Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Tale of the Haunted Manse

Well, it’s official. The church organist has informed us that, according to the former pastor’s wife and daughter, the manse is haunted. I hope I haven’t just discouraged any would-be, non-phantasmal visitors among you, because my reaction to this news is, “Huh! Well, you certainly could have fooled me.” We’ve been living here for eight months now, and I’ve seen and heard very little evidence to support the existence of any supernatural housemates.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m weird, but I’ve always been under the impression that haunted houses are supposed to be, well, haunted. Lights should flicker off and on mysteriously. Doors should open and close and lock by themselves. One should get a sudden chill while reading and look up from the pages of her book to catch a glimpse of something shadowy passing by the doorway. Chains should rattle in the attic. We've had nothing of the kind here. Just my luck: I’ve moved into the retarded haunted house, the one that doesn’t have a clue how to bring out its supernatural powers.

Still, since hearing this news, my relationship with my home has changed. Last night, we had a wonderful thunderstorm and along with my general “cool” reaction that always accompanies thunderstorms was a new reaction on my part, “I wonder if this will bring out the ghost.” I don’t know why, because we’ve experienced plenty of thunderstorms since living here, and none of the others got chains rattling in the attic. But, you know, that was before I knew to listen for them. Sadly, I’m here to report that last night’s storm brought nothing, but then again, I guess retarded ghosts don’t know they’re supposed to come out during thunderstorms. Maybe ours only come out during blizzards, and since those don’t happen here anymore, I’ll never see them.

I’m also busy making up all kinds of interesting stories about the prior ministers of this church. I’m told the ghost is definitely a man, and that he showed up in his nightshirt, climbing the stairs (once and only once during the 32 years that the prior pastor’s family lived here, although they apparently heard “whispering” in the house on more than one occasion). I know enough about ghosts to know that when they do show up, they are usually reliving some tragic or sad moment. A man in a nightshirt sounds like he must have been a pastor, right? What tragedy would have befallen a pastor living next door to the church that wouldn’t be public knowledge here in this town whose population is 1500? Yet, no one has told us of the pastor who was murdered in his sleep by an angry parishioner back in 1898. Maybe he was a Jimmy-Swaggart-type pastor murdered by his livid wife. (Of course, one can understand why the townspeople might want to keep such stories secrets from the newest pastor in town.)

Am I bothered by the fact my home is haunted? Well, since we don’t exactly have flies crawling all over the windows while Jodie the Pig (and her demonic glowing eyes) makes frequent visits, or mothers' skeletons rocking up in the attic, being lovingly cared for by their sons, not really. You know ghosts and me. Rather than hiding under covers, I’m leaning more towards fantasies of a friendly ghost who shows up and answers my questions (hoping he’ll give me some great details for a new ghost story or two). However, as I once noted in that Halloween meme some of us did a couple of years ago, my relationship to ghosts changes depending on the hour of the day.

This week, I’ve had a really bad chest cold, the likes of which I haven’t had in a long time. I prefer to sleep alone when I’m sick. Thus, I’ve banished myself to the guest bedroom where I’ve been likely to be wide awake at 2:00 while my lungs seem to be making desperate attempts to escape via hacking their way up and out through my esophagus and mouth. So far, they’ve been unsuccessful and have remained imprisoned in my chest. Mercifully, today, they finally seem to have become subdued, so I’m expecting these wee-hour-of-the-morning escapades of theirs are about to end. Nevertheless, I’ve become reacquainted with one of my least favorite hours of the day: 2:00 a.m.

2:00 a.m. is not a good hour when it comes to ghosts and me, especially when I’m sleeping by myself and am drugged up on Nyquil. 2:00 a.m. is when I remember I once saw some show about haunted hotels in which many of the ghosts liked to cozy up to visitors in their homes by climbing into bed with them. A ghost who stands in the doorway and lets me ask him questions is one thing. A ghost who decides to climb into bed with me, quite frankly, is getting just a little bit too friendly. At 2:00 a.m., is the cat really chasing nothing up and down the stairs, or is he chasing some night-shirted old pastor his sharp feline eyes can see that mine can’t, the pastor who isn’t friendly but rather poisoned his wife when she became suspicious of the affair he was having with the organist, and who secretly hates all women? At 2:00 a.m., is that the house settling, or is it footsteps up in the attic? At 2:00 a.m., the hallway between the guest bedroom and Bob’s and my bedroom becomes about two miles long.

Then again, I remind myself, this haunted house is retarded. 2:00 a.m. is not the hour to be worrying. 2:00 p.m. is probably prime ghost-visiting time around here. And we all know that at 2:00 p.m., I don’t believe in ghosts. Something very odd did happen in this house a few months ago, right around 2:00 p.m. But that’s a story for another day.

6 comments:

Courtney said...

Let's just hope your ghost is like the ghost I had in our house growing up, who always makes the coffee overnight EVEN WHEN YOU NEVER HAVE DONE THAT IN YOUR LIFE. I do hope you feel better quickly and as for the 2 a.m. wake up, while mine is caused by work worry, perhaps we should set upa a chat on our blogs similar to what Stefanie of so many books has, so at least we have one another to talk with...

litlove said...

Oh poor Emily - that cold sounds really unpleasant, and you're right, nothing but nothing looks reasonable at 2 in the morning. I have a theory that ghosts respond to the people they haunt. So anxious people get scary ghosts. I reckon the absence of the ghost is because he's thinking 'Damn, I'm never going to get a rise out of this woman! She's just gonna put me in a book.'

Dorothy W. said...

You're not scaring me off from my upcoming visit, although I do hope I won't wake up in the middle of the night frightened by some random noise, needing to visit the bathroom but too afraid to get out of bed ...

Emily Barton said...

Court, yes, feeling better. I hope your insomnia subsides soon, too, but if not, IMing in the wee hours might be the next step.

Litlove, I LOVE your theory. It so explains why I have no "true ghost stories" in my life.

Dorr, glad I haven't scared you off. In light of Litlove's theory, you and I can beg the ghosts to visit and show how un-anxious we are, to keep them at bay. (Meanwhile, we'll avoid all liquids well before bedtime.)

Susan said...

I hope you're feeling better soon. It's been an awful spring, hasn't it? And i went and checked out your Hallowe'en meme.....very interesting answers. Some day we have to meet and compare ghost stories, since the story I wrote (that Charles de Lint judged and gave me first place!) features dream monsters...not quite ghosts, but everyone who read it after was scared silly and didnt' look at me quite the same way!!!
And 2 am....way too scary for any scary books, movies, though our Space Channel is showing them every Friday night at 11 and I find myself suckered in ("oh, I'll just go see what's being featured this week." Darn, there goes two hours!).....just saw the original Prom NIght! but real ghost stories? Like you, they make my goosebumps come up any hour, every hour. :-) I hope you and Litlove see a friendly ghost (but not too friendly, as you say....) this would get your writing going again!!!! LOL

Emily Barton said...

Susan, feeling much better, thanks. Just a slight cough at this point. Comparing ghost stories at some point sounds great. I love your idea of dream monsters.