lifted the mobile over his head, the four bears attached to the mobile dancing as it swayed above his head. The boy continued to giggle. I was absolutely horrified, yet somehow at peace watching this little boy play. But as I stood and stared at him in complete disbelief, his image slowly faded into the blackness of the basement. The mobile crashed to the ground and the giggling stopped. The crescent moon still glowing.
It wasn't until weeks later that I learned the whole story. The couple from whom we bought the house had lost their two year old only son while his mother was on a business trip. The mother received an urgent call to return home. Her son had supposedly died of SIDS. She sang to him at night to get him to go to sleep. His favorite song was... you know.