I grew up on Reist Street in Williamsville, NY.
The neighbors across from us were dead. Probably why I do not love basements.
Think about it:
In my house, when I went Down To The Basement, I’d be on the same level as Them.
The Across The Street Neighbors. It was not a very wide road.
It wasn’t until first grade that I discovered the power of a ghost story. My class was climbing the library shelves when the Librarian corralled us in to read us a godawful chapbook called ‘Happy Little Pumpkin Goes Trick-or-Treating or Something Equally Pleasant’.
I kept wondering “Why doesn’t this make me feel like I’m in my basement and why do I want it to?”
With/Without meaning to, 6-year-old Erica hijacked the post-story time discussion:
Librarian: Children, children! Does anyone have any questions or comments about [Happy Little Pumpkin Goes Trick-Or-Treating Or Something Equally Pleasant]?
One Classmate: I liked the pictures of the pumpkin dressed in a butterfly costume.
L: Ohhh. Yes that was a nice picture, wasn’t it? Who else… Yes, Erica?
6-year-old Erica: Last night I saw Glowing. Red. Eyes.
L: Oh. Okey dokey. Who else–
6: Yeah. They were glowing red. With blood coming out. And they were glowing. And big and red.
L: Well. That’s nice. Do you have a question about the story?
6: I’m not making this up. I live across from a graveyard.
EveryDamnOneOfMyClassmates: Whoa! / What?! / What else happened!? /How big was It? / Did It get you? / Where you sleeping when It came to your window? / Did It come in your house? / Where did It take you? / How long were It’s fangs? / Where Its claws poisonous? / Did your parents think you were dead and have a ceremony without your body? / Did It die on your property? / Is there a burial ground in your basement too? / What did It tell you to do?/ Can I sleep over? / When’s it coming back?
So, that’s how it was going to be? Ok fellow creepers. NICE.
From then on, we swapped ghost stories like Garbage Pail Kids. Anywhere and everywhere. At lunch. Waiting in line while (not) getting picked for teams. Time-Out table. Waiting in line for the water fountain. Monday Mass. Waiting in line for 1st Penance. Art class. Waiting in line for 1st Communion.
Some classmates made up their stories.
Some didn’t have to.
My personal best was convincing some of them–myself included–that The Neighbors Across could get in and out via a network of access tunnels that started at a loose stone behind our furnace.
For the record, I don’t believe I have ever seen a ghost. Though I do believe in the stench of dirt and must and decay that would waft out of the floor vents in my bedroom.
I also believe in the gate-latch Dad installed because that damn basement door kept slamming open.