About a mile from our homes, down an old dirt driveway that hadn’t seen a car in decades, sat this old wooden home with a decaying front porch, peeling white paint and old hay bales acting as furniture in some long-abandoned rooms.
During the day, it was a playhouse for my cousin and me. Great for hide and seek, war games and — later in our adolescence — hiding spots for various, nefarious magazines we smuggled from my uncle’s stash.
At night, however, the house took on a new personality. It lost all familiarity and took on an aura of fright and mystery. It was and will forever be, to us anyway, the Ghost House (we weren’t the most creative with names).
The figures we’d see in the windows. The sounds we’d hear coming from the inside (we didn’t dare step in, of course). The light we’d see — a flickering front porch light, as far as we could tell from a distance — that would disappear as we approached. We obsessed over the Ghost House, scared to the bone and intrigued all at once. Lost in our imaginations.
Of course, it was all in our imaginations. The lights and the figures — you can trick yourself into seeing anything when you can barely see your hand in front of your face. As for the sounds, probably coyotes or other wildlife known to roam the rural backwoods of East Texas after dark. For some reason, we were far less afraid of them.
For us, the Ghost House came along around the time in a young person’s life when they go from “sleeps with a nightlight on” to “ready for slasher films.” And that’s a very sudden turnaround, almost as jarring and inexplicable to a pre-teen as puberty itself.
The arrival of one of my favorite months, October, usually conjures up memories of our treks into the woods in search of both lost souls and an adrenaline high. These days, I’m chasing that high in the form of scary movies on Netflix and trying to create the best jump scare for my kids, who will probably be traumatized well into their own adulthood.
All these years later, I still don’t have a good “real ghost” story. I even once joined a ghost hunting expedition during my days with The Herald and followed them on their quest to find “life” in the Temple Theatre on a cold October night. We heard nothing, of course, but that doesn’t mean the experience of calling out to spirits in a dark, dead-quiet old theater at midnight wasn’t a memorable experience.
The closest I can come to a real experience was the hall light that mysteriously switched on and off late at night during the first month that my wife and I lived in our 80-year-old home in Sanford. Either the spirits that inhabited the house were trying to make their presence felt to two newcomers or we had wiring issues in our historic home. Either way, hardly the stuff of house haunting movies.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t heard some great ones, and that’s where we reach the point of this column. I’m asking you — sweet, clean readers of The Rant — to send me your best ghost stories. Comment on Facebook, email me or write to me anonymously in cut-out magazine letters. I want to be scared. The best story wins a spooky Rant hat (otherwise known as a regular Rant hat).
Email your frightening tales of frightening fright to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment to this story at rantnc.com (or on Facebook)