• Tessa Barron

My Ghost Story

Updated: Oct 7

Today I want to try something a little different. I set out to talk about horror writing and why I don't believe it can be scary in the 'keep you up at night, afraid to turn out the light' sense. And while I still want to have that discussion (maybe next month), I really want to tell you my real-life ghost story instead.


I'm going to try my best to tell this like a story, not with embellishments, but not like a boring, old, run-of-the-mill recounting either.


So, let's have fun today. Turn off the lights, pick up your flashlight, shine it straight into your eyes quick, then get back to reading this....


....the dark, twisted tale of when I moved into a house possessed by a DEMON....or the ghost of a dickhead.


dun dun dun…


 

This tale starts with a marriage taking a nose-dive. Mine, unfortunately. But I wasn't totally convinced of that yet. It was one of those situations where you stayed together out of duty and love's nostalgia but had long since forgotten to actually give a shit about each other. Or take care of each other's needs.


But we took care of our baby girl's. Always.


A funny thing happens when you let the needs of your partner go. You create a breeding ground for hate and resentment. For me, it was because he spent all of his time at the shop we owned. Seven days a week from six in the morning to eleven at night.


We'd moved to the city two years before. All of his friends lived there, and I knew no one. Working from our tiny apartment and taking care of our toddler, I started to feel really alone. I'd show my resentment the way most women do....guys, you know what I'm talking about.


As a man, Adan's tended to come in the form of anger.


Anger was always bubbling just beneath his surface—a seething hatred that would be directed at whoever was unlucky enough to happen upon his path. Slowly, it grew until it got to the point where you would know that he was home before he even came in the door because the air would shift around you.


It was a cycle. The hate would grow until the fleshy vessel could no longer contain it, and it would spill out. Usually onto me, though never violently, just as words. There was a pleading under the rage that I might have heard if I'd cared to listen. I didn't. If I waited long enough in silence, the vessel would empty and revert back into the man it was supposed to be. Things would be fine for a time. He'd play with our daughter, shower her with hugs, kisses, and toys in the small bits of time he'd have out of the shop.


But then the steam would rise again, the pot would begin to simmer, and I would turn away from him in anticipation of the explosion that was going to come in a few days.


It's odd how comfortable you can become with patterns, even fucked up ones. And you don't realize how much you come to rely on them until suddenly they are stolen from you.

 

The house was my idea. I was so sick of being stuffed in that apartment with the little one. It was too expensive for us, but he didn't say so. Adan never said anything about our finances, and when I asked, he'd tell me not to worry. But to be completely honest, I wouldn't have cared. After putting up with every outburst, I thought he owed me at least some space.


We had such a long list of must-haves, he probably thought we would never actually find a place to meet all our needs. I was shocked, too, when we came across the listing. It was like it had been left just for us. The double garage, the big backyard with a vegetable garden, the basement, the three bedrooms, a large kitchen, parks, and schools within walking distance. It was old, but it would do.


I noticed that his pot was nearly boiling over as he trudged around the moving van with a look on his face that said his family was the biggest inconvenience. He didn't say much the entire time, but every once in a while, when I dared to catch his eye, it would tell me, "I hate you."


And when he left again, I noticed that for the first time, the air didn't clear quite as completely as it had before.


But me and my baby girl danced that first day. The music was turned up loud, and we played and sang while we unpacked. It is still one of the best memories I have, and I'm almost ashamed he was not a part of it. After dinner, I put the girl to bed and finished emptying the last boxes by myself. Moving from a much smaller place, most of the house remained empty, so I sat on the bare dining room floor and took out my computer to write.


The house was loud at night. The old pipes would clang and bang, but there were other sounds too. Little howls and creaks. They sounded like my daughter getting out of bed and walking around. I would go and check on her frequently, never fully convinced that she was actually sleeping. I reasoned with myself that I would get used to the sounds eventually, but I couldn't sleep that night. Even though I knew he was nearing "that time," I still wanted him home so badly. I fell asleep before he came back.

 

There was a slight creak as I came around the corner into the hall. The house was designed as a big loop, with two doors leading from the master bedroom. One of these doors led out to the hallway, the other to the back entrance. I walked down the hall cautiously, listening for more sounds that should not be there.


The sun had just fallen, and the kid was already in bed. It was quiet except for my rapid breathing. The kitchen ahead of me seemed like a black hole that I would be sucked into if not careful. Did I see movement? Black drifting against the black?


I stopped at the threshold, and I reached my hand into the dark to search for the light switch. Someone shuffled—I could feel their weight shift the old wooden floorboards. I retreated but not quick enough. He grabbed me, and I screamed before a large hand muffled my cry.


I smelled him before I heard his laugh. "Shhhh. You're going to wake, Nisa." He reached over and turned on the light, his hand on my mouth, still laughing.


I hit him again and again, then laughed too. I nestled into his chest and willed my heart to slow. He held me there, stroking my hair and kissing my head.


That was one of the few good moments between us in that house that I remember, though it wasn't long after that he had his next explosion. It was something about the laundry that set him off—the jeans not turned inside out before they went into the wash, I think. We fought about that one a lot; he wanted them turned...and I just think it's dumb.


It seemed the time it took for his rage to boil over got shorter and shorter, and my resentment of him only grew. Eventually, my intervals of reprieve became non-existent. I no longer waited in silence for his rage to subside; I would encourage it, press buttons I knew would tip him over the edge. I would rejoice when he'd have to work longer hours and make sure that I was in bed when he got home. My time alone with the little one was always exhausting, but at least there was happiness and laughter in the house when she was playing.


But then his anger began to linger after him. Like smoke, I would struggle to fan it out of the house after he left for work in the morning. It would hang like a heavy presence over everything, especially in the basement, where he'd spend most of his time. I avoided going down there when I could.

He was always bad at remembering where he put things like his keys or phone. They would frustratingly always be in the same place.


But now it was like the house was fucking with him. Odd things would go missing, and he'd tear off in a rage, convinced it was me or Nisa who'd moved them. His wallet, underwear, shop tools, and even the hot sauce from the fridge were only used. What's worse, I would find them in the strangest places. Top shelves of cupboards that no one could reach, in the storage room, laundry room under the stairs (hint: I didn't find the underwear there), or in the freezer, and I'd found the hot sauce in the downstairs bathroom. I'd laughed at him, thinking of what he could possibly have been doing with hot sauce in the bathroom.


He definitely wasn't eating it in there. You see, Adan is Muslim and doesn't even like to open his mouth in the bathroom because he believes that is where the jinn hide. Dirty places. He is an extreme germaphobe when it comes to what he consumes. He even rinses the clean dishes he takes out of the dishwasher before using them.


He swears he doesn't remember how it got there.

 

Bang!!


Nisa jumped off the couch and screamed. Working at my desk, I jumped too, but I tried my best to not appear too scared that the bang coming from the kitchen only fifteen feet away was loud enough to shake the house.

My first thought was of an intruder. It was the middle of the afternoon, but we were all alone, and the "bad" neighborhood began only a few blocks down. I rushed a trembling Nisa to my bedroom and locked the doors, then went to investigate. Readying myself for the inevitable fact that I was going to have to kill someone. I believe I have mentioned my love of true crime shows in the past, so naturally, this is where my mind goes.

However, when I got to the kitchen, there was nothing amiss. I checked the doors, both locked. After letting my terrified child out of the room, we spent the next few minutes testing everything in the kitchen to see what could have made the banging noise. It didn't take us long to discover that the sound of a slamming cupboard door was eerily similar to what we heard.

But that was impossible. Even if I had left one open, these are old cupboards, circa 1960, they have tiny latches that keep them closed. They take a good push to shut and a good pull to open. It didn't make sense that one would just fall closed hard enough to catch the latch, let alone shake the walls.

Something else was responsible, I told myself. I just didn't know what it was. But Nisa, now three, wasn't so sure about leaving my side from that point on.

A few days later, there was another incident. We had just brought in groceries and put them all away. Now, I am an avid coffee drinker. Actually, at this time, I was more than that. I had just started my business (yes, this one), and spending a lot of time in front of the computer got me drinking 2-3 pots a day. So I always had plenty of coffee grounds on hand. I didn't bother finding a place for the extra canisters, I'd just push them back against the wall behind the coffee maker.


On this particular shopping trip, I had bought one such canister, and as usual, I'd "put it away" behind the coffee maker. I then put all the plastic bags in the carrier beside the fridge, made lunch for Nisa, and we both went to the living room so I could watch her while she ate.


This time it was not a bang from the kitchen, but the sound of plastic bags being gently rustled...and then came the crash!


I ran to see what had happened, only to find grocery bags strewn around the kitchen and my new tub of coffee on the floor. It had hit the ground hard enough that the lid and foil freshness seal had popped off, and the grounds spewed out all over.

If you do not know what I'm talking about, it was one of these....