I was born and raised in the southern US, in a community where, despite the massive amounts of loggers and lumber companies, a great deal of forests still stand. My stepfather owns his own logging business and used to tell us that in the process of clearing land, some loggers would uncover slave graveyards left hidden and forgotten by the tragedies of the Civil War. Given this, it’s easy to imagine the ghost stories that sometimes spring up in the area.
I’ll give you a perfect example: There is a house within ten miles of where I grew up that was abandoned in the 1940s. It’s a historical fact that it was standing during the Civil War. (If I can sneak a quick plug in here, this house was actually the inspiration behind my new novel, The Bleeding Room). I have been inside the house on two occasions (although one of those occasions likely shouldn’t count since I was quite inebriated). On my clear-headed visit, I experienced enough activity to solidly confirm that yes, I do believe in ghosts. There was clear murmuring and banging coming from the old partially collapsed slave shacks in the rear of the property. There were unexplainable cold pockets of air that seemed to move, despite the summer night and lack of a breeze.
But even before that, there was that one defining moment that hooked me on the paranormal. I have discussed it on my blog recently, and offer you the core of it here. If you’d like to read the entire post, it can be found here. http://barrynapierwriting.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/the-bleeding-room-pre-release-post-1-personal-experience/#comments )
When I was fourteen, I had already learned the art of being anti-social. Saturday nights were spent at home, watching TV. It was on my 14th year that my parents decided I was old enough to “babysit” my younger brother (he’s 5 years behind me). One night, sitting in the living room floor and eating some snack or another (probably Wise potato chips because I was addicted to them at this age), I was glued to a movie. I stood up to go the fridge for a drink and as I did, caught the figure of someone standing on the porch outside.
The following thoughts went through my head in a matter of two seconds:
That’s just your reflection…nope, not my reflection because I’m not wearing a hat and this person is….well maybe it’s Jacob (my brother) standing behind me and its his reflection…ah hell, Jacob is in his room, playing Super Contra…oh crap, what if there is someone trying to break into the house…?
Once this flurry of activity had purged itself from my head, I was amazingly calm. The figure still stood there, on the other side of the window, on the porch. It was a man, wearing a sort of bowler hat and a tattered gray suit. I can’t be certain because of the window, the bad light, and the age of the memory itself, but I think it was an African-American man. He was just peering into the window. He was not see-through, as most ghost stories have you believe, but at the same time he was not all there. It is why I was so convinced at first that it was a reflection; he had that same sort of thin quality to him. Not once did he actually look directly at me. He seemed more interested in the house.
In awe, I called for my brother. And as I did, it was almost like the sound of my voice scared the man on the porch. He didn’t fade away so much as simply winked out of sight. There one minute and gone the next.
I would have probably just ignored this eventually, passing it off as the result of my overactive imagination that had been addicted to horror movies from an early age. But then there were these things to be considered:
When I did tell my brother about it, he seemed to get the chills. He cut me off before I could finish the description, asking, “did he have on one of those old-time hats like you sometimes see in the movies?”
“Yeah,” I said.
With a scared little smile, my brother told me he had seen this same man a few days ago, standing in the kitchen. When my brother tried to speak to him, he disappeared.
Weeks later, my mother claims to have heard someone whistling a song while she was getting dressed for work, after my brother and I had caught the bus to school.
At the age of sixteen, I woke one night to the sound of a door opening. I looked up and for a split second, caught the sight of an old woman at the foot of my bed. (This one, I will admit, I have never really given 100% authenticity because of my troubles with sleep…this could have easily been some coming-out-sleep phenomenon).
My father has seen chairs on the porch move on their own, including a noticeable rocking of the porch swing.
Just a few months ago, as my brother was taking care of the folks’ pets while they were on vacation, he heard a picture fall from the coffee table. When he went to pick it up, he found that it had not just fallen, but had somehow made it nearly four feet away from the table.
To this day, whenever I walk up a dark stairway by myself or hear an unexpected noise when I am home alone, my mind goes back to that man staring through the living room window. I think of walking into one of those cold pockets in the abandoned house and remember how fearfully excited I was.
Call it a brush with the unknown or just an overactive imagination, but these are the moments that have really got my mind racing: is there something else beyond this life and, if so, are those that are interacting with us just being social or mourning a death they have never fully come to terms with?
Barry has had more than 40 short stories and poems published in online and print publications. He is the author of The Masks of Our Fathers, 13 Broken Nightlights, The Final Study of Cooper M. Reid and A Mouth for Picket Fences, his first poetry collection. He is currently experimenting with a Kindle graphic novel titled Birdwatching from Mars and editing a book of paranormal poetry titled I Know What I Saw. His novel The Bleeding Room has recently been published by Graveside Tales. You can learn more than you care to know about Barry atwww.barrynapierwriting.wordpress.com