Do Things Really Go Bump in the Night?

I love writing and reading supernatural crime novels. I can't get enough of them. My first novel, The Dark Side of the Cross introduced a skeptical detective, James Macbridan, and my most recent one, Relic of Darkness takes him on another wild ride written to scare the pants off the reader.

I have figured out that much of the inspiration for these works comes from a single event that happened to me a long, long time ago.

Turn the lights down low, put a fire in the fireplace, and read on...

Fall is my favorite time of year. The stunning colors displayed by nature, the rich scent of harvest in the air, and the days gradually shortening as the earth prepares to rest. All leading up to the most entertaining of holidays...Halloween! Yes, call me a kid at heart, but I do enjoy October 31st and in keeping with the season, it is my custom to read a spooky book. The spookier, the better.

Halloween has grown in popularity over the past few years. But why are so many drawn to this holiday, to things not of the natural world? Why do so many otherwise logical people question if supernatural beings actually exist? Is it simply that most of us are afraid of the dark, or is it more a fear of what the darkness may be concealing? This enchantingly unique season allows us to cautiously bring up the subject of things that go bump in the night, without the risk of being told that we're crazy.

We've all heard about, and in some cases are related, to those people who claim to have experienced frightening incidents that absolutely defy explanation. Are they more gullible than the rest of us? Are they simply mistaken in what they believe, or is it the first definitive sign that they're losing it?

Personally I'm of the strong belief that most of us, at some point in our life, will have what I call our "X Files" moment. When you have one of those, it changes the way you listen to other people's scary stories. You somehow have a more sympathetic ear. I know. It happened to me.

My mom was a nurse. When I was a senior in high school, she went to work for a nursing home in northern Kentucky. The building was an old, pre-civil war mansion that had been renovated, with a new wing added. This three story structure sprawled across a fair amount of land, flanked by very large oak trees. Unfortunately, the dense, urban environment that crowded around it was not the best of neighborhoods. But it wasn't the neighborhood that her new employers warned her about.

While they wouldn't go so far as to say the place was haunted, they did let her know that several people, including staffers, had reported seeing and hearing strange things. Mom took all this in stride and shared their warning with my dad and me. We smiled knowingly and all of us laughed it off for the most part.

Months later, a friend of my mom's, who worked the night shift, asked if mom could cover for her. She needed the night off and mom agreed to help out. That's the kind of people my parents were- honest, straight forward, very caring individuals. Late that evening I drove mom to work, not too happily agreeing to pick her up the next morning. As a teenager Saturday mornings were sacred and 7:00 a.m. came awfully early.

Around 11:30 that same night the phone rang and it was mom, asking what I was doing. I explained that my friend Bob and I were watching Johnny Carson. My Dad had gone to bed early as he had to leave for work around 5:00 a.m. She asked if we would mind coming over and spending the night with them. Naturally, I asked why.

She explained that from the second floor nurses' station they kept hearing someone walking from one end of the third floor to the other. Whoever (or whatever) it was would then walk down the closed-in stairwell and they were just waiting for the door to open and for whatever it was to come into the second floor hallway with them. It was strange to hear noises up there since the third floor only had four or five rooms, and was never used. I told her to call the police and let them know that someone was in there. She told me she had already called the police out-twice, in fact- and they couldn't find anything.

We agreed to come. Reluctantly.

Now it is important, at this point in my narrative, to point out that Bob and I were two of the biggest cowards in the county. Our being chosen to do guard duty was at best miscasting. It would be interesting, no doubt.

The first hour of our vigil passed uneventfully. But then... we too heard the footsteps. If it was a mouse, it was wearing boots. I told mom that I didn't care how many times the police had been there. Someone was in the building and they were messing with us. We called again, and the police not only responded promptly, but this time brought a canine unit. As German Shepherds go, it was one of the largest I'd ever seen.

The police were nice. They searched around and waited with us as long as they could. Of course, nothing happened. One of the officers pulled me aside and said that all we had were a bunch of old ladies afraid of the dark. At that point I knew exactly what was going to happen. They would leave and whatever it was would come back and kill us all. Finally the officers reassured us that we were okay and started to leave. It was only then that the footsteps returned.

The officers told us to stay where we were and moved down to the doorway that led to the third floor. One of the officers gently gripped the doorknob, drawing his revolver with the other. The other officer placed one hand on the dog's collar, his other on the clasp holding the leash. They waited until the footsteps reached the bottom of the stairs. Then, simultaneously, they flung open the door and released the dog.

There was absolutely nothing standing there.

I had never experienced such mind numbing fear as I felt at that moment. The German shepherd put its tail between its legs and backed into the wall whining. They never did get that dog up those stairs. After a moment's hesitation one of the officers raced upstairs and again searched the area. He didn't find anything. It was that evening I learned that officers carry business cards because they handed them out to our very nervous group of haunt-ees. They told us if anything else happened to call and ask for them, they would come.

We heard the footsteps three more times that night, but we didn't call. What was the point?
We never did get an explanation for the events of that night. It was years before we would even talk about it outside the family. What had we experienced? The dog saw or sensed something and to this day I get goose bumps just thinking about that night. So when people laugh at the idea of the supernatural, and scoff at stories such as this, I take solace in the belief that their day is coming, and like me, probably when they least expect it.

So if you've been through something like this, I commiserate. If you know someone close to you with a tale like this, be understanding.

As to the question of whether it's real or not? I agree with the dog, and, as everybody knows, dogs don't lie.