By Tobias Wayland; with images by Emily Wayland
When I was younger, I used to think that either my parent’s house was haunted—or I was. Now that I’m older and I’ve gained some perspective, I think it’s the world that’s haunted. It seems that every corner of the globe is beset with spirits, demons, and monsters; and although I’ve travelled only a small portion of our planet, every place I’ve gone has had its share. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re all haunted, even if some of us don’t know it, or actively disbelieve. I hope you’ll take this to heart and listen with a sympathetic ear, then, as I recall a few of my own strange experiences.
I have shared the first few decades of my life with a shadowy being—or beings—whose purpose I have yet to fathom. I have written of one such encounter with this mysterious phenomenon in my article Part of the Darkness is Darker than the Rest; this is another:
The ghosts of furniture burn for a few seconds when I flip the switch. The dining room is perfectly dark; the kind of absolute darkness that can only exist as an immediate contrast to a recently extinguished light. It’s a dazzling, brilliant darkness that envelopes you completely and leaves you senseless. My parents have made it clear that the light from the dining room disturbs their sleep slightly less than closing their bedroom door at night, but still enough to be unacceptable, so this is a black maze I’ve grown accustomed to navigating. Countless repetition has taught me where to step to avoid the table and chairs, which floorboards creak, and how to find the entrance to the living room without running into the wall. I’ve sidestepped the large wooden table, and I’m concentrating on slowly guiding my feet to just the right part of the rug to remain silent, when I feel something next to me. I feel it in my gut, the same way you might feel that there’s something in the dark before you trip on it. I know where everything is supposed to be in here, and absolutely nothing should be directly to my left at face-height…or breathing. The thing, whatever it is, radiates a casual malevolence, and the near side of my body tingles as I feel it draw close. Although I cannot see it, the monster must be only inches from me when it hisses. It makes a sound like an angry cat, and I feel stale breath on my face. I haven’t moved since I first felt its presence, but I steel myself, resolvedly whisper “leave me alone,” and quickly cover the remaining distance to the living room, up the stairs, and into my bedroom. Not once do I think to turn on the lights.
Admittedly, with the absence of my sight I can only assume that this creature shared the shadowy visage common to the entities I had previously witnessed. But I feel comfortable in this assumption, without any evidence to the contrary, since the vast majority of my early interactions with the unknown were comprised of intrusions by these dark entities.
I saw shadow people throughout the time spent at my parent’s house, and still do from time to time; along with the occasional phantom and apparition. None of the other incidents were quite as dramatic as the one mentioned earlier, or the contents of Part of the Darkness is Darker than the Rest. I would see shadowy forms flit from room to room in the house, or duck behind the shed while I mowed the lawn. I think it’s possible that I mostly witness them simply going about their business, with the most powerful interactions coming when I interrupt them or get in their way.
At times I would hear voices; often these were gibberish, but other times there was a clear message: I heard a voice once while I was lying in bed reading. I was lying there, propped up on a pillow, innocently bettering myself with whatever sci-fi or fantasy novel I was reading at the time, when a voice told me quite sternly that “There is no god beneath this house.” I have no idea why it ever suspected that I might think there was. I still have no idea what that message was supposed to mean, or if it meant anything at all. I wonder if the purpose of these interactions is to be purposely enigmatic, or if the reality of them is so alien as to be completely uninterpretable.
Sometimes the voices were muttered, indiscernible conversations. Despite being an unwilling witness, it still felt like somehow I was the one intruding. I think this is why they were always the most terrifying. These particular voices were sexless and somber; the kind of voices that one might attribute to any number of mythological beings—the monsters whose gender is never mentioned, because it’s irrelevant to their function in the story. I have always wondered what purpose they possessed in the story we shared.
I still hear voices to this day, albeit infrequently. This is a difficult thing to admit, of course, because of the obvious stigma. I don’t feel as though I am mentally ill—at least I sincerely hope not—and I’m especially inclined to give myself the benefit of the doubt since there haven’t been any negative consequences as a result of the phenomenon, nor do I exhibit any other symptoms--unless you count spotting a ghostly humanoid now and then. Mostly I hear my name called, as though from a great distance, usually by a woman; whereas other times it is merely whispered from across my shoulder. I can never quite place the identity of the caller, but it sounds so familiar that I feel like I must know this person—even if we’ve never met.
Sometimes these incidents correlate to my being in bed, and most often begin while I am awake; but not always, as seen in Part of the Darkness is Darker than the Rest. There were also many times when I awoke to my blankets being buffeted or torn from me by invisible hands, although my least favorite nighttime activity was when these unseen assailants would dig painfully into my ribs. Unfortunately, as a child, my total ignorance regarding the cause of these phenomena left me completely unable to defend myself. There is a folk belief among children that pulling the covers over your head is sufficient to ward off monsters, but that has not been my experience. All it ever did for me was made me uncomfortably warm.
Luckily, with age comes wisdom, and over the years I’ve picked up a few occult tricks for warding off these sorts of things; and even if it’s only psychological, the result has been the same, so I find some comfort in that. And despite all of this—the encounters, the messages, the research, all of it—I still couldn’t tell you what I’ve been dealing with. Every time I feel like I get closer to an answer, a dozen questions are revealed instead. In fact, just between you and me, anyone who claims to have definitive answers as to the nature of any truly paranormal phenomenon is begging for my distrust. Any honest investigator will tell you that the field of paranormal research is still too new and too weird, and that we are only now attaining an understanding of the basic mechanics of the universe necessary for us to even properly study it. But that’s the nature of this business, of course—only charlatans and madmen claim a monopoly on truth. If I know anything, though, it is this: monsters and spirits are real in the sense that we experience them. I can’t yet tell you the true nature of my experiences, but I can tell you that they absolutely did happen to me as described, whatever meaning that will prove to hold; and I can promise you that I will keep trying to find out what’s really happening until I’m satisfied with the answer. That’s the best I can do; the best any of us can do.