My childhood home was haunted…or at least we all thought so.
When I was about twelve or so, my family and I became convinced that our house was haunted. We had been living there for at least seven years with no ghostly manifestations, but right around my twelfth birthday everything began to change. Books jumped off shelves when no one was near them. Doors slammed even though there was no wind. Papers blew off desks and tables although the windows were all closed, and footsteps were heard climbing the stairs to the second floor, but when we looked, no one was on the steps. Radios and TVs became filled with static and snow, and electric or battery-powered clocks and watches either slowed or stopped (and sometimes, even went backwards).
It was my father who began noticing that these events most often occurred when I was around—especially the interference with the radios and TVs and the problems with time and clocks. But it was my mom who put it together. Maturing child + playful ghost = poltergeist. What else could it be? Since she was the one who had read all the books, we took her word for it; after all, she was the only “expert” we had. Therefore, what we had was a poltergeist, not a garden-variety ghost or goblin.
So, every few nights this poltergeist would thump its way up the stairs, stopping when it got to the second floor hallway. While every day my mother put up with being unable to listen to the radio in the mornings, and I would pick up the books and papers that ended up strewn about the various rooms. After a while it became so common place and routine that we no longer gave much thought to it when objects were moved or misplaced, when we heard strange noises, or when electrical appliances didn’t always function properly. It was just the way things were in our house. That is until the day the new neighbors came to visit.
My mother was a stickler for presenting the proper face to the world, and that included inviting new neighbors over for a friendly “get-to-know-you” chat. So, here it was a beautiful Sunday spring afternoon, and instead of playing outside or sitting in my reading tree with a book (one of my favorite pastimes) I was stuck inside trying to be nice to the new neighbor’s boring son. Listening to the stilted conversation of the adults, I could tell that even my father found these new neighbors stiff and pretentious. I watched him as his eyes glazed over as the pompous man droned on and on about his important job, and his expensive car, and his notable connections. My father was never impressed by that type of thing. Although my mother was (impressed by just those types of things), I could see that even she was having a tough time warming up to these people.
Suddenly, the piano, which was also in the front room, jangled discordantly. As startled gazes sped to the simple upright piano that held down the front corner of the room, tea cups rattled as guests hurriedly placed their services on the nearest table. My dad gave the guests a quiet, crooked smile, while my mother nervously made suggestions about the wind possibly causing the noise or the cat (we didn’t have) possibly walking across the keyboard. Although the neighbors nodded, they seemed unconvinced, and suddenly had another engagement that they needed to get to.
As the guests hurried to leave, I studied the piano and for the first time an inkling of understanding began to seep in. The poltergeist had never touched the piano before, but about the time that it had jangled to life, I had been wishing that the people would leave so I could at least practice my music. Wondering if what I was suspecting was true, I scrunched up my face and stared at the piano until my eyes watered. The closing of the front door, as the guests scurried away, broke my concentration. I turned away to see my dad put an arm around my mom and reassure her that it was okay, and that our reputation in the neighborhood would be fine.
I glanced again at the piano, wondering if mom would mind if I did my practicing and that’s when the piano plunked out half a chord. My mom jumped a little, then sighed. As she began picking up the cups and dishes, she suggested that maybe if I practiced a little that the poltergeist might quiet down again.
Needing no further encouragement, I scooted over to the bench and slid in front of the keyboard. As I started running scales, I let my mind wander. Understanding as to what a poltergeist really was began to come together for me like some weird jigsaw puzzle. A poltergeist wasn’t some phantasm, like a ghost or ghoul, that was linked to me and so using my energy to haunt the house. A poltergeist was the result of my unfocused emotional energy. I had “powers” (that’s how I thought of it…as if I was some sort of super hero), and I wasn’t controlling them.
Although, it seemed that these occurrences were random or happening due to some outside influences, they were really just responding to my own emotional needs and “outbursts”. Unable to express myself in any other way (such as when those neighbors were visiting), my emotions expressed themselves through my abilities. Even the thumping on the steps was my own emotionalism letting go. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and during that period of my life, parts of the dreams actually “came to life”, that’s all.
Now that I’ve grown up (although, sometimes I feel more childlike than ever), I look back and see how easily those odd events during those few years could be misunderstood. But as much fun as it was to think that our house was haunted, the only ghost was me.