The Haunting

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Uncle Alexander Antoniuk, fought with the Canadian Armed forces, his unit was the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. He was killed in action in Ortona, Italy on Dec 31, 1944. he was twenty years old. 

This strikes me as being a perfect day to share with you, a lucid tale of an actual haunting. It took place many years ago, at time just after the world had overcome the Nazi regime. It occurred in a house touched by the war yet far away from the fight. It happened in my Great grandmothers house, at the place my Dad spent many summers as a child.

The first time it transpires, my Dad is staying in a bedroom on the second floor of the family home. He tosses and turns, flips and flops in the bed attempting to find rest. He vaguely hears the grow-ups talking downstairs. Like any other normal eight year old he wishes he could have stayed up, he’s not even tired yet. The moonlight lays a wide swath of luminosity across the floor and up onto the wall beside the bed. He hears footsteps climb the worn wooden stair treads. He expects to see his Grandmother, or his Uncle poke their head in the doorway. No one comes.

Dad stares at the ceiling and listens hard for any other noise.

It comes.

He hears footsteps in his room clomping across the floor towards his bed— but there is no one in the room.

Dad’s eyes are wide as he pulls his blankets to his chin, he grasps the fabric tight. He’s clenching so tightly blood leaves his fingers. He strains to see with clarity in the moonlit room. Maybe he missed someone? But how could he? The floorboards creak softly as the sound of a footstep stops at the edge of the bed. The huff of someone else’s breathing is unmistakable.

Dad holds his own breath. “This is not real, this is not real,” he mutters aloud.

He cringes staring into the empty space. Dad’s heart pounds like a farrier’s hammer on the red-hot curve of a horseshoe coming to life.

The mattress depresses as the invisible force sits on the edge of the bed.

Dad bolts upright, “Grandma! Grandma!” he screams.

He wraps his arms around himself and presses his back firmly against the wall. He can scarcely draw breath.

He hears the sound of footsteps scrambling up the stairs. Dad is panting with fear.

The door bursts open, his grandmothers face holds creases of worry. Her eyes are underlined with dark circles of unrest. “What Alvin? What’s the matter?” she crows.

He suddenly feels small and silly as though his mind has imagined it all. He gazes at his grandmother, he sees all her weariness. If he adds to her burden, he’s sure to get a scolding from Uncle George, a well-placed whipping from a willow tree switch across a bare butt. He reconsiders his story, “I had a bad dream Grandma, I’m sorry to bother you,” he said in a quavering tone.  Maybe I imagined it? No sense worrying Grandma, he thinks. She’s been through enough, what with her being a widower, and then her boys went off to war, one went and got killed and the other one wounded. I can’t be spooking her, he thinks. Be a man Alvin, for gosh sakes be a man.

She bends down and gives Dad’s hair a loving tousle, “Ack, it’s okay Boyo, but remember bad dreams can’t hurt you, “ she reassures him with a serious face. “Go back to sleep.”

She turns and leaves the room.

The invisible presence never left.

As the sound of her fading away, the depression in the mattress lengthens.

Dad yanks the covers up over his head. Someone— something has laid beside him in the bed. Dad slides further away, over to the brim of the bed next to the wall. The hair on the back of his neck prickles. The entity takes up more space in bed and pushes Dad firmly against the wall. The feeling is undeniable.

Dad closes his eyes tight. His body lies as rigid as an icicle hanging off the roof on a cold winters day. Sometime during the night the presence disappears, and Dad falls asleep.

Later in life Dad figures it was Uncle Alec, his grandmother’s youngest son. It would make sense, he had died traumatically, and far from home. He’d gone to fight for freedom, and against tyranny, gone overseas to help the break the fingers of the grasping hand of the Nazi’s. His body never made it back to his family. He never got to feel the welcoming embrace of his kinfolk upon his return. It was only his longing spirit which came home to the comfort of his room and his bed.

This haunting didn’t happen every night, but with enough consistency that Dad learned to sleep with a ghost. And although this entity was frightening in it’s strangeness, it never offered violence of any kind.

So as far as hauntings go, I suppose this haunting was as lovely as a haunting could be. I say lovely, because the spirit simply made it’s way home to where it felt peace. All of its loneliness found refuge in a familiar space, and in a familiar bed, to rest it’s so called head.

As for the authenticity of this story, well, I can tell you this, other people within the family confirmed what Dad experienced. They had experienced it for themselves.

As far as Dad goes— I can honestly say, the only time he told the tale of the impossible haunting, was when he’d had a few glasses of liquid courage. I remember listening to him mesmerized by his words and feeling the unmistakable chill of fear dance across my skin. I recall being wide eyed with both horror and disbelief. I still recall being swept into the tale as his hands gestures to the imaginary door, to the narrow passageway where the ghostly footsteps sounded. I remember watching his eyes as he travelled back in time, and the way they grew distant when he reached for the memories. I eventually came to understand there was still a part of him who resisted the account. My Dad was not one to dabble in foolish stories, and even in the telling you could see him holding a handful of reluctance, and sense of disbelief that it had actually happened to him. And that my dear friends, is how I know, this is a tale of truth.

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