Who you gonna call? Not me, that’s for darn sure. Ever since watching Ghostbusters at the ripe old age of 7 at my cousin’s house, the fact that ghosts MAY exist (definitely exist, in my opinion, but I gotta stay neutral for my invisible readers), has left me perpetually spooked.
I know, I know, the movie really isn’t THAT scary. And it wasn’t the giant lumbering Michelin Man that freaked me out as a kid, but the answer I got from my dad when I asked later that night if ghosts really exist: “I don’t know.”
‘I DON’T KNOW’!?!? As a kid, one of the scariest things you experience is the moment you realize YOUR PARENTS DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. I remember being so shocked that my child-sized brain could barely process the information. If I had the mental capacity of a twenty year old at that moment, I probs would have said something like, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW???” Instead, I just sat there until my mom nudged me and told me to get my hand out of the chips.
After that moment, it felt like ghosts were everywhere. They were in my house, in the store, and especially in my school’s bathroom.
It seems that everyone started to talk about paranormal stuff at the same time in my elementary school. One second the hot topic of the week was how we were finger painting in art class, the next second it was all about blood and guts and how many girls were sucked down the sink drain in the girls’ bathroom. I blame Anna.
Who is Anna, you ask? Anna was the new girl in second grade. She was much taller than the rest of us and always wore a long, brown braid down her back. She always kinda scared me, but I attribute that to her being the new kid in the town no one ever leaves: basically, anytime someone new breached my town’s bubble, it was big news. And when that “someone new” is a really tall girl who wears long denim patchwork skirts (it was 2003, guys), I couldn’t help feeling a little intimidated.
Anna carried intrigue wherever she went. She was the kind of girl who had a constant revolving-door of friends. She either sat with only one or two people at lunch, or she would be surrounded by kids who practically shoved their juice boxes at her in return of a story. We all knew a kid like that in elementary school-the scribe, the keeper of tales, the Gerald, for all you Hey Arnold fans out there. Anna was a storyteller. It was how she made herself interesting, attracted curious classmates, and made friends. I first heard one of her stories at recess.
At this point, I had been curious about the paranormal for a while, although at the time I just thought of it as something people told stories about. I had no idea if it was real or not, and to be honest, it didn’t really matter to me. I liked feeling spooked; for a small, skinny, and shy kid, being scared of ghosts made the real world less scary. People like Anna both scared and fascinated me: she was from somewhere else, and she told stories about another world. She was the girl who first told the story about the girl’s bathroom.
We all know the story, in one form or another: twenty years previous from when the story is being told, a young girl walks into the school bathroom during a thunderstorm, believing she is alone. As she’s going to the bathroom, she hears someone in the stall next to her, crying. Feeling bad for the crying girl, she looks under the stall door only to see that it’s empty. Confused and a little scared, the girl quickly turns to wash her hands when she sees, in the mirror, a DIFFERENT girl, with long dark hair matted with blood. The ghost-girl screams, the real girl screams, and before she can run away, she’s pulled into the mirror by the ghost girl, never to be seen again.
Yeah, I know, it’s an old version of an old tale, but when you’re 7 and impressionable, it was pretty much the most terrifying story EVER, and I wasn’t the only one who was freaked out in my school: every time a girl had to go to the bathroom, she would try to bring a friend with her so she wouldn’t have to go alone. Soon, one girl became two, and soon enough, whole possés of girls were gallivanting to the bathroom together for twenty minutes at a time. Pretty soon, the boys caught on to what was happening, and THEY started traveling en-mass to the bathroom. By fourth grade, the problem got so out of control that every teacher literally had to sit their classes down and review bathroom etiquette, as well as enforce the newly-minted “bathroom rule” in which only one kid of each gender could go to the bathroom at the same time. This happened as we got older, though: for a while there, we all really were truly frightened of the bathroom. I’ll never forget when, towards the end of second grade, my friend and I were about to open the door to the bathroom when we heard ACTUAL CRYING coming from inside. My friend abandoned me and sprinted down the hallway in the opposite direction-I’m still mad about that, Jess!-so I was FORCED to investigate by myself. It turned out that a girl had puked in the bathroom and was crying for her mom, but still: pretty scary stuff.
Anna moved sometime during third grade, and I have no idea what she’s up to now. Even though she and I were never really friends, I missed her scary stories. However, I soon realized (along with the rest of my class, who was also obsessed with scary stuff), that the library was FILLED with scary story books. The best ones were the books with the horrifying illustrations. YOU know the books I’m talking about. There was one illustration in particular that creeped me out to my core. It was for a story about a girl who SOMEHOW (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE TELL ME THIS ISN’T POSSIBLE) ended up with a spider egg sack (SHUDDER) on her cheek, and it EXPLODED and tiny little baby spider demons crawled all over her face. The illustration STILL gives me nightmares.
I remember reading one of those books in fourth grade during our after-lunch free read time. It was very quiet in the room, and I was glued to a story about a guy who was on his way to a school dance when he passed a car wreck. After driving on for a few minutes, he saw a young woman walking up ahead in the dark wearing a pretty dress and a flower in her hair. Figuring she was on her way to the dance, he pulled over and asked if she needed a ride. She accepted, and they danced the night away. After having a wonderful time together, the guy asked her where she lived so he could drop her off. She mentioned the street he had picked her up on, and he dropped her off. As he was driving home, however, he realized that he had never gotten her number. After turning around and heading back towards her street, he passed the car wreck again. This time, he felt compelled to slow down as he passed it. What he saw terrified him. In the driver’s seat of the car was a girl, wearing a pretty dress and a flower in her hair.
I remember reading that last line-which, I might add, I pretty much remember word for word, it scarred me so bad-and having to refrain from shrieking out in the middle of quiet time. I know it sounds cliché now, but at the time, that kind of story creeped me out the most: stories about ghosts couldn’t be topped.
To this day, I’m sort-of reluctantly fascinated with the paranormal. I watch all those ghost-hunting shows, and I always see horror movies, even though I know I’ll regret it. Imagine my delight/horror when I found out that my dorm was haunted! I kid you not: my dorm, which is named after a student who drowned in a nearby lake, is plagued by chilly drafts, flickering lights, doors that open and close on their own, random fire alarms, and-perhaps the creepiest of all-vanishing items. Apparently, things like wallets, makeup bags, and even, in one instance, STANDING LAMPS have disappeared, only to turn up in the most random of places or not at all. I know these all sound like the unfortunate qualities of a crappy dorm, but it’s just more fun to consider that maybe, just maybe, a mischievous ghost is behind it all.
So, I hope you guys enjoyed my first-ever (official) story time! I love telling stories, so I think I’m going to try to write more of them in the future. They’ll usually be about my life, but I would love to occasionally tell other people’s stories (people I admire, etc) as well. If you liked it, let me know by giving this a “like”!
Lastly, what do you guys think about the paranormal? Do any of you believe in ghosts, or does anyone have any creepy stories they’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments!