American not so Horror Blog Post

When visiting my parents’ home I work out in the attic, which, at the moment, acts as my sister’s bedroom. I exercise there because it’s private and spacious; it’s all the way on the third floor (as attics typically are), up a narrow flight of steps that have steps at the top and at the bottom. So I can swear, cry, and implore deities I don’t believe in at a loud volume without being heard. Additionally, I can jump and fling my legs around without fear of knocking something other. Plus, even if I do, I can just blame her son.

Last week, in the middle of one particularly horrendous exercise I heard something out in the hallway of the attic, which sounded like a robotic voice. I paused for a second and attributed it to a lack of blood in my brain.

When I heard it again a few minutes later, I peered into the hallway. In my line of vision was the loft area to the right of the stairs connecting the second and third floors (the ones I came up). This area was a battlefield of strewn about toys.

To the right of my sister’s room is a small maze of rooms that look like your traditional attic: cluttered, sheet-covered exercise machines and furniture, closets of solitary sad dresses that were once worn at gala events, boxes of books and trophies. Nobody goes to that area of the attic for three reasons: there’s no point, there are bats, and it’s fucken scary.

I called out once, in horror movie perfectness, “Hello?”


I finished my workout, toweled off and stood in the hall for a (too) quiet moment before heading down the stairs. I wasn’t scared. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong, and I was in the safety of day, when the big old house is filled with the reddish light of a late summer afternoon.

It’s after coming home from dinner the next night that something else caught my attention. I was passing the doorway at the bottom of the steps that lead up into the attic when I heard something. I stopped, looked up the steps into the darkness. It came again, undoubtedly a robotic, toy voice. Like something that would say, the cow says moo. I did not go up the steps to see if the cow went moo.

It’s at this time that I should relate my family’s relationship with the supernatural. My sister Julia is rational, a supply chain head honcho who believes in numbers and evidence. My brother believes that all people who believe in ghosts are idiots and he actively voices this opinion. More so when he drinks. My sister Amanda has long had a fringe interest in supernatural, which is to say enough to know a bit about it, but not enough to know anything about it. My mother isn’t afraid of anything except an empty fridge. I don’t know where my dad’s beliefs lie, but I do know that if the girl from The Ring came out of the TV, he’d ask her what’s for dinner.

I fall in there somewhere. I believe in evidence and rational explanations. That said, I also get chills when I hear a creepy story and when passing an eerie scene I, perhaps subconsciously, hurry on my way. And, since hearing the robotic voice of a child’s toy come from a dark attic qualifies as an eerie scene, that’s what I did.

When I told my mom an hour later, her eyes went wide and she said, “you cannot tell Amanda!”

We know this because my sister will not only freak out, but she will move out of the house, never return, not even to visit, and will go to another place in another town and she will lie awake at night thinking of the voice that her brother heard in the place she used to sleep. She will wonder for years and years if that voice was attached to her in some way, the way spirits and entities follow people rather than places, as in some horror movies. So there is no way in the world that I can tell her. It will ruin her.

But I didn’t have anything else to write today, so…sorry Amanda. Besides, this fits right in with our relationship growing up. I spent a decade and a half convincing her (and eventually myself) that there was a ghost in the basement, a werewolf in the yard. My mother knows that my sister’s reaction now will be, as it was when we were kids, melodramatic.

Go find that toy? Um. No.

In order to be a brat, I took the picture of the stairs and sent it to her on Facebook with this message:

These steps are right outside your bedroom door. I don’t know what’s so scary about them.

Mom: STOP!

Me: Did you hear something? Perhaps a robotic toy’s voice??

Mom: You are dead to me!

Me: Hahaha.

Mom: Go get that toy?

Me: No way. No how.

My relationship with the supernatural is mostly connected to literature and folktales. But I have seen one or two little things that I can’t explain. And when my cat does stare at the wall behind me in focused terror, I definitely feel insecure and wonder why I’m not a dog person.

However, my idiocy is spectacular. In the first place, I am fabulously capable when it comes to letting my imagination run away from me. Secondly, I like being a pest. Just as I used to convince my sister of supernatural presences, I once so fully convinced a roommate that there was a ghost in our flat that he started reporting weird disturbances as well, while I was sitting there with him. I feared for the poor man’s mental acuity. Until he left. When he left, I would hear things and think Well, maybe there is something here….

And so it remains. Shortly after sending the picture to my mom I realized just how much our home looks like a haunted house. It was built in 1900 by Mennonites. Mennonites! How much more “horror” can you get? From the outside it is a highly Americana house on a highly Americana street. The walls are thick and stone, a wraparound porch tells you to come on up and enjoy some lemonade while listening to the music of John Philip Sousa. (Again, how horror can you get?) We all know that it’s not the creepy exterior that contains horror within, but the pleasant exterior that is most horrifying. (I draw your attention to Kim Kardashian). And as such, the house’s age is exemplified by rickety staircases, creaking doors, tip-tapping behind walls, haunted empty corners, and secret passages. And my imagination.

Instead of creeping out my mom, whose attention is fully focused on her hatred of Donald Trump, or my sister, whose attention is focused on taking pictures of curry in England right now, I have creeped out myself. I am just like the guy in a horror movie who tries to jokingly convince his pals of a fictional specter and then gets disemboweled by a fictional specter.

So for the last five days, those late afternoon sunrays have drawn long eerie shadows on the walls. The creaks are not only more noticeable, but volatile, evident of the shuffling gait of an eternally vexed spirit. The tap of a window air conditioner is a ghost child trying to send a message from the other side. The light behind my bedroom door housing a thing better left unseen.

Tomorrow, I will summon my bravado and make my way up the steps into the attic for the last workout in this house. If I hear the robotic voice of a child’s toy, I am running out of this place and never returning. I don’t care if the cow does go moo.

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