28 July 2008

The House My Father Built

My father was many things in his life: He was perhaps best noted as one of the men who built the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. Camelot truly ended for me on the day he died. November 22, 1996. On the same day JFK died.
My dad was a carpenter, a machinist, a mechanic, a brick mason, and a sniper during World War II. He was sixteen when he joined up. The war wasn’t going well for the allies then and they weren’t paying much attention to the age of the boys who signed up. They sent my dad to the South Pacific. They handed him a rifle, shoved him up a tree and told him to shoot anyone who came near. He did.
But most of all, my dad was the quintessential tough guy. He was an Indian James Dean, complete with leathers and a 1947 Harley Davidson Indian Chief. I remember riding on the back of it when I was little. And if I look closely at the inside of my right calf, I can still see the little scar from where I burned my leg on the exhaust pipe.
Even as he had grown into relatively comfortable middle age, he was still a tough guy. Take for example, the time we were on our way home from my step sister’s wedding. A drunk stepped out of the darkness and right in front of our 1970 Plymouth Fury while we were travelling down the highway at a good 60 mph. I have a distinct recollection of my father saying with an almost cheerful lilt to his voice, “Hang on.”
I remember the car going up on its side as he swerved to avoid the man. I heard the awful screeching of tires, felt myself slam against the passenger’s side door. I heard my step mom gasp as her hand plunged into the box of leftover wedding cake she was holding. I was sitting next to the window, so when the car spun to miss the drunk, it also went up on two tires, and on my side of the car. I remember screaming when I saw pavement just inches from the window, and my face was pressed right up against the glass, so for a horrific moment I was sure my right cheek was going to get ground off. It didn’t occur to me that I would have been a dead duck if the car flipped over. My adolescent vanity was on the line. I couldn’t go through life with my face hidden beneath a brown paper bag.
Then the car somehow uprighted itself and we were jolted back into our seats. Dad drifted the car (what we used to call power sliding) and came to a stop in the middle of the highway in the opposite direction. I heard my dad swearing profusely as he tried to get the seatbelt off so he could beat the shit out of the befuddled looking man standing in front of our headlights.
The car did not touch the man who caused all the mayhem. He stood placidly in the center of the highway as our Fury did a crazy two tired dance all around him. Once the madness was over, he simply staggered away, while my dad lost the fight with the jammed seat belt.
That guy had no idea how lucky he was.
Why am I telling you this? Because my dad built a house that was distinctly and frightenly haunted, and he didn’t believe it until one night when, well that’s getting ahead of the story, isn’t it?
Actually, the original house that we moved into was haunted. It was a tall white old ship of a house, antebellum in style without the heavy Classical columns, but had slender posts on either side of the wide veranda that swept across the porch like an old gray hull, almost as if someone had put them there as an after thought. I hated this house. Its very presence disturbed me. It was like living in Norman Bates’ house. I wanted out as soon as we moved in. I even called my aunt in Oak Cliff begging her to adopt me. With so many kids and step kids around, I reasoned, nobody would notice me gone.
A few nights after playing ‘spin the car,’ my step brother Wayne woke me. He motioned for me not to make a sound but to follow him. We went into the living room and watched in stunned silence as the front door opened. You could distinctly hear boots on the aged linoleum as whatever it was walked passed us, down the hall way leading out of the living room. It opened Zack and Eddy’s door, then Mark and Wayne’s door, and then opened the fine French doors leading toward Mom and Dad’s room opened at the end of the hall. The footsteps disappeared after that.
One might account for this anomaly as the house settling, that the doors were not properly shut or even that the floor itself was unlevel. What we couldn’t account for as we stood in the living room and watched all this occur was the distinct impression that something walked past us.I knew this with the same certainty as if I was walking down the street and someone passed me by.
Of course we had to tell our folks about this. And of course, Dad thought that we were just kids and given to flights of fancy. We were given extra chores because we obviously didn’t have enough to keep us occupied.
This old house was torn down in favor of building a new one. Once the new house was built, I reasoned, the unexplained weirdness would stop. Or so it would seem.
Instead, the new house was more haunted than the old one. And my step brother and I weren’t the only ones who experienced strange things.
I could tell you all about the weirdness of this house, but there’s not enough time. I will tell you that late one night my brother Zack and I came home from poker game (not the same one where we spotted the UFO with the rod knocking) and we could hear voices and laughter coming behind the closed living room door. We also saw a light on as well, a very bright light that shone through the crack below the door. I flung it open, hoping to make a grand entrance; it was as if I had popped a balloon. There was a distinct crackling sound. The lights went out and everything was dark and silent. My brother touched the television. It was cold. It had been off for hours. Our parents were the only ones in the house and they were both sound asleep at the far end of the house.
My step brother Mark had a terrifying experience when he came home from work late one night. His room, by the way, seemed to have the most activity. It was always cold in there, even in the summer. And voices and strange sounds came from it as well. I’m actually having goose bumps thinking about that room. Anyway after he came home from his job as a night dispatcher for a trucking company, he took a shower and went to bed. Just as he was about to switch off the light he saw someone standing at his window. He grabbed a baseball bat, ran out of the house through the garage which was adjacent to his room, and ran outside to smack the intruder around.
When he got to his window, there was no one there. Puzzled, he looked down at the ground. It had rained earlier in the evening so there surely should have been footprints. The back yard was open space so if someone was at his window, Mark surely would have seen them running away.
It scared my step brother so badly he slept in the living room after that.
So when this incident was duly reported at breakfast my father replied that my step brother was a candy ass who saw his reflection in the window and panicked. Mark swears that was not the case. He was certain someone was standing at that window. And I believe him because I saw someone—or something—standing there one night myself. And so did Zack. He described it as a white form hovering in front of the window. Sometimes he saw it from his bedroom window or even in the front yard.
We told our father who just laughed and said we were wussies..
I wanted to move out. I begged them to sell the house after one particularly terrifying night when I woke from a sound sleep feeling something stroking my hair. Dad wouldn’t budge. He wasn’t about to relinquish his house to no haint.
I couldn’t stay there any longer. I was 19 with a job, and had friends who didn’t mind taking me in. So I left. By the way. these incidents went on for a number of years. The car accident happened when I was 14. I bailed from the house 5 years later.
The coupe de grace came when my parents were awakened by something odd going on in their room. They never said what ‘odd’ thing was going on, but they did tell me about the blue white light illuminating the bottom of the closet. It was a brilliant light, the kind of light you see a welding machine make.
The closet doors were and slatted and rolled on a slot. You know the kind. You probably have closet doors like that yourself.
My parents sat on the edge of the bed perplexed as to what was causing the light. It wasn’t coming from the window. The streetlight was busted out years ago and the window was curtained and shut. The lights were out in the house. There was no light in the closet, and yet the bottom of the closet shone that eerie blue white glow.
My dad got up and opened the closet door. The light went out as far as the door opened, but the back of the closet and the sides remained illuminated.
Dad closed the door and the light followed the closet door and remained there.
My parents sat up the rest of the night watching the light. It faded after sunrise.That morning, my father, the skeptic, the tough guy, the former biker and Veteran and proud Kiowa warrior put the house up for sale. They moved out a few months later. He never showed an instant of fear. When I asked him why he decided to leave he simply shrugged and said it was time to move on.
To this day we still don’t know what the light was or what caused it. Nor do we know who or what the thing in Mark’s window was, or what was sitting on my bed stroking my hair.
My husband and I pass by that house every now and then, and every time we go by we notice someone new is living in it. And every time we pass it by, I urge my husband to drive just a little faster.
I was going to post a picture of it, but for some weird reason the picture I wanted to post seems to have disappeared. I’m still scratching my head over that. The pic was in the album just a few days ago. Ah well if I find it I’ll post it later.
~Happy Hauntings
Pat
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