(Tom Jirik wrote columns in several newspapers in Iowa from the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. This column originally appeared in the The Boone Today)
Darkness compressed the beam from the streetlight into a cone of yellow. The rest of the neighborhood was shrouded in darkness.
Wisps of filmy clouds skidded across the sky. The cold October wind whistled softly around the big old house. Dry leaves made a raspy sound as they tumbled across the backyard.
The house was an inky-black shadow against the midnight-blue sky. In occasional flashed of moonlight, I could see lace curtains outlined against the blackness beyond the windows. I peered at the dark windows. Was that a face behind the black pane in the attic? Did I detect movement or a faint glimmer beyond the dark rectangle of the basement window?
As a moonbeam flashed through the clouds, a rabbit started from the bushes and scampered across the yard. I gave a muffled yell and jumped about a foot off the sidewalk.
I laughed nervously,” That’s what happens when you take an overactive imagination outside late at night to make certain the garage door is locked,” I thought to myself.
I hurried up the sidewalk to our looming shadow of a house.
The moon was shining brightly through the windows now. I moved through the house without turning on the lights, making one last check of the doors before going to bed. With moonlight streaming through the windows and wind whistling around the eaves, it didn’t take a greats stretch of imagination to visualize an apparition gliding down the open staircase or a ghostly figure hovering a the other end of the hall.
Like any old house, ours has its own way of talking. The windows rattle. The floorboards creak and groan. The pipes rattle. It’s all a part of the charm of old house living. Still, in the middle of the night the creaking of the floors easily becomes footsteps in the attic and the water-pipe-rattles become a chain-shrouded specter roaming in the basement I hurried up the stairs, anxious to get to sleep and forget about chain-shrouded specter and floating apparitions. In reality, we’ve seen no ghosts, no objects levitating, or no unexplained unexplained phenomena. As far as we know, the house is ghostless.
But then again, maybe our resident ghost is discreet. Perhaps our spirit is lurking in that unlit room in the basement or in the boarded-up crawl-space in the attic. Is it merely temperature and humidity changes that cause those creaks and groans in the floors and walls? Is it air bubbles that make the water pipes shake? Is it only the wind making those windows rattle? Is it only the ancient boiler rumbling down there in the basement?
I hope so.
Have you listened to your house lately? Maybe you should hope so too. Happy Halloween.