Welcome horror author Bryan Nowak. He is my guest blogger for Supernatural Friday. He writes horror fiction, but today’s post is all about his own, real paranormal experience.
I write horror fiction, so it’s rare for me to recount a story like this. Today, I share with you a story I’ve never actually shared with anyone. At least, not in this format. I like monsters and serial killers who lurk in the shadows, which I alone control. People who know me understand that I’ve had some real paranormal experiences too.
I can’t remember specifically where I was when I first accepted the paranormal as real. But I can recount an event, or a series of events, in my life which communally served as a defining experience. It brought the spirit world into sharp focus, as real to me as the proverbial nose on my face.
I was in high school, and had just moved from my birth state of Illinois to Minnesota. We settled into a rental house on a road just outside of our little town. It was once part of a farm, but the only remnants of a farm were the horse corral and a small barn. The house was large, old, and full of character. The house had an older part and a newer section where the living room and kitchen were. The original house had an addition built for a new kitchen and living room, which jutted out conspicuously at the end of the property. It was one of those houses that, looking at it from the outside, you might reach the conclusion that if it didn’t have a ghost, it probably should.
From the moment I stepped inside, I felt an energy I’d never felt before. It spoke to me, not in a threatening way, but in a way which sought understanding. I can’t remember anything in my life having such a profound hold on me. The newer part of the house was nice enough, but it was the old part, particularly the end of the hallway, where I really felt a pull. I began a journey towards understanding my own God-given gift to feel and interpret various energies in my surroundings, both good and bad.
That hallway grabbed me, as if someone was standing down there, beckoning me to come down. It was dark, mysterious, and wonderfully old. Those first few weeks were reasonably quiet, but it didn’t take long for me to start waking to the sounds of people talking in the basement. It’s worth mentioning that the basement wasn’t actually finished, and no one ever went down there. I could never make out what they were saying, but it was two distinct female voices. I assumed it was my mother talking to someone, and I was hearing them through the heating ducts, so. I thought little of it, that is, until the night both my parents were out of town, and I was home alone. Then I knew something was genuinely not right.
Being a Highly Sensitive Person and experiencing the paranormal is actually pretty useful. Although I could hear the voices, I knew, based on my own feelings, that I had nothing to fear from these particular energies. Perhaps, most profoundly, it encouraged me to seek out more. I started reading about the paranormal. The school library provided some interesting materials, but the selections were limited. Back then, kids exhibiting these behaviors would be considered weird, almost insane, so I kept these feelings to myself. But my reading pointed me to the inescapable conclusion that we had a haunted house.
I started to experiment with my senses. Where did I feel the spirits were coming from? When did I feel them most strongly? What moods did I sense?
I realized that whatever I was feeling preferred to occupy a small section of the basement, as well as the stairs which led to the side of the house. I tried not to go down there too often because I felt like they were afraid of us. It seems odd to think in terms of ghosts being scared of the living, but it is, like the living, the fear of the unknown. We were a big unknown to them.
It was about this time that my mother accused me or my brother of turning the thermostat up in the house to eighty degrees. While physically possible, I had no idea what the thermostat looked like, or even where it was. It was only after it happened and with both my brother and I away from home that they came to the same conclusion I did, accepting the possibility that our rental house was haunted.
I always imagine the spirits must have decided they were tired of living in the basement, because they seemed to be branching out. Sometimes at night, or when we were in the newer part of the house, we would hear footsteps on the back stairs. No one had access to these stairs unless they were inside the house, and that door was always kept locked. Basically, by virtue of the house's layout, we could rule out anyone else making these noises.
There were other things that took place. The windows would open by themselves, and the interior doors would be found wide open when we knew they’d been closed. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously wrote, through Sherlock Holmes, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” There was no denying it, we had ghosts.
Some people are afraid of what they don’t understand; this is basic human nature. But others can be thrilled and excited to study what they don’t comprehend. We chose to look at our resident specters not as evil, or a nuisance, but as people. We acknowledged them, even spoke to them when we felt they were near. At one point my mother rather pointedly told them to stop messing with the thermostat or they’d have to get jobs to pay the heating bill. Oddly enough, shortly after that little outburst, they left the thermostat alone. It seemed we’d brokered a peace deal with the dead which lasted until we moved.
I wanted to believe the spirits were real, but I was very skeptical. A small portion of me was reluctant to accept the overwhelming evidence. That was, until the night I had the opportunity to meet one of them. I’d just turned off the television and had nestled down in the bed to sleep. In the hallway I heard a pair of feet making their way toward my room. Rather than being unsettled by this, I remember having a feeling of peace. A kind of comfort, like being in the presence of an old friend or a loved one. I knew I had nothing to fear. It’s only possible to really explain it to another sensitive, but I could feel its intentions.
At the door, which was slightly open, I saw the shadowy figure of someone standing there. In my memory, I remember the door moving slightly, but that could be the product of my imagination, so many years later. I said to the shadow, “Don’t worry, I’m fine.”
The shadow lingered for a moment and then continued its walk down the hallway, the sounds of its footsteps disappearing as soon as it left the carpeted floor. To this day, I have no idea what made me say what I said. I’m not sure I’ll ever know what made me say it. But it was my first real face-to-face encounter with the paranormal, and it left an impression on me.
I have used my sensitivity several times in my life. Once, while in the Army, I stayed in a haunted barracks building. I asked the staff if anyone had ever reported a haunting. They apologized immediately and said, “We’re so sorry, Sergeant, do you want a different room?”
“No, I’m good. I just wondered that’s all,” I replied. Why would I give up the chance to do a little impromptu paranormal investigation? They confirmed they'd had numerous reports from that building, but they begged me not to say anything because they were asked not to advertise it.
I’ve also used my senses at a friend’s house whose living room was occupied by a malevolent spirit who inhabited one corner of the room. He was an angry man, who apparently liked to hit people. But he never hurt anyone, or at least, not that I was aware of.
Eventually we moved from our house. I miss it, till this day. I did speak with an elderly neighbor who actually told me the names of the two spinster women who lived in, and loved, the house we rented. While we have no proof, I feel like it was them who were actually watching over us, and me as the child in the house.
Shortly after we moved out, while I was working at a local bakery, a woman came into the store. I knew everyone in town, so when someone new moved in, I could tell. She was the only person in the store at that moment, so we spent some time talking. She and her family had just rented and moved into a house. It didn’t take me long to find out they’d moved into our old haunted house. She looked at me kind of funny and said, “Hey, this is going to sound crazy, but my kids are saying they hear people talking in the basement.”
I laughed and said, “Oh, you met the spinster women.” I told her everything I knew and that I felt they had nothing to fear. I shared my belief that the two women loved the house, and wanted to spend the rest of eternity in it. Who were we, the living, to argue? “Just treat them like regular members of the family, and you’ll all get along swimmingly,” was my advice. I truly believe, sometimes even the dead want something very basic, for someone to just acknowledge they’re there.
Member, Horror Writer's Association
No Name's Book Blurb:
The soul of a rapist and murderer is resurrected thirty years after it was killed by the psychically gifted brother of one of his victims. The creature, calling itself ‘No Name’, wakes to resume its murdering ways. While its first instinct is find and kill the one who was responsible for its death, it becomes distracted by the sudden appearance of a teenage girl named Allie. She becomes its next obsession.
The psychically gifted boy, Dale, now an adult, is suddenly troubled by nightmares where the murderer turns out to be himself. Investigating the cause of his bad dreams he finds he can see through the creature’s eyes, feel its feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Dale knows what’s in its heart. Not wanting to be responsible for the loss of innocent lives, he vows to find the girl and save her life.
Allie escapes the beast with the help of her father and her uncle, Red. Her father, mortally wounded, encourages the two to run for their lives while he uses his last bit of life to buy them some needed time. Allie and Red escape the beast and almost run out of time when Dale suddenly finds them and convinces them to join him while they figure out a way to either defeat the creature or die in the process.
About Bryan Nowak:
Bryan Nowak (1973-Present) was born in the South suburb of Chicago. As a child he delighted in sneaking out of his room at night and watching horror movies and science fiction television shows. He also liked to read ghost stories to fill his time at school, and at home. He moved, with his mother and step-father, to a small suburb of Minneapolis, where he attended high school. In Minnesota he also attended Minnesota State University, Mankato. In 1996 he was married to his wife, Tanya, and they have three children.
His first book, No Name, is set in Virginia and centers around a paranormal link between a young boy and a creature he helped create. The story is a classic chase story in that the main protagonists (Dale, Allie, and Red) have to stay one step ahead of the beast or risk being killed by it. So far it has received very positive feedback.