The Shadow

Earlier this year, I moved into a new apartment. I doubled my square footage and gained myself a bedroom for the first time in my history of living on my own. I was not sure how to approach having a bedroom for a while, but more importantly, I was skeptical about having a bedroom door. I live alone, when I first moved, I had no reason to keep that door closed. I don’t have roommates, I don’t have many people over, I have no reason to close my bedroom door when I sleep. 

My evening routine is pretty simple. I come home, I shower,I change into my night clothes, I wrap my hair, I watch TV in the living room until I’m tired and then I retire to the bedroom. 

This is my routine day in and day out. 

But one night, something was different. One night, something caught my eye. 

The way my bed is positioned, I can see my open door from the corner of my eye, usually before my cooling eye mask goes on. And as I did my best to “unwind” by mindlessly scrolling through my social media feeds in bed; one night, out of the corner of my eye I swore I saw something. I sat up to get a better look at it was gone. 

Just some image my tired mind conjured. No big deal. 

The next night, the routine went on as usual and as I climbed into bed and once more I swore that something was watching me. I sat up and saw something that truly did scare me: I saw the shape of a man. The man was tall, there were no features, but it was clearly a man: standing there; imposing, watching. 

I was scared; I immediately shoved the covers back over my head and prayed that whatever horrors may come will be swift and that my end will be painless. My brain was lucid enough to see that this wasn’t a physical threat: I didn’t think it was an intruder; no one who could cause me corporeal harm but something that could damage me psychically, spiritually, or even just emotionally.

I woke up the next day and assumed that it was a just a weary brain adjusting to a new home. 

But when I saw the Shadow Man again, I became worried. From what I knew no one had been horrifically murdered in my new apartment. I didn’t notice things going missing. I didn’t hear any phantom noises. I didn’t notice anything else that would signal a typical haunting. 

The Shadow Man haunted me for a few days and as I did my best to sort through just why my brain would imagine such a haunting visage. I, of course, blamed myself because anxiety does that. I assumed it was a hallucination; the machinations of a tired mind or just a failing of my eyes but seeing the Shadow Man more than and at different times made it difficult to assume that it was just a sleepy brain and if it was a hallucination, it was a damn good hallucination. 

I bought sage on my next trip to my local apothecary. I was determined to rid my home of the spirit. I wanted the creature to be gone. I wanted sleep. I wanted safety. I wanted to feel secure in my new home.

I never did light the sage but I did keep it safe and for a moment, the evil seemed to vanish. Incense was burned. Crystals were kept. Runes were taken out of bags and tarot cards stayed in the damn box because I inherited a deck that isn’t mine and it’s old and I don’t trust what is in it.

I haven’t seen such a cruel spirit before in my life. I have tangled with demons before after staying in two haunted dorm rooms but I never saw anything or really felt anything emotionally. I had scratches that one time and things did go missing but I never saw shadows or faces in my room. 

Shadows are a common form of ghost that appears in homes with lots of energy. Shadows aren’t always evil, but they’re usually negative in a vague sense. But most shadow figures are airy, fluid, and fleeting: the fact that this one stood and stayed reminded me so much more of something solid rather than a fading spirit. It felt more like the stories of those stalked by Bigfoot or Skinwalkers or even the famous Smiling Man. It felt like there was something in the room with me; watching me, menacing me. 

I think the Shadow Man is gone now. It’s been months since I’ve seen him last. I have a ghost radar app on my phone and every once in a while, I’ll turn it on just to see how things are. One day, the app gave me a strange string of words: wrong and one. I was a little confused as I had not asked a question but talking a friend did help provide a little context. The weeks prior, I had been slowly poisoning myself. I have food allergies and I had been feeling poor for days. I didn’t realize that the coffee creamer I purchased with almond milk based, something I am very allergic to. I told a friend about the strange words I got and she said “well, the creamer you got was the wrong one.” and I practically threw my phone across the room. 

The concept of ghosts is one that is both comforting and terrifying. It does seem to confirm that for some, there is some manner of afterlife, an existence after death and thus perhaps a second chance at life. But it also seems to be a form of punishment, an entrapment, a lack of rest and a lack of a conclusion or peace.

Whatever that thing was that kept me awake at night was not an entity of peace or of good feelings. It wasn’t a lost parent or memory of a loved one.

It was a monster. 

The Scream

“We ask only to be reassuredAbout the noises in the cellarAnd the window that should not have been open” ― T.S. Eliot, The Family Reunion

I have the pleasure of working in a historic office building downtown. The building itself is over 100 years old and the city I call home is now proudly 300 years old. I’m within walking distance from the famed Alamo: hell, the original battle of the Alamo spilled over into where I sit and work nearly every day of the week.

And in the spirit of the season and as is tradition on this humble blog: I’m here to tell a ghost story.

Pull up a chair. Sit down. Dim the lights. Relax. Hopefully, this one won’t be too terrifying.


I work on the second floor of a building with six floors. We have a large atrium and an elevator that barely works but does its best.

Our office is small, both in size and physical capacity and occupancy. There’s only a few of us here. That means gossip travels quickly. So when the doors creak, phones ring without them being turned on and other strange occurrences; we naturally discuss such a thing. We’ve all had experiences. I heard my name clearly in the back of my ear when no one had called it. My boss has encountered shadow-like shapes in the men’s room. Our accountant has heard doors rattle and all the rest of us minions have experienced at least one paranormal thing in the office and it’s amazing how quickly one can just accept a place being haunted. Normally, a ghost or apparition like this would add character to a place but these occurrences seem to only be enough to temporarily frighten and then promptly be forgotten. It’s likely the most effective coping mechanism we have against dealing with such a threat: the prospect of ghosts is such a primal and existential threat that the mind likely comes up with many excuses to such things just for the sake of maintaining any base level of sanity.

But we’re not here to discuss the trapping of a mundane haunting, dear reader. Certainly, you expect more from your host.

It was a mostly quiet afternoon. I kept my headphones in because I require noise to work. There was very little conversation. We all had something to do.

And that’s when we heard it. It started out sharp. It was a sound I heard in the back of my ears, through my headphones and whatever podcast or music I was listening to as a means to pass the time. But it was distinct. It was a scream. It was, specifically, a man screaming.

All of my coworkers looked at me and we all looked at each other. We collectively rushed out of the office and leaned against the railing to see what happened. It sounded like someone had jumped from the top of the building but as we gazed down into the atrium: there was no one there. Our building neighbors had also rushed out to see what the commotion was all about. We had all heard The Scream.

Eventually the disbelief dissipated and we returned to work. Whispers started in the office that erupted into chatter. It was revealed that this was far from the first instance of The Scream heard in the building. My boss had heard it before and other tenants have discussed the phenomena in great detail. Each person tells the story in a similar way: it sounds very clearly like a man screaming falling from a great height. You can clearly hear the ebb and flow of terminal velocity in The Scream but you never hear the impact of falling and meeting the cold hard tile of the atrium.

We’ve considered all the options of what the ghost may be. Maybe it was one of the not-so brave heroes of the Alamo who wandered too far from the battlefield. Maybe he was a working crafting this historic building. Maybe he was a man who was at the end of his rope while working and saw only comfort at the end of the mortar and ceramic of the grand atrium.

We’ve heard the scream more than once. Almost always in the afternoon, almost always the sound can be too clear to be human. Almost always like he’s falling.

I’ve heard The Scream a few times now. Honestly, you never really get used to it. You never get used to hearing clearly in your inner ear the sound of a man falling to his death over and over again in your workplace.

Now most days are a waiting game to see if we will hear The Scream again. We’ve flirted with the idea of buying items to see if the ghosts in the building will communicate with us. I’m barred from bringing in my tarot cards for fear we may receive or attract something not so pleasant. We joke that our breaking point will be collectively when we all see a full-body specter but I’m sure that isn’t true: running from a ghost doesn’t remove the experience. That haunting stays with you.

It always does.

Happy Halloween, dear readers.

 

The Woman In White

-Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.-Arthur Conan Doyle.png

It’s that special time of year again. Last time, you all loved my little ghost story so much that I decided to tell another one. You may know where this story is going but that won’t stop me from telling it. And if you’ve heard this story from me, then sit back, pull up a chair because you know it’s a good one.

Let’s take a step back in time. It’s the 90s. My parents and I were on a road trip. My dad’s family lives out in the side/middle-butt part of Texas. On the way back one night we decided to stop in Corsicana. Corsicana has a strange little restaurant called Catfish Plantation. And the plantation part is very literal. It was an actual plantation house with a Master, a Misses and a modest amount of slaves. Well, the Civil War ended and now the establishment is a seafood restaurant for some reason. And like all things old and Southern, it was of course, supposed to be haunted. The restaurant prided itself on being extremely haunted and my dad being the large Southern skeptic he was decided this would be the perfect place to take his wife and young daughter. I couldn’t have been anymore than 8 or 9.  

It was late. Later than we normally had dinner since the drive back from the middle of nowhere Texas took a couple of hours at least and Corsicana is sort of the middle point. I had no interest in this allegedly haunted eatery. I just wanted chicken fingers and sleep and probably my GameBoy. Naturally, since this was a haunted establishment, there was a long and overdone tour. My mother was somewhat interested since she loved history and my dad was somewhat interested since he was the one who had this brilliant idea and he had a point to prove. I couldn’t be bothered. I was bored to tears and the entire time there was this woman behind me who seemed fixated by my hair. She didn’t say much. She was tall (well, tall to me. I didn’t reach over 5’0’’ until I was 13). She was pale and her clothes looked funny to me. So the little bit of interest that I had in this ghost-infested fish house was dampened by the fact that there was a woman who keep bothering me. She looked mean. She kept looking at me like I shouldn’t be there.

The tour group wasn’t very large but it did seem to go on forever in between mentions of how quality the catfish was. The overly enthusiastic tour guide continued to prattle on about how bad slavery was (which we are African-Americans knew) and that just before the battles really got down to business in the state, the slaves rebelled and took revenge against the master and his wife. All the while the same woman continue to leer at me and now had started to touch my hair which my mother had so expertly styled into twin braided pigtails.

After what seemed like hours of enduring this I finally snapped and shooed a hand away from me. My dad immediately reprimanded me. My mother followed up and said I was being rude. But I told them the truth. There was a woman in the tour that wouldn’t leave me alone. There was a woman bothering me and when my parents asked me who it was I pointed up and they saw nothing. They saw no one there. There wasn’t anyone there.

“Congratulations.” the tour guide beamed “Your daughter has met the mistress of the house. She’s been dead for over 100 years.”


No one said anything for a while. No one mentioned it for a while. My mom and dad rarely spoke of the fact that clearly their little girl had seen some sort of apparition.

We finished a satisfactory catfish dinner. We stayed in a kitschy hotel for the night and we as a family didn’t speak of the ghost again.

In hindsight, it made sense that a ghost would appear in front of me. I was a small black child running around this old Southern slave owner’s home. It was perfectly logical and there’s many theories that ghost appear to children because kids pay attention to them. Adults try to rationalize everything away but kids are honest. If they see a ghost, they say they saw a heckin’ ghost.


There’s something amazing about being spiritual, being Catholic and believing in ghost stories. To a good Catholic, ghost stories are the antithesis of faith. The dead are meant to rest until the resurrection. If you believe in a God, a heaven and a redeemer: then how could there be ghosts? But there was always a spiritual, almost magical, part of my family. My great-grandfather was a mystical man despite being a devout Catholic. My grandmother was also hilariously superstitious until her death. After my grandfather died, we would still hear his footsteps on the plastic slip cover in the hallway at night. My aunts took great comfort in knowing that their father was resting in heaven but still wandered his house sometimes. When I went through my magical rebellious phase, my aunts were horrified until they realized that the grandfather they looked up to (my great-grandfather) also had a tarot deck and could quote Edgar Allan Poe well into his 90s. Suddenly, I didn’t seem like quite the little edgelord anymore.  But knowing that I came from a legacy of magic, mysticism and spirituality helped make sense of the world I saw. My godmother’s Cajun and thus very spiritual. Both grandparents held long standing superstitions. My aunts believed in ghosts and my parents couldn’t help but admit that it was a compelling event that happened at Catfish Plantation. I was always a weirdly mystical kid. Dr. Langston, my rhetoric professor, called me an Indigo Child more than once and Indigo Children were always thought to be special, to be magical. And it never bothered me to still use the Roman Catholic faith while also still believing in tarot, crystals and reading about alchemy and the Fox Sisters. Catholicism still looks very pagan for many reasons to this day.


We tell ghost stories for a variety of reasons. We like to imagine that some people never leave us. If there are ghosts then there has to be an afterlife. There has to be something after death and that is much more comforting than facing the cold indifference of the universe. But ghost stories also haunt our hearts. They give weight to those we lost, even if that person didn’t mean anything to you. A ghost story forces you to care about someone. Forces you to carry the weight. And a good ghost story should stay with you forever.

I know I’ll never forget my ghost stories.

 

Thoughts from the Heart of the Revolution

-Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.- Sam Houston.png

On another adventure over a day, Amber and I visited Seguin and Gonzales. Gonzales is famously really where the Texas Revolution started. When the Mexican Army demanded that Texans disarm themselves and give up their cannons, the Texans famously said “Come and take it.”

This defiance, strict independence and rebellion shaped Texas as a state and our identity. But there’s a difficulty in accepting that a valid part of our state’s history is the right to own slaves. There is always a cultural dissonance between being a proud Texan but also being African-American.

Here are the thoughts I had from my trip to Gonzales and Seguin.

  • I recently picked up a CD copy of the best themes from Inuyasha. We did not regret this as our music choice though it is a fantastic time capsule into whatever we called music back then.
    • Really, this anime did not deserve the soundtrack it had.
  • Gonzales is a strange place that is really known for just being the seat of the revolution and the “Come and take it” has really become a polarizing symbol across the state and nation, really.
  • If you see the actual “Come and take it” cannon, it’s surprisingly small.

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Seriously, this is it. The mount is a reproduction. Hence why it looks so silly.

  • The monument Texas built to the revolution is pretty elaborate but is pretty awesome.

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  • Gonzales has a beautiful very haunted jail. Which means it’s story time, folks.
    • So Amber and I went to the Gonzales County Jail. It was built in the 1800s. We were excited because most jails that are that old are recreations. This one? Nope. The first thing our tour guide said was that all the wood, steel and fixtures were original. Same steel. Same wood. Same bars. All the same. Our blood briefly ran cold as this statement was made. We were shown the sheriff’s quarters. Holding cells and administrative offices.And then we went to the second floor. The second floor held petty criminals. Those who let horses die in the streets. Those who stole livestock and those who stole small amounts of money. The cells were large and open considering and then to the right was maximum security. 4 giant metal doors. Loud clanking noises. If the sound of freedom escaping could be created, it was the sound of those doors opening and closing. And as Amber and I were swept up in the feeling of being behind cell bars, we looked to the front towards the wall only to find 10 foot gallows. It’s called The Green Monster. It’s bright green and still has a noose attached to it. The jail historian said The Green Monster claimed at least 3 people and that it was placed in front of the petty criminals to discourage further crimes. We were stunned. The wood was the same, just reformatted to discourage people from climbing on it. It still looked as it would have to a prisoner. It was haunting. It’s also probably very haunted. We agreed not to take any photos while in the jail. Part out of respect for those who lived and died there and part for fear that we’d capture proof of a ghost.
  • Mead is indeed the drink of the gods and Amber and I learned that after a much needed winery and meadery visit post incredibly haunted jail visit.
    • I can see why Odin and Thor like mead so much.
  • Seguin is an interesting town that feels at the same time too big and too small for what it is.
  • I get one Gravitation song per road trip. I chose Sleepless Beauty.
  • Fried green tomatoes are overrated. I’m sorry, Amber. They’re gross and taste like outdated modes of thinking and plantation back porches.
  • The look on my face over being served a drink in a pitcher is hilarious.

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Please ignore how awful my hair is. It was windy.

  • Jokes aside, The Dixie Grille in Seguin is probably some of the best food I’ve had in awhile. Even if the drinks are served in a stupid way.

I think it’s interesting to think of the revolution. At the end of the day, even if the battle started over slavery, it ended with the concept of freedom. The Texans wanted freedom. They wanted to be able to do as they saw fit. It was at the time terrible but during this time of…turmoil, it is interesting to think of what it means to stand for what you believe in. Unless what you believe in is slavery. Then you are wrong. You are still very wrong.

And if you want to disrespectfully disagree with me and attempt to take down the cannon of my morals, values and beliefs?

Come and take it.