This is the story of a pretty mild haunting in terms of the observed effects – simply the sound of footsteps and a feeling of being watched over lovingly by a female presence. However, subsequent events shed light on the likely cause of this classic style haunting and it raises deep questions about the nature of will and the self.
Last Halloween Erik Arneson and Alexx Bollen invited me to be part of a show for the holiday. Erik got on the topic of old-timey siddhis and magical powers – telepathy, bilocation, and so on. We speculated that with modern technology there’s no longer the same need for these abilities, which have thus faded from use. But the discussion got me thinking about the time I was a wee bit bilocationy myself, and how the circumstances of this event may shed light on how and why people exhibit these abilities.
A few years ago my life changed drastically. I was living with my husband in the East Bay, as we had for about 15 years. My mother lived in a 1920’s craftsman cottage with a large yard in Napa, very close to downtown and the Napa Creek. She had decided to downsize and move into a more manageable situation when my husband and I went to visit her one weekend. She was in horrible pain and having trouble even keeping her dogs fed – as it turned out, she had fractured her back. Anthony drove me up to stay with her the next day and mom and I have lived together since. Staying with mom I was able to help her to get to doctor appointments and so on and her back fracture was diagnosed and treated, but she has had a long convalescence as the fracture was severe and went untreated for a couple of months.
The next three or four months were some of the most intense and busy of my life. Mom had trouble even getting out of bed to use the bathroom. I was coordinating her medical care, helping show the house, take care of the dogs, working with mom and her realtor Kelly Marchbanks (who went absolutely above and beyond and basically saved us), helping mom shop for and buy a new place, working with the guys to move mom into her new place (mom has a lot of interesting stuff). All the while I was so worried about my mother’s health and very protective of her.
I was on the go all day every day, physically as well as mentally, and at the end of each day I was completely zonked. I slept on the couch in the living room, mom in her bedroom at the back of the house. The house has wood floors, and mom had lived in it for over ten years. She’d never experienced anything at all of the high strange until this very stressful period, when she would wake in the middle of the night hearing the sound of footsteps walking down the hall towards her bedroom door, and stopping outside of it. Mom felt a female presence that seemed to be concerned for her – checking on her – and it felt very comforting.
The original owner of the house was a woman who had lived there for many decades, and mom speculated that she was checking up on her now that the house was changing ownership once again. It was a little weird that the whole idea of a haunting was only coming up then, as the house next door to mom’s had been badly haunted for a few decades. All of the other houses on mom’s street were Victorian era homes, and the one next door had a chronic, malevolent seeming poltergeist type haunting. Winds would blow through the house and throw open doors and windows, and the daughter of the owner had been pushed down the stairs.
So it felt a bit odd to have a benevolent haunting pop up suddenly at mom’s place next door. Mostly, though, I was peeved that someone in my family was finally experiencing a straight up freaky event, right in the same house with me, and I missed all of it!
With the help and guidance of our guardian angel Kelly, mom and I moved into her new place. Over the next months mom had another surgery which went well, but had continuing problems regaining her strength and function after that severe back fracture. She also had a lot of pain, and so was on medication and medical marijuana so that she could keep up with her physical therapy and exercise regimes.
As a result, mom would have hypnagogic hallucinations, especially when she was napping in the afternoons. They’d usually consist of me talking to her, having a nice conversation, then at some point I would hand her something and she would wake up and realize I wasn’t ‘really’ there. I felt a little pushy when she told me this, as if I were intruding on her somehow, but mom set my mind at ease as she said it was always a nice experience.
These visions had been happening off and on for over a year when one day mom and I were talking about them. She said: “It’s like there is a part of you that is always watching over me.”
I looked at her. She looked at me.
I said: “Well, this puts those footsteps in your old house in a whole different light.”
How many other hauntings are due to living people? How many are motivated by fierce love for another person? Does this offer any insight into how we activate our true will and how it is expressed on various levels? What is the role of exhaustion and altered states of consciousness in precipitating high strange events? We can’t neglect the role of liminality, as the house was literally between owners at the time of the haunting.
Even though I feel comfortable in labeling this haunting ‘solved’, I’m left with even bigger questions about the nature of the self. It seems that, as mystics constantly remind us, we are truly much more than we imagine.