A Haunting in Ronkonkoma
Those who know me well know another two things about me:
1. I love horror movies.
2. I don’t believe in… well, much of anything.
Nihilistic is the common term, although I prefer humanist.
Now of all the things I don’t believe in, ghosts rank pretty high. Like, real high. Way up there. We’re talking somewhere between Santa Claus and an Everclear song where Art Alexakis doesn’t say “yeah” or “oh yeah” or some combination of the two. Yeah, that level of unbelievability.
So imagine my surprise when I awoke the other night to what can only be described as disembodied footsteps running across my bedroom floor.
But we’ll get to that.
Let’s start at the beginning, when my family first moved into this house, as a lot of strange things has happened since. We had a car flip onto our lawn, an old lady delivered to our door at 5am on Christmas Day, and someone smear shit on one of our cars. All in two and a half years. There’s more, trust me, but I think you get the gist.
Then there’s the dogs.
In the very first week living here, both had distinctly different and uncharacteristic episodes. Willow got violently ill and started puking and crapping all over the place, while Louie started having seizures which… well, which left him puking and crapping all over the place. … which, I guess isn’t so distinctly different after all.
But, really, who’s got time to worry about dogs acting strangely when you’ve a family and career? Besides, they lick crotches and sniff butts all day, who am I to assume what’s odd behavior?
Some family and friends would attribute their behavior to paranoia or coincidence, others to the supernatural. My wife and I paid little mind to any of it. We had other matters to attend to. Real matters regarding real horrors keeping us up all night.
And so life went on. Sometimes weird things would happen, other times it was just indigestion. Then came the night when a psychic said my son was talking to dead people.
And that’s exactly how she said it.
“Your son talks to DEAD PEOPLE.”
Not ghosts, or the departed, or the other side. No. DEAD PEOPLE.
Just trying to emphasize the level of professionalism here. Can you picture the ambiance? Dark lightening, quiet surroundings, a slight sense of mysticism in the air. Then those words leave her lips and suddenly it kind of feels like someone just farted in church.
Now I believe in psychics about as much as I believe in ghosts. I’d sooner accept the prophecy of a Taco Bell sauce packet than some jangly hack who wears feather earrings. But there was a certain level of sincerity in her voice that stuck with me longer than her patchouli scent lingered in my sinuses.
I started thinking: You know, my son has been having a hard time sleeping lately.
Could it be something was waking him up? And he has been waking up often, screaming and crying for no reason. Could it be something was scaring him? Also, he has been… oh, never mind. Turned out to be just an ear infection.
Then, one night, little man was having a particularly hard time sleeping. In an act of desperation I brought him into our bed, as that usually helped soothe him.
Now, anyone with a toddler knows that sleeping in the same bed isn’t all peaches and gravy, it’s more like Ragnarok. It’s feet and elbows and giant toddler heads and slapping and hissing and five finger death punches and an occasional hadoken. So after enduring several jugular shots, my wife decided to sleep on the couch, leaving me and little man alone in the room.
Or so we thought.
Fast-forward a few restless hours of me getting kneed in the nuggets, he had FINALLY drifted off, allowing me to do the same. But just as I began to feel sleep’s warm embrace, I was awoken by a bloodcurdling scream.
It was little man, sitting up and yelping “Who’s that?!” and “What’s that?!” as he stared into an empty corner of the room.
Now I don’t scare easily. Being raised on horror movies helped ensure that. But believe me when I say I’ve never, EVER felt fear as I did at that moment.
I held my son until he was no longer screaming, all while trying to shake the chill from my own body. What the hell happened? Was it a nightmare? A night terror? …did he… actually see something?!
Eventually he calmed and fell asleep. I, on the other hand, was wide awake, trying to rationalize everything. I felt like I was being watching. I had goosebumps and the hair on my arms were at point. Then I remembered I don’t believe in ghosts and passed out immediately. A smile on my face, I’m sure.
The benefits of humanism.
The next day I told my wife. She was freaked out. Of course I posted it to Facebook and Twitter, and got all the typical responses you’d expect. And then life did what it always does, it carried on.
Over weeks it became just another fading memory, reserved for anecdotal purposes when an eerie moment called for it. In time I had forgotten all about it… until recently.
dun. Dun. DUN.
It was around ass o’clock in a pitch black bedroom. My wife was asleep but I was still wide awake. It must have been one of those nights where the Mets made me too angry or work left me too wired to sleep. So there I lie, my eyes closed, counting squiggly lines.
And that’s when I heard it.
It had been ages since little man had slept in our bed. We found that leaving his bedroom door open, as well as ours, often helped lessen his fears. He even started sleeping through the night.
And anytime he did wake in a fright, he’d just run across the hall, check on us, and return right back to bed. Many a nights and mornings I’ve woken pleasantly to the pitter-patter of his tiny feet trekking across the hardwood floor of our room. Sometimes he says “hi” to me with a big smile, other times he runs to the other side of the bed to acknowledge mommy instead. And then, like clockwork, he willingly returns to bed on his own accord.
It was wonderful. Until…
Back to the other night. Eyes still closed, I smiled uncontrollably as I heard him enter the room. I sat up to find him, following the sound of his tiny clapping footsteps as they bypassed me completely and headed towards mommy’s side of the bed.
Okay, it was one of the nights where he preferred her. That’s okay. Parenthood is a lot of give and take.
There was one problem though. I couldn’t see him. I could hear him, that was for sure. Just couldn’t see him.
My wife, having heard him enter and head her direction, sat up too. At this point, the pitter-patter ceased.
“Where is he?” She asked groggily.
“He’s not over there?” I was confused.
“Maybe he’s hiding next to the bed.” I suggested, as that was a game he often enjoyed.
I felt the weight on the bed shift as she checked. “Nope.”
“That’s weird… where’d he go?”
At this point a small light illuminated the dark room as my wife checked the baby monitor. At a loss for words, she showed it to me.
It burned my eyes momentarily, but once my sight adjusted, they fixed on one thing. My son, fast asleep in his bed.
We didn’t speak for a length. Both of us, staunch non-believers, laid quietly, wrestling with rationale. At one point I tried offering a solution, unfounded as it may have been…
“Maybe it was-,”
“Shhhh.” She stopped me.
And she was right, I didn’t want to think about it either.
Now this hasn’t changed my perception on the unknown. I still can’t believe in anything without proper evidence. It’s just how I’m wired. Facts tend to make things so much more… oh, I dunno, factual for me. But I do have to acknowledge something unusual happened that night. I’m just thankful that’s ALL I have to do regarding the situation.
Again, the benefits of humanism.
Because eventually it will just become a fading memory too. Something anecdotal I’ll tell when an eerie opportunity presents itself… or a writing contest. I’ll never know what happened, despite my many questions, and I like it better that way. Leaves magic in the world.
Although I do wonder why, if ghosts exist, they have to be so awful? Why do they have to scare us or hurt us? Can’t they just make us a sandwich or alphabetize our movie collection or something? How hard is it to be nice? They’re staying rent free and they have the nerve to be dicks about it.
Nice, ghosts. Real nice.