Ghost Story

The other day, after we'd finished signing the lease on our new apartment, the landlady said casually, "Oh, and the ghost hasn't been around much lately." She wasn't joking.

The house in question is a hundred-year-old brownstone which our landlords bought and painstakingly refurbished. Apparently it had been a crack den for about a decade, and then had been abandoned for another ten years before John and Marie bought it. The ghost quickly made his presence known, rattling, slamming, talking... appearing.

"He's an old man," said Marie matter-of-factly. "He's basically friendly. And since we repainted and opened up this door" - she indicated doors leading to a small back garden — "we've hardly heard anything. Now, I'm not afraid to go the bathroom alone anymore." Her husband murmured unconvincingly that he didn't believe in ghosts, but I wasn't questioning it: When we'd first entered the apartment, my boyfriend had felt what he called "bad vibes" — which I impatiently dismissed as flummery in the face of affordable rents and original tiling.

Now, as we start moving in, I'm wincing at every gust of wind or rattling from the attic. I've never experienced a haunting; in fact, in college I lived for a year in a room where someone had allegedly hanged herself in the 1920s, and felt not so much as a chill. That said, I've heard enough stories not to dismiss them, most particularly my mother's tale of working as a housekeeper for an elderly lady with a perfectly-preserved Victorian nursery, that doesn't bear getting into. Maybe it's too bad that I just read Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Then too, as we speak, a normally pragmatic friend is having a horrible time with a small house he's rented down in his Georgia hometown. In the few months he's lived there, he's been unable to sleep due to the singing, the forces which he swears shake him awake, and his dog's terrified whimpering. It got so bad that he started crashing on friends' couches and even decided to look into the property's history. Now, he wishes he hadn't - it turns out his plot was once a KKK lynching site. He's staying with a friend until he can get his things out.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited at the upcoming move. Scariest case scenario, well, I'll just introduce myself and, I don't know, leave some kind of offering. But I've asked a friend to stay over that first night. And I'm seriously considering buying some sage — just in case.