Monday, October 1, 2012

Ghost Story: A Memoir

It was another summer visit to my grandparent's house, and everyone in the family who was on speaking terms had arrived, children in tow.  It had been a fun day, full of food and laughter, and we were all winding down.  On this particular summer evening, my grandfather was telling ghost stories.  He probably thought that none of the kids were listening, because lots of children appeared to be running about, chasing fireflies.

As the oldest grandchild, I didn't often partake in the general running amok outside.  It was undignified for a girl of my advanced age of 14.   My cousin Connie and I were sitting nearby, reading a book. Except that I was actually listening to every word, because my brain works like that. It hears everything, whether I want it to or not.

My grandfather, beer in hand, was regaling my uncles with a tale of a tall creature that roamed the cornfields and terrified the locals.  The story was that one night Bigfoot had climbed through a window and attacked a farmer and his wife while they were sleeping. I don't remember his story after all these years, but by the time he was finished, I could not have remembered one word of the book I was holding, and even the fireflies looked ominous. I looked around;  Connie looked back, her eyes as wide as mine, her own book as forgotten.

Connie and I were to sleep in the front bedroom of the house that night, and that's where we went.  My grandparents did not have air conditioning; windows were usually left open in the summer. The bed was positioned so that a nice cross breeze blew in one open window and out the other.  As we got into bed, I looked out the window and remembered that, twenty yards away, there was a cornfield full of tall stalks, just about ready to be harvested.  Connie remembered the same thing.  I told myself that my grandfather was just telling a story; mentally chastising myself to just get over it.  We turned out the lights, and the house grew quiet, but we were not asleep. We were thinking about the creature in the cornfields.

A noise came through the open window on my side of the bed.  We jumped, looking at the window. The sheer curtains moved with the breeze. We waited; the sound came again.  It was a soft whistling moan, and it scared the everliving crap out of the two of us. Connie squealed softly, and we pulled the covers tighter.  Did the next moan seem closer? We were about to be attacked in our beds, we just knew it!  Connie leaned closer to my ear.

"Go wake up your dad," she whispered.

"No way!" I was appalled. "You go wake up YOUR dad!" 

Every kid learns that if you wake up your parents, you had better be sick or the house on fire. Our fear of whatever was out there, whatever monster was coming, was always proportionately less than whatever our parents would do if we woke them up. The two of us were terrified of being eaten by a creature climbing through our window, but even more terrified of waking up our parents for what to them was a non-emergency.  I knew that if I went to wake my dad with anything less than a missing limb, he would be very disappointed that I was unable to take care of the problem on my own.

So, what did we do?  We engaged in a fierce whispering debate over who would wake which parent, our whispering punctuated by the moaning sound outside and kept our eyes on the window on my side of the bed.  Finally, we agreed that we would wait until a monster actually came through the window before we ran screaming.  It seemed the best course of action, given the circumstances.  Silently, we waited, both of us staring at the window.

We lay there, frozen in fear, until Connie fell asleep.  And then, without regard for any potential harm to my person, I pushed her over to my side of the bed, trading places with her.  If any creature of the night happened to jump through the open window to snack on us, they would be treated to my cousin first, which would allow me time to run.  It was survival of the fittest, as far as I was concerned.

I stared at the window a little longer, just in case all that moving around had attracted attention, then fell asleep.  If the creature did show up and look through the window, he probably decided that my cousin was too skinny to be more than a snack, and moved on.  Connie never said a word about the previous night, and where she woke up in relation to the window, she just looked at me reproachfully over the cornflakes.

We never spoke of the incident after that night, but I did look around outside that window after breakfast.   I was looking for footprints or scratches, or something that might make a moaning sound. I did not find any such evidence, but to this day I cannot be near a tall cornfield without getting nervous that something is living in there, waiting for the dark.  

It's October!  Got any ghost stories? 



  1. I love it, especially the touch of pushing your cousin over closer to the window. What a great story.

  2. I don't have any stories but I sooooo would have pushed her over too!

  3. I love the "whoever was on speaking terms"! Oh and how I love that you can't tune out either, as it always seems like it's just me. I think we've had this conversation before. You girls sure were tough cookies!


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