Sunday, January 03, 2010

My ghost story


My elder son is into all the weird stuff -- UFOs, strange creatures, ghosts. We've discussed what it means to be "superstitious," versus "skeptical," of course, and he's actually quite the skeptic. He finds these topics interesting, but tries not to be lured into unsupported belief. That's all good and well -- the way I see it, kids learn more when they're free to explore the things that excite them, so he reads a lot, and watches a lot of TV/film (mostly History Channel type material) related to these kinds of topics. In 2008, I treated him to a Halloween special: The first house we hit on trick-or-treat rounds was the house in which the events which inspired The Exorcist took place -- it's a few blocks from our own home. He also likes fictional portrayals.

So anyway, he picked out Paranormal Activity as our Saturday night family DVD rental (Tamara picked District 9, also quite interesting, for Friday night). Quite a flick, especially considering it was made for $15,000. Suspension of disbelief was pretty easy. It was easy to empathize with the characters. I'm not going to try to give it a full review, but if you're into "that kind of movie," you'll probably like it (I'm not, especially, but I didn't want my 90 minutes back).

Which led to Daniel asking me about my "ghost story" again, which led to me doing a little Googling, which led to me being able to show him photos of the very apartment in which said story occurred.

And then I thought to myself, "you know, I really need to get something new up on the blog." And after that I thought, "you know, maybe someone else out there has lived at 521 E. Elm, Apt. 4, Springfield Missouri and had the same experience, or maybe someone has a rational explanation for the experience, because I don't. And maybe some of those someones will notice my blog entry and let me know about their experiences or explanations."

Note well: I'm calling this a "ghost story" not because I believe in ghosts, but because I figure that's what most people will consider it on its face. What it actually is is a story of an unexplained series of not especially dramatic events. So, here goes:

I lived in the apartment in question in late 1993 and early 1994, with my then-fiancee (later wife, now ex-wife). It comprised the right half (if one faces the building from the front) of the top floor of a two-story house which was divided into four apartments.

If you look at the photos, I can describe the layout: The exterior photo is of the front of the house.

The kitchen (fairly obvious, second photo) was at the rear of the building, opening onto a screened porch which in turn opened onto a metal exterior staircase leading to the parking area behind the building.

The third photo is of the bedroom, which is at the front of the house. The closed door to the left leads to an interior staircase which in turn leads to the front entrance, with doors to the other three apartments similarly situated. The open door on the right leads into a small living room.

The fourth photo is taken from the kitchen. The hallway terminates at the living room. A door on its left leads to the bathroom. The right wall is all closets/cabinets.

So anyway, here's the ghost story part:

Several times (four, I think) -- all except once, from the bedroom, the other time from the bath -- we (from the bedroom; I was alone at home and taking a bath for the other one) heard noises coming from the living room. The noises were those of a quiet, leisurely dinner party: Low conversation among several people, tinkling glasses, soft music.

These noises never occurred when an actual party, or even any audible activity, was going on in another apartment. The bathroom incident happened in the afternoon when I was the only person in the building; most of the bedroom incidents in the very early morning hours, and our fellow tenants were not party types, nor when asked did they say that they had had company, etc.

Our reaction, from both bedroom and bathroom, was to walk to the door of the room and open it (as I've mentioned, the bedroom door opened onto the living room, the bathroom door opened onto the hall). At the moment either of us opened the door, the party noises would cease ... and the back door of the apartment would audibly slam shut.

The thing is, on several such occasions, the back door was to my certain knowledge not only already shut, but locked. At least twice, I ran immediately out onto the back porch to see if someone had been leaving another apartment to go to a car out back. Nobody present, no strange cars. And another apartment's door slamming shut would not likely have produced the "vacuum effect" in our apartment that this did, anyway (loose paper on a table in the living room shifting from the air current produced by the closing of the door, for example).

So, no really scary stuff -- just a recurring set of very similar events for which I've never come up with a satisfactory explanation.

The unsatisfactory but obvious "ghost story" explanation is that we were hearing a party from some previous time being re-lived by some of its now-departed-from-this-existence participants. Which, of course, has a certain idle conversation charm to it and is very interesting to 11-year-olds who are fascinated with "paranormal" stuff.

There are other semi-, but only semi-, satisfactory explanations. Maybe the building was located in a spot where there was a weird acoustic effect that pulled noise of certain frequencies (tinkling glass, low conversation, soft music frequencies) but not others (the guy who lived there flushing the toilet frequency or the midnight someone-is-beating-his spouse-and-she's-screaming-bloody-murder frequency) from another nearby building into our living room. That one's only semi-satisfactory because it doesn't explain the back door slamming shut exactly as another door was opened every time. Or maybe someone was messing with our heads ... but if so I'm not sure who would have been doing so or why they'd have picked that particular way of doing so. My previous spouse? I don't think she knew where I was living for most of the timeframe in question, nor does it strike me as her style.

Anyway, feel free to share your "ghost story" from this apartment (or hell, any other venue -- the more the merrier) or to explain mine away. Especially if you click on one of those Amazon links.

Disclaimer, because it occurs to me that there might be litigious sorts out there: I have no interest in damaging the rental or sale value of the apartment/building in question, and I hope nobody takes it that way. There were no bloodstains on the walls, demon-possessed girls crawling on the ceiling, etc. -- just some light party noises and a shutting door. Hell, you should be willing to pay a little extra for the chance to have a "ghost story" of your own to pass on to your kids, right?

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