Halloween Haunts 2013: The Ghosts in My House by Cat Winters
As with most authors of horror stories and ghost tales, one of my favorite times of the year is the Halloween season. My fondness for the spooky holiday stems back to early childhood, when my fellow elementary school students and I sang eerie tunes like “The Ghost of John,” and neighborhood kids spread rumors about a stuffed witch down the street coming to life at midnight on Halloween night. I grew up in a shiny, brand-new suburb in Orange County, California. Despite the nearness of the atmospheric Mission San Juan Capistrano and Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride, nothing about the area seemed innately creepy.
So, we kids manufactured our own ghost tales.
Starting around the age of seven or eight, I fell in love with ghostly books and nightmare-inspiring movies. As a result, I convinced myself my bedroom was haunted. The metal rungs on my headboard would mysteriously tap against my wall when I was lying still in my bed at night, and I was deathly afraid of supernatural creatures lurking inside my closet. While most of my paranormal experiences were clearly the products of an overactive imagination, I have two favorite stories of haunted happenings that ended up being the result of something other than my own mind.
Story #1: The Angry Ghost in My Closet
Despite my long-held belief that something frightening dwelled in my closet, I had never actually witnessed any proof of this mysterious closet monster. However, one night, shortly after I went to bed, my closet doors started rattling—shaking as if something were trying to get out—and the commotion paralyzed me with horror.
“Mom!” I screamed from my bed in the dark.
“It’s OK,” called my mom from down the hall.
“No! Mom!” I said again, thinking she didn’t understand that something spectral and diabolical was trying to release itself from my closet.
But then she explained in a calm, maternal voice, “It’s only an earthquake.”
Ohhhhh…thank God, I thought. Only an earthquake. I leaned back in my bed with an enormous sigh of relief.
As a Southern California kid, seismic activity was insignificant compared to a phantom breaking loose from the hellish depths of my closet.
Story #2: The Hammering Ghosts
When I was about ten years old, I awoke to the sound of ghosts hammering against the walls outside my room. No, I didn’t know for certain ghosts were the source of the noises, but being the aforementioned fan of scary stories and movies, I naturally assumed spirits and hammers were the cause of the racket.
“Mom! Dad!” I called.
My parents must have heard the ghosts, too, for they shot out of their bedroom.
“I hear something!” I told them.
They tore down the hall to catch the obnoxious apparitions in the act. Finally, someone else would believe our house was haunted!
But instead of reacting with shrieks of horror, my parents emitted a frustrated, “Oh no!”
“What is it?” I asked from beneath my sheets, shaking, cowering.
“It’s raining in the house!”
You see, we were remodeling our home at the time, and the roof was missing over the family and dining rooms. The din of hammering ghosts was actually the sound of expensive water damage.
Ohhhhh…thank God, I thought. Just rain in the house. I sank my head against my pillow and, as during the Angry Ghost in My Closet experience, I sighed in wholehearted relief.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Cat is offering one free print copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds.
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CAT WINTERS’S critically acclaimed debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Amulet Books/April 2013), is a nominee for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults and was named one of Booklist’s 2013 Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth. Publishers Weekly called the novel a “masterful debut…deliciously creepy” (starred review), and School Library Journal described it as “atmospheric and eerie” (starred review). Her second novel, The Cure for Dreaming, is coming Fall 2014 from Amulet Books. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. Visit her online at www.catwinters.com.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds
In a city filled with the dead and dying, while a nightmarish war rages halfway across the world, the grieving look for answers in séances and photographs.
It’s 1918. San Diego. And a girl who doesn’t believe in spirits steps off the train and into a new life…