Your sister emphatically shouted “NO!” because she believes no one should welcome supernatural activity.

I agree, but not in the, uh, spirit that she does. Somehow I have not transmitted my rough and ready skepticism to all of you kids, and the reason is becoming clearer despite my ambivalence about the basement ghost. Telling kids not to think about hauntings doesn’t work.

The more you think about ghosts, the more spooky things become.

At least three of your sisters are certain that the back of the basement is haunted in some way. They don’t like to talk about it or explain. “Something bad happened there,” said one. “The energy is all wrong,” said another, while a third said, “I don’t think it’s bad, whatever it is.” She did not dispute that there is an it to it.

For me, the back of the basement is haunted by your college dorm days and never knowing how many mini fridges might be there or how I have so many towels I never bought. It is a little weird to have a space that is constantly cluttered with mismatched furniture, pots without lids, and plaques awarded to dead relatives alongside nearly one million videos those relatives never watched.

The case could be made for weird energy. If I ever had an imperative to find a spider I know there will always be a spider dangling in that space. It’s the only part of the house that can possibly flood in a storm and also the only place baby snakes ever found their way in.

Sure, the door to the outside sometimes is standing open for a long while before anyone notices and nobody takes responsibility for opening it. Certainly that’s how the snakes got inside, not some portal to a snake dimension.

There’s no altar concealed in the cinder block, I’m pretty sure. There is a clearly marked fuse panel and a few boxes of unfinished craft projects. They, like the plaques, represent the passions of dead relatives, and the crafts can’t quite find their way past my sentimentality into donation boxes.

A red rotary phone nestles there; it was only briefly used by a curious teen before being returned to the museum level. It could ring like a fire truck even after fifty years, if anybody removed the cotton meticulously swathed around the bell by my grandmother. As it is, it hasn’t even purred for a few years.

The rocking chairs don’t move on their own and most of the lights work the way they should. Sometimes the lights skitter and flicker, but it’s an old house and electrical flurries are pretty standard.

There’s no musty smell unless you riffle some of the fragile old books and stir up some dust from the last century while you are looking for a pot lid, which you will not find.

Still, your sister violently shuddered when I reminded her that there is a door frame right there, concealed in the drywall. Before the big remodel, it connected The Back with her old bedroom. She gave me the impression that the only way she slept down there for all those years was that she didn’t have to sleep alone. Her aversion to having a mirror in her room takes on a different, less comical feeling now.

Why didn’t you all tell me you were spooked by the basement? One of your sisters bolted up from there when she was surprised by the imp army. I had a similar reaction, without the running, but it was more the shock of its appearance than all those creepy little eyes. No one had told me we inherited a huge hand carved chess set until it was down there guarding the den. I wouldn’t have thought she was afraid of the basement until I saw her reaction for myself. I mean, the imps are bizarre, but so is the totem pole.


Just last week, another sister flew up the stairs and refused to explain. “There’s a situation I don’t like and I am not going to talk about it and I’m going to try not to think about it.”

I didn’t make fun of her, tempting as it was. And I didn’t call her attention to the way the stairs had done that funny trick, the one that sounds like two sets of footsteps are coming up when only one person is ascending too fast.

It’s always best not to run.

After I spent an afternoon cleaning down there, dusting and hanging paintings your sister abandoned from college art class, my neck prickled with that sensation of being watched. I readily blame those feelings on hungry pets, but none of them were there begging. From the edge of my vision, there was a glint and a movement. It wasn’t anything abrupt or pet like, but a smooth pulling back, as if someone had stepped out to the bathroom threshold and then changed their mind and glided backward into the darkened room.

I haven’t been down there since.

So, do you want to help with the seance or not?

We could Ouija right on that chess set!!


Obligatory book linky thing:



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