The first house my parents ever owned was haunted. They lived there for a year then moved before I was born. Whenever we drove past the house (a two story derelict Victorian), my mom would point it out and say, “That’s our old house. It’s haunted.”
She knows this because every night she lived there she dreamed of an old woman who beckoned her from the bottom of the stairs.
Follow me, the woman commanded. Follow me.
It took her entire strength of will for my mom to resist, clinging with all her might to the bannister even as she felt herself irrevocably pulled towards the woman. It happened every night. Every night, the struggle, the temptation.
Sometimes my mom is convinced that it wasn’t a dream, though she never doubts that the ghost was there, real as anything.
Lesson: Better safe than ever sorry.
Sorry, not sorry.
My aunt often told us the story about how when she was a little girl, she was terrified of having to go the bathroom at night. There were toilet ghosts, you see, that grabbed at her or which appeared in the mirror or in the corners of the room. They stared and laughed at her and ran the length of the ceiling, disappearing behind the toilet and into the walls.
Most nights, this would happen.
Eventually, she learned to hold it until morning. She advised us to do the same, because who knows?
Lesson: Anyone can learn, given the right incentives.
Also: anything can happen if you decide to go wandering at night, even the ridiculous impossible. Even in your own home. Especially in your own house. Ghosts can do more than just beckon.
My siblings and I shared a bedroom for the years we lived at my grandparents’ house. A multigenerational household it was too (our family of five, my grandparents, a few aunts and an uncle), though for me that just meant dealing with a lot of overbearing bodies: too many talking, jabbering heads, befouling the air around you; too many pairs of hands and feet, taking up space. There was a lot of tension, living in that house, and no escape from it.
I found out much later that my parents, grandparents, my aunts and uncle believed that 1) our bedroom was, indeed, very haunted (specifically by a being that liked to sit on you and draw your “essence” away from your body, as they each in their own turn had experienced), but that they also thought 2) it was OK for us to sleep in the very haunted bedroom because “the ghost won’t bother the children.”
The fact that we knew not to listen to ghosts, the fact that we stayed in that bedroom all night without compliant was proof of that, wasn’t it?
Lesson: The cost of a reprieve can be invaluable if you don’t have to pay for it yourself.
“The ghost won’t bother the children.” They seemed so sure of this. More, it seems that despite their own beliefs, the adults had no trouble transferring the responsibility of their fear to us, of saddling us with the burden of keeping things in check.
I had believed hauntings to be many things. I had not known until then that they could be also be convenient. Expedient to a point, and to a fault.