If you're my friend, at some point I will tell you to leave a tape recorder running in your home overnight. A little bit to catch you sleep-talking ("Let me take that again." – my friend Joy the actor, auditioning in her sleep), but mostly to catch disembodied voices, footsteps, sounds, etc.
I don't know if I just attract people who are at least open to the ghostey shit I like, or if I influence friends into thinking there just might be something strange in their neighborhood. Whatever it is, most of the people in my life will come to me at one time or another and say, "You wanna hear something creepy? Well..."
My first reaction, if the creepy thing happened in their house, is always, "LET'S LEAVE A VOICE RECORDER OUT ALL NIGHT AND SEE WHAT WE GET!"
Nobody likes it when I say this. Joy has screamed at me multiple times, "LOUISE!!! NO! NO! NO! I have to live here!" Joy has lived in a couple really old, spooky, historic Los Angeles buildings – I'm dying to know what skulks around her home at night.
Joy isn't the only one who yells at me. All of my friends have told me "NO". Even if they have an invisible roommate, they don't want to have proof of said roommate. "Then it's too real," my friend Amy told me. I guess I get that. (For the record, I have left a recorder running all night in one of my creepy apartments that I thought had an extra occupant, but all I got was my cat breathing into the recorder...I think.)
But then along came Sara (not her real name).
Sara and I have known each other for a long, long time, but have only recently reconnected. When I suggested that she record her apartment at night, I expected this very grounded, soft-spoken business woman to just laugh off "Weird Louise".
But instead she responded, "What? Explain this please."
Seriously? Sara's interest was piqued?
Our gabbing about the unexplained was brought on by Sara mentioning that her small flat seemed to have what she jokingly called "elves". By that, she meant that in recent months she had noticed that items would be mysteriously shifted in the morning from their previous place at night. Often her coffee table would be set out of place, at an odd angle. Sara is an "everything in its place" kind of gal and she lives alone, so she was a tad perplexed.
"I thought perhaps I had bumped the table out of place when going to the bathroom at night, but have I been rearranging picture frames and books in my sleep?"
So of course when Sara mentioned this, my Creepy Corner senses tingled and my mind raced to doing a recording.
"You could set a recorder out in your apartment at night! Even if you don't catch anything 'ghostly', you might catch yourself doing weird stuff."
Instead of a flat "NO", Sara seemed to ruminate. The topic quickly dissipated, and I figured she'd forget about it. However, as my mom likes to say, "Still waters run deep."
I heard from Sara about a week later:
"Louise! I set a recorder out in my sitting area last night and oh Lord, I got something! I'm trying to send it to you.
I put the recorder, one of those old handhelds from work, on the table. It stopped recording after three or so hours but I heard scraping. LIKE THE [TABLE] LEGS ON THE FLOOR.
I don't remember going to the bathroom at night. Maybe I did? But wouldn't a nudge to the table by me be audible?
At the end [of the recording], I heard what sounded like padding around, like someone in house slippers, just for a few seconds.
The table was a little crooked this morning. It wasn't before! Just by a little; perhaps I'm overreacting? TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!"
My first thought was, "You actually listened to me?! Nobody does that!"
My next thought was, "HOLD THE RECORDER UP TO THE PHONE AND LET ME HEAR THE DAMN THING!"
It's times like this that I feel like a 12-year-old Nancy Drew wannabe, and it's glorious. I get that little shiver of glee that the grown-ups might catch us "staying up too late" or "messing with things" we ought not to be. A haunting or just Sleep Walking Sara, it was so much fun to have a mystery – to giggle over ghosts!
Sara held her ancient voice recorder up to the phone and I listened intently.
Crack, creak, (grinding sound)...
I heard what sounded like a someone breaking a matchstick, then silence. Then a softer whine of wood on wood, and then a second or two of what sounded like very quiet grinding. The whole thing was maybe five seconds.
Admittedly the quality was bad and I had to strain to hear things. While it certainly raised goosebumps on my arms, I also wondered if I was hearing what I wanted to hear?
Then Sara played the padded footsteps sound and aside from a light, errant "thump" I heard almost nothing. It might have been the poor recording, it might have been that I couldn't hear anything over the crappy interweb phone connection. It might also have been because, as Sara herself reasoned, there was nothing there to begin with but noise pollution from the building or the city.
But what's the fun in that? "It really sounded like footsteps to me..." Sara said in her thoughtful way.
The best part was, we just didn't know. There was no clear answer, and aside from the decidedly eerie nature of Sara's recording – or because of it – we were DELIGHTED.
I hadn't been this giddy over a potential ghost in ages, and Sara may have never been this ghost-enthused before! If for no other reason than friendship and relief from the seriousness of adult life, our "ghost hunt" was a success.
I asked Sara if I had made her scared of her home now and she replied in her even-keeled manner, "Oh no. I've lived here this long with whoever or whatever, and I'm no worse for the wear, I'll be fine. It's kind of fun!"
We might have a new Creepy Cornerista. If you're out there "Sara", welcome, the corner is warm and the mongooses are chatty.
I hope you enjoyed this creepy little story. It's about a "5" on the Creepy Corner Scale of Fear for me (out of 10). Nothing to lose sleep over, but a good chill or two. More than anything it reminded me why I love scary stories – true, false, and ???
They take me back to when one of the greatest pleasures in life was sharing the thrill of an unexplained mystery with a friend. A small inciting incident might get built up in our heads to mythic proportions, and for a while it is the purest sense of FUN imaginable.
So thank you Sara for giving me that gift again.
And I hope you get such fun in your life, Creeps. I wish you many happy mysteries.
When's the last time you had a "ghostly" adventure? What's the best/spookiest mystery you endeavored to solve as a child? As a grown-up? Do you have a good ghost recording? I'm still trying to figure out how to share Sara's with y'all.