I'm going to level with you, Creepy Corneristas. THIS PAST WEEK HAS SUCKED.
I think most of you know that Brandy, the kitty love of my life, died just barely a week ago. I'm not going to make this post about her (though, I do smell a "Ghost Brandy"/when loved ones pass Creepy Corner in the future), but frankly her sickness and death have colored everything I've done for the past few weeks, so it's hard for her not to be here.
Just like I feel like she's still in my home. On my bed. Scaring the crap out of me in the middle of the night.
I miss my cat.
And while THIS WEEK HAS SUCKED, the bright spot in it all has been how staggeringly kind everyone has been to my husband and me. From friends to family to Creepy Corner Facebook folks to all you lovely, understanding, compassionate xo commenters, never once have I felt alone in my sadness. That's a pretty batshit remarkable thing on the Internet.
Friends near and far have also been reaching out to me. Cards, messages, meals, small tokens — I've been floored by how well my friends understand me. Some more than others.
"I bet you're looking for a good ghost story right about now?" My friend "Anna" asked me as I attempted to control my ugly-crying in a coffee shop.
Let me just say, Creepy Corneristas, one of the best things about writing this column is that eventually everyone I know comes to me with a spooky story. And then I come to you.
Eventually everybody comes to the Creepy Corner, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (And the award for the most sleep-deprived, unhinged Creepy Corner goes to...)
When Anna asked me if I wanted a story, I think I clapped my hands. "Oh yes! Oh yes! Please, please! I need you, and so does the Creepy Corner! We need your scary-ass stories! Please tell me a story, I can't write another post about my cat — ghost or not [not yet]."
"You should tell those creeps about my bathroom ghost."
Why is it always the bathroom?
"Wait, do I know that one?" Anna has told me lots of spooky stories about her yelling at ghosts throughout her life. Whereas I might politely ask the poltergeist to "please keep it down...please?", Anna is more likely to throw shit back at it.
"I think so, about the thing over my shoulder?"
I think I spoke for all of us when I said, "Ooooh, tell me."
Anna did not live in a "dark and dreary" house, or some old dilapidated apartment on top of an ancient alien cemetery. No, for years she lived in a bright, new apartment, on a boring piece of land, with super nice, boring neighbors.
"They were all probably closet serial killers, or had a fight club or something," Anna laughed.
Point is, the building was dull and very not-ghostly. "Now and then I felt uneasy," Anna admitted, "But I figured it was just me letting all the dumb ghost stories and horror movies go to my head. Sometimes when I was alone at home, the hairs on the back of neck would stand up — like, actually stand up — I didn't know that really happened. I'd turn around, knowing nobody was there, but for a split second I would be SURE there'd be an 'invader' standing there waiting to kill me. But nope, never saw anyone."
"So I had this whole ritual while I got ready to go out. I'd smoke cigarettes in the bathroom while doing my makeup. So it wasn't really a ritual, just an excuse to chain smoke. But it was my favorite part of going out.
One night, it was around 10:00, I was in the bathroom, happily smoking my cigarettes and painting my face. At one point I felt the hairs on my neck prickle, but I shook it off. It was like someone kept trying to get my attention."
"Anyway it was really smokey in the bathroom by the time I finished up my eyes. I probably should have opened the window, but I didn't care — it was my bathroom, I didn't share it with anybody."
"Or did you?!" I couldn't help but chime in.
"Right?! Do you remember?"
"I think so, but tell me anyway. You were in the smokey bathroom —"
"Yeah, so I was finishing up my makeup and I just felt like someone was behind me. I kept checking the mirror, turning around — but nothing. I'm not kidding, I felt like I had a roommate who was angry at me. I might have even said, 'Cut it out!' at one point." Anna cackled.
She has this cackle that all at once puts me at ease with its confidence and irreverence, but also reminds me of a little girl who has stolen mommy's axe.
"So did you see something?" I asked, impatient for the "angry roommate" to appear.
"Well, yes but — wait... what happened first is the really creepy part."
"Okay," I watched her put the picture back together in her head. "So, smokey bathroom, hairs standing on end, blah blah blah. I was poking at my face in the mirror when I felt something BLOW on the back of my neck."
"WHAAAAAAAT? No you didn't."
"YES I DID. But Louise, this is what freaked me out: I saw the smoke get blown. I saw it move, like someone was blowing the smoke out of the way. I was looking in the mirror, cigarette lit, smoke curling up, and over my right shoulder the smoke got blown forward. I FELT IT ON MY NECK."
"Did the air conditioning or heat kick on?" I asked.
"No! I didn't have heat, and I never turned on the AC. I could have written it off as me just being a freaked out dummy, thinking some 'sexy ghost' is blowing on my damn neck, but I SAW THE SMOKE MOVE. I swear I saw it."
I love it when people say "I swear" in a ghost story. Without fail, almost everyone says it — always wide-eyed and in the thick of the telling. It's a weird confirmation of truth that would come across as fake if it wasn't for the extreme earnestness in the way it's usually said to me. For me, the delivery of "I swear", or something like it, is a tell for whether or not the story I'm hearing is BS (and I've heard some REAL stinkers).
Anyway, back to Anna.
"So what did you do?"
"Well, I froze for a moment, I guess I was waiting for something else to happen? I flushed my cigarette down the toilet and sprayed air freshener everywhere. I figured 'it' didn't like smoke, so maybe it would like 'Clean Sheets'? 'There you go! Are we good?' I actually said that out loud."
"And were you good?" I would probably have perfumed every inch of the apartment if it meant being left un-haunted.
"For the moment. I left the bathroom and got my bag to go out. Just before I left, I ran back to the bathroom to grab my lipstick. LOUISE. When I was in the bathroom I looked into the mirror and THERE WAS THE REFLECTION OF SOMEONE BEHIND ME."
(Louise's mouth drops open, cue goosebumps)
"I DON'T KNOW! It was just for a moment, but it was definitely this person with a face and hair, over my right shoulder, maybe a couple feet behind me? But it was so fast, I couldn't see features. I don't know, it was like... a blurry photograph?"
"Are you sure your eyes weren't playing tricks on you? You didn't see your own reflection and get spooked?" I knew how annoying that question was as soon as I asked it, but I had to ask.
"No Louise, I didn't see myself and think I was a ghost! Good god. I don't know what I saw, but it scared the shit out of me," Anna cackled again. "I just threw my lipstick in the sink and left. All the lights on, everything."
"Did anything else happen? When you got home?"
"No. The apartment felt empty again. I got home, ate some cereal or something, went to bed. I never stopped getting that weird feeling on the back of my neck while I lived there [a few more years], but I never saw anything again. I also stopped smoking, so maybe the ghost won."
And I feel like I won with this story. For the short time I chatted with Anna about her experience, she gave me a brief reprieve from my sadness.
So thank you to Anna for soothing my wounds with a strange and surprising story this week. And thank you Creepy Corneristas, for being the delightful creeps that you are and always being there with a kind word and an chilling tale.
Do you have any spooky bathroom stories? Ghosts and cigarettes? I feel like a few people have told me that they've encountered spirits who are anti-smoking.
Really just tell me a story, please? You all are the best part of Thursday.