Blogoween Day 30 – True Terror Tuesday: The House That Mom Built

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Most ghost stories take place in houses that have histories, have been well-lived in, that have seen tragedy and death. So imagine my surprise when I moved into a brand new house that my mother built and had my most paranormal experience ever.

I think a lot of pre-teen and teen-aged girls have paranormal experiences because their worlds are changing so drastically in a very short time. That is to say, either the supernatural is drawn to people whose lives are in turmoil, or people who are experiencing turmoil cloak those experiences as supernatural. And turmoil is relative: what seems like no big deal to you could be life-shattering to someone else.

(Side rant: I’m always amazed at adult-aged people who think teenagers are over-dramatic and hyper-emotional. Yes, of course they are, their hormones are a mess, and this is the first time they’re experiencing heartbreak and betrayal and stress. Do you not remember having these experiences? If you lost a finger, you’d freak out, but to someone who’s lost two limbs, your experience is nothing–that doesn’t actually diminish your experience, it’s just relative. Fuck off, olds, and be nice to children for goodness sake!)

Anyway, I think the dichotomy of something monstrously supernatural vs monstrously human happening to a teenager is very interesting, and I’d love to find some research that looks at the psychology behind that with views from skeptics and believers alike. That is all to say, Dear Reader, that I recognize at this point in my life shit was capital F Fucked Up, and there could be a real life explanation, like my god damned brain just breaking, for what I’m about to tell you here, but this will be long enough without my telling you about all the horror that was my real life at this time, so I won’t bore you with that. Disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into the sPoOpInEsS…

Without getting too into the nitty gritty, my mom and her boyfriend at the time built a house on about seven acres in Bumfuck, Ohio, a village we’d moved to from a much more populated Florida a couple years prior. When I was little, one of the things I swore I would be when I grew up was a “farmer.” I didn’t know back then that farming actually meant raising animals to slaughter, I thought it just meant I would get to take care of a bunch of cows and sheep and cats, but when faced with a lot of open land, I realized “farming” was not all it was cracked up to be.

On the back of this swath of land was a few acres of forested area. Then-me was simultaneously more cowardly and braver than current-me, and I sometimes went on walks in the woods alone. This is where the weirdness started. The woods are isolating, even when you know home is a short sprint away, but then-me was very interested in nature and finding my, let’s say, tribal roots? I wanted very badly to belong in the new place that I lived, but I knew that I didn’t, so I searched for that inclusion in the earth itself, and in some ways I found it. I wasn’t afraid of snapping twigs and sudden rustling, of freakish silence and breezes that sounded like whispers. I was home.

But the house itself instilled a very different feeling. There was nothing creepy about it, and I was very happy to live there as opposed to the cramped, one-bedroom apartment we’d just been in, but it was…off. We had a landline then, but I don’t think many people had the number. I was home alone a lot and at a distance from the couple friends I had, so I was quick to answer the phone any time it rang. I got some prank calls from time to time, or I thought they were pranks, but there was a series of them that made me feel much stranger than any others.

I’d answer and there would be only breathing on the other end. Okay, fine, a creeper, just hang up. This went on for a couple weeks, a few times a week, then it escalated to a voice, a sort of strangled, breathy static voice. They’d only say one word, “I” or “eye”, and repeat it. Sometimes I’d say “Hello?” repeatedly before hanging up, but I was always quiet and calm. My mom would sometimes answer the phone but never got these calls, just me.

Simultaneously, I started having these odd experiences at night. Only my mom and I lived in the house. There were three bedrooms, but my mom opted to sleep on the couch in the living room at one end of the house, and my bedroom was at the exact opposite end of the house. There was a bathroom in the hall before you’d get to my room at the very end, so if my mom were to use the bathroom at night, that’s the one she’d go to.

For most of my life I fell asleep with the TV on. I was and am afraid of the dark, and the buzz of a tube TV and its dull, blue light were a great comfort, but I always kept the volume as close to being muted as possible. I also slept a bit strangely. I had my bed in the corner of the room with the headboard against the same wall the doorway was on. Between the doorway and my bed, I had a pretty big desk with built-in shelves, so when lying down, if I looked to the side, I’d just see the side of this shelving unit, and not the open doorway, and anyone looking in couldn’t see me. This was optimal to my emu-like brain.

One night after hanging up on the “I” caller earlier in the evening, I was laying in bed, staring at a silent TV, when I heard something from the hall. I knew exactly what the sound was: footsteps on carpet. It’s a very specific, soft padding sound and had the cadence of someone carefully and quietly making their way down the hall. My first suspicion was, of course, my mom headed to the bathroom, but she never went in, opened or closed a door, turned on a light, flushed a toilet, or ran any water. Instead, the footsteps just sort of stopped round about the bathroom. I still thought it was her, and she was just being expertly quiet, and I fell asleep.

The following night, the same thing happened. Quiet footsteps, no bathroom sounds, stopping randomly in the hall, then nothing. This went on for a few nights, and even in all my paranormal paranoia, I always thought it was just Mom taking a silent nighttime whiz, as improbable as that was. Then I noticed the steps getting closer to my room until they were stopping right at the threshold to my door. Now, remember, I couldn’t see the doorway from where I lay, so this was all on hearing alone, but I think we’re all familiar with that “someone’s in here with me” feeling, and it was pretty strong.

This went on a few more nights, and teen-aged me was like “enough!” because I was convinced it was my mother coming to check on me in the middle of the night, every night, and there was no need. So I confronted her, asked her why she was doing it. She had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t believe her, and told her so, asking her to not do it anymore because it was waking me up. At this point, I was waking up every single night to the quiet padding of feet on the carpet, and my brain was assigning it to my mother checking on me, despite her insistence that she wasn’t. I figured, even if she denied it, if I told her it was waking me she would stop. It didn’t stop.

I confronted her again, that this had to stop, and again she told me she wasn’t even gong to the bathroom at night, let alone going to my door. Her conviction was pretty intense then, and I started to entertain believing her. That night when I heard the footsteps and I felt the presence, I started to get genuinely creeped out. I don’t know the span of time this went on for. It could have just been a few weeks or a few months, but it feels very out-of-time to me now looking back on it, like a perpetual autumn into winter.

The phone calls had been going on this whole time intermittently. I’d accepted that the footsteps were not related to my mother, and when I’d wake to them, I’d lay frozen in bed until I just fell back to sleep, but I didn’t connect them with the calls until I got the last one. My mom and her boyfriend were out in the barn which you could see from the house, about a football field away, and I was alone inside. This time when I answered and that familiar static buzz and staggered breathing sounded, I felt enraged. I shouted “Hello?” a few times to be answered with a long, drawn out “I” in a scratchy voice, and I finally responded, “Fuck off!” and hung up, incredibly unsatisfactorily with the click of a button on the portable phone. My heart was pounding–I’d never told the caller off before–and I was just staring daggers down at the phone as I stomped down the long hall to my bedroom. I wanted to reach through it and strangle whoever it was, and my sleep deprivation wasn’t helping my mood, and I flopped down on my bed with the phone in hand. Then something happened that hadn’t before: the phone rang again.

I answered immediately because I knew: even though the mystery caller had never tried multiple times or even days in a row before, I knew this was them. I was feeling angry, but also at a loss–no one else ever got these calls or was even around when they happened–and I shouted into the receiver, “What do you want?!” In return, over the static and the breath, a raspy but clear whisper-shout answered: “I WANT YOU!”

I screamed, the anger terrified out of me immediately. All my bravery drained away, and I suddenly felt very alone and totally panicked. I was probably having an anxiety attack, but didn’t know the name for it. The walls seemed to bow in on me, my vision tunneled, and I started to see things flitting in the corner of my eyes. I fled from my room, down the hall, the feeling of something on my heels the whole time. I passed by a sliding glass door, the forested area on its other side, and I swear I saw figures there amongst the trees. I flew out the front door, barefoot, and raced my own fear across the yard to the barn, bursting through the opening hyperventilating and on the verge of tears. My mom and her boyfriend just sort of stared at me, and I shoved the phone at my mom. “No one’s there,” she told me, and I didn’t bother explaining. I just sat on the ground and refused to go back inside by myself.

That night when the footsteps happened again I’m not sure exactly what happened. It was a bit like my mental state had deteriorated, and I just left my own body because I got up out of bed, under just the glow of the TV at 3am, and walked stoically toward my bedroom door. I don’t think I wanted to do it, but my body just did it, so I turned my mind off. I didn’t let myself be afraid–I didn’t let myself be anything–I just did it because I had to know, to confirm if I was crazy. When I got to the door, there was nothing there, so I went out into the hallway.

Standing at the hall’s end, my eyes could make out in the darkness all the way up the hallway, through the kitchen and dining room, and into the living room. My mom wasn’t there, presumable she was lying on the couch beyond the wall and asleep, but there was something. Something I could see through, but was definitely there in a sort of white sheen. It was bigger than a person and without features, but it was person-shaped, and it filled up the hallway, standing just by the bathroom door. I was still in my brain-broken state, and my feet took me toward it, absent of fear or dread or anything at all. Then I sort of just fell through the apparition, and in that moment I snapped back into myself, wholly aware of what I’d just done.

I stumbled, I grabbed the edge of the bathroom doorway, and I fumbled for the bathroom light. Fear came rushing into me, but it was that feeling you get when you’ve been frightened by a friend–your heart’s pounding but you know you’re not in danger because it was a joke. I wasn’t anxious. I was, in fact, feeling strangely warm and almost happy, but I was scared that I’d just not been myself at all in the moment prior. I didn’t think about what I’d seen while I stood in the bathroom, I didn’t even look to see if it was still there because I knew it wouldn’t be, and after a minute or so, I returned to bed and fell asleep.

I never got another creepy call or experienced the disembodied footsteps or strange presence in the hall or my room after that. We only lived in that house for a year or so, and when we left it I was both distressed and relieved. I have my theories about what it was, both purely psychological and human as well as supernatural, but without being able to confirm anything or to go back to that place, I feel like they’re all sort of useless. All I know is what happened, Dear Reader, and this is just that.

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Blogoween Day 29 – Halloween Playlist

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So I’m forgoing Vacancy for another week because moving has been a bit more overwhelming than I expected, and I’m still trying to get prepped for NaNo properly before November hits. I’m confident I can release Vacancy during NaNo, but right now it’s a crap shoot.

I do have my kitchen mostly organized though, and that’s a huge part of any moving battle: now I can properly cook, so I can eat better, feel better, live better, you know how it goes.

In lieu of a story today, I’m instead offering you a list of some of my favorite Halloween songs! I’ve separated them into three categories: Spooky Psalms, Conceptual Classics, and Darkest Ditties. Please enjoy the work of other people.

Spooky Psalms

These songs are quintessentially Halloween, they’re fun, they’re a little spooky, and you probably know them–or should.

“Thriller” – Michael Jackson

As if you could have any Halloween playlist without Michael and this video specifically. I especially love his disclaimer at its opening. Also, “No, I’m enjoying this!” Why did they paint Michael’s character as such a sadist? I don’t know, but I fucking love it.

“I Put A Spell On You” – Bette Midler/Hocus Pocus

My favorite thing from this video might actually be the mom dressed up as Madonna.

“This Is Halloween” – The Nightmare Before Christmas

Is this a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie? Great news: IT’S BOTH! It makes me sad that Husband hates claymation so much, but to be fair, it is inherently creepy.

“Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.

Bustin makes me feel good! And this video makes me feel…something. Like, it is so bad, I’m not even sure it’s good.

“It’s Almost Halloween” – Panic! At The Disco

I really appreciate this song and everything it’s trying to do. It even references “The Monster Mash” so it’s kinda two birds, one vid, ya dig?

Honorable Mention: “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” – Tracy Morgan/Donald Glover/30 Rock

Important: A lot of the extended parts of this song are not being performed by Tracy Morgan at all, but are just amazing impressions by Donald Glover.

Conceptual Classics

These are tunes that aren’t really Halloween songs, but they get me in the spookiest of moods.

“Witchy Woman” – Eagles

Listen, I know it’s about drug use and Zelda Fitzgerald, but if this song doesn’t make you want to paint your nails red, slap on something leather, and kill a man, nothing will.

“Season Of The Witch” – Donovan

To me, this song feels like autumn. Summer dies slowly and then all at once giving way to chilly winds and shadows without casters.

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

Why Kid Rock sampled this for “All Summer Long” I can only imagine is because this song is an absolute bop (that’s what the kids are saying now, yeah?) I wish there were 17 verses and it never ended.

“Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads

I hate people when they’re not polite.

“Hotel California” – Eagles

All good things begin and end with (the) Eagles. I always wanted to do my cubicle with a Hotel California theme at work for Halloween, but I never got around to fully embracing the concept, and I also didn’t think most people would get it. My idea was to make my desk look like a reception area for an old, dingy, 60s/70s-era hotel out in the desert with hidden satanic symbols everywhere, and a covered silver tray with bloody organs underneath which would have probably been a little too dark for work. Instead I always just infested my desk with rats, but those were good too. And they squeaked!

Darkest Ditties

Go hard, or go home. Or go hard at home!

“Sweet Dreams” – Marilyn Manson

Remember when we all somehow knew that Marilyn Manson had a set of ribs removed so he could suck his own dick, but no one was sure where that rumor came from or how it spread? That was, like, pre-mass-internet-usage too. The late 90s/early 00s were wild.

“Bodies” – Drowning Pool

One of my fondest memories is of a few years ago when Husband and I were driving up to Halloween Horror Nights. We were in the parking lot, slowly snaking around to get into the parking lot of Universal Studios, and this song came on the radio. We blasted it and scream-sang to one another, and it really got me in a festive mood, plus it was most of my favorite things all in one place.

“Closer” – Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor is a musical genius. Fight me.

“Voodoo” – Godsmack

Again, is it about drugs or is it about magic? Is there a difference? Does it matter? These are the questions every generation will ask.

“Living Dead Girl” – Rob Zombie

Fun side story: Remember when I wrote my introspection? Something I didn’t mention was my life between like 11 and 14 when I was in one of my weirdest and darkest places, and I discovered Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Mindless Self Indulgence, Nine Inch Nails, and scary music in general. I simultaneously loved pop music and this kinda stuff by separating my personality into these little boxes (eerily similar, I think, to disassociation), and I’d enter each one dependent on how I was feeling (all of the boxes were musically based, another was strangely occupied by Eminem and Limp Bizkit because I guess I’ve always been a little trashy). Maybe everyone does this, but I certainly didn’t show other people most of the boxes. Anyway, the point is that this time probably had a huge effect on my love of the creepy, and also Rob Zombie has a special place in the darkest, coldest, most barren part of my heart. I had a fucked up dream about him once when I was about 12, and I woke up with terrible scratches all over my arm, so he probably actually is immortal and supernatural, and I’ve been cursed.

Blogoween Day 28 – Spoopy Sunday aka Sucky Sunday

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WE HAVE FLEAS!!!

We did not have fleas before moving into this house, I would know as I am incredibly susceptible to pretty much all bug bites and could NEVER live with fleas on the reg. For instance, check out how swollen my foot got when I was bitten by a yellow fly two summers ago:

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I couldn’t walk or stay awake. It was for real scary.

There’s a definite mosquito problem outside which led to lots of bites and itchiness, so I missed the new bites I was getting when inside. We also have three cats, so the tiny bloodsuckers congregate on our sons and not us making their transition here harder, but again we were less apt to notice when the cats were already acting weird.

I did, however, notice my feet and ankles getting a little itchy when first getting out of bed, or I’d get a random itchy spot on my hip, and the tell-tale raised white bump that mosquitoes leave would be missing in favor of a much smaller red bump. But no, I told myself, we hadn’t dealt with fleas for years, there was no way, even in this house that was formerly home to six dogs, that the universe would bless us with the closest thing to a plague I’d ever experienced. There aren’t fleas here.

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I looked down at Bart this morning and saw a black spot on his face, and when I went to wipe it away, IT BURROWED INTO HIS THICK, LUSCIOUS FACE FUR. Horrified, I jumped on him like a bucking steer at a rodeo, and even against his freakish strength of ten panthers plus an obese tuxedo cat, I wrestled him into submission and dug that fucker off of his nose to pierce between my own cat-like claws. It was indeed a flea, and I knew: where there is one, there are hundreds.

Anything that sucks your blood is abhorrent to me (except vampires). Fleas, mosquitoes, leeches (bats are okay though, I guess it’s just bugs): I hate them all. I don’t eat most meat because I don’t want to hurt animals, but fuck me if I don’t get the sickest satisfaction from catching and drowning a big fat fucking flea. I mean, I’ll avoid stepping on ants, I’ll catch and release spiders, I’ll rescue earthworms from a fiery death on the sidewalk, but I will happily chase and smash a mosquito, I’ll even let the fucker land on me and bite before smearing its guts and my own blood across my thigh. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something I’ll own completely. When it comes to fleas, I am a monster.

Thankfully, we’re pretty well equipped to rid ourselves of a flea infestation. Really, you only need two things: diatomaceous earth and willpower. We used flea medicine like Frontline on the cats in the distant past, but Bart especially hated it. He’d foam at the mouth and throw us off him, and it never really worked. Our cats didn’t go outside, so why the fuck didn’t the meds get rid of the fleas in one go? Oh, because they don’t really work. Got it.

What does work is food grade diatomaceous earth (the food grade part is VERY important, none of that pool stuff). You sprinkle it all over your house like you’re about to roll out dough on your carpets (that’s a fucking gross visual), and then you rub it into your pet’s fur. The DE doesn’t poison the bugs, it literally slices through their exoskeletons and without their crunchy outsides, bugs dehydrate and die! It slices up egg sacks too, and it works in a really short time, just a few hours in fact. You vacuum it up a day or so later and repeat the process after a week for three or four weeks to get any new hatchlings that survived the first dustings. Yes, it’s a hassle, and it’s messy, but it’s organic, and it actually works.

The worst part is that it can be really drying to your pet’s skin. I know our cats aren’t super fond of it, but they certainly hate it less than flea medicine, and they can lick this stuff all they want without fear of being poisoned. It’s also not great to breathe in. It won’t cut up your lungs like some places (specifically pest control companies) claim, but it can make you cough just like any very fine powder (flour, sugar, cocaine).

So I spent the morning dusting the house, and then I sat down with each cat and combed out some fleas. I like to do this and get as much as I can off first because I’d rather the fleas not die on the cats and then have them lick the dead bugs off and eat them. I know they’re bound to do this with the eggs and some carcasses, but the fewer, the better. I get a bowl of water with some dish detergent in it, a flea comb, and paper towel, and I comb through their fur, specifically their neck and butt, and drown the fleas and eggs I get. I then flush the water because fleas are the most resilient fuckers on the planet, and I’ve seen them climb up and OUT OF THE SINK DRAIN before. I hate seeing these things come off my little buddies, but I love watching them die. I know that’s a little sick to say, but I have such a deep hatred for fleas, the way they multiply, hide, move so quickly, and cause so much pain and discomfort and even sickness, I just want them eradicated from the entire planet!

So that’s my next couple weeks: dusting, vacuuming, picking, laundry. And of course I’m still unpacking. And I need some furniture (a dresser is most pressing). Thankfully we have a fridge and a washer and dryer now, so things are slowly getting easier.

Except Husband and I went out today to run errands and stopped to get Chinese and now we both have what I’m 99% sure is food poisoning. But a little diarrhea can’t stop me. A lot might, but just a little? No shitting way.

Blogoween Day 27 – An Interlude

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So big fail yesterday, I actually completely FORGOT to post, I don’t know how, but by the time I remembered, it was too late, SO I’m hoping to get out a bonus post at some point this weekend. But for today, a quick musical interlude. A dude I love has released a new song just in time for Halloween, and I fucking love it, so I figured I’d share it here.

The only thing I don’t understand about Gerard Way’s solo stuff is how muffled/suppressed/drowned out the vocals are. I suppose he’s going for a vintage sound? Or perhaps, as a vocalist and someone who screamed a lot in older music, he’s forcing some subtlety into his vocals? I can appreciate that, but at the same time I always feel like something’s wrong (like literally with my speakers or headphones or whatever) when I’m listening to his stuff. Does anyone have any insight on this?

Regardless, I find this enjoyable because it’s a liiiiiittle harder than Hesitant Alien, and it’s sPoOpY, and it’s somebody for which I’ve had the hardest of lady boners forever getting back into music at the exact right time for me. The Black Parade and Danger Days got me through more than I care to say emotionally and creatively, and even if this goes nowhere and there isn’t an album coming after this, it feels so right.

Blogoween Day 25 – Witchcrafting We–Thursday: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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No Vacancy podcast today because I’m taking a little break from the serial this week while we move, but I do have yesterday’s video ready for today, so heck yeah! I did a little baking in my brand new kitchen that doesn’t have a fridge yet, so that was a lot of fun.

On a side note: I can’t believe Blogoween is almost over! I’ve kinda been checked out this past week and not creating the quality of stuff that I’d like, so this weekend is going to be nose to the grindstone type stuff. I still need to NaNo prep, visit a Halloween store (I haven’t been to one yet this season! What the heck??”), and get my actual Halloween costume done. The season’s gone by too fast!

Blogoween Day 24 – A Repose

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Today was actually very busy for me, but I slept in hardcore this morning. I’ve been toiling away during the day, but I’m not going to get finished with my Witchcrafting Wednesday video by midnight, so I may as well finish editing and just post tomorrow because why exhaust myself right now, right?

I realized today I’ve missed out on a lot of the typical things I do before Halloween this year, and that’s okay because this is a really busy month for us, so here’s a picture of our jack-o-lanterns from last year.

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Tomorrow will be the video, the podcast will take a break til next week, and hopefully I’ll have a bit of fiction ready for Friday. I have something half done, so time to bang that out. Also, there’s only seven more days of October prep for NaNo! AHH!! I need to finish my outline!!!

Blogoween Day 23 – True Terror Tuesday: A Haunting in St. Pete

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I’ve always been leery of public restrooms. There are plenty of reasons to be: they’re a room full of doors with typically only one way in and out, and when inside you’re at your most vulnerable. But I’ve also always had a tiny bladder, so more often than I wish, I’ve found myself in dimly-lit, dirty, defecatoriums of doom.

A few years ago, I was out with Husband and some in-laws. I’m protecting their identities here, mostly because I’m sure they don’t want to publicly be associated with this brand of crazy, but they could corroborate at least part of this experience, provided they remember.

We had spent the day in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, and were returning to the car which was parked by the pier. The ride from St. Pete to Tampa was always long, stuck on a bridge, so I knew I had to pee before we got going, and as luck would have it, there were restrooms right there: Comfort Station One, to be exact. Dear Reader, when I tell you this was one of the strangest, most off-putting public bathrooms I’ve ever been in, I’m not exaggerating. They felt absolutely horrible inside.

The men’s and women’s were in separate buildings, octagonal shaped, and to enter the bathroom, you had to walk around the building and up a ramp, so that trapped feeling one might have in a bathroom with one way in and out was amplified by the hall of sorts that you could never see the end of since it spiraled around to the entrance door. Inside, the space was dark with tile walls and a concrete floor, so your movements echoed, but even though there are windows that are open and you can hear a bit of the ocean through them, most outside world sounds were shut off. Mirrors and sinks lined the left side of the room with a stall at their end, and stalls lined the right side completely.

I did a quick visual pat-down of the bathroom, and saw I was alone. This is always both better and worse than what I anticipate: I don’t want to be murdered, so an empty bathroom means no murderers, but if someone new comes in to murder me, there’s no one around to go get help. Ya dig? The farthest end of the bathroom was a bit more shadowed, so I opted for the second stall from the entrance, which is my typical go to anyway. I popped in and sat down quickly. I needed to pee pretty badly, but I was also anxious: what if the moment I started peeing someone tried to break down the stall door? This fear is exceptionally stupid, I have to admit, because if this did happen, I’d probably piss myself (and what better place than on the toilet?), but if I felt like I needed to run, I’d probably just stop peeing very suddenly, or if I was in genuine danger I would probably not care if I ran out half naked trailing urine. In fact, this might be tactically advantageous since my attacker could slip in the pee trail. Ultimately, I’m very unlikely to be murdered in a public toilet (though that’s probably the most likely place, it’s just unlikely overall), but I still had that momentary jolt of realization: I’m at my most vulnerable right now.

So now that we have my irrational fear covered, let’s get back to it: I was pissing. As I’m relieving myself, willing it to get the heck out so I too can get the heck out, I hear someone else come into the bathroom. Now, this bathroom, as I mentioned, already gave me that sense of dread that only very few places do, so when I heard footsteps outside the stall, my whole body seized for a second. Everything stopped up, and I just held my breath as they walked across the concrete just outside my stall. But then I realized, this is a public restroom after all, people come in and go out all the time, it was evening, it had been busy outside, this was completely normal. That and my family was waiting outside for me, so if I didn’t come out, they’d at least recover my corpse later.

So I hear this other person, and I see their shadow on the ground due to the windows in the room. They walk past my stall and enter the stall directly to my right. I was immediately annoyed–I don’t know why people do this, just leave a space between us! But then I remembered the dimness of the rest of the end of the bathroom, and I forgave them. But only a little. I heard them close the door and shuffle in the stall for a minute, then I’m finally finished, and I wrench my shorts on as fast as possible and throw myself out of the stall.

There was probably only 20 seconds between hearing my pee-partner close their stall and me exiting my own, 20 seconds that I got dressed, flushed the toilet, and left. Yes, I made a significant amount of noise, but it was incredibly fast, and I know for certain that no one else had entered or exited the bathroom in that time, but when I walked up to the sinks to wash my hands and peered into the mirror, I could see the reflection of all the stalls behind me, and they were all open. I was still alone.

My heart started racing. I was sure I’d heard and even seen someone (their shadow at least) come in and close the stall beside me. The world around me had most certainly been manipulated–light had been distorted by a figure passing by, the stalls had made a sound, they’d even rattled physically a tiny bit with the movement of the door. Everything that had just transpired screamed “there’s someone in here with you!” but I was definitively, in that moment, the only person inside that restroom.

I ran my hands under the water for a second, staring daggers at the reflection of the stall beside my own. There was no figure inside, the door didn’t even sway, but I had a terrible feeling, like I shouldn’t turn around and see it in actuality. Then I booked it out of the bathroom, and I think I actually ran down the ramp and away, and up to my family. I told them immediately, out of breath, “We have to go, that place is haunted.”

Now, I never expect people to believe me when I say this kind of thing, but this time, someone looked at me and asked me if I was joking. I shook my head and told them what happened. They pried a little harder, asking me if I was making it up or joking. Of course not, I told them, why would I do that?

Apparently, while I was in the bathroom, someone had come up to them and started talking. Since they were standing outside the Comfort Station, it looked like they were admiring it, so this person started telling them about the building. He told them that the man who’d built the octagonal bathrooms had first built an octagonal church in the area in the 30s, but had been stiffed on the payment for the church, so when he built the bathrooms, he modeled them after the church as a sort of middle finger to those that had done him wrong. Because of that, the bathrooms were cursed, or maybe haunted, or just had bad juju in general. In any case, it was best to just stay out of them. He walked away, and then I came out all flustered and upset because I’d peed next to a ghost.

I’ve since done research on Comfort Station One (meaning, I Googled it a couple times), and it turns out the legend isn’t 100% true (though it’s a pretty good one), but lots of people do report unease and ghostly sightings in that very bathroom, none of which I knew ahead of time. So that’s the story: a ghost hung out in the stall beside mine in a weird, octagonal bathroom in St. Pete once, and I managed to not pee myself or get murdered.