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old-staircaseGrowing up, I was always afraid of our finished basement in New York. It wasn’t that it was creepy – okay, maybe a little when it was dark – but it just had a vibe about it that made sure I was never down there alone for very long.

In all fairness, it was a great place to play when the weather wouldn’t give mom a break and allow me to go outside. Picture this …the layout consisted of my dad’s workshop – which also housed our deep freeze and pantry, a huge finished area that had a wet bar (it was the 70’s after all), two couches and a great low coffee table used for putting together puzzles with neighborhood friends. This open area could also accommodate a large table complete with racetrack and alpine village that my dad and mom painstakingly put up each year at Thanksgiving. This allowed me and my cousins to stay out of everybody’s hair while dinner was prepped upstairs. This main room also had numerous bookcases full of Reader’s Digest condensed books, an extraordinary collection of vinyl records, a fair amount of National Geographic magazines and tons of natural light from some high windows. That same natural light was great for my mom, because she also had her sewing machine set up on a beautiful antique desk. The basement’s remaining area contained the boiler room. It was a smaller space off the main room and aside from our source of heat, it contained the washing machine, inside clothesline (it snows in N.Y. ya know) along with a great laundry chute that my dad had put in to keep from having to lug dirty clothes down the stairs. That laundry chute also saw a lot of action from my Barbie’s who seemed to love repelling from the bathroom upstairs to the sink below it in the basement – all my dolls were risk takers. However, for me the scariest “thing” in the basement as a kid was the boiler itself. Huge and black, it was the thing that made horror movies come to life …because when it kicked on – it sounded like someone was running after you in heavy boots (insert Psycho theme music here).

vrSmHWac64eTVDDmo0R9PfVMJGDI remember (not so fondly) when my mom would send me down to the basement to get something from the pantry or freezer and the boiler would come on – I would nearly break my neck trying to race back up the stairs. I guess you can blame my vivid imagination or maybe it was one too many scary books or movies as a kid. For the record, most of my early scary movies consisted of the famous comedy team of Abbott and Costello – tame by today’s standards, but still pretty scary stuff for someone under the age of 10.

bookI guess all those early “close encounters” with the strange and unknown in books and movies – not to mention that boiler room – basically set the stage for my fascination with the paranormal as I aged. Over the years, I’ve experienced my share of unexplained phenomenon. Noises I’ve heard or things I’ve seen that never quite made sense to my brain. I also firmly believe that I became more sensitive to these things after my dad passed. Sometimes, I feel that he’s still with me, guiding me when things get tough.

A little shadow play here or unexplained noise there – and no more running up the stairs for me – now I’m all over it. I’ve trained myself not to run from these things – but to instead question its source and try to figure it out. Too many times earlier in my life, I would just turn-tail and run and it sometimes makes me wonder if someone was trying to guide me back then as well. Now, I look forward to the experiences and it’s also probably why I love Halloween so much. It’s the one time of year, where nearly everyone is on the lookout to make sense of the strange, odd and unexplained.

So, do I believe in ghosts? spirits? and things that go bump in the night?

You decide.

– J.B.