In preparation for the release of The Bleeding Room, I thought I would run with a theme for the next few posts. I’d like to provide some foreshadowing as to the book’s content and why it was so fun to write and, to this day, remains so close to me.
The Bleeding Room is, at its core, a haunted house story. I wanted to find the edges of what “haunting” means and stretch it. It’s not enough nowadays to tell a ghost story. Like the zombie genre, it’s just about been done and if you want to carry it out, there needs to be a twist. I have believed this ever since I was about fourteen years old, when I saw what I believe to have been an actual ghost for the first time.
There is no stage setting for such an event…no dramatic music or unique lighting effects like we see in the movies. In real life, you simply look up and see something unreal. So, let me set the stage; this is a very brief recollection of my first ghost sighting and how it eventually led to my fascination with ghost stories.
When I was fourteen, I had already learned the art of being anti-social. Saturday nights were spent at home, watching TV. It was on my 14th year that my parents decided I was old enough to “babysit” my younger brother (he’s 5 years behind me). One night, sitting in the living room floor and eating some snack or another (probably Wise potato chips because I was addicted to them at this age), I was glued to a movie. I stood up to go the fridge for a drink and as I did, caught the figure of someone standing on the porch outside.
The following thoughts went through my head in a matter of two seconds:
That’s just your reflection…nope, not my reflection because I’m not wearing a hat and this person is….well maybe it’s Jacob (my brother) standing behind me and its his reflection…ah hell, Jacob is in his room, playing Super Contra…oh crap, what if there is someone trying to break into the house…?
Once this flurry of activity had purged itself from my head, I was amazingly calm. The figure still stood there, on the other side of the window, on the porch. It was a man, wearing a sort of bowler hat and a tattered gray suit. I can’t be certain because of the window, the bad light, and the age of the memory itself, but I think it was an African-American man. He was just peering into the window. He was not see-through, as most ghost stories have you believe, but at the same time he was not all there. It is why I was so convinced at first that it was a reflection; he had that same sort of thin quality to him. Not once did he actually look directly at me. He seemed more interested in the house.
In awe, I called for my brother. And as I did, it was almost like the sound of my voice scared the man on the porch. He didn’t fade away so much as simply winked out of sight. There one minute and gone the next.
I would have probably just ignored this eventually, passing it off as the result of my overactive imagination that had been addicted to horror movies from an early age. But then there were these things to be considered:
When I did tell my brother about it, he seemed to get the chills. He cut me off before I could finish the description, asking, “did he have on one of those old-time hats like you sometimes see in the movies?”
“Yeah,” I said.
With a scared little smile, my brother told me he had seen this same man a few days ago, standing in the kitchen. When my brother tried to speak to him, he disappeared.
Weeks later, my mother claims to have heard someone whistling a song while she was getting dressed for work, after my brother and I had caught the bus to school.
At the age of sixteen, I woke one night to the sound of a door opening. I looked up and for a split second, caught the sight of an old woman at the foot of my bed. (This one, I will admit, I have never really given 100% authenticity because of my troubles with sleep…this could have easily been some coming-out-sleep phenomenon).
My father has seen chairs on the porch move on their own, including a noticeable rocking of the porch swing.
Just a few months ago, as my brother was taking care of the folks’ pets while they were on vacation, he heard a picture fall from the coffee table. When he went to pick it up, he found that it had not just fallen, but had somehow made it nearly four feet away from the table.
Growing up in a place like that sort of instills a love for ghosts in you. There are several ghost stories that run rampant in the town where I grew up. If you want to get all Spielberg/Poltergeist about it, it is an absolute fact that there are portions of the forest around where I grew up that contain several small Civil War slave graveyards. The eerie thing is that the markers are often missing and the graves go undiscovered until they are uncovered by bulldozers or logging equipment that are clearing the land.
Hopefully, you have your own stories to share. If you do, hold on to them for now but feel free to allude to them in the comments. I’m going to work them into a contest I am running for The Bleeding Room in just a few days. Until then, I have a few more pre-release posts lined up and on the way!