Nothing terrified me more as a child than the idea of being left at home alone, especially at night. Both of my parents worked (bless their hearts) and my older siblings had little to no time or interest in looking after me. Everyone had their own lives to live, and trying to reassure an overly anxious little girl didn’t rank that high on everyone’s list of priorities. I can’t say that I blame them.
I was beginning to get used to the people in the basement; even like having them around. If I was home alone, I knew I really wasn’t. The strange incidents that had once plagued me became an unexpected source of comfort. My anxieties about being left at home alone had nothing to do with disembodied voices, or the random opening and closing of doors. I didn’t care that the lights turned on by themselves, or that the stereo system would begin blaring out of nowhere. This was what I knew, what I had grown up with. My familiar. My normal.
With each passing year, my attitude began to shift from fearing the dead to fearing the living. After all, those with a pulse and a desire to hurt you have a higher probability of doing so. Even having gone through the inexplicable episodes of bruising as I slept, I never once feared that the people in the basement were evil.
Being at home alone… at night… scared the living HELL out of me. What if someone tried to break in? We lived adjacent to a busy highway leading in and out of the mountains directly behind our home. If someone wanted access to the house, they could most certainly obtain it. I was always worried.
Whenever the weather was halfway decent, every window in the house would be open to catch the breeze coming out of the canyon. All of our doors had locks on them, but none that would have held up against someone with a real desire to get into the house. The deadbolt on the front door didn’t even have a key, so we were never able to lock it. I remember having to ‘break in’ a time or two when I had inadvertently locked myself out. All I had to do was pull a screen out, push against the glass for a moment, and any window became an entrance. The house was anything but a fortress of safety.
One evening, all of my fears about being home alone would prove themselves justified. My parents had gone out to dinner with friends, and my brother and sisters were nowhere to be found. I had nowhere else to go, so I was going to have to get through the night on my own.
There was a basement office connected to my bedroom where my father had his personal computer set up. I figured the best way to keep myself from worrying about my situation was to sit down and play a game or two. Just as my nerves were beginning to calm a bit, my attention was instantly drawn to the basement door that led out into yard on the far side of the house. The handle was shaking. The door was locked (as it always was) but my eyes were glued to it. Someone was on the other side of that door, testing to see whether or not it would budge.
I froze. I couldn’t move, couldn’t tear my eyes away from the door handle. Panic shot through me worse than I had ever felt before. In that instant, I knew without a doubt that if someone was intent to gain entry into the house, they would be able to. All of the windows upstairs were open, as it had been unbearably hot and we had no central a/c. I didn’t know if I had locked the front door. I wasn’t near a phone. I would have to run upstairs to grab one if I had any hopes of calling the police.
The handle stopped shaking, and my fear was amplified. Whoever was out there was going to try another point of entry. I had to move. I had to run. I had to find the courage to get upstairs, knowing full well that at any moment, I may no longer be alone in the house. I jolted out of the office chair and ran faster than I ever have in my life. As I reached the top of the staircase, I saw something threw me into a state of shock.
Every window in the house was closed, every curtain drawn. How did that happen? I was the only one there, and I certainly hadn’t done it. I ran to the front door. The handle was locked… and so was the deadbolt for which I had no key! We had never been able to lock the deadbolt in all the years we lived in the house, yet here it was locked up tight. A few seconds later, the handle on the door shook just as the one in the basement had. I was right – the would-be intruder was moving around the exterior of the house trying to find some way in.
I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the phone, and dialed 911 in a breathless panic. As I stood there begging the dispatcher to send someone out, every light on the upstairs level of the house simultaneously turned on.
Within minutes, a squad car came speeding into the neighborhood and into the driveway. I stayed on the line with the dispatcher, as the two officers made their way around the house looking for anyone or anything that looked suspicious. They found nothing, and approached the front door. I reported to them that I had seen the door handles shaking, but I made no mention of the windows locking themselves or the lights turning on without my being near them. How would I have explained that?
They assured me they would keep close to the house for the remainder of the evening, and wished me a good night. As I closed the door, I felt a wave of exhaustion pour over me. I took a couple of steps and sat down on the kitchen floor. Never before had I been that frightened.
I took a few deep breaths, and tried to wrap my ahead around the evening’s events. How had every point of entry in the house been immediately secured without my having done it? I could only think of one explanation… the people in the basement.
My entire perception of the spirits in the house changed in that moment. Sure, they had often given me a fright or two themselves, but maybe that had never been their intention. Maybe they just wanted me to know they were there, to pay attention when they were trying to get a message across.
Whoever they were, however many of them were there, I knew that night that they had been my protectors. They had denied the ‘boogeyman’ entry. It was time I stopped being afraid of the shadows in the hallway, and started paying attention to what they had to say. I told them I was listening, and it wasn’t long before they found a way to talk to me.
To be continued…