Running From Ghosts (Literally)

I shared a ghostly experience that happened at my childhood home  a few posts ago. Unlike that ghostly reassurance, the second time I encountered a spirit I ran for my life.

My dad and I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico when I was fourteen. We stayed with my Dad’s buddy Dan.

Dan lived on a beautiful estate that was on the outskirts of town. There were three houses on the property. The main home was a beautiful stucco building filled with fine furniture, a grand piano, and classy artwork. The people who owned the estate were not residing there at the time. The second home was the caretaker’s house where Dan lived. The third house was the guest house. The buildings were new and my Dad and I were excited to stay at such a nice place. We stayed in the guest house.

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This gate and courtyard are very similar to what was on the estate where we stayed.

While the houses were new, the grounds had a lot of history. At the beginning of the private drive, there was an old church. There were two graves on the property that I stumbled upon my first day of arrival (I was always eager to explore). The graves were well-tended and I thought that it would be a lovely resting place to spend eternity, gazing at the lovely desert of New Mexico.

The first night we listened to Dan play guitar. My Dad gently nudged that it was getting late. I knew that he wanted to catch up with his old friend and relive some of their glory days. So I got ready for bed and started my book. The room where I was staying backed up to a fairly steep hillside, it was peaceful and quiet.

My Dad stayed up late with Dan and I marked my page and turned off the light. I couldn’t relax and a feeling of dread started to creep over me. My armpits prickled in a way that preludes nervous sweat. I was terrified to look at the window that faced the hillside and I buried myself beneath the blankets, even though I was soaked in sweat. Pure hatred filled the room. I spent hours praying that the evilness would leave. I finally fell asleep and the next morning the room felt normal again.

I tried to brush off the strange occurrence, even though I dreaded the thought of sleeping in that room again.

We spent the day visiting historical sites and when we got back to the estate it was almost sunset. I wanted to explore and my Dad and Dan went inside to listen to music. I started to climb up the hillside that bordered the property. There was a lot brush that was about waist-high. The views were beautiful and I remember looking down at the estate and the room where I was staying. I could see the two graves that were cozied up to each other. Smoke was gently pouring out of the chimney from Dan’s house.

The sun was setting and I decided to head home before it got dark. I was probably only a half mile up the hill when I felt it again. The dark force had surrounded me. I heard the brush all around me start to snap and crunch, but nobody else was around. The eerie silence projected each branch breaking. I started to run and behind me I heard crashing and snapping as something chased me down the hill. The most terrifying noise (and as I type this I’m getting goosebumps) was a rattle shaking in my ear. Like someone had filled an empty container with sand: swish swish swish. The entire time I was screaming in my head I shouldn’t be here!

When I made it to the bottom I crashed through the front door of Dan’s house and fell into my father’s arms shaking. My dad was terrified that I was hurt and he raced outside when I told him something chased me down the hill. He didn’t see anything but told me to stick close for the remainder of our stay. Bless my Dad for believing me (or at least my fears) when I told him it was a spirit.

That evening I asked my dad to come with me to the guest house so that I wouldn’t feel so lonely. He did, but he ended up getting a stomach bug and was ill all night. I hid under the blankets again because the evil presence came back and filled the room with rage.

For whatever reason I was unwelcome, and I was thrilled to oblige when we left.

 

 

Happy Halloween. I’m going to go make hot chocolate and listen to Christmas music to shake this memory.

-Rachel McKee

Cover image found here.

Ghostly Whisper

I grew up in a home surrounded by trees and a river in the backyard. My father split apart a 100-year-old *coke oven to make our driveway. I remember walking the property and finding old bottles and rusty tins inside the decrepit remains of a farm-house. Remnants from another life and another time.

I was a nature child. I despised shoes, and would play in the glacier water that ran through our backyard like other children splashed at the beach. My parents gave me a lot of freedom. I didn’t stray from the yard or too far from the river bed. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I began nightly excursions down to the river. My weather-roughened feet splashed through the icy water. The moon lit my path like a 20 carat diamond on black velvet. I had one companion that always joined me for my nightly adventures, our 150 pound Rottweiler named Buddy. He was my furry guardian.

Around this time I had experienced a lot of death. I lost both of my grandmothers, my great-grandmother, and my grandfather. Also a second cousin. I didn’t know my cousin well, but the one summer I spent with him he taught me and my brother how to play pool. He paid a lot of attention to us both, even though he was much older and much cooler. Through the whisper of “adult conversation” I learned that he overdosed. Anyway, I digress.

I was fascinated with death and the afterlife. I buried everything that died in our yard. Between the cat and the dog, I had a high residency in my animal cemetery: moles, mice, birds, baby deer still in the placenta. I figured every creature deserved a prayer when they died, so each animal was blessed by a scrawny little wood nymph.

I pondered where our souls went as I filled each tiny grave. I wanted to encounter a ghost, but was also terrified of being caught off-guard. I wanted to see a ghost on my own terms, and I was always looking. I wanted to believe that every strange thump or snap was a phantom in the night, but I debunked these odd occurrences with logical explanationsBeing a dreamer and a realist is exhausting and rather frustrating.

One chilly, late autumnal night, I slipped out of bed and found Buddy on the front porch. I ran my hand down his shiny black coat and he followed me to the river. The water was swift this night due to recent rain, but Buddy and I plunged ahead. I hiked my flannel pajama pants until they were short shorts and crossed the river to the island that separated both channels.

I sat down on a frosty log and watched the massive black shape of my dog as he wandered from bush to bush. Every exhale was visible, my legs were numb. Tucking my face into the neck hole of my jacket, and pulling my legs inside the warm cocoon of my over-sized coat, I ignored the cold and lost myself in thoughts of school, boys, God, and ghosts.

I started to get sleepy and decided to go home. As I was crossing the river I thought about how good it would feel to huddle underneath my comforter. I reached the other side and stood upon the dike that separated the water from our house. I waited for Buddy to catch up. He always followed right behind me. I started to worry that the current may have been too swift, or maybe this night he wandered too far. I started to call out but he still didn’t come. I began to pace on the dike, looking out into the dark, willing his black, hulking shape to appear.

“Buddy!” I screamed. I strained to hear his movements.

Then a woman whispered against my ear, “Don’t worry he is coming.”.

I jerked my head to the see who had spoken, but no one was there. My left ear tingled from her ghostly whisper.

After the initial shock, I realized I wasn’t scared. The voice was so calm and reassuring that I realized there was no threat. I soon heard my dog splashing through the river and crashing through the brush as he ran up the embankment.

I never heard from the ghostly woman again, but I felt her with me until I left home to go to college. Throughout the day when I played outside and on my nightly excursions, I knew she watched me. I wrote a poem about her that is buried somewhere in my old room. In the poem I described how the woman was actually me and that what I heard was a collision of my past, present, and future.

When I visit my childhood home, I like to think she walks with me as I stroll past the foundation of that old farm-house and the animal cemetery where Buddy rests now. Rotting wooden crosses and an old sign nailed to a tree that reads, “Pet Cemetary” are the remains that I leave for future generations. For the next young, naive heart that innocently thinks she can discover the mystery of death.

Will she hear me whisper?

-Rachel McKee

***coke oven – A coke oven is a brick oven that is used to produce coal. The coke ovens on my parent’s property were used to produce coal for the nearby railroad.

Cover image found here.