This is not a Halloween story. No words written in blood on the hallway walls, no moaning spirits or flickering lights, or candles blowing themselves out. Just a feeling of not being alone. Ghosts, if you will, leftover energy from those who came before us.
As a child I was called the sensitive one. I avoided mirrors because I saw things that others didn’t notice. I grew up and became a writer. I observe things others don’t bother to see. I feel things others don’t, can’t, or won’t feel.
So when I asked the check-out person at the B & B in my favorite beach town if the place was haunted, she hesitated.
“Because I think it is,” I said as I pulled out my credit card to pay.
She leaned a little closer and said, “I shouldn’t tell you this, but don’t stay in room # 4.”
Aha! I knew it. And I’d been in room number four the year before, a ritual third night after an extensive two-day writer’s conference. A handful of us would stay one more night in the B & B to catch our breath and to discuss all that we’d taken in in the past 48 hours.
Room # 4 was tiny with antique mirrors on every wall. I sat in bed, trying to read, catching something out of the corner of my eye. Was it my own reflection? Or were the mirrors there to confuse the guest into thinking that? After that experience, I never stayed in room #4 again.
My friends’ rooms were creepy, too. The clock alarms went off at midnight, and the beds were short-sheeted. But a grumpy maid could’ve done those things. The movement in room #4 was harder to explain.
Now I have a house in that same beach town, one built 92 years ago by a sea captain who bought the land from the railroad for $25.00. I’ve filled the house with antique photos of non-relatives and an assortment of antique furniture. The house is spooky when I’ve been there alone, less so when I have the dogs with me or people.
The master bedroom is especially creepy, whether it’s day or night. I get the sense that I am not alone in that room. The huge mirrored closet doors don’t help, but it’s more than that. It’s as though someone who lived there died and has refused to leave.
The disclosure laws for a death in the house were written decades after the place was built.
“What do your ghosts look like?” my mother asked.
I can tell she thinks I’m nutso.
“I don’t see them,” I said. “I feel them.”
“What do they sound like?” Mom asked.
“I don’t hear them, except maybe a click across the room, or a noise behind the door to the hallway.”
“So no white sheets floating in the air?” she said.
Why bother? She doesn’t believe me anyway.
One visitor said, “Of course the place is haunted. You’ve filled it with photos of dead people. You’ve invited them here.”
Another guy said, “I couldn’t sleep in the living room (on the sofa bed). There’s bad juju in there.”
Another guest said, “That’s a spooky-ass hallway you’ve got.”
He never came back.
The master bedroom is at the end of the twenty-foot hallway. I tried painting the hallway a bright color and filling it with my colorful framed book covers. Still spooky.
My worker woman’s twelve-year-old daughter loves the beach and visits often when her mom comes to do the heavy stuff I can’t do anymore. There’s just one thing. We have to cover the mirrors, in the bedroom where they sleep, with sheets.
“Why don’t you like mirrors?” I asked the little girl when we were alone.
“I saw something once behind me,” she said.
I told the mom how I had hated mirrors, too, when I was her daughter’s age.
“She’s sensitive, she’s tuned into everything,” I said. “She can see things your average kid doesn’t notice.”
“Hmm,” said her mom.
It’s not an unfriendly spirit, just one unwilling to leave. The nine year old and I know. We are learning how to co-exist at the beach house.
There’s room for all of us here.