monsters may no longer hide beneath my bed,
and goblins may not live in the shadows of my
bedroom closet, but sometimes I still wonder.
I try to think back to the point in time when
my childhood fantasies had dissolved into the
certainty of reality. I am sure this transformation
must have been gradual because I cannot recall
experiencing any significant revelation of truth
on such matters. My thoughts, therefore, can
only conclude with the sharp contrast of my
relative consciousness, then and now.
Despite the advantage
of age, some of my childhood memories are still
thick with precise detail and traces of irrational
emotion. The passing of time has taught me to
responsibly disregard these juvenile fancies
as products of an over-active imagination. Still,
these fearful images are indelibly imprinted
on the fabric of my mind.
memory is so vivid that I could tell it just
as if it had happened yesterday. The unusual
incident took place in a sleepy, small-town,
My dad, during
this time of my impressionable youth, was the
pastor of the only church in Elliot, our town.
His congregation, like the town, was small in
number but extremely faithful. These loyal few
could be found every Sunday, at eleven o'clock,
in the same pews of the same sections, and as
expected, wearing the same Sunday-go-to-church
clothes. Even I had one set of clothes reserved
for God. It was the same starched shirt and
polyester pants that my mom had laid out every
Saturday night while I was taking my bath.
The old farmhouse,
serving as the church's parsonage, was our home.
The parsonage sat adjacent to the church and
shared in its quaint appearance. It was a typical
looking house for the area. In fact, other parsonages
we have lived in since have had similar construction.
It was basically a box topped off with a pyramid
roof of gray shingles. It was a chalky-white,
two-story, clapboard house with a large wrap-around
front porch. Like most farmhouses, the inside
was roomier than the exterior might have indicated
upon first glance. Like the local people, the
architecture was simple and functional.
I was just starting
kindergarten. Dusty memories of my first day
of school were chronicled there. Most of the
year, my sister and I wore out the earthen path
from our house to the schoolhouse. Most of the
school children were bussed in from the rural
areas, but Laura and I had to hike the distance
daily. In the summer months, we spent our time
exploring the limits of our small-town island.
Life was simple. Our only concerns rested on
three principles: we were not allowed to exceed
the cornfield borders of our town, we had to
be home by the six o'clock whistle, and we were
always supposed to wear our shoes. As obedient
children, Laura and I never ventured outside
our town and we were never late for dinner,
however, as soon as we were out of Mom's sight
the shoes came off. For some reason going barefoot
represented true independence for us. We were
always careful, though, to put our shoes back
on before we got close to home.
Growing up, I
always had the luxury of my own room. This was
of course, until my little brother was born.
I won't labor upon this point because I already
receive enough grief from my family about the
on-going sibling rivalry.
My room in this
house, like all the bedrooms, was on the second
floor. It was one of four. My sister had her
own bedroom; my parents had the large bedroom;
and the guest room, which was usually used mainly
for storage, sat unoccupied unless relatives
came to visit. In addition to the bedrooms,
the second floor also had two closets and the
door to the attic.
The door to the
attic, in appearance, was no different from
other doors in the house. The warm patina of
the old wood matched the floor and baseboards
throughout the house. The black tarnished doorknob
and large keyhole was about eye level for a
five-year-old. The heavy wooden door had large
panels that stretched to the ceiling. But this
was perhaps all that was normal about the door.
For the most part
the attic door was always closed. There was
never any reason to go up into the attic except
for annually retrieving boxes of Christmas decorations.
On rare occasions, however, I would find the
door left ajar; I would quickly shut it.
My sister and
I were afraid of the attic, or more specifically,
what might be dwelling in the attic. I remember
going into the attic just once with my dad.
Between the light of day and my super-hero dad,
I wasn't scared of anything. I was confident
that my dad could best even the meanest monster.
The attic was
dusty. You couldn't take a step without tossing
up plumes of gray smoke. The bare wooden beams
that supported the roof angled upwards and met
at one point. The cracked windows in the dormers
let in the only light. The view from one of
these windows was spectacular. It must have
been the highest point in town next to the church.
I could see clear across the rooftops to the
brick schoolhouse and the cornfields beyond.
To entertain ourselves, my sister and I would
sometimes dare each other to climb the attic
stairs. Not all the way, of course! Going up
alone into the attic was never considered or
even mentioned. The challenges were offered
on s step-by-step basis. Laura would dare me
to climb three of the steps. Upon completing
the heart-pounding task, I would dare her to
climb four. We gradually ascended all the steps
but would never, under any circumstances, enter
In contrast, the
cellar was our refuge. It was cold, it was dark,
and it was damp, but it was all ours. In the
basement, we built forts, played hide and seek,
and roller-skated in circles. The smooth cement
floor was excellent for the metal strap-on skates
we got for Christmas. Sometimes we would turn
out the lights and intentionally try to create
sparks while skating. We shared the basement
with Mom's laundry room and Dad's photography
darkroom. Even with the lights out we were never
scared of what might have lurked in the basement.
Our childhood perceptions had a clear understanding
in that the basement was good and the attic
night, as I lay awake in bed, strange noises
came from above. Staring nightly at the cracked
plaster ceiling, I listened to distinct sounds
coming from the attic. I heard the echo of doors,
opening and closing. Even sounds of objects
sliding across the floor penetrated the silence
of my room.
Like any child,
these unexplained noises lingered in my fertile
imagination. I feared that hideous evil creatures
lived in our attic, and that they were conspiring
to get me. Even asleep, I couldn't escape the
fear. My dreams were mostly nightmares.
My dad, as he
tucked me in for the night, attempted to calm
my fears by telling me that the noises were
natural for an old house. My dad tried to explain
that old houses shift with changing temperatures,
but even the laws of science couldn't comfort
me when he turned off the light.
I remember my
sister once told me that she had heard these
noises form her room, but if she was equally
frightened, she didn't show it.
During the day,
I seemed to forget about the presence in the
attic. Daytime was quiet and the sunlight that
filled the house had reassuring warmth. I played
rambunctiously in and around the house each
day, but was still somewhat aware of the attic
as I carefully avoided walking past its doorway.
All of these unusual
happenings didn't prepare me for what happened
one night. As I was lying in bed, almost asleep,
I saw a figure at the foot of my bed. Thinking
it was shadows created from tree branches outside
the window, I strained to discern what it was.
To my horror, it was the figure of a human,
clearly standing at the foot of my bed looking
out the window. The head turned slowly in my
direction. It was the twisted face of a witch.
She had wrinkly greenish-gray skin, a misshapen
nose, and deep-set eyes as black as coal. I
was petrified when she made eye contact with
me. I was face to face with the image of a nightmarish
witch, ten times scarier than the witch from
The Wizard of Oz. The hideous being cracked
an evil grin as if to say something. Tears were
streaming down my face, but without the sounds
of crying. I was frozen in a trance of terror.
I regained my senses and quickly submerged under
my covers and hid. I squeezed the life out of
my ragged teddy bear. It must have been hours
before I stopped shaking and fell asleep. I
woke up the next morning to golden shafts of
sunlight illuminating my room. The witch was
gone, but the feeling of that memory has always
been with me.
moved. In time, my developing intellect had
dismissed the event as a child's over-active
imagination, however, one day I overheard my
mom talking with a friend from the church. She
was explaining to this friend about the reality
of the spirit world and the applications of
spiritual warfare. She illustrated that the
house we lived in back then had evil spirits.
She went on to explain what events had happened
in the house.
Later I asked my mom about these occurrences,
and she confirmed the truth. She and Dad had
known about the unusual incidents in the house,
but didn't tell my sister and I. They didn't
want to alarm us, and rightly so. She explained
that our normally passive family dog would frequently
bark at the attic door in the middle of the
night. She and Dad also had heard the unexplained
noises coming from the attic. On several occasions,
following Bible studies at our house, individuals
would take my mom or dad aside and tell them
about the spiritual uneasiness they felt in
Much debate arises
over the existence and nature of ghosts, specters,
and evil spirits. Some experts believe that
they are the spirits of dead people caught between
heaven and hell. Others, in more religious circles,
feel that all dark supernatural activity is
the result of demon interaction. I must admit
that I am intrigued by the unexplained, and
I love a good ghost story, but I don't know
what to make of my personal experience.
I don't know when
I first dismissed this childhood episode as
merely imagination run amuck. I remember the
intense reality of the fear and anxiety that
surfaced with the unpleasant experience, but
I also have an adult's need to rationalize the
The attic, the
house, and those memories are now locked in
the past. I am sure other families have lived
there. I wonder if they have been haunted as
later, my wife and I had the opportunity to
revisit some of my childhood homes. We parked
our car and walked the timeless streets of Elliot.
As expected, not much has changed there. With
the exception of a few satellite dishes attached
to roofs and modern cars parked in driveways,
the town was virtually unchanged.
As we turned the
corner and passed my dad's old church and my
childhood home, I stopped briefly and looked
up towards one of the dormer windows. As I stared
through the glass into the darkness of the attic,
I wondered if anything was looking back, and
if so, did it know me as it did twenty-five