Ghost Child

(Note – this story is not LuLaRoe related.  It was written 4 years ago and is another story about my youth.  I hope you enjoy it.)

Camarillo Family Shot
I am the second one from the left, sitting next to my sister.  Our youngest brother is not in the photo.

***

How they tell their story is what interests me.  Unbeknownst to either of them, as soon as my older brother and sister begin to recount their mysterious tale, their faces always seem to reveal an odd, yet similar expression.  At first, it’s a solitary, detached gaze of some long ago remembrance, immediately accompanied by a friendly, but somehow cynical smile.  This sets into motion the chronicling of an experience with a child ghost that they profess to have seen years ago, while themselves children.

To this day, my brother and sister both swear their encounter to be true.  The funny thing is they are adults now; almost 50 years old.  They acknowledge that their words may sound a bit ridiculous to skeptics and disbelievers, but then again, they always express the opinion that they could care less whether anyone believes them or not.  To them both, what happened is what happened.  And because of their dogged persistence, I do admit that at certain times, I have genuinely considered that their bizarre story may in fact be an actual description of the unnatural.

We were children growing up on the outskirts of a small Nebraska town.  It was a rural community in the center of the state, and our family had just moved there a couple of years earlier.  With around 1,400 residents, it always seemed to be filled with farmers; farmers who raised animals, grew plants, or did both.  Some students would miss the first few weeks of school every year because their families owned combine tractors and were paid to harvest wheat late in the summer.  Agriculture was a major industry for our little town.

Historically speaking, in this area of Nebraska, farming stemmed back to the mid-1800’s when European homesteaders settled the area and were allowed to claim their piece of land.  To keep it, they had to build a home and begin to cultivate it.  With tales of blizzards, grasshopper hordes, and the great dust bowl, it must have been a very difficult place to settle.

One hardship story, imparted by my fourth grade teacher (who always reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the West), was about how her grandmother, as a child, came across the prairie with her family in a covered wagon.  Playing near the covered wagon, she tripped and fell beneath its wheel.  It slowly rolled forward, completely severing her little arm.  That was enough local history for my childhood imagination for many years.

The house in which we lived was the first one that my parents ever purchased, and I loved it!  It was a large, two-story brick house on the outer edge of town, built at the end of the 19th century.  It was perfect for our family at the time and had a large grass yard that completely surrounded the brick fortress. Huge trees overlooked the yard and provided a lot of shady comfort during those hot, humid summers.  My siblings and I played ball or drank sweetened sun tea and played our little kid games in this place.

Living near an non-busy, two-lane highway, we really did not have any close neighbors, and directly behind our back lawn was a thicket of trees and tall bushes about half the size of a football field.  This too provided us with all the entertainment that we needed as kids during the summer, especially since TV and radio were limited due to our location. Beyond the trees, there was nothing but a small muddy creek, train tracks, and a corn field.

But just as the yard and thicket provided a full day’s worth of fun, after the sun fell beyond the horizon, it also became the potential dwelling spot for every conceivable and inconceivable evil that ever existed.  At least, in my young mind it did.  To be sure, you never wanted to get caught in the yard or get too close to the thicket at night, just in case.

The house could likewise be scary, if you let it, especially after dark.  It had a completely enclosed staircase in the center of the house, and at the bottom, a person was forced to turn left or right to exit through two doors on either side.  When one of us walked up or down it, you could always hear the footsteps through the walls in the adjoining rooms.

The staircase also made a lot of noise on its own, particularly after we went to bed, creaking and groaning as the house “settled.”  At least, that is what our parents told us.  I, however, was never convinced.  There was always the possibility that it was an ugly, machete-wielding apparition that had only to open the bedroom door to retrieve its due, dragging us out of our beds, kicking and screaming to our doom.  There were some evenings that I fell asleep waiting for that door to open.

However, what happened to my siblings did not happen at night or in the thicket.  It happened during the daytime and inside our house.  The only ones home at the time were me and them; our parents and two younger brothers had gone shopping in a large town over an hour away and would not return until dark.

The two of them had just finished watching television in the living room.  Becoming bored, my brother had the idea to go outside and play ball.  As my sister was agreeing with him, they both looked over and saw who they thought was me, facing away from them.  I was standing at the far side of the dining room, next to the base of the stairs.  When they called out to me, I giggled and ran into the bottom area of the stairwell.  Assuming that I was trying to hide from them, they both jumped up off the couch and ran to catch me.

Upon reaching the staircase, they found I was not there.  At that same instant and due to a movement out of the corner of their eyes, they looked up the staircase and watched me run to the left, into the large bedroom that I shared with my two younger brothers.  What bothers them now, though it did not occur to them as children, was that I made no noise as I climbed the staircase.  At the rate of speed that I had scaled those stairs, I should have made a racket.

Curious at this point, they quickly ascended the stairs and pushed wide open the already half-open door.  Looking around that enormous, sunlit room, they still were not able to find me.  Then, once again, they heard laughing and giggling.  This time, it was coming from under my twin bed at the far side of the room.

With a bed spread that hung almost to the floor, they only had to pull up the blanket to expose my hiding place.  But since they could still hear me laughing, they instead called to me to come out.  The only response was a short silence, followed by more giggling and laughing.

Tiring of my play, they both began to walk across the room, when instantly, the laughing stopped.  To surprise me and with a rapid movement, they pulled back the bed spread and looked under the bed.  But I was not there.  As a matter of fact, no one was there.  They both recall now how a cold shiver ran up their spines, but they did not give it much thought then since they were convinced that I was still in the room.

Perplexed, they walked around the room looking for me in any possible hiding place.  At some point, they both looked down and out of the second story window of my bedroom and noticed me playing alone in the grass of the backyard.  They were curious how I could have gotten by them without them seeing me.

Sensing something wrong, they looked at each other with wide-eyed, calculating disbelief.  Who, or what, had they just followed up the stairs?  Forget that thought; where the heck did it go, and was it watching them now?  Almost immediately, that cold, tingling chill that raises the hair on the back of a neck returned to the top of their spines and rapidly began to flow down their backs like melting ice.  Then, as swiftly as the goose bumps that appeared on their arms, my brother let out this low, guttural, frightened laugh that somehow evolved into a high-pitched shriek as they both bolted quickly out of the room, down the stairs, and outside to the safety of the afternoon sun.

After that incident, there were other days in that house, or outside in the yard at night, that we all thought we heard or saw a little child laughing or crying.  And for a while, particularly from within the attic room, any creaking or other sound would summon thoughts of possible ghosts.  It is funny how the mind plays tricks.

Though I never really witnessed it first-hand, I remember believing back then that the house was haunted.  But as we grew older and moved away, I always chalked it up to us being very young with vivid imaginations.  However, I do confess in all seriousness that due to the adamant nature of my brother and sister when relating this story, it always makes me think twice about what happened to them in that wonderfully scary house where we grew up.

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