Friday, March 23, 2007

One Night with Whoopie

I tried to tell this story over lunch with friends last week, and it didn't go over as well as I had hoped.

Probably because I told parts of it out of order.
And I left out some important facts in the beginning like how my friend had been taking strong medications that night.

But mostly I think it's because I failed to mention at the beginning of the story that my friend, Whoopie, sees dead people.

(Whoopie isn't really her name, of course, but I'll call her that in honor of Whoopie Goldberg who played a fake psychic who could communicate with Patrick Swayze's dead character in the movie "Ghost".)

Just like "Sixth Sense", she sees them everywhere. They walk around like regular people.
One day, while she was working in her garden, the previous owners of the house walked up and watched her. Didn't speak, they just watched. She talked to them for a short time before she realized they were ghosts. And a moment later, they were gone.


As a favor to her brother-in-law, Whoopie agreed to house sit for a couple of his clients, two old spinster women, while they were on vacation. The spinsters lived on a small lake in the middle of nowhere (think Stephen King). Maybe three or four other homes dotted this lake's shores, but there were so many trees and natural growth that you really felt secluded in this house.

It so happened that Whoopie was having her wisdom teeth removed that same week, and she asked if I could come out and "sit" with her while she was wigged out on drugs.
I said sure!
We were in our early twenties and still living with our parents, so this was a really cool opportunity to feel independant.

I drove out to the dark wooded area alone after work. Whoopie was there, camped out on the couch watching TV. She told me the pain-killers from her tooth extraction were making her hallucinate.
Her sister had been with her earlier that day, the two of them enjoying the view of the lake from the balcony. Whoopie said she had seen a man swimming along the edge of the lake under the trees who appeared to be watching the house, but her sister had seen only ripples and nothing else. After her sister left, Whoopie had made a sandwich, turned off the kitchen light, then watched TV while she ate and waited for me. Later, she noticed the kitchen light was on.

"But maybe I didn't even turn it off. I'm not sure I'm thinking straight with these drugs."

When I asked if she or her sister had "felt", um, anything in the house, she told me no.
She remarked that it felt like a sad house, but no, she didn't sense any presence there.

So, there you are.
I was prepared for nearly anything (as one must be when one's friend sees ghosts), but it was obvious that I would have to be the level-headed one this night.

Shortly afterward, she gave me the grand tour of the house.
Since this was nearly twenty years ago, there are plenty of things I don't remember. But a few things stand out in my mind:
The master bedroom and the livingroom both opened onto a large balcony that stretched the length of the house overlooking the lake.
The basement was a walk-out level under the balcony.
The spinsters had thumbtacked cardboard over the stairwell to the basement and had given Whoopie strict instructions not to go down there.
("Why? What's down there?" Whoopie had asked.
"Just don't go down there," was the answer.)

So, when our little tour concluded at the thumbtacked cardboard fortress next to the kitchen, naturally, Whoopie looked at me and said, "Wanna see what's down there?"
I whispered dramatically, "What do you think is down there?"
She replied, "Wookies!"

Well, what else do you expect two young twenty year old goofballs out on their own to do?
Of course, we're going to be naughty!

We popped one side of the cardboard away from the wall and snuck down the stairs half expecting a tripwire to sound an alarm or paint bucket to fall... or something.

You already know what we found.

We found absolutely nothing unusual.
Rooms full of storage.
One room with exersize equipment.

Nothing embarassing, dangerous, or even remotely spooky.

Whoopie did find it odd that they had a doggie door in the lower walk-out level, but no dog.
And we half wondered if maybe they did have a dog that came and went as it pleased (somewhat like a cat), and perhaps we shouldn't be downstairs in case the dog came home and found strangers in the house.
That was frightening enough to make us hurry upstairs, retack the cardboard, and then wonder what kind of protection a sheet of cardboard would be between us and an angry dog.

Eventually we crawled into bed.
I had a flashlight for some reason and spent a great deal of time playing with it in the dark.

We shared a few ghost stories.
Real ones.
Stories about dead people Whoopie had seen.
One story about a "being" who kept "visiting" Whoopie's sister in the middle of the night until Whoopie and her sister moved the bed to a different wall. Apparently, the "being" could not rest in peace until the room was more feng shui or something.

Then we heard the rattle.
Or clatter.
It was hard to tell.

Whoopie thought it sounded like someone tossing pebbles onto the balcony right outside the bedroom window.
I thought it sounded like the heat kicking in. Or a branch blowing in the breeze brushing up against the house.
Possibly even the mysterious house dog wandering around the grounds...
Anything that would make sense.

Played with the flashlight some more.

Rolled over and settled down.


"Would you knock it off with the flashlight already?"
"What? My flashlight is right here. And it's off."
"Yeah, right."

Honestly! I hadn't done anything!
I figured she was pulling my leg.
I hadn't seen anything. But then, my eyes had been closed.

Maybe Whoopie's drugs were really potent.
And she was really tired.

"Did you see that?!"
"The light flashed on!"
"The light on the ceiling?"
"Flashed ON?"
"That's weird. If the light was on and it flashed off, that would make sense."
"I know!"
Slight pause.
"Would a ghost be able to turn a light on and off?"
"Not usually."
Another pause.
"Are you sure you saw the light come on?"
"No. Not really. Maybe you should watch for a while."

Tick tick tick tick....

"I'm sorry I'm so weird tonight. It's these drugs..."
"You saw that?"
"I saw that!"
"What is that?"
"Maybe someone is messing with the fuse box. But would that make the light turn on?"
"That would explain why the kitchen light was on when I'm sure I turned it off."
"Maybe the mystery dog is chewing on a fuse right now."
Thoughtful silence.
I swallowed hard. "When you said the house felt sad... would the house be trying to make us leave? I mean, maybe there's some danger, and it's trying to tell us to get out. What if there's something wrong with the electrical system and the house is going to burn down?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I really don't know."

(Remember now, I'm being the rational one.)

Finally, after some frightened discussion, we decided should leave the house. We also decided we would like a weapon in case we encountered... um... something(?) on the way out.
Whoopie dashed through the livingroom, grabbed a poker from the fireplace, and darted back into the bed under the covers, because, you know, sheets are such great protection.

Ours was a clumsy, cowardly, uneventful escape.
Nightgowns, tennis shoes, car keys... fireplace poker...
We sprayed gravel as we peeled out of the dark, wooded, creepy place.

All the way to Whoopie's house, (the poker white-knuckled in Whoopie's grip the entire time) we discussed what we knew and what we might have merely imagined.
Wondered what a police officer would think of us (nightgowns and a poker) if we'd get pulled over.

By the time we reached her home and told her sister why we weren't "sitting" the house we were being paid to protect, a house that might be engulfed in flames as we were speaking, we were pretty sure we were being silly, over-imaginative girls.

But no way were we going back again that night.
No, sir.

We spent the rest of the night listening for distant fire engine sirens.

The next day, Whoopie and her sister went back to collect our things. And the house was still standing just fine. No super-natural vortex had swallowed it or burned it to the ground.



Some 10-15 years later, Whoopie and I were discussing that experience.
I had told that story to several people over the years; each time it ended with our daring escape and laughter about how silly we'd been.

But this time, as I laughed to myself, Whoopie only shook her head and added, "Yeah, I can't believe they never brought any charges against the guy or anything."

I choked on my drink. "What guy?"

"The guy in the house."

"What guy in the house?!?"

"You mean I never told you?"

"Told. Me. What?"

Get this:
The spinsters had a stalker!
They had a stalker that they knew about, that Whoopie's brother-in-law knew about, that no one told the two of us about!

Why not?
Oh. Because he wouldn't bother us if the spinsters were out of town.

Uh. HELLO?!?


Stalker had been swimming in the lake watching Whoopie and her sister.

Stalker had been throwing pebbles on the balcony!

Stalker had crawled through the doggie door.

Stalker had hidden in the stairwell while Whoopie made her sandwich, and when she turned off the kitchen light, he snaked his hand through a spot in the cardboard and turned the light back on!

And after Whoopie and I had gone to bed, stalker had creeped through the livingroom and waited outside the bedroom door where he eventually reached around into the room and flicked the light switch on and off!!!


He had been THAT close!

Had he been in the basement when we were down there looking for Wookies?

Whoopie must have run right past him when she fetched the fireplace poker!

Where was he when we decided to evacuate the house?
Hiding behind a chair?
Back out the doggie door and watching from the trees?


That was one truth I think I could've gone all my life without knowing.

I'd prefer to have believed there had been a supernatural explanation!
Yes, I think I'd much rather have the dead people, come to think of it.



Mrs. Who said...

That's why I believe in owning guns.

Roses said...

Heh, Mrs. Who.
While I agree with you, at the time we thought we were dealing with hallucinations and/or ghosts, and I'm not sure exactly where we would have aimed the gun. ;)

Lemon Stand said...

What a GREAT story! I never thought "Get out of the house!" so I guess I'm an idiot. As for what was going on? I thought it was two girls scaring the heck out of each other. Guess I would never make a good detective.

Roses said...

Thanks, Lemon Stand! Glad you enjoyed the story!

Harvey said...

With Lemon Stand on this one.

I was really wondering where the hell you were going with this, and figured that you were just going to trail off at the end.

You should've seen my eyes bug out when I hit the payoff lines.

VERY well done.

Roses said...

Thank you, Harvey!

Tink said...

Just had a brain blowup. That's what happens when you think with both sides of the brain and they disagree. Logical left side was saying... GET OUT. While whimsical right was laughing along with you.

Roses said...

I hear you, Tink!
I really didn't think there was a problem, but when your friend who doesn't get spooked by seeing freakin' dead people starts getting worried, man, you just don't wanna be there.

Anonymous said...

Holy twisted endings Batman!

Roses said...

Darin: That's what *I* thought!

HapKiDo said...

Oh, I was out of there at the first sign of supernatural presence.

However, at the first sign of crazy, "natural", stalker presence I'm all over that intruder like a nun's ruler on a left-handed child!

*Brilliant* delivery, BTW!!!

Roses said...

Hapkido: I wish you'd have been there. The three of us would have been quite a mix!

Or, should I say... the four of us...

DogsDontPurr said...

Aaaaackkkkk! I'm so freaking out now!

Roses said...

DogsDontPurr: You don't *have* a doggie door, do you?

Dani said...

That is the craziest thing I have ever heard. I have this overwhelming sence of relief that you we're both ok.