When I was 11, my parents divorced, and my mother and I moved in with my aunt and uncle. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Leo lived in a big old house that was built in the 1800s and it was full of character and so on.
Before we moved in, my aunt had had an odd experience. She woke up in the night to find her bed and dresser shaking. My uncle was at a class, and she was alone in the house. “Don’t let this happen to me, God,” said my aunt, who tends toward drama. The shaking stopped.
And see, that was the thing. At first, everything that happened in that house happened to my aunt or to me, the two people everyone deems Most Dramatic Relative and Most Dramatic Relative, First Runner-Up, depending on our crisis du jour. So no one took us seriously.
One afternoon, I was lounging in the living room, not being dramatic at all, and my aunt was in the kitchen. I heard her talking in kind of a high-pitched way to her baby. After a few minutes, she came into the living room. “What did you say?” she asked me.
“I didn’t say anything. Weren’t you just talking to the baby?”
She hadn’t been. Neither of us had said a word. Yet we both heard a woman’s voice.
Soon after, she and I were in the living room one night, watching TV, and we heard a pound-pound-pounding upstairs. We looked at each other with big eyes and didn’t dare go upstairs to check things out. And yes, we told everyone and got the eye-roll. The same eye-roll happened when I was home sick one day and I saw a man slip behind the door to the basement steps. I only saw him briefly, but he had on olive-drab pants, kind of like pants one would wear as part of a uniform.
And one night, my aunt woke up to feel someone holding her hand, and he had rough, calloused hands, like someone who worked hard.
We were being haunted by a blue-collar ghost, apparently.
At some point, we found out that way back when, the house had been owned by the father of a big fancy monsignor in town. Word is he lived and died in the house.
See, this is the perfect time to say, oooooWEEEEEEeeooooo!
Did I mention no one took my dramatic aunt and her dramatic niece remotely seriously? Everything we said got the whole, “There must be some explanation” speech, along with one of those don’t-be-ridiculous faces that people give you when you're being hysterical.
Finally, a friend of my uncle’s stopped by. She went upstairs to the only bathroom, and came down in a hurry. “I didn’t even finish,” she told us. “That bathroom is scary.” It was then that my mother (who everyone takes seriously, and why didn’t I get the take-me-seriously gene?) finally admitted that whenever she bent over the bathtub to wash her hair, she always felt like someone was watching her.
And then my grandmother called my uncle one day, all in a lather: “Leo, what on earth is wrong with you? I came over today. I knocked and knocked and you were standing right there in the living room and didn’t come to the door.”
Except my uncle hadn't been home at all.
When my cousin reached toddler age, she was playing upstairs and talking. “What were you doing up there?” asked my aunt, when Katie came down. “I was talking to that man who’s always upstairs,” she said.
Once my aunt came in with groceries and, over the top of the bag, she saw my uncle. “Hi,” he said, and left the room. She put down her bags and went looking for him, sort of miffed he hadn't offered to help put away the groceries.
My uncle was in the bathtub. He hadn’t been downstairs at all.
Things started to happen all the time. So often, in fact, that we just ended up kind of laughing them off. When my mother and I finally got our own apartment, we were moving everything and I couldn’t find my stained-glass butterfly. It was 1978; everyone had a stained-glass butterfly in 1978. Anyway, mine had been in the window and it was just gone. I looked everywhere.
Several weeks later, my aunt opened the door to my empty room, and the butterfly was lying in the middle of the floor.
We had a surprise party once, for my uncle, and my aunt got out new bars of soap and put them at the kitchen and bathroom sinks — which, by the way, is a level of detail I will never have when throwing a party. She was the only one home when she did this, and when she went back to the bathroom minutes later, someone had used the soap.
Nervously, she checked the kitchen sink. Someone had used that soap, too.
So it was a clean blue-collar ghost.
Right before they moved, my aunt finally got the monsignor, the one whose father grew up in the house, to come bless the house. But several years later, there was a yard sale at their old house and they couldn’t help but stop by. “This may seem like an odd thing to ask you,” they said to the new owners, “but we used to live here. Have you had any weird things go on here?”
“Nope. Nothing at all,” they said.