Recently, I was given the opportunity to write about something that I was really interested in and get paid for it. And the payment was to be quite generous, $30 – 50 depending on the length of the story. The problem is that I didn’t have any stories to tell. And I couldn’t even fabricate a realistic sounding fictional piece.
The topic was “true” ghost stories, for a Halloween issue of an online magazine. They were requesting the stories early in the year so that they could be given to an illustrator and then published, with graphics, in October. The question that came up in trying to write about my quasi-paranormal experiences, is, “Why do the skeptics always get to experience the really cool stuff?” I believe, I believe, I believe! But I have never seen a ghost.
I have had a few, as I said before, quasi-paranormal experiences. Things that were stably planted at the back of a counter or shelf falling noisily to the floor, as if they had not just fallen but had, instead, been thrown. Noises in unoccupied rooms that couldn’t aptly be explained. But I have not seen anything that would qualify for a 500-1000 word, “true” ghost story.
I tried to embellish the story of the night we all got stopped by the police and told to go home on the way out to the old farmhouse in “The County,” Pueblo County, Colorado, to be precise. Every freshman who attends Colorado State University’s Pueblo campus hears two stories upon moving into the Belmont Residence Hall; the first being the farmhouse in the County. The County, for those not familiar with the expression, refers to the rural areas outside of Pueblo city proper. The County encompasses many, many acres of farmland and several small towns.
It also encompasses a farmhouse; the subject of one of the stories freshman hear upon moving into the dorms at CSU-Pueblo. Actually, in my experience, there are several stories about the farmhouse. One is that the old farmer chopped up his young wife with an axe, after she had a miscarriage, fed her to the dog, then killed the dog so no one would ever find out about what he had done. That was the story that stood out in my head, probably because it reeked of a standard urban legend that could be heard all across the American Mid-West, however, I know I was told other versions of the story myself.
One Halloween night, a group of my friends and I piled into two cars and headed out to The County to see what we could see. Unfortunately, we were stopped by a policeman, who told us to go home, explaining that there had been a lot of vandalism at the old farmhouse and the man who owned it now didn’t want kids out there anymore. So, we went home. No ghosts, no Halloween excitement for us to behold. And no fodder for a $50 payout story for me later on in life.
I believe, I say, screaming it from the rooftops, but alas, no ghost needs to prove his existence to a believer. There are far more skeptics in the world who need converted.
The second story told to new freshman far from home, which I also tried to embellish and make into more than it really was, is the story of the Resident Advisor in the early 1980’s who, as it was so eloquently put to me, “snapped” and tried to burn all of her residents to death. The story goes, at least the story I heard, was late one night during finals week, she barricaded all of her residents into their rooms, doused the hallway in gasoline and lit it aflame before hanging herself in the stairwell. Now, she is said to walk the halls, late at night, especially around finals time, banging doors and sobbing, turning on showers, running water in the sinks, flushing toilets, anything that might get her noticed.
I have even experienced weird things in the dorms. Late one night I found myself alone in the restroom. I had just come out of the shower so I knew both stalls were empty, but as I stood alone before the sinks and mirror, one of them roared to life. No one had entered, the way the restroom was arranged, no one could slip past, unnoticed, to the shower. I went to investigate, unafraid of ghosts, intrigued by the possibility of finding one bathing in the tiny shower stall, but before I reached the back of the restroom, the water shut off and, of course, I found no bathing ghoulie.
It is not possible for me to believe in ghosts and the spirit world anymore than I do but skeptics still have to be shown. Teach the unteachable first, then focus on the star pupils.
I spent a week in the allegedly haunted, all-male (and Don Henley’s “Smuggler’s Blues” plays on the juke box in my mind) Premont Hall at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. Premont, as well as two other buildings on the campus, is actually registered with a national registry of haunting. The story of Premont is virtually the same as the story of Belmont, only registered and, therefore, somewhat, more viable. Or so it would seem. A Resident Advisor blew a fuse, as it were, and killed himself in the shower. With similar results, banging doors, empty showers running on their own, but did I get to see or hear any of this? Of course not, because I believe.
Perhaps the moral of this story is that I should stop believing. I have never seen a ghost. I have no proof ghosts exist. I should give up the chase, concede defeat and stop believing. That, my friends, is far harder than it sounds. No level of will or conviction could make me stop believing in the spirit world and because of that, I am doomed to a life without proof.