Last week, I reviewed the Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast, and said that I’d discuss my personal experience with the paranormal in another post. This is that post, and I’ll warn folks ahead of time that this might be long. I’ve tried to cut out as much as I could, but family paranormal history in particular was a big part of my formative years and so makes up a bulk of my experience.
This all starts with my maternal grandmother. She wouldn’t claim to be psychic or anything, but she does have many stories of psychic experiences from her life. She’s not happy about this, and calls it a curse. For example, she gets a particular kind of headache when she encounters someone who is about to die or experience the death of a close loved one. When she was a very young child, she dreamed that her father was going to be run over and killed by a yellow truck. She told her parents this, and they dismissed it as a nightmare, but soon after, he was run over and killed by a yellow tractor while out on a job.
It’s not always a curse, though. When her oldest child, my aunt, was a teenager, my grandmother dreamed that the kids would be driving with their aunt as the pedals would get stuck. The driver would lean over, and while distracted, the car would run off a road into a tree, killing them all. My grandmother confided in her daughter, who she dreamed was in the front seat. Later, this situation did happen – a screwdriver rolled under the pedal, and the driver reached to get it. When the car ran off the road toward the tree, my forewarned aunt grabbed the wheel and jerked them back onto the road, saving them. There have been more recent incidents as well. Back in late 2001, I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I called my mom, then my cousin Jen, to tell them. Jen said, “I know. Grandma already told me.” Apparently, despite the fact that I lived a thousand miles away in Wisconsin and hadn’t been in touch with anyone, my grandmother had dreamed I was pregnant with a baby boy, and she announced my pregnancy to our whole family before a couple days before I let anyone know.
Many of my family members are skeptic and believe these are all coincidences and explainable. Fair enough. I just know that remnants of this “psychic gene” have been passed down. My cousins and I used to play games together and would all come up with the same words or ideas at the exact same moment. I dreamed about my family gathered at my uncle’s house twelve years before he bought the house and I ever saw it in real life. My friends and I would try to “send each other dreams,” which resulted in having dreams in different colors/perspectives than I’d ever had. Once, right after my mom got a few lottery tickets, I suddenly and absolutely knew that the number 2 would be on the lottery that night. I announced this aloud – my mom was frustrated that I didn’t tell her before she picked her numbers – and indeed 2 was on the lottery.
But psychic stuff, especially mild traces of it, likely can be explained away. I certainly don’t attribute the things I suddenly “know” in adult life to any kind of paranormal ability. Usually, I think that stuff is due to subconscious observations making connections in the brain that you might not comprehend on a conscious level. However, these kinds of psychic dreams or connections are only the tip of the iceberg of what I’ve experienced in my life.
The earliest thing I can remember dates back to when I was three years old. (Side note: Most people don’t remember back into infancy and toddlerhood because during puberty, your brain reshuffles brain neurology to prioritize memories that will be more important moving forward, and many of the things you learn in infancy are no longer needed. Because I experienced a lot of trauma during my puberty and adolescent years, and became hypervigilant, my brain didn’t do the discarding that most brains do. I have roughly two dozen memories from my first three years of life, before my family moved to South Carolina. Interestingly, all of these memories are in a weird, almost sepia tone.) We were packing to move from Texas to SC. My parents had covered my sister’s and my bedroom floor with squares of various carpets (samples? random ends they got cheap?), and my dad was stacking these up to go into boxes. I was sitting nearby and playing. There were two stacks of carpet ready to get packed. My dad’s back was to them. I watched one square of carpet float up about a foot in the air, float sideways to the second stack, and then drop onto the second stack. I wasn’t scared until after it landed, at which point I began screaming (for no reason, my dad thought, because I didn’t have the language to explain).
This next story comes from our first campus apartment in South Carolina. It was a two-bedroom place with a closet in the hallway that was probably meant to be for coats or a pantry? It had shelves lining the walls and no windows, and my parents called it the “playroom” because that’s where we kept all the toys. It was hardly big enough for my sister and I to stand around in. I was about 4-5 years old, my sister two years younger than me. At the time, I was in love with Michael from Knight Rider (I know, I know), and used to play this came where I’d go into the playroom, shut the door, and turn out the light so that it would be pitch black. This was the only way my sister and I could “talk” to Michael. We didn’t receive responses or anything – it was just a game – and I’d imagine some “adventure” assignment from Michael for us to play. We’d leave the room and have our adventure. Neither of us were afraid of the dark or of the playroom.
One time, however, we went in there, closed the door, turned off the light, all like normal. But when I turned around to begin “talking” to Michael, I was shocked at what I saw. I’d had this giant stuffed bunny since babyhood. Its paws were originally glued together by a flower, but the flower had disappeared and its arms hung straight out by its sides. The bunny was in a box on the bottom shelf where he normally sat. When I turned around that day, I could see the bunny – because there was a lit candle in his paw, and his arm was moving slowly up and down, and the goddamn bunny was smiling at me. I freaked out. I screamed and reached behind me to where the light switch was. Only it had disappeared. I could feel the shelves and the edge of the doorframe, but there was no light switch between them. So I tried to grab the doorknob, and the door was completely flat, no knob at all. My sister was screaming too – though I don’t think she saw anything, she was just scared because I was – and we ran in circles in this tiny closet, trying to find a way out. I finally found the doorknob just as my dad had gotten to the playroom to see what was wrong. (I think I got in trouble over this.) I know that the switch and doorknob disappearing were probably just a result of my panic, but that nightmare image of the bunny, which came absolutely out of nowhere in a situation where I wasn’t in the slightest afraid, still terrifies me. Needless to say, I never played with that bunny again.
There were little things throughout the years. Once, my bedroom light flickered on and off again in the same kind of quickness as a brownout, and in that microsecond, time seemed to slow. I heard a deep, commanding voice (that at the time, I assumed must be either god or the devil) say, “Come with me.” I was just playing in my bedroom at the time, roughly six or seven years old. When I was ten, I woke up from a dream about a bomb, and could hear ticking when I laid on my side. I wasn’t scared of it and knew there must be something in my ear, but while I was awake playing with the noise, I heard the sound of a knife against a knife sharpener several times (though we had no knife sharpener). I freaked out, thinking someone was in the house, and went to my parents, who wrote it off as a nightmare until it started happening again. My dad went to go check it out, and decided it was the toilet making noises. Wut? I didn’t sleep the rest of that night. I couldn’t tell you what either of these experiences were, something my brain did or something “other.”
In high school and early college, I dated a guy whose family claimed to have Mexican witchcraft roots. Say what you want about that sort of thing, but I witnessed too much in that house to not believe. On multiple occasions, I watched my boyfriend point to his open bedroom door from across the room, say, “Close,” and then the door immediately closed just as if a living person was touching it. (The door opened into his bedroom, so it could not have been someone hiding in the hallway.) Once, after staying the night in their house on vacation from college, I got up and went to the kitchen to get a drink. I froze as a man in a dark suit walked out of their laundry room. He froze, too, and we stared at each other. I was terrified because I thought he’d broken into the house and I was going to be killed (this wasn’t the safest part of town!). Then he turned and walked out of the back door. I was relieved until I realized the door never actually opened. I wrote it off as still semi-dreaming in the early morning, and began to tell the story to my boyfriend’s mom at breakfast. As soon as I said, “I saw a man,” she interrupted to ask if he was wearing a dark suit. When I said yes, she nodded and said that she didn’t know who he was, but his ghost was always hanging out in the laundry room and that she’d seen him dozens of times.
I have so many more stories, but this is incredibly long as it is, so I’m going to close with my favorite. This is one of those inexplicable experiences that may have a perfectly rational explanation that I just don’t know. It happened in the summer of 1999, when I was visiting Wisconsin and when Jason and I met in person for the first time (after several months of letters and phone calls). We went with a mutual friend to a gathering at a farmhouse in the country. (This was all rural area.) While everyone was watching a movie, Jason and I decided to go outside to talk. We sat down on the gravel driveway and chatted for a long time. A tiny kitten came up to us and began to crawl up and down our arms, mewing, getting into our hair, crawling over shoulders. It was adorable! At one point, I looked up, and realized there was an entire circle of cats around us. Nine total, all spaced equidistant in a circle around us, their backs facing us. It was the weirdest thing, and I was at a loss to explain it. Shortly after I noticed, a car came up the driveway, so Jason and I got up, moved to a picnic bench on the other side of the house, and resumed talking. The kitten followed us and resumed its manic affection. I looked around just to see, and all nine of those cats had also followed, and had created a circle around the picnic bench, backs to us, spaced equally around. I wasn’t so much creeped out as in goggle-eyed amazement. Of course, we attributed it at the time to our grand love story because we were in that phase of infatuation, heh. But to this day, I have never seen anything else like that nor do I have any explanation for the behavior of those cats.
So there you go. A partial description of my dealings with the maybe-maybe-not paranormal.