I am a five-star chicken. A class-A milquetoast. A scaredy cat of the highest order.
Why? I’ve seen too much that can’t be explained.
Now, before you start thinking that I am some sort of conspiracy theorist hunkered down in my basement with maps and pictures linking everything to the clandestine visits of little green aliens, please understand that I’m not talking about that sort of thing. Mind you, I do find it hard to believe that we are the only intelligent/unintelligent life forms in such a vast universe. I mean, duh—humans can be such a narcissistic breed.
I do believe that it is possible to throw a hex on someone because I grew up around my Grandma Willie. Grandma certainly isn’t a witch or a voodoo priestess or anything, but there is something to that Black River Magic in South Carolina. Of course, it is perfectly within your rights not to believe me, but please extend me the courtesy of letting me know when you are planning on testing the Hex Theory so that I can maintain a 100 mile perimeter from you at all times.
I also believe most heartily in ghosts.
One of the founders of my father’s former law firm made a point of coming into the office as much as he could in spite of his age and failing health. Of course, he had the plushest office in the firm—the only one with a private bathroom—and he was quite fond of it. The partner passed away. Every year, on the date of his death, a cat shows up at the firm and hangs around until the partner’s birthday when it leaves for parts unknown.
I worked near the partner’s abandoned office for quite some time and I can personally tell you that the water faucet in the bathroom would turn itself on and the toilet would also randomly flush. Environment be damned, I wasn’t going in to turn one cotton picking thing off.
The house that holds our new firm is about 150 years old and it also comes with a story or two. The building was originally owned and occupied by a cabinet maker/undertaker who worked out of his home. In the 1950’s the man that lived in the house killed the lady that lived next door with an axe. Good times.
In spite of all of the aforementioned troubling history, we are so far-so good when it comes to haints (as my father says). There was one troubling incident with a noise coming from the ceiling, but it ended up being a family of squirrels. There was also a dead possum under the house once, but no human bodies were unearthed or anything.
The situation that forevermore sealed the deal with regard to my belief in ghosts occurred in Ye Merry Olde Englande.
When Mom and I got dropped off in England by the Queen Mary 2, we had a couple of days to kill before catching a flight (boo hiss) back home. We wanted to go someplace that we hadn’t seen before, so we settled on the Isle of Wight.
The Isle of Wight is the southernmost tip of England and it is only accessible by boat. The Isle’s location proved integral to British defense for hundreds of years and—being the insatiable history buff that I am—I was totally on board.
We made a reservation to spend the night at Ryde Castle. Talk about history—Ryde Castle is one of the oldest structures on the island. The Castle was strategically built by Henry VIII with the intent of achieving first and early warning should a Spanish Armada try to approach the country. Hundreds of years later, the castle was used for British Intelligence in World War II and its remote location proved to be strategically helpful in that situation as well. Today, Ryde Castle is a lovely and award winning hotel.
Our room was exactly what one would expect in a Medieval castle. The walls were covered in ornately carved oak. The four dark oak posters on the bed were nearly as big around as tree trunks and it was canopied with in a deep red velvet that matched the other accents in the room. There was a sitting area with a red couch and chairs that would have looked equally at home in the Vatican. There were two sets of large French windows. The bathroom was surprisingly up to date with a big garden tub (a rare find in the U.K.)
The slight little catch with the room was that there was only one bed. I decided to be the good daughter and sleep on the couch. I grabbed a pillow and one of the bed covers and hunkered down for the night. I don’t know exactly when everything started because there wasn’t a clock in the room, but trust me when I tell you that it was late at night and dark as pitch.
After finally finding a comfortable-ish position on the ornate couch, I had just started to drift off when all of the windows in the room opened and slammed closed so hard it was a miracle the glass didn’t shatter. I sat straight up in bed trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened, but Mom was still sound asleep and I told myself that it was weirdo fluke. The castle sat right at a cliff overlooking the sea, so the wind could get crazy and French doors aren’t always the easiest to secure.
I put my head back down, but I was way too fidgety for sleep at that point. After another few minutes, the windows did their open/shut thing again. I got up and walked over to the windows to take a look at them. They seemed to be okay. I opened one of them and stuck my hand outside in an attempt to determine the strength of the breeze. It was breezy, but it wasn’t exactly whipping around or anything.
I plopped back down on the couch and, sure enough, the windows started opening and closing, but, this time, they were joined by the bathroom door which also started opening and closing. It was as though something was trying to get my attention and it was getting peeved that I wasn’t playing along, so it decided to kick things up a notch.
I was officially freaked out at that point. I told myself that it was the wind in spite of my earlier investigation and findings. I also had no hypothesis whatsoever for the bathroom door, but I just kind of whitewashed over that in my mind. The windows and the door were making so much racket that I didn’t understand how in the world Mom could still be asleep. I got into as much of a fetal position as the narrow little couch would allow and pulled the covers up over my head. Yeah, it was a chicken shit thing to do, but cluck, cluck.
About a minute or so after I tucked into my blankey, the whole thing was pulled clean off of me and thrown to the other side of the room. There wasn’t a single person or thing in the room that could have reasonably accomplished that task. One can’t blame the wind but for so much, you know.
After that, I did what any self-respecting and educated 33 year-old would do: I ran and got in bed with my mama.
There weren’t any other issues for the remainder of the night.
There weren’t any other issues for the remainder of the night.
The next morning, I walked down to the front desk, desperately trying to find a way to approach the ghost conversation that didn’t make me sound like a total fruitcake. A nice middle-aged lady wearing a cardigan and little half-moon reading glasses smiled welcomingly and said, “Can I help you?”
“Good morning! I know this probably sounds a tad strange, but...well...hmm,” I looked at her staring at me politely and waiting for me to get to the point. I took a deep breath and went for broke, “Okay, this is an old castle after all and...well...do ya’ll have ghosts?”
I expected some thinly veiled British disdain and perhaps even a quick call to the police, but she smiled even wider and said, “We certainly do.”
I wasn’t expecting that. “Oh! Well, okay.”
The lady continued, “He’s perfectly harmless, just a bit of mischief in him is all. He’s particularly fond stealing guests’ toothbrushes.”
I was speechless (rare, I know). Had I known about the toothbrushes I would have gone to Sam’s or Costco before the trip and bought one of those packs of 487 toothbrushes for $10.00. It might have saved me a world of trouble. As it was, I’d had my brush with the paranormal and I was a believer, but I was done.