Most think being haunted requires a creaky old house where a person died unexpectedly. The shock of a fall, suicide, or murder traps them between our world and the next. They believe these lost souls spend their days shackled to a place and a moment in time.
That’s not always how it happens.
My house wasn’t haunted. I was.
A while ago, a high school friend recounted her experience with shadowy ghosts in their turn-of-the-century home. I envied her. I thought it would be cool to see something so extraordinary. I wondered if I would scream and lay awake night after night knowing I was watched by sleepless souls.
Be careful what you wish for.
My own experiences started with a trip to Wisconsin around 2002. Since the drive back to Colorado would take eighteen hours or more, we planned to get an early start. My husband, Danny, set the alarm for 4:30 AM and we went to sleep in the twin beds in my parents’ Victorian home built in 1901. I woke up around 4:10. Since I had to get up in twenty minutes, I decided to stay awake. A thunderstorm brewed outside and lightning flickered. Then one of our kids opened the door to the bedroom. A dark silhouette of a child could clearly be seen against the hall light. Whoever it was walked into the room and between the beds. Something was very peculiar about this shadow. I tried to focus on a face, but couldn’t see one.
I sat up. “Who’s there?” I asked, “Kelly or Courtney?” As I reached out, the shadow disappeared. I looked at the space between the bed. Not even a child could fit between. I lay back down. My heart remained steady as I recounted what had happened. It didn’t make any sense. Someone was there and then disappeared. I hadn’t imagined it. I was wide awake when I sat up. I looked at the clock again. 4:20.
“Danny. Are you awake?”
“I think I just saw a ghost.”
“I think you did too,” he said.
“Why? What did you see?” I turned toward him, fully awake now.
“When you asked if it was Kelly or Courtney, I saw a light fly toward the window.”
Excited, my heart really pounded. Was it a ghost? What else could it be? I dressed and walked across the hall.
“I saw the door to your bedroom open and thought you were getting up,” said Courtney.
Crazy or what?
The other bed was empty. “Where’s Kelly?” My heart skipped a beat. I had seen enough horror movies to know what happens next.
Steps fell on the stairs behind me. My shoulders relaxed as Kelly joined us in the hallway.
“I couldn’t sleep, so I went downstairs,” he said. “I saw a light streak up the steps.”
We all experienced something strange that night. My brain couldn’t comprehend what I saw, so I wasn’t frightened. That would come later.
I assumed that would be the end of it until the next time we visited Wisconsin. My parents’ house had to be haunted. Not so.
Months later back in Boulder, I heard a shuffling in my bedroom and woke up. A woman dressed in black lace with a veil on her head stood on the other side of the bed and locked eyes with me. Her pale face wore a severe and angry expression. I sat up and yelled, “Danny! Look!” but she faded away.
A few nights later the same sound woke me up. I opened my eyes and gazed up at that woman’s scowling face looming above me. She stood right next to my bed. I could hear the crinoline shift underneath her skirt as she bent down toward me. I gasped and covered my head with the blanket.
These unexplainable occurrences always happened upon waking in the night because of a noise they made. Afterward, I would stare at the ceiling and wonder why me? My house couldn’t be haunted. We built it in 2000. We didn’t excavate an ancient Native American burial ground nor was a graveyard nearby.
Sightings would come in waves of three or four then there would be no activity for months up to a year. Then it would start up again. Doors would bang. Twice I saw bright orbs of light on the wall where none could reflect. A plant hanging from a hook would swing.
I continued to question what I was seeing until my night at The Stanley Hotel.
When my sister, Patty, her friends from Wisconsin, and I spent a night there on Friday the 13th, I told them nothing would happen. For one thing, the date was so cliché. Come on. Friday the 13th! In the years I’d experienced ghosts, I could never summon them like they do on TV. When they wanted to be seen, they would wake me up. There was no way they would appear. Ironically, I was the only one who had seen them and the skeptic of the bunch.
There was a group from a ghost-busting TV show who also stayed at The Stanley that night. When I asked them what I was seeing if they weren’t ghosts, one of the hosts told me I was experiencing sleep paralysis. But I was neither asleep nor paralyzed. A woman overheard us talking. After they left, she told me I was seeing ghosts and explained they are most often seen right after waking before we are fully conscious. I wasn’t sure what to think.
Everything that could happen in that haunted hotel did happen. Looking back, people probably held séances to summon the dead. It wasn’t sleep paralysis that pulled my coat down to the end of the closet or that banged overhead all night. It was unexplainable. Paranormal. Ghosts.
Days after my Stanley experience, someone pinched me when I lay down to go to sleep. It happened for the next three nights. I figured it was one of the ghostly children who ran the halls that night. In a photograph taken at the time, a huge orb appeared next to me. I’m still not sure how I feel about orbs in photos, but it’s there nonetheless.
At one point someone told me I should take classes to amp up my ability. What??? I was intrigued, but didn’t want to become obsessed. Nor did I want the responsibility of a medium. That was a life for someone else.
It was the banger who finally ended my interest in ghosts.
It, (I sensed it was a man) would bang on the dresser, the TV, then the ceiling. It had a peculiar sound to it. More like a snap than a tap. Danny said if he went to bed first it wouldn’t start until I came into the room. Yes. He heard it too. It would end after 11:00 then start up around 4:00 AM. I tried talking and then shouted at it to leave us alone and then gave up. This went on for almost three years. I even have a recording of the taps and knocks.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I really needed my sleep. I remembered something about salt. Armed with crystal bowls and a container of Morton’s, I placed several filled dishes around the bedroom. In two weeks the banger stopped. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?
At the Colorado Gold Writers Conference, I met someone who worked at a psychic center. I told him my book, The Foreboding, was based on some of my own paranormal experiences. He said I was in a minority of people sensitive to ghosts. Once I signaled my fascination and started to see them, I became a beacon to other entities. That explained why I’d several different ghosts over the years. Once I shut the door with the last ghost, they left me alone.
It has been almost three years since I’ve witnessed any paranormal activity. It occurred to me it should be considered normal. I didn’t hallucinate them, nor do I have sleep paralysis. Energy can’t be destroyed so where does it go when we die? I would say with some conviction sometimes it sticks around. We call them ghosts.
But remember what I learned. Trapped souls hunt those who can see them in the middle of the night.
Would you like to have a paranormal experience someday?
Be careful what you wish.
Have you ever seen or sensed a ghost?