Home Is Where the Fright Is

What Happens When I Spend Too Many Nights Alone 

January 30, 2013 — I’m writing this post in frozen terror. Or at least to stave it off. A few days ago, my wife and kid took off for the Mid-Atlantic to visit family. My work schedule is less flexible, so I stayed back. That puts me by myself for two weeks.

Don’t worry, I know where Taco Bell is and I have enough clean towels for a beach party, so I’ll be fine.

But I know it’s coming. Any night now I’m going to freak myself out.

Now, I’ve done a lot of spooky stuff in my life: midnights in asylum cemeteries, overnights at murder scenes and abandoned prisons, the house of Beatrix Potter. I had a blast every time and love to do that kind of stuff. The thing is, my irrational fright instinct doesn’t kick in when I have at least one other person with me or if I’m on site at a place that I plan on writing about. In those cases, I’m Captain Courageous. At home alone with just my brain eating itself for consecutive nights, my liver sprouts lilies.

So at the risk of naming the devil and getting his attention, here are the parts of my 120-year-old home that panic me:

My Basement
You guys have met this place twice before. Once, when I set up an impromptu theater down there for a horror movie night and again when we played with a Ouija board for the first time. Its walls are massive rough-hewn blocks of granite, and its floor is packed dirt. So spooky intrinsically.

Oh, and the entrance to it is a dark, ominous hole in my kitchen floor.

Worse, the basement is always below me (that line takes away all my confidence as a writer). Every time I creak a floorboard walking around, I imagine that I’ll get an answer from below.

And the dirt floor doesn’t help my peace of mind. If even one murder was committed in this house in the more than century of its existence, that is where the body will be.

Little known fact: Walls keep people out, roofs keep weather out, the floor keeps the dead out. So I’m basically exposed to the dead. I was an inexperienced homebuyer when we picked this place.

My Cat 
My black cat is barely a pet. She’s only active at night, so I rarely ever see her. But, man, do I hear her. She climbs walls, runs from invisible pursuers, and vocalizes a wide range of weird syllables that never even come close to a meow.

And while it’s a great relief to blame every strange nocturnal sound on the cat, truth is, in horror movies, “It was just the cat” is always the prelude statement to something worse. In demonese, I believe it’s translated, “Please come into my home and devour my soul. There’s Tabasco sauce in the refrigerator.”

My Barn 
I live in town, so I don’t deserve such a giant outbuilding. Nevertheless, I have what’s basically a two-story barn shoved onto my little plot of land. That by itself is suspicious. It must be covering up some dark secret buried there centuries ago by the town’s forefathers. Of course, other than to grab the snow shovel, I’m hardly ever out there at this time of year. But the problem is the motion-activated flood lights attached to its exterior.

They go off at all times of the night for no apparent reason.

I know, I know, it’s probably just the wind or one of the feral cats in the neighborhood. But walking by my window at night and seeing it alight just tells me, “Someone or some thing just walked across my property.”

It’s even worse when the lights refuse to shut off. Because that means whatever it is…is still there.

My Study Doorway 
The desk where I write sits in a nook under a picture window in my study, so my back faces the entire room (back faces?). I’m always afraid that I’ll look over my shoulder and catch some humanoid form walking casually but quickly across the doorway.

I’d rather it run straight at me with a bloody knife singing Volare.

Heck, the doorway is behind me right now and the small hairs on the back of my neck are pulling toward it as I write. Sucks.

My Windows 
Windows are the Jekyll and Hyde of residential construction (that line doesn’t restore my confidence as a writer). During the day, they’re awesome. At night, they’re the worst things ever invented. And mostly I’m talking about the ground level windows. The ones somebody can just walk up to and stare into my house whenever they want.

Because I live in a town, it’s never pitch black out there, so there’s always something vaguely visible in the darkness. I've done double-takes so many times because of those stupid windows. Like that old campfire tale about the person who sees a man fitting the description of an escaped serial killer staring in the window and it turns out to be the murder’s reflection…he’s already inside the house.

And, naturally, it snowed on Monday, the exact same day I learned about this. Don’t click that link if you currently have snow cover around your house.

My Bed 
My fear of this piece of furniture is probably my biggest. After all, the stuff I just listed is ignorable once I’m in my bed…I have two floors of separation between me and the basement, I can shut the cat out of the room, the floodlights on the barn aren’t visible from there, I’m nowhere near my study doorway, and my bedroom windows are all curtained and open onto a story worth of air.

But I swear to God one of these days, I’m going to lay down to find somebody already in my bed. Or worse, rolling over in the middle of the night and hitting warm body when no warm body should be there.

That said, even when my wife is home and in bed with me, I still have this fear.

Honorable Mention: My Fan 
I sleep with a desktop fan on regardless of the season because silence is suffocating. When I’m alone, my head turns the white noise into voices sometimes.

In conclusion, the next two weeks I’m going to be on social media a lot, I think. Say sunny things to me.

This guy, on the other hand,
no problems with. We watch episodes of
Sledgehammer together.