After watching Sightings, the three of us would try to regale each other with stories of our own experiences with ghosts. It would have been around the same time that I started hanging out with another aficionado of the horror story who went to the same school but lived the next neighborhood over. This guy had HBO and it was at his house that I first saw Tales from the Crypt. I can’t think about this period without picturing the strip of woods separating the two backyards forming the border between our neighborhoods. Too often I made Ichabod Crane’s mistake—though I wouldn’t read that story till years later—indulging in all the stories I loved so much only to have to walk home in the dark, along a poorly kept trail through those woods, scared half to death.
Now that it was my turn I began to tell the story of my first night at 710 Crowder Court, the house my brother still lives in to this day—but not for much longer (he's moving). I had learned from the younger of my two friends down the street that some years earlier the family who lived there before us had experienced a tragedy. Their little boy had slipped while running near a pool, hit his head, and fallen into the water. He had drowned. I actually remembered hearing about this, and at the time I recognized the boy’s name. I want to say Eric now, but that was another little boy I knew from a much earlier time. Eric had died of leukemia; his funeral is one of my earliest memories.
The boy who’d died in that pool had an older sister, who apparently moved into what had been his room in our new house because the walls and the carpet were pink. I’m the youngest in our family, so I got the last pick of the bedrooms. My friend assured me the pink room had in fact been the boy’s bedroom when he died, giving me two reasons to dread moving into it. But move in I did, and I’ll never forget my first night sleeping there.
I woke up terrified, as if from a nightmare. It was still dark but I sensed there was someone in the room with me. The reason I couldn’t dismiss what happened next as the remnants of a dream was that I lay there wide awake for what seemed like hours. My eyes were peeled open and my heart was pounding. I was completely frozen with fear. Next to my bed was a digital clock, but it took me some time to work up the courage even to turn my head. Like I said, it was completely dark when I first woke up, but what finally prompted me to check the clock was the graying light of morning coming in through the window. It was before six. I began to calm down, hoping I might still get some more sleep before my alarm went off.
Years later, long after I’d moved to my dad’s house on Union Chapel Road, long after I had largely outgrown my fascination with ghosts and such things (sort of), I got in a conversation with my mom about my stepsister. Mom was mad at her because she was starting to skip her weekend visits to her dad’s house. As a teenager now myself, I tried to explain that it was perfectly natural for her to prefer spending weekends with her friends, that nothing sinister should be read into it. “No,” my mom said, “she says she can’t sleep here because she thinks there’s something scratching on the wall outside the bedroom.” She was talking about the pink bedroom--even though by then the walls had been painted.