This Weeks Story
September 3, 2000
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Hailing From: El Cajon
Where it Happened: Oregon
I went to college in Ashland, Oregon, and lived for the better part of a year in the school's oldest dormitory complex, called "Susanne Homes." Susie's residents have traditionally been an interesting bunch-- theater people, lit majors, dungeons and dragons players, math wizards. Creative folks, with sesitive temperments and vivid imaginations.
It was the colorful character of the building and its people that drew me to the hall. However, this same imaginativeness could also, at times, get a little annoying. Such was the case with the ghost hoo-ha.
I believe in ghosts. My mom lived for a time in a bizarre house where her collection of music boxes would simultaneously wind up and play. My dad's house had knocks and ghost lights. I'd experienced the paranormal, and to me, the ghostly ramblings of my neighbors seemed disingenuous. We lived in an old building. Of course it needed a ghost. Bah, humbug.
From the foreshadowing, you can probably tell that I was proven wrong. My comeuppance came toward Christmas break, my junior year of college (1995). I lived on Susie's third floor. The building was long and narrow. Two heavy doors stood at either end of the hall, leading to the main staircases. One had to seriously tug on the doors to open them, and once open, they closed with a thud.
It was around 1:00 a.m. I was up studying and had been slamming Diet Pepsi all night. Not surprisingly, I had to pee. My room was right next door to the loo.
I came out of my room with my head down. When I looked up, there was a girl sitting smack in the middle of the hallway-- midway between the heavy doors. She was sitting cross-legged, reading a hard bound book. She was a little heavyset and perfectly solid. There was something wrong, though. She looked as if she'd stepped right out of my mother's high school year book. She wore pedal pushers, a red cardigan sweater and a white blouse with a Peter Pan collar. Her hair was in a bouffant-- you know, that dome like hairdo girls wore in the '60s. She had on black rimmed, cat eye glasses. If she was going for a "retro" look with her clothing, she had succeeded tremendously. She was impeccable, right down to the demure flats on her feet. What the HELL was she doing in the middle of my dorm hallway at 1:00 a.m.? My hand was on the bathroom door handle when I called out to her, "Hi?" (Greeting, but also questioning her presence. She didn't live in my dorm, that was for sure.) She looked up at me, startled, and said in a timid voice "Hi." Ok, now the scary part. I was in the process of pulling open the bathroom door. I took one step in-- a foot on the tile, the other still on the hall carpet. I don't know why, but I stepped back to talk to her again. And she wasn't there.
I felt as if ice water had coursed down my back. I still had to pee, so I did it fast (singing the Muppets theme the whole time to distract myself) and flew back to my room, not looking over my shoulder whilst in the hallway. I turned my stereo up as loud as I could without waking up my neighbors and turned on every light. Then I sat down with my back against the wall and stayed up until about 4:00, when I finally had to sleep. The next day I went to every woman on my floor and asked if they'd had a guest the night before. No one had. So, that eliminated the possibility that she'd slipped into a bedroom. There is no way on god's green earth that she could have made it to one of the doors, hauled it open and pelted down the stairs in the space of time it took me to look back at her, so that was out, too. I suppose she could have just been a very odd, flesh and blood human being, but I think not.
The next time my neighbors were chattering about "the ghost," I asked them who she was meant to have been. They said they didn't know, but there were rumors that in the 60's a girl had hung herself in the building's laundry room.
One more story, unrelated. You mentioned that you haven't heard anything about angels, so here's a story that could be attributed to either an angel, or a temporary suspension of the laws of physics.
My senior year of high school, I went to pick up my boyfriend for school. He lived in the country, up a washboard, switch back road. As usual, he was running late, so I drove down his road faster than I should have. As I was taking a curve, my little Toyota was sucked into the gravel on the road's shoulder. We began to violently fishtail. Unfortunately, this was on a particularly steep grade. The road was cut into the hillside, like a stairstep. An orchard and pond lay some 30 to 40 feet below. There was no guard rail, and we were heading for the edge -- about to sail into space. My boyfriend shouted a profanity as I fought for control of the car. This all happened pretty quickly, so I don't know how it transpired, but suddenly we slammed into the hill's face --180 degrees from the drop off over which we about to careen.
The force of that impact spun us back around, the rear end struck, and we rolled. When we came to rest, we were upside down, cradled in a thicket of blackberry brambles. The cabin of the car, which by rights should have been squashed like a grape, was suspended over the ditch. The boyfriend, who hadn't been wearing a seat belt, was sitting on the ceiling of the backseat. He was unscathed.
Long story short, we staggered back up the road to his house, called the highway patrol and our parents. A paunchy police officer came out to the scene and examined the toasted car and skid marks. He looked a little puzzled. He told my dad, who had arrived by that time, that I was damn lucky. Judging by the skid marks, we should have been on the orchard's floor. The momentum, the angle, all of it pointed to us being dead meat, yet there I stood, beside my father and a stern policeman. Damn lucky, indeed.
I thank you Holly for the stories, and I appreciate your kind support also. It gives me a good feeling to think that there are others who think highly of this most unusual, yet satisfying, work-in-progress.
I suppose oftimes I wonder why two stories might, unknowingly, be told at the same time by the writer. I suspect there are no ties to either in this particular case, but still, I can't help but wonder if that old saying that "things always happen for a reason" might not well apply in instances we can never predict.
A glimpse at a spirit from the past, a ghost if you will, for whatever reason makes anyone wonder why they were there and what you should know . . . .
The same applies to "close calls" because by their very nature they are bestowed for reasons we can never really determine with any particular certainty.
I wondered if it might not be at all possible that the cross-legged ghost could possibly be a distant relation, or, if that particular ghost had been watching out for our writer all along -- it is hard to tell, isn't it?
For this evening, like many nights on my hilltop, as the darkness begins to engulf the valley below and slowly erase the evening shadows, I believe I will give thanks for the close calls I have had in my lifetime -- and will probably leave at least one candle lit past midnight, next to my old record collection, when I will ponder just a little bit more about the man I met just last week who had been hit by a train whilst in his car, and yet lived, unscathed, to tell me about it.
After that, I'll probably watch the Larry Sanders show -- I guess that means I still have a foot in each dimension : -)
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