Saturday, October 30, 2010

My haunted apartment

I moved into my first apartment back when I was in college.  It was the summer after my sophomore year, and a really good friend of mine and I decided we'd had enough of the dorms and found an apartment together near campus for the following year.  It was the first apartment for both of us, and I will admit I felt quite grown-up, signing a lease and paying rent and all.  (I was all of 19 at the time.)  We'd looked at several apartments, but with our budgetary constraints, most of the nice ones were well out of our reach.  We settled on a two bedroom, one bath on the outskirts of what was considered the "University" neighborhood - more grad students than undergrads were found living that far away.  The neighborhood was, how shall I put it?  BohemianArtsySketchy.  The building was right off a street that was known for its shops, bars and theaters - all of the decidedly alternative variety.  In short, had my parents driven up from Jersey to check out our proposed abode before we signed the lease, I don't think I would've signed the lease.  I probably would've found myself living in a dorm for another year.

That's not to say that the apartment was a total dive, mind you.  At least, I've seen worse.  It was on the second floor of a three story building - an actual apartment building, not a converted house, as so many of the student rentals were in that town.  The apartment's best feature was its HUGE living room with large windows and an interesting (albeit dingy with age) black-and-white tiled floor.  We envisioned turning the apartment into a 20s Art Deco style showplace, though that didn't get any farther than buying some black and white sheets with which to cover the hideous couches and black and white plates and mugs for the kitchen.

Annnnnyhow, it was not a bad place, despite the .........colorful neighborhood, and we happily moved in and went about our lives.  Thanks to Google Maps and my ridiculously good longterm memory, I can show you a picture of the building:

Now, this was an older building (as evidenced by the picture above).  Having grown up in a very old farmhouse (as in: 1740s vintage), I was used to the quirks an old building can have.  You know, the occasional creak or squeak or dripping faucet... None of that sort of thing fazed me in the least.  After a few years of living with roommates, I was used to those sorts of quirks, as well - a light left on here, a door left ajar there, things taken out and not put back exactly where they had been before.  No big whoop.  So, a few weeks into the semester, my roommate and I attended a party at a home occupied by a bunch of grad students (friends of her boyfriend's) that was in the same neighborhood.  In the course of chatting with some of these people, it came up that we lived just up the road.  Someone asked us where, specifically, and when we told him, he said to us "Oh, the haunted building on the corner?"

Haunted building?  Did he just say haunted building?

Yep, that's what he said.  We tried to inquire further, but the noise level and his alcohol level made getting solid details mostly impossible.  He and the group of people we were standing with all nodded vigorously in agreement that our building was most definitely said to be haunted, that much was clear.  My roommate went off in search of her boyfriend at that point, and it wasn't until later when he was walking us home that I realized how upset she was over the news.  I shrugged it off for the most part, chalking it up to a local urban legend at best.

Except all of a sudden, those creaks and squeaks and things that went bump in the night seemed a bit more.....ominous.  The faucet that would start running in the bathroom or kitchen sinks wasn't as easily dismissed as "Oh, she must've left the water running."  Ditto for the lights that we could've sworn we turned off at night before retiring to our respective bedrooms and then find on the next day.  Neither of us were prone to sleepwalking, much less sleep-dishwashing or sleep-toothbrushing, so finding the tap running or a light on in the morning began becoming more and more disconcerting.

Then, it happened.  I was home at the apartment alone one evening, my roommate having gone over to her boyfriend's place for dinner.  Around 10pm, she called me to say that she was staying over there, so I could put the chain on the door, which I went and did as soon as I got off the phone.  I decided to go to bed shortly thereafter, checking the lock and chain on the door, making sure all lights and taps and everything were off, and closing my bedroom door behind me.

Now, I am a sound sleeper.  One might say I sleep like the dead, even.  But that night, something woke me up around 3 am.  I sat up in bed, trying to figure out what it had been.  (Our upstairs neighbors favored loud, heavy metal music and seemed to have footwear solely composed of cement blocks.)  As I came fully awake, I realized I could hear noise coming from the living room.  I got up, turned on my bedroom light, opened the door and found the stereo was on.  The stereo that I had not been listening to before going to bed - I'd had the TV on - was on and set to the radio (I'd been listening to a cassette earlier in the day, so the knob had not been set to "tuner" when I'd shut it off hours before.)

I chose not to think about how and why it was on and instead rushed across the room and shut it off, then ran back into my bedroom, shutting the door behind me, and got back in bed.  Eventually, I fell asleep again.  When I next woke up, it was a little after 7 in the morning.  I got up, opened my door and............. the radio was on again.  On and turned to a station that played jazz way down at the other end of the dial, far from any of the rock stations my roommate and I preferred.  Also, the chairs that had been pushed in under the dining room table against the opposite wall were pulled out, away from the table, and set together a few feet into the living room, facing the windows.  As though someone had wanted to sit and admire the view while listening to some jazz.

In the light of day, I didn't feel nearly as freaked out, so I bravely marched across the room, switched the radio back to our preferred station and then shut it off and moved the chairs back to where they belonged.  I checked once again - all the windows were shut and locked (and besides, we were on a second floor apartment with no fire escapes or other easy means of reaching them), and the door was locked with the chain still on.  At first I was convinced my roommate had come home, somehow gotten in to the apartment despite the chain and had been messing with me.  This wasn't at all her style, but still.  Just to be on the safe side, I called her up over at her boyfriend's apartment.  Nope, she hadn't been home - in fact, I woke them up by calling.  I explained to her what I'd discovered overnight and that morning, thoroughly freaking her out in the process.  She never spent another night in our apartment the rest of the lease without her boyfriend sleeping over, and more nights than not she wound up spending at his place or going home to her parents' house, as they lived nearby.  I, on the other hand, continued to live in the apartment with whatever (whomever?) else had been there before our lease.  I'd even occasionally chastise them aloud for leaving a light on or the tap running, since the utility bills were only being split two ways.  Other than trying to avoid the laundry facilities in the basement unless it was daylight (the basement was spooky in and of itself, haunted or otherwise), I had no major issues with our building's other tenants, human or ......?  Throughout the remainder of the lease, lights would be turned on - usually in the bathroom or kitchen, and taps would be turned on in the sinks and occasionally the tub.  Every now and again, a drawer or cabinet in the kitchen would be open.  Things didn't always turn up where we thought we'd left them.  A few times, small things went missing - loose change, pens, that sort of thing.  

Did we have ghosts sharing the apartment with us?  I couldn't say for sure.  I will say that whatever dwelled there (beyond the death metal Neanderthals upstairs) was fairly benign.  Nothing malicious or harmful ever transpired in the apartment, beyond the slightly higher utility bills.  I never did find out the story behind the building's supposed haunting.  I'm still curious, though...  So, what about you?  Do you believe in ghosts and hauntings?  Have you ever shared a home with a poltergeist?  Can you come up with a more rational explanation for the goings-on in our apartment that year?

And on that note, Happy Halloween to you and yours from me and mine!  I'll leave you with our jack o'lantern for this year, carved by Hubby and Kiddo (I do NOT do pumpkin guts) earlier this afternoon:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

One way to cure the blahs

So, I've been having a bit of a blah day.  It started out with not wanting to get out of my toasty, snuggly bed while it was still dark outside, but I had to get up and get Kiddo up and at 'em and off to school, so up I got, while Hubby rolled over and went back to sleep for a few more minutes.  *grumble*  While walking through the still-dark house to get to the living room light, I stepped in something cold, wet and oozy - cat hairball.  *grumble grumble*  Kiddo was spectacularly grouchy and griped about every.  Single.  Thing.  From her breakfast to her clothes to her hair, she moaned and dragged, requiring me to have to prod and cajole and, okay, nag to get her rear in gear and out to the bus.  *grumble grumble grumble*  Then, due to my Man Hands With Sausage Fingers, I apparently had entered the wrong time on my iPod Touch (darn that little scrolly-wheel thingy!) when I got the email with the shift assignments and thus, showed up an hour late for my volunteer shift at class pictures, missing Kiddo's class's turn in the process.  *grumble grumble grumble grumble*  Top that all off with the weather, which is gray and rainy, and by midafternoon I was ready to just crawl back into bed and try for a do-over on today, or just sleep through until tomorrow, whichever occurred first.  Seeing as how neither of those options were practical or possible, I went another route.

I did this:
and then, when Kiddo got home from school

I had this ready to go:

(Side note: Great Value brand marshmallows, which are Walmart's generic brand, are the only marshmallows I can find that do not contain artificial food coloring.  Isn't that nuts?  Seriously, every other white marshmallows, from store generic to fancy-pants brand, contain blue food dye.)

Once we had all the elements in place

we got to work -

and then partook of the deliciousness..........

And that?  Cures the blahs just about as well as anything else I could think of (short of crawling back into bed and/or having Hugh Jackman and George Clooney show up on my doorstep to engage in a serenade duel while bearing flowers and chocolate) today.  Plus, I've got a pot roast in the crock pot, so no fussing at the stove for dinner.  I have to go to a PTSA meeting over at Kiddo's school tonight, but I won't think about heading out into the cold and wet again just yet.  I think I'll toast myself just one more marshmallow first...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sick Day

This picture was taken about 20 minutes ago.  This scene is a vast improvement over Saturday night-Sunday morning,, which began with the chilling words "I just threw up - in my sleep" called weakly and tearily down the stairs to where Hubby and I were sitting on the couch watching a movie.  Hubby took the worse of the two clean-up tasks, taking care of her bed and its various casualties (there were several of the Stuffed Animal variety) while I took care of getting Kiddo cleaned up and tucked into bed in the guest room.  Once everything was all squared away, we returned to our movie, though with a few more cases of Filmus Interruptus due to Vomitus Childus, I'm left wondering if I've judged Paul Blart, Mall Cop a bit unfairly...

The Vomitus Childus continued throughout the night, I think six times in all.  A bleary-eyed call to the pediatrician Sunday morning confirmed that yes, there is a bad stomach bug going around, with the silver lining that it has been lasting no more than 24-36 hours.  (I, of course, instantly suspected our old enemy, strep throat, as Kiddo has proven especially susceptible to strep over the years and for her, strep = major barfage.)  We stayed in yesterday, watching Annie and E.T. while snuggled on the couch, and yes, I cried while watching E.T. as I always do.  It's this scene that gets me every time:

(I'm a bit misty-eyed just looking at that still photo.  Yeesh.)

So, here we are today, Kiddo home and tucked in on the couch, both in our jammies, with the fire crackling and a pile of books by our sides.  My schedule for the day had to be rearranged - I had meetings to attend and errands I was intending to run - but such is life, right?  I can think of worse ways to spend a dreary Monday, anyhow.  Well, so long as we don't get another round of Vomitus Childus that is.......

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Haiku: Almost perfect Saturday morning

All slept in til eight.
First fire of the fall roaring.
Just need some bacon.