I am a believer. I was raised a believer. Although you wouldn't know it. My grandmother strictly and sternly dismisses comments about ghosts in her presence. She won't hear of it. Even though her house is haunted.
Haunted isn't quite right, though. Many people conjure up images of horror movies, poltergeists, attacks when they hear the word haunted. Or, perhaps, ramshackle houses at the end of the street. The kind that children run past and hushes adult conversation.
My grandmother's house is none of these. The haunting is of a benign nature. The ghosts like us, I am sure. They don't appear to be dangerous, and seem to have no "abilities." Things don't fly around the house. I have never turned around to find all the dining room chairs stacked on the table.
They are there, none the less. I don't talk about my experiences with the ghosts in Grandma's house much, because... Well, because... Well, because they are intangible. They could all be explained away as dreams or hallucinations or misplacing things, or scaring myself. Often we do that. We think there are ghosts and so we "feel" something in the room, and it can only be a ghost, right?
That's the kind of thing I have at grandma's. Recurring dreams that feature the house, that show me things that I couldn't know. Waking up to a man dressed as Abraham Lincoln standing by my bed, silent. The feeling that someone has walked in when no one is there. The feeling that someone is right over my shoulder, reading what I am writing. I was a teenager for many of these experiences, and a child for the rest. A victim of an over-active imagination and hormones.
But, then, there were the voices.
When my mother and I moved into my grandparent's house (I think I was 2. Was I 2 mom?), I was given my uncle's old room and my mom went to her old room and my aunt was still living there. I believe. I was very young, in any case and don't remember the initial details. What I do remember is the complaining.
I complained to mom for years (until I was 5? or 6?) about the voices in the room. And I do remember that. Me of little memory, will probably live forever remembering the voices. Not that they were scary. I think I complained because they kept me up. But, I was little, I might have been scared. In any case, they weren't scary.
There was a fireplace in the room (just like all the rooms of the nearly 200 year old house) and a very scary painting over it. People tell me the picture isn't really scary. It's a little boy sitting in a green velvet chair, but as a child, I saw another child perched on the edge of a precipice, staring down a mossy cliff. It was creepy, even though it was mostly my child-brain is what I'm saying here.
Every night, the fireplace would talk. Not in the comical way that you are envisioning. The opening was covered, so there was no moving mouth, no single voice, in fact. Instead, what I heard, each night, was a party. Downstairs somewhere. My bedroom was directly over my grandmother's bedroom, so probably not there, but the formal living room was nearby. I heard many voices talking and laughing. Muffled enough that I couldn't pick out a single voice or even a single conversation, but loud enough that I could hear the waxes and wanes of a group of people. No music, though. No undercurrent, just voices talking and discussing.
My mother didn't believe me when I said the fireplace talked. I mean, who would. Then one night, she was in the bathroom (the upstairs is a loop so from the hall you could walk to my room, then into the bathroom then into my aunt's room, then into my mom's room, then back to the hall) and the door was open and she heard the voices. I can't take her story and tell you how she felt or what she thought. I can only tell you what happened next.
And what happened next was I never spent another night in that room. Well, except for a time that I invited all my girlfriends in high school to spend a night in the big bed in the haunted room and the only thing that happened was Missy kept moving the rocker on the chair near her and Sara kept crying because the ghosts were back.
Since then, my aunt and uncle lived in that room for a while as their house was being built, and no complaints of voices.
My grandmother swears that the chimney picks up radio transmissions. She often brings up how my uncle built a transistor radio in there as a kid. Perhaps some parts were left behind was her rather unconvincing explanation.
I can swear to what I heard, even though I shouldn't be able to remember it. I can swear that it was there, although I have no idea what it was. Let me say, for the record, that I have been scared of ghosts, of places that were, or seemed to me, haunted. But I have never been scared of that house or of any of it's otherworldly inhabitants.
My uncle saw my great-grandfather (by all accounts, a wonderful man) there once. I take comfort in that. Nothing there can scare me. Except for the woman in the mirror, but that's another post entirely.
See? See how unconvincing that was? This is why I don't tell ghost stories, or at least not mine, because they're just not all that enticing. This is why I am always suspicious of tales like Amityville. Because in my experience, this is how ghosts are. They are just there, watching and listening and existing. Not driving people mad or making the walls weep with blood or anything. Although that makes a much better story.
Next up: Part 2 - Missy's Ghosts