I don’t want believe in ghosts, but this thing has been following me around for a lifetime.
It started when I was five. There was something about the hollow space underneath my grandmother’s staircase that made me leap over the third and fourth steps. My people are practical people. They do not believe in ghosts or allow their children to believe in ghosts. So I never told anyone about my daily leap. My terror grew as I realized the haunting had moved into the deep, dark closet in my room at my grandmother’s house. Now it could wait for me to fall asleep, but it knew I’d lie there paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t close my eyes because it would get me. I couldn’t bolt down the stairs because it was faster than me, and it would just position itself under step number three to grab my wobbly ankle as I raced down the steps, through the living room door, and into the warmth of the kitchen. It was a well planned haunting. So don’t think ghosts don’t think. They do. And this one followed me to college.
Texas A&M University is like my family. Practical. No room for the paranormal or mystical; unless, of course, you believe a bonfire will control the outcome of a football game. But it’s a big, powerful school. They have ways around their own superstitions. For me, the problem was much more personal and real. Stupidly, I picked a house to rent that had a staircase. That ghost followed me there and set up residence as if my new set of stairs was a comfortable old shoe. The hauntings commenced immediately. I had a paranoid, drug addict for a roommate, and the ghost knew he would be easy pray. He didn’t know a bad acid trip from a paranormal bullying. Instead of lurking under the stairs, the entity tended to loiter in the stairwell itself. This old cottage had one of those tightly enclosed staircases that’s about four feet wide with dark paneled walls. It was about as creepy as they come. At the age of twenty, I could still clear thirteen steps in two leaps. The old fear from Grandmother’s house was in good shape when it came to an aerobic ascent to the upstairs bathroom. My roommate simply refused to come downstairs for days at a time. The ghost also took up with living creatures. It preferred the company of roaches and rats. They moved in and lingered in the stairwell, too. I could hear them scuttling in the walls. Sometimes one would zip through the kitchen, and they held convention in throbbing masses on the trunk of the old oak tree out front. A more grounded individual would have told me that I was not suffering from a haunting, but from a hefty case of student poverty. No matter. I knew the truth, the ghost was my life mate, and it would always be there to give me a healthy dose of chronic fear and uncertainty.
As Texas A&M faded into the back room of my young adulthood, and an actual career pulled me out of student poverty, I bought a nice piece of property in the country. I built a house on a hayfield that was backed by twenty acres of woods. Why I thought that ghost wouldn’t find my woods to be the perfect play ground, I don’t know. It moved right in; preferring to lurk just on the edge of the trees near the well house. It liked to blow up it’s energetic meanness and spook me into a sprint for the house whenever I was forced to go to that little well house for any night time business. Naturally, it was faster than me, and it mastered the ability to haunt the very walls of my home. It took up a new practice. In the wee hours of the morning, I would be awakened by the distant sound of AM radio. This ghost was a fan of 1950’s rock n’ roll. Since I’m an independent music producer and writer, I came to understand that the ghost chose me for a reason. It was time to make my peace with the paranormal and let it be my friend.
All I had to do was think, “Be my friend,” at 3 a.m. on a balmy spring night, and the fear lifted. That doesn’t mean my ghost no longer haunts, but now I’m in on the joke. We know that the best way to get rid of an unwanted house guest is to send them up the stairs in my country home. By step three they’ll sense the fear. By step four, they’ll be certain there’s an evil claw wrapped around an ankle. By step five, they will have decided they don’t like me, and they will leave forever.
This ghost could get me through the kind of divorce where I get it all. All it has to do is grab an ankle. I love my ghost. Tonight, we’ll hum a few bars of “Love Me Tender” before I drift off to sleep.