As a child, I grew up in a household where the paranormal was an everyday experience. We never really talked about it, but being inquisitive and opinionated (my mother used to tell me my curiosity would be the death of me) I wanted to ask questions. Of course, the answers I wanted were not forthcoming from my parents and as I became a teenager I read voraciously, tested the waters on my own, and pretty much scared the crap out of myself. I shut down until I was well into my twenties and couldn’t continue hiding who I was.
This isn’t about me though. This is about seeing the paranormal through the eyes of my best friend and cousin’s son. This kid came into the world opinionated and has not shut up since. It wasn’t until he was three that I began to notice things that had me wondering if he like much of our family (my mom and his grandma were sisters) had a bit of what Stephen King referred to as the Shining.
Shortly after his fourth birthday, his family moved into the house where he and his mother still reside and I finally concluded that he had indeed inherited the family gift. We all knew that the house, a nice little two story built in 1903, had an unseen visitor. Again, as when I was kid, it remained a secret in mixed company and I believe the reason was because my cousin didn’t want her son to be scared. See that’s where adults make a mistake. Fear does not come natural for children it’s a learned behavior. Although, I was sure that he was aware I never mentioned it to his mother because I figured that any mention of it would send her into a panic. I changed my mind after a particularly grueling afternoon of babysitting.
As children are apt to do they enjoy it if you get down on their level and play. He always liked to play camping when he was little. We’d string up some yarn across my bed, hang a blanket to make a tent, and spend hours goofing around in that tent. On this occasion, he told me he had to go to the bathroom, left the tent, and went to the bathroom. After an exorbitant amount a time, he exited the bathroom, and I asked him what took so long, visions of a full roll of toilet paper plugging up my toilet dancing in my head. He screamed as loud as he could and stomped his foot, “SHUT UP!”
Of course, having a four year old scream at you and tell you to shut up, your first reaction is to discipline the kid. When I told him not to tell me to shut up he looked at me as if I were an idiot and said, “I’m not talking to you.” Then he burst into tears, real tears, not the fake crying that some kids will use to get out of trouble. I was shocked at this outburst because it was so uncharacteristic of him.
He crawled onto the bed, into my arms, and proceeded to tell me he was talking to the footsteps; a chill swept through me and instantly I knew what he was trying to tell me. I asked him what the footsteps wanted and he said they wanted to talk to him, but he didn’t want to talk to them. I explained that he just needed to tell them to go away. He said he tried, but they wouldn’t listen to him and maybe they would listen to me. I ask him where they were and he pointed at the corner of the room. When I focused on that spot, I felt the presence that had scared him witless. Taking a deep breath I stared at the spot mustering as much conviction as I could, “You need to leave you’re scaring him and he doesn’t want to talk to you.”
After a few minutes, the presence seemed to fade away and he looked up at me with a smile. “You made them go away. They never listen to me, you chased them away.” His entire demeanor changed and for the remainder of the day he acted as if nothing had happened.
When his mother came to pick him up, I told her I needed to speak with her in private. As I explained what had happened she slumped against the wall and shook her head telling me she’d thought it was just their house. This confused the hell out of me. She explained she’d heard him talking upstairs in his room numerous times and decided to ask whom he was talking to up there. His answer was always my friend. When she asked him who his friend was, he would just say the man. When she asked if she could talk to his friend he’d giggle and tell her that she couldn’t see him so how would she talk to him. She’d tried to write it off as the imaginary friend thing, but now she knew better.
As he got older, he would ask me questions whenever I visited about what happened when you died. I’d tell him no one truly knows and would direct him to his mom. His mom would laugh and say it’s okay if you want to talk to him about it. I’d tell him what different people believed and told him that he would have to decide for himself what he believed. One of my favorite questions he asked me happened the Thanksgiving he was eight.
“Did you know there’s a ghost living in our house?”
I glanced at his mom and she shrugged. I smiled at him and replied, “Yes, I know about him.”
He went on to ask me how I knew it was a man. Had I saw him? Had he talked to me? I was honest with him and explained that I didn’t see ghosts, but that I could sense them and sometimes hear them. His reply was, “So, God made you so you know the ghosts are there.” Again, I was honest and told him yes. He nodded sagely, said he could do that too and then wandered off to play. He didn’t seem bothered by any of this and it made me smile to know that he wasn’t afraid anymore.
One of the funniest moments was a couple of years later when we went to see the movie The Messengers. He’s fascinated with ghost stories and he drove his mom nuts until she agreed to take him to see it. On the way home, his mother and I were discussing the movie when from the backseat he suddenly piped up with the following.
“I don’t know why those people were scared of the ghosts. Ghosts won’t hurt you. They’re just lonely and they hang out and watch us like the man in our basement.”
His mother nearly wrecked the car.
I blinked and looked at her and then him, “You didn’t tell your mom about that?”
Her eyes got as huge as saucers and she demanded to know what he was talking about and why I knew when she didn’t. Shrugging he replied that when they’d went into the basement to get the Christmas tree and the decorations that he’d seen the man standing in the corner watching them. He explained he hadn’t said anything to her because he didn’t want her to be scared because the man isn’t a scary man mommy. She told him she wouldn’t have been scared and he rolled his eyes and stated, yes you would have mommy, because you think ghosts are scary, but they’re just people without bodies.
Experiencing these things through his eyes over the years has made me more receptive to my own ability to sense spirits. We lose an innocence of spirit as we age, grow, and learn fear of death and what waits for us on the other side. Because of him, I’ve rediscovered some of that innocence. He’s thirteen now and hasn’t mentioned the man for some time although we both know, through conversations, that he’s still aware and that he knows he can’t tell just anyone about what he’s seen. He’s a smart kid and I honestly believe that part of the reason he doesn’t tell his mother certain things is that he is trying to protect her.
Someday I hope he can share that part of himself with her.