As we near the end of all the Halloween fun, I felt like it was appropriate to tell you a personal ghost story. I grew up in a neighborhood full of really old houses, and while I have vivid memories of many spooky happenings, the following has stuck with me most…
When I was about 9, we packed up our belongings and moved three houses down the street. Yeah, you read that right. It was my mother’s dream home, and while the process was a little bit silly, I was thrilled that I could exit a small gate in my new backyard and emerge into that of one of my best friend’s, Bea. Across the street and up about 6 houses, lived our other partner in crime, Roz.
Bea lived in a wonderfully unique house that, to this day, I think might be ever so slightly haunted. Her house was hunter green, with pale yellow shutters, and you entered on the second floor where all of the bedrooms were. The first floor main living space, which in my adulthood I am realizing was definitely partially underground (spooky), had a large formal living room that opened out to a stone patio. Beyond the stone patio was a massive expanse of downhill sloped forest that eventually led to the railroad tracks, where all childhood stories go from sweet to strange.
When the three of us decided we wanted a playhouse in the wooded backyard, it didn’t take much convincing for her dad to give in. For several months, with our ‘help,’ he constructed a beautiful house on stilts, complete with windows, doors, and a shingled roof, midway between Bea’s stone patio and the railroad tracks. Feeling maybe too old to have a playhouse, we lovingly dubbed this structure, “The Shack.”
We spent lots of weekends and afternoons hanging out in The Shack. We dressed up and played board games. We dealt with Bea’s older brother sneaking down at dusk and knocking underneath the floorboards to scare us. It was great! It wasn’t long before we had planned a full-fledged slumber party in the woods.
We prepared accordingly and packed like we were going on vacation. Sleeping bags? Check. Warm Pajamas? Check. Flashlights? Check. Tons of snacks and games to keep us entertained? Check and check.
We followed Bea’s parent’s to The Shack around dusk. Her dad led the way with a bright battery powered lantern that he kindly left behind for us. We were also equipped with an incredibly large cell phone, as was standard for the time. We played games and chatted and ultimately realized that we’d probably be having more fun in a warm house with cable television, and decided to turn out the lights and try to get some sleep. That’s when we heard it.
It was the distinct sound of a blade swishing through the overgrown forest. We covered our heads with our sleeping bags, fully enveloped in fear, frantically gripping onto each other. Then, the swishing stopped.
We breathed heavy sighs of premature relief, and then leaves started to crunch under feet, the sound traveling closer and closer to the back wall of our house. Absolutely gripped with fright, we then heard the yelp of a dog, followed by the voice of a grown man, “Shut up!”
That. Was. It. Panic took over, and we immediately called Bea’s parents (we really could’ve benefited from texting capability back then), and manically explained the situation afoot. “We’re on our way.”
What seemed like an eternity, but was actually only moments later, Bea’s parents showed up with flashlights and their dog in tow, fully searching the perimeter and finding nothing, to our shock. They led us back up to the house where we somehow shook off our fears and got some sleep in Bea’s room, despite it being heavily inhabited by her mother’s creepy childhood dolls. I still have very real fears of a doll named Scooby Doo, with long black hair, who Bea always had facing the back of the bookshelf she sat upon.
The next afternoon, with daylight on our side, we ventured back down to The Shack under our parent’s encouragement, so we wouldn’t remain scared of the structure Bea’s father had worked so hard on. In the sun, things didn’t seem so unsettling, but, we weren’t okay with writing off the events of the previous night as just in our heads. We were children of the Now and Then era, makers of homemade ouija boards, and holders of backyard seances. Scattered among the evening’s ruins, a game of Trouble.
“Trouble, if there was a spirit here last night, show us a 2.” *pop!* 2.
“Trouble, if that spirit had bad intentions, show us a 6.” *pop!* 6.
And that, my friends, is how that night became the night of The Machete Man.
Looking back, this is wildy hilarious and we definitely dramatized it, but I was 9, and the dramatic version is truly all I can remember. Bea’s (all names have been changed!) dad would later find a beat up suitcase near The Shack, full of nudie magazines, which would absolutely indicate that one of our obnoxious pre-teen male neighbors had been out in the woods with a baseball bat and Maxim, doing whatever it is 12 year old boys do. But maybe, just maybe, it was a ghost.
xoxo laughing at a young leigh ann
All photos by @kenny107 on Instagram!