Feature: My Own Ghost Story
Glenn Weiser
Metroland, October 27, 2005

My Own Ghost Story

You might think that recently constructed houses in suburbia would be free of hauntings— but I say you’d be wrong

Bang! Late one night several years ago, I heard the unmistakable sound of a cabinet door being slammed shut in my unlit kitchen. My teenage stepson was sleeping in his room, and my wife Patti was with me in the master bedroom, so I assumed an intruder must be in the house. A hunting knife in hand, I ran to the kitchen and turned on the light, ready for a confrontation.

Inexplicably, no one was there. The windows were shut, so the cabinet door couldn’t have been blown by the wind.

Patti emerged from the bedroom when I called to her that there was no danger, and calmly told me to have a seat. Strange things like this had been happening lately, she explained, particularly in the early evening before I got home from work when she was alone in the living room. Not wanting me to think her crazy, she had been waiting for such an incident to occur when I was home before telling me she believed the place, which happened to border on a graveyard, was haunted. During the following years that we lived there, we experienced more phenomena I would describe as paranormal. What I learned is that of all the household pests you could be plagued with, ghosts—and yes, that seems the most likely explanation here—are by far the worst.

(Left:Ghost house: Glenn Weiser’s haunted piece of surburbia.
Photo:Alicia Solsman)

About two years before this, I had moved out of a historic brick townhouse in Albany, NY into a light-blue rented duplex on Elsmere Avenue in nearby Delmar with Patti, then my fiancée, and her son from a previous marriage, Andrew. We had promised him a puppy, and it was the only place we found where pets were allowed. Although we knew the previous tenants had stayed only one year, that seemed insignificant at the time.

The following spring, Patti and I bought Andrew a female yellow Labrador retriever we named Lucy. When she had grown, we started taking a shortcut through the Bethlehem Cemetery on weekends to bring her to the grounds of the neighboring Bethlehem Middle School, where an informal group of local residents gathered to unleash their dogs and let them run together. It was only after this that the paranormal phenomena began in and around our house.

(Left: headstones in the Bethlehem Cemetery)

Sitting with me that night, Patti continued her story. At least once a week when she had been alone in the living room, the dog had acted strangely, standing at the top of the stairs going down to the front door and barking and growling. Invariably, no one would be at the door. Lucy also had exhibited this behavior while looking down the hall leading to the bedrooms. Most disquieting, though, was when Patti was been sitting in her Barca lounger and one of my guitars—which had been in its case, leaning against a nearby wall at an approximately 60 degree angle—suddenly defied the Newtonian laws of motion and lurched forward, hitting her hard in the arm.

I didn’t doubt Patti’s sanity—in fact, I had experienced the paranormal before. Late one summer night in 1968, I was in Cambridge, Mass., in bed with a flower child I had met that afternoon, when we heard the sound of tables and chairs being moved around in the darkened and unoccupied ground floor. She told me that the house had poltergeists. Creeped out, I took her word for it and stayed put.

A few months after the cabinet-door incident, Patti and I were again in the master bedroom at night, when we heard the oven door being violently slammed shut. This time, I walked into the kitchen unarmed, turned on the light, and noted the fact that Lucy was curled up on her bed in the living room and couldn’t have caused the noise. Seeing no one there, I laughed loudly and contemptuously. The ghosts could kiss my ass. They would have to do better than that.

But then they did. As I sat at night working on the computer in the downstairs den, which was immediately below the kitchen, I would hear footsteps above. When I would run upstairs to investigate, Lucy would be curled up on her bed, and the sounds would stop. When I was back downstairs, they would resume. Had the dog been the source of the noise, I would have caught her retreating to her bed, but that never happened. The spectral footsteps went on nightly for years.

Similarly, I was downstairs one night after Patti and Andrew had retired when I heard the empty Barcalounger rocking wildly back and forth at a speed I would estimate at once or twice per second. Again, I ran upstairs, only to find the chair motionless and the dog on her bed.

Lucy continued to display unusual behavior. One night, Patti and Andrew both heard her yelping loudly in her cage one night as if being tortured. When they ran out their rooms in alarm to her, she calmed down.

In addition, both Andrew and I saw lights with no discernable source in the backyard on separate occasions. Andrew noticed three triangular patches of light on the ground there one night while taking the dog out, and on another night I saw a similar light. Thinking a floodlight from a helicopter overhead was producing it, I looked straight up, only to see the night sky. When I looked back down at the ground, the light had vanished.

I also experienced what I later learned was the well documented paranormal phenomenon of waking up in the morning with long scratches of unknown origin, in my case groups of two or three such wounds on my arms and legs.

Most disconcerting of all was the experience both Patti and I had of being partially suffocated while asleep. Patti had been napping one afternoon when she felt an intense pressure like a bear hug on her diaphragm that prevented her from being able to breathe. She woke up immediately, after which the sensation stopped. This also happened to me while sleeping on the living-room couch, again in the afternoon. I started awake, unable to breathe, and rolled to my side to escape the unseen menace, which then ceased. Later I learned that this, like the unexplainable lights and sounds, objects being moved, and the sensitivity of some animals to ghosts, is a well-documented paranormal phenomenon.

Patti grew to hate living there, and wanted us to leave. But by then we in the market for a house, and I was determined to remain until we had closed on a property. The spirits were a nuisance, but I wasn’t afraid of them. To me, they were just astral-plane punks who were probably mad that we had gone through the graveyard and gotten on their turf. Believe me, psychopaths, religious fanatics, and absolute rulers can be scarier than ghosts can ever be.

No one else, as far as I have been able to discover, has experienced any supernatural occurrences in or around the Elsmere Avenue house. When I called my former landlord to ask him if any previous tenants had mentioned any hauntings there, he just laughed. On further questioning, though, he did say that the house was around 15 years old (a later check determined it was built in 1983), and that no one had ever died there. I also delivered letters to the other homes on Elsmere Avenue bordering the graveyard asking if any of the residents had any paranormal events in the neighborhood to report, but nobody responded.

We finally bought a lovely colonial a few miles away and left the duplex. Thankfully, nothing spooky has ever happened in our new home. Patti is much happier, Andrew is away at college, and Lucy, now getting on in years, spends most of her time sleeping undisturbed.

 List of Metroland Stories by Glenn Weiser                          ©2005 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.

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