by Becky Killian
(We turn over this space this week to an award winning writer, photographer and journalist to share with you a Halloween story. Just keep saying, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”)
Before sitting at a desk last week at the newspaper office where I work, I had to move a rat off the chair.
Of course, the rat was a plastic Halloween decoration that fit well with the office’s October décor, which includes spiders, spider webs and pumpkins.
It’s strange but I was better with the rat than I was with the preferred décor at my last daily newspaper office: scarecrows. Lots of them. It didn’t matter where you looked while on the first floor of the building, your gaze was also greeted with the lopsided grin of a scarecrow.
Please understand that there were days when I worked long hours and it wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only one in the building at 2 a.m. It also wasn’t uncommon for me to see shadows seemingly pass behind me, their images reflected on my computer screen, while I diligently worked to get the paper paginated by deadline. When I saw those shadows, I was always alone in the building and nothing was moving in the newsroom that could account for them. Yet, they were there.
Normally, that would freak me out, but I was always so much more freaked out by the looming deadline that I just let the ghosts pace around the room. Maybe they were as worried about deadline too… but of a different sort.
But it was after making deadline and seeing those shadows that I left the building and had to walk through the gauntlet of grinning scarecrows. Those grins seem ominous at night, let me tell you.
It also didn’t help that I recalled some horror movie about a deadly scarecrow come to life that I saw during my misspent youth.
I tried to gently tell the front office ladies, who were the primary downstairs decorators, about the scarecrow creepiness, but they just looked at those grinning scarecrows, looked back at me, and blinked.
It’s hard to describe nighttime creepiness to someone who works an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.
The scarecrows, and maybe even the mysterious shadows, aren’t the strangest encounters I’ve had. While working my own 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule in an office long ago, I was taking advantage of some quiet time that found me alone in the office to get some paperwork done. As I focused on my work, a thought entered my mind as clearly as if someone had spoken it: “Someone’s here.” I managed to keep my focus on that paperwork as I walked to the back of the office to my desk. As I rounded a corner, I still was looking at the paperwork when I “saw” a misty, human-like figure ahead of me.
I guess you can’t say it was “out of the corner of my eye” since I walked right toward it. But it was like that – I didn’t look directly at it, but I saw it. I didn’t have enough time to process it, so I just kept on walking. Right through it. I remember sensing the spot was warmer than the rest of the office (I thought ghosts were supposed to be colder?). I also thought the figure was male.
Despite these impressions, I walked into my office, sat at my desk, and finally looked away from that paperwork long enough to wonder, what just happened?
I got up, walked to the doorway and peeked around the corner. Nothing was there. Whatever it was, was gone.
The next oddness I remember also happened around that same time of my life. I was married but home alone in the evening because my ex was working a 16-hour day and wasn’t due back until the next morning. It was October and, to honor the spooky side of Halloween, a couple of special shows were airing that night that I foolishly chose to watch. One was some show about houses reported to be haunted. The other, I’m deeply ashamed to admit, was Geraldo’s “Satan special.” If you missed it, please don’t go looking for it. It just involved Geraldo Rivera and an hour of drama in which “evidence” was presented showing the looming presence of demonic evil in our day-to-day existence. If you want a clue as to how bad it was, he interviewed Ozzie Osborne. The seemingly bewildered Ozzie answered questions as best he could, using the same garbled Ozzie-speak we all came to know and love during the reality show that aired later and featured his family.
Being younger, and alone in the country in a dark house (why didn’t I turn a light on?) I freaked myself out. As part of this, I kept looking at the fireplace. Specifically, I kept looking at a cast iron doorstop that is fashioned to look like a cat…a very, very lifelike cat.
Understand that I love this doorstop. I bought it while in downtown Indianapolis at Union Station when they still had shops there. It’s beautiful. And lifelike, did I mention that?
Well, anyway, I spent the whole evening looking at the cat and remembering a scene from “The Amityville Horror” where a lion statue comes to life and bites the homeowner’s leg.
Eventually, I dragged myself away from the TV and went to bed. I really didn’t seem to think about it anymore until the next day when I got a call from my now ex-husband while I was at work. He was angry and confused. Why, he asked, had I moved the cast iron cat doorstop to the middle of the living room? He could have tripped over it.
I think I stammered a bit. I had walked right by that doorstop that morning while I got ready for work. Nothing was out of order in the living room.
My ex reassured me he had to move the doorstop back to the fireplace hearth.
I couldn’t explain what happened then any more than I can now. But I can tell you I’ve still got that cat doorstop. It sets on my new hearth. On occasion, I look at it and wonder. But I don’t pay it too much attention because I don’t want to get another call about someone in my house almost tripping over it.
And I sure don’t want it coming for me.
Have a happy, safe and relatively spook-free Halloween.
by Becky Killian