While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."
-Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven"
Halloween might be over, but that doesn’t mean we forget about the ghosts, ghouls, and other things that go bump in the night.
So in honor of the cold and rainy passing of Halloween 2011, I’ll tell you a little story about the scariest night of my life…
I was seven, maybe eight (better to claim younger). We lived in Jacksonville, NC in the neat little neighborhood of Aldersgate, an oasis among the pawn shops and strip clubs that served the nearby Camp Lejune Marine Base. Our house backed up to a swamp, where my brother, best friend, and I would hunt for fairies. Needless to say, I had a pretty overactive imagination.
I can’t remember where we were coming home from that night - maybe the beach, maybe my uncle’s place in Beaufort- but it was summer and the house was warm and stuffy. My father must have cranked the AC up a little too high because a transformer blew and our section of the neighborhood lost power.
Blackouts are not a good for children with overactive imaginations, so my parents lit a candle for me and I slept, or tried to sleep, in a couch in their bedroom.
Until the noises started. Jangling metal and a chorus of moaning voices making conversations with no sense. Right outside my parent’s bedroom door.
I woke my mother and she told me it was only the AC trying to turn back on. That should have meant the power was back, right? But I tried every light switch in their room and nothing worked.
Then came more noises - a crash of metal followed by the sound of someone bawling “mama.” In my mind I knew exactly what had happened. My little brother had woken up to use the bathroom, got confused in the dark, kicked a bucket at the top of the stairs, and fell down the two flights (I don’t know what I thought a bucket was doing at the top of the stairs, all I knew was that “kicking the bucket” was bad because my grandmother’s terrier had just kicked the bucket and had to be put down).
I wanted to help my brother, but I couldn’t. Instead I stood at my parent’s door, too afraid to open it, especially when a high pitched scream came from the other end of the hall. This time I woke my father who told me it was just my hamster. That was a horrible thought, because this time I saw the disfigured face of some woman menacing my hamster in its cage, causing it to squeal in terror. I loved my hamster, but I still couldn’t open that door.
The noises continued throughout the night, even making their way into my dreams when I finally managed to fall asleep. In the morning the power had returned, my brother was not lying at the foot of the stairs with a bucket, and my hamster, running on her little annoying wheel, did not appear in any way traumatized by the previous night.
After that, I never heard the noises again. I’m sure my parents were right and we just pushed our overworked AC a little too hard in the middle of a North Carolina summer. From that night on, though, I had to sleep with a nightlight until I went away to college (which is probably something I shouldn’t admit to). But I guess that’s just what happens when you've got that overactive imagination problem: you hear and see things in the night that can’t always be easily explained away in the morning.