I used to see the old lady standing in front of my brother’s bedroom. The upstairs bedrooms in my parent’s house were laid around the outside of a squared-off ‘C.’ My brother’s room was at the very bottom of the ‘C’ and the top of the stairs positioned at the top of the ‘C’ with a long hallway overlooking the stairwell.
Some of my earliest memories are of this old lady. She had grey, curly hair and was somewhat short but neither thin nor fat. She didn’t wear glasses. I think I was around four or five when I first saw her. I would smile and she would clap her hands and wave and smile back. When I talked about her, my parents and siblings would tell me I couldn’t have seen any old lady and there was no such thing as ghosts. I guess I believed them and for a while I didn’t see her and forgot.
But I still sensed ‘something’ in the hall outside my brother’s room. I’d had any youngster’s exposure to Ouija boards, girly sleep-over games like ‘Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board,’ the movies and books of the late 70’s; these combined with sporadic trips to church helped me develop a fear reaction to anything hinting of the supernatural.
That didn’t stop me from seeing the old lady again. And yeah, it freaked me out. There was no way to avoid heading down to that end of the hall because brother’s room was right next to the bathroom. It made late night trips an exercise in will power. Can I hold it? Or will I have to brave getting past the hair-raising sensations and images of the old lady?
She would chase me. Really! She would chase me down the hall, running even! I could still see her; it didn’t matter that I been told over and over ghosts didn’t exist. The words of the adults were hollow and false when she was so plainly there and it was scary to the little girl I was. The fine hairs on the back of my neck would tingle and rise and often she would just touch me on my back as I raced that looong hallway, causing a chill to tickle down my spine.
With childish rationale I knew that if I could make it down the stairs and into the TV room I would be safe or if I could make it back to my bed at night. For some reason, I never saw her in the TV room and every kid knows if you bury under the covers you’re safe.
Why not the TV room? It was not part of the original house plan; my parents added it on. When I was older, and the old lady and I were on speaking terms I asked her. She wrinkled her face in puzzlement and asked, “What room? That’s the backyard. I never wanted to scare you out of the house, and what if it was raining?” She couldn’t see it, because it hadn’t been part of the house when she lived in it.
I think I was somewhere around thirteen when I got tired of being chased. It just seemed silly to be afraid of someone who always ‘lost’ our little ‘race.’ It was also around that time that I realized as we ran down the hall, she was making goofy, funny faces and waving her arms wildly.
The next time I ran down the stairs I paused at the bottom and looked back. The old lady was standing at the top and she was doubled over, clutching her stomach and laughing hysterically. I could sense that she was truly tickled that she could still make me jump and run. I continued on into the TV room but at a much slower pace. It was a turning point.
The next time I came out of the bathroom and into the hallway I didn’t run. She was there and my neck hairs were standing so tall I think it pushed the rest of my hair up like a scared cat’s tail.
But I stood my ground. I said to her, “You haven’t caught me this whole time, well I am not scared of you. I am not going to run.” And I walked.
It took forever to get to the top of the stairs, but I forced my teenybopper self to slowly plant one foot in front of the other. She paced behind me the whole way and it seemed I was looking at two of her. On ‘the outside’ she was projecting scary, but in a carnival ‘boogah-boogah’ way. When I looked more closely, I could see that on ‘the inside’ she was still laughing at me. She knew I wanted to jump and run and she was sort of poking at me energetically to get me to do it, but to her it was just a big joke.
A joke. It was her entertainment because she was lonely, she was stuck in the house and there was no one to talk to. She was bored, and chasing the kids of the house was some fun. She was suddenly not so scary at all.
“I just wanted someone to acknowledge me. Everyone thinks I’m dead and I’m not. But I’m stuck here. At least you could see me, even when you pretended not to. Scaring you was the only way I could get your attention.” She didn’t even try to hold in her chuckles. “You really did look quite funny scampering down the hall. The look on your face was priceless!”
She had died in the house, in my brother’s room she told me. She didn’t mind being there, but she hadn’t expected the afterlife to be so very dull. My family offered sufficient distraction; she would express fondness for and a desire to watch out for us. Indeed, during the time the old lady ‘lived’ with us, nothing truly tragic ever happened to my family or the house, no break-ins, no fires, no serious accidents.
I began to think of her as a friend; she would knock on doors or walls to let me know she was nearby. Once, I asked her if she would move something, to give me some sort of physical proof.
Later on that day, a small bottle sat prominently on the counter of the bathroom. I saw it when I swept in after returning home from running errands and the sight of it stopped me in my tracks. I’d knocked it off a few hours earlier when I was hurrying to get out of the house and I didn’t bother to pick it up.
No one had been in the house while I was away. It had been empty of everyone but my friend, the ghost of the old lady.