I am sharing this story again, by request, these events really happened.
For a time, I took the story down, because my children at the time became, well, really scared. Once when speaking at a school all day, this story even engaged a rowdy, eighth-grade classroom during last hour. Over the years, I have been asked by readers where they could find this story, including once again last week. I wish I could say these events did not occur, but perhaps this is what led to my fascination and love of the horror genre.
(Warning: Contains Swearing)
I grew up in a haunted house. I don’t mean haunted by a chain-rattling, wall-banging, moaning kind of ghost, but more of a subtle make-my-presence-known-when-I-want-to kind of ghost.
I was six and we had just moved in when I first became aware of our ghost. It was maybe our third day there, and I was down in the basement when I saw a shadow on the wall shaped like a person.
“Mom?” I called, thinking she was in the next room doing laundry.
I walked toward the door, my eyes on the shadow the whole time, and when I turned the corner, no one was there.
I ran up the stairs screaming. Mom was entertaining some new neighbors who had come to welcome us, and none of the adults believed what I said. But my brother, sister and I believed, so together with a few new friends, we proceeded to throw books, toys, paper, balls, anything we could down our basement stairs, screaming the entire time for the ghost to “Get out!”
When you walked down our basement stairs, you could either turn right into a family living area or turn left and walk down a hallway to a laundry area. Everything we threw landed right at the bottom of the stairs, and after about five minutes of continuous throwing, a tennis ball suddenly shot across the hallway from the laundry area into the living room area. It didn’t roll across the floor, it flew through the air, at least three feet off the ground, from one room to the other. This started a whole new screaming frenzy which brought the adults running to see what had happened.
“It’s just from you throwing stuff down the stairs,” my mom said angrily. “Now go pick everything up!”
As we raced up and down the stairs cleaning up the mess, I remembered that I had seen the tennis ball on top of the ironing board. But I knew there was no way our throwing could have caused the ball to bounce off the ground and fly through the air with such force.
The fear from that first experience died down after a few weeks, but as the years passed, I was plagued by nightmares. I started out having one dream over-and-over again. I’d walk in my room and turn on the overhead light switch, but instead of the overhead light turning on, my desk lamp would flicker on and off. Then I’d go over and turn on the desk lamp, only to have the overhead light flick on and off. At this point, my door slams shut, and all my stuffed animals began flying around the room while I heard whispers and laughing all around me. I’d wake up terrified, and would only sleep with the light on.
Later, in high school, these dreams became even more vivid and frightening. Over and over again, I dreamed that someone was in the room with me. I would be right in that almost-asleep stage, when very quietly, I’d hear someone right next to my ear whisper, “Kim.” Sometimes I’d jerk awake and tell myself I was dreaming. Then I’d start to drift off again, and right before I was completely out, I’d hear it again. “Kim.” This would continue until eventually I’d turn my light on. After that I’d fall asleep with no more interruptions. I never knew for sure that I was really dreaming. (I still wonder.)
Other times, I’d hear the voice and try to wake myself up, but I couldn’t make my eyes open. I’d tell myself I was dreaming and all I had to do was turn on my light, but I couldn’t get my eyes open enough to move my arm and flick on the switch. I would continue drifting and hearing voices until I finally woke up enough to turn on the light.
One night I had the dream that topped them all. It started out in the usual way--I’m on the verge of sleep when the voice calls. The voice was loud and clear and right in my ear, and it was one of those times when I couldn’t make my eyes open. I thought to myself, I’m not messing around with this, so I rolled out of bed, eyes still shut, and felt my way to my door. Then I crawled down the hall to my mother’s room.
Sometimes my mom locked her door, and this was one of those nights. I banged on the door for her to let me in, all the while feeling like something or someone was right behind me.
I must have fallen asleep in the hallway, because the next thing I knew, my mom opened the door and helped me up from where I’d been sitting and leaning against her door. Inside her room, we were positioned in such a way that I could see down the hallway. I kept saying, “Something’s coming, something’s coming.”
Then she said, “No, it’s not time yet.” And after a pause, “What happened to your neck?”
In a split second I knew that whatever it was that chased me down the hallway had gotten me while I slept in front of my mother’s bedroom door. But I didn’t have time to react, because all of the sudden, I’m back in my bed, shaking and awake, and on the verge of screaming.
Forget this, I said to myself, and I reached over to turn on my light. Just I as moved an arm shot up from behind my bed and grabbed me around the neck. Then I really did wake up, screaming bloody murder.
The next day, right next to my bed, I found one of my bracelets laying on the floor which had been straightened out and completely twisted, like it was nothing more than a pipe cleaner. It was a blue, mother-of-pearl bangle with no clasp, one of those bracelets you just slipped on and off over your wrist. I asked my brother and sister who did it, and they both denied touching it. I convinced them I wouldn’t be mad, I just needed to know that one of them did this to my bracelet, and it hadn’t been taken out of my jewelry box sometime during the previous night’s nightmare. To this day, they both deny it. I never told them about my dream because I didn’t want to scare them, but I did tell my mom.
Despite this hard, physical evidence, my mother still refused to believe that our house was haunted, but she would have her day. In the meantime, the days and nights went on, and I slept with my light on more and more often.
Then, in high school, my friends and I discovered the Ouija board. In this “game,” two people lightly rest their fingertips on a plastic piece that is shaped like an arrow and has a hole in the middle. The piece rests on a board with letters and numbers and the words “yes” and “no” painted on the top. You ask questions and the piece moves by itself and spells out the answers.
We had hours of fun with this in our haunted basement, and that piece literally flew across the board in response to our inquiries. At this time, I was naive to the dangers of the ouija board, so I thrilled in the quick answers and predicted “fortunes.”
We heard from a ten-year-old boy, a pink flamingo and many other “spirits,” until finally we heard from a spirit that called itself “Zembe.” We’d ask, “Is anyone there?” And immediately the piece flew from side to side spelling out the name Zembe. Once Zembe came, no one else ever answered our calls.
This was fine at first. Zembe would answer our questions, like who we would marry, and how many kids we would have. Until one day, Zembe started flying the piece across the board and spelling out the words, “I’m going to kill Kim. Kim’s a bitch. Fuck you, Kim,” and sentiments like that, over and over again, faster and faster. After that, I stopped with the Ouija board.
But there were slumber parties where my friends pulled the board out, and everyone else would have a go at it. We’d get “spirits” who answered our questions, whether true or not, and we all thought we were having great fun. Still, I sat back and watched, not participating, until one day when I finally gave in.
Only a few of my friends knew of my experiences with Zembe, but we weren’t worried because we were in another house far away from my haunted house.
I placed my fingers on the board, and my friend asked, “Is anyone there?”
Immediately the piece flew side-to-side and spelled out the name Zembe. Then it started spelling out “Kill Kim. Fuck you Kim. Die bitch.” I whipped my fingers off the board, and I haven’t touched it since.
But it doesn’t end there. Skipping ahead to my college years, I attended school in a completely different city, and once again, my college friends discovered the Ouija board. They played with it for hours despite my warnings and refusals to touch it. One day my friends were messing around with it in my apartment. I wasn’t home, and they were busy asking all sorts of questions and having much success, until all of the sudden, the piece started spelling out “Kim is a bitch. I’m going to kill her.” Right then I opened the door and walked in. When they told me what had happened, I made them put it away and told them never to bring it into my apartment again.
Since then, I’ve read that Ouija boards are very dangerous spiritual tools, and the only spirits who answer are “bad” spirits, or demons. It is advertised as a game, but really the ouija board provides a way for these demons to enter and remain in your home, and possibly take over your life, especially if you are lacking in faith. It may not be a full-fledged possession like in The Exorcist, but the demons can cause unexplained depression, severe anger, unforgiveness, and misery in other forms. A Ouija board is not a toy.
Going back to my pre-college haunted-house years, the biggest incident had yet to occur. About a year after the bracelet mystery, and shortly after we discovered the ouija board, my mother experienced a “visitation” that opened her eyes to what we’d been telling her all these years.
My parents were divorced, and my brother or sister would often go in and sleep in my mom’s room. One night my sister was in there, and sometime after midnight, my mom woke up and saw a figure standing on the opposite side of the bed, looking down at my sister. My mom thought it was me at first, and called out, “Kim?”
The figure stood up and looked at my mom. Then my mom realized that she could see through it. Slowly, the figure drifted around the foot of the bed and disappeared into the closet. My mom turned on her light and sat up in bed the rest of the night, debating what to do, while my sister dreamt on.
The next day my mom described what she had seen. She said it was an old woman wearing a pink dress, and she had gray hair pulled back in a bun. We thought that maybe it had been my great Nana Sophia, who used to wear pink dresses and whom my sister was named after, but we never found out for sure. The priest from our church came and blessed every room in our house. We also hung blessed crucifixes in every room. I felt a little better after that, but I refused to sleep with my closet door open or the light off. For more reasons than most, I was greatly relieved when I went away to college.
Years later, my sister and I were discussing my nightmares, and she told me that she also had dreams where she went to turn on her lights only to have the wrong ones flicker on and off, followed by all her stuffed animals taking flight around the room. She never heard voices in her room, but she said more than once she’d woken up (or so she thought) and saw a man standing in the hallway grinning at her.
From a freak accident, while playing Russian Roulette, my brother died in the house, in the same room where my nightmares originated.
Since I moved away I’ve become a strong Christian, and I’m no longer afraid to visit or spend the night in my old home. Sometimes I get scared, so I reassure myself that “With God for me, who can be against?” I’ve also gone through every room and demanded that all evil spirits depart in the name of Jesus Christ. Even so, sleeping with the closet door open really bothers me.
Nowadays, if anyone asks me if I believe in ghosts, I respond “Yes” without hesitation. Then I say, “Let me tell you a story...”
About Kim Childress
An award-winning editor and author of hundreds of books for children and their adults including Find Your Future in Art, Kim Childress is a product developer in children’s publishing, book editor for Girls’ Life magazine since its 1994 debut; former middle grade acquisitions editor for Zondervan, an imprint of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, who has maintained a successful career while raising a personal focus group of four children through diapers, doctors, broken bones, college, and plagues.