I grew up in a haunted house. A bona fide, “that house people tell ghost stories about whenever they walk past,” haunted house: a 200-year-old brick home whose first occupants (and builders) are buried in a small plot in the cornfield across the street. They’re not still living there, but they’re still there.
My parents bought it when they were young: new parents who aspired to land for their son (me) to grow up and explore: a creek in which to fish and canoe, a grove of fruit trees, and acres of woods into which paths could be trammeled.And the old brick house was cheap: with a corn field as far as the eye could see across the road and pastures across the creek behind it. Both were suburban children, whose lives were spent growing up with WWII veterans in the kinds of homes most WWII veterans raised their families, so they saw the rundown property with rose-tinted flip-down sunglasses atop rose-tinted prescription lenses.
The house did not wait long to announce its reputation was well earned, though my parents – lacking any local friends – did not know it. My parents left me in my crib in what would become the dining room and, when they returned, saw that I was under the watchful eye of a young man in clothing of a different time. To my parents’ eternal credit, they took my guardian angel in stride and concluded that a house haunted by kind, protective spirits was even better than a regular old home and left us alone.
From time to time, the spirits would play tricks on us or our guests: waking us up in the middle of the night with blindingly bright lights or moving things from one place to another (a trick I did not appreciate until just now would have been a fantastic take upon the more traditional dog-ate-my-homework excuse; oh well).
Between the home and the cemetery, there was always the specter of death: snakes of all sizes and dangers, a mountain lion that tore the neighbor’s ostrich flock apart, and the sporadic minor criminal who used our woods to break open the ATM they’d removed from its designated plot.
But no harm befell us in that home. One night I woke up to the sounds of destruction and saw that a tornado had ripped all of the trees in our front yard from the safety of the ground and spread them across the yard and road, while the house stood unblemished. Perhaps that’s why haunted houses are always the oldest ones on the block: the spirits have found a way to defeat nature – to survive when science says they should be dead – and having beaten nature once, find her as impotent as a moderator and ignore her.
Too bad those kindly spirits are confined within walls that long ago lost their hold on me: guardian angels bound eternally to a house while nature, ever cunning, sent me searching for a home to die in.
Mike Luketich can be followed on Twitter: @mikeluketich.