Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Anyone who knows me well knows how fascinated I am with the supernatural (and wearing a costume, but that's another blog).  As soon as I overhear a conversation with the word "witch," "ghost," or "haunted," I am immediately and hopelessly drawn in.  Like most Alabamians in my generation, I grew up reading Kathryn Tucker Windham's books about Alabama ghosts.  I also grew up listening to stories told by my mother about the strange goings-on she experienced whilst living in an antebellum plantation that had been overtaken by a branch of Sherman's army during the war between the states.  For clarification, she was not in residence during the occupation itself, but during the apparent continuing occupation 100 years later.  I even have an old Ouija board tucked in the top of a closet somewhere.  I've never gotten up the courage to really take it for a test spin, but there it remains.  Never-the-less, I've always wanted to have my own personal "encounter."  Alas, the only spirits who've ever shown themselves to me are Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, and a Grey Goose with a French accent.

Now for those of you who don't know, in June I moved into a very old apartment building in the historic Highland Park neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama.  It is replete with squeaky hardwood floors, plaster walls, vintage bathroom tile from the 1920s (can you say pink and teal...?), and of course my matching style of furniture.  All of this combined makes it look as though I might have found the fountain of youth and been living here since that tile was installed.  Today, the two-story building sits high on a bank facing 33rd Street.  I had always thought the roofline seemed awkward, but it wasn't until I mentioned it to my landlord that I learned why.  He told me that the building once had three floors, but that the third floor had been destroyed in a fire many, many years ago.  The owner at the time decided to save the first two floors rather than demolish the entire building.  He also made the roof flat rather than rebuilding the more costly gables it previously boasted.  After listening intently to this revelation about my new residence, I dared not ask if anyone perished in the flames.  Little did I know I would find out all too soon...

It was a dark and stormy night.  No really... it was!  The remnants of Hurricane Lee were moving across Birmingham.  Rain was coming down in torrents, the wind was blowing trees and power lines across roads, and I was trying my best to get home unscathed after having spent the weekend out of town.  After parking on the darker than usual street, I walked in the door and reached for the light switch.  Sure enough, no power... GREAT.  Luckily, I have candles in place around the house as though I only got electricity last week, so I felt for the matches and lit the candle on the telephone table in the hall.  Yes, I still have a telephone table.  I picked up the candle and proceeded to light the rest of the candles and sconces in the living and dining room.  After sitting for a moment, I decided to open the drapes so I could see the weather outside.  To my dismay, they were wet... in fact, my entire wall was wet.  I grabbed a candle and held it up so that I could see more clearly.  The water was coming down from the floor above me.  It was even coming through at part of the ceiling.  Certain that my upstairs neighbor would be experiencing the same problem, I headed up to the second floor to inquire.  Dry.  Drier than a puddle in the Sahara Desert.  I couldn't believe it.  I went back downstairs, wracking my brain.  I looked outside at the building... at her window and mine and the wall connecting them.  How could there be water coming into the first floor and not the second?  Where was it coming from?  The only way it had was through the wall itself.  Rain doesn't go through a brick wall, does it...?  Then I remembered the fire; the firemen's hoses.  I thought of how surely both floors would have been soaked at that time.  This seemed ridiculous.  It couldn't be... it wasn't, I decided.

After calming my wild imagination, I decided I would read a while before going to bed early and call the landlord in the morning.  When the electricity is off, I'm always reminded of why we... I mean people went to bed and arose so early before its existence:  there was nothing else to do (except maybe tell a few ghost stories by the firelight).  I read till my eyes were tired from the candlelight.  Listening to the ever moaning wind and driving rain outside did not help me to remain wakeful.  I accepted that the power was likely off for the the night and that I should yield to sleep.  As I blew out all of the candles except the one I intended to use to light my way, I thought again of the fire and the peculiarity of the water coming from a dry second floor.  I convinced myself that the wind must have been blowing the rain so hard that it simply soaked through the mortar and plaster... that happens... right...?  I walked into the bedroom and set the candle down on the nightstand.  As I began to turn down the bed, I heard the rain outside even more loudly.  The wind began to pick up, and I could hear the trees swaying as it tugged and pulled at their branches.  Suddenly to my horror, I realized that I could also feel the wind!  It was as though it were blowing straight into the room through the walls.  There was no window open, this I knew.  Still, the air was moving around the room!  It was swift and cold.  This had to be my imagination... I was dreaming... surely!  But at that very moment, the candle began to sputter and dim.  The air really was moving!  I reached for the candle, hoping not to be left in total darkness, but something suddenly caught my eye.  I looked up, and it was at that moment that I saw it!  In the window,  glowing white like the moon....

was the street light.  The power was back.  The ceiling fan was on.