Is there such a thing as a haunted house? I don't necessarily mean one inhabited by the classic ghost we've seen in the movies. No, I'm thinking about how some houses have a history of bad things happening to the families who live there.
One of the houses I lived in for several years is a case in point. While doing a thorough cleaning of the heating unit, I found some medical records of the wife of the first owner. She developed MS, a particularly nasty disorder that causes nerve degeneration. I remembered hearing how the second and previous occupant, another woman, also came down with some sort of illness that required her to get a wheelchair, but I no longer remember her diagnosis.
After living there for three years, I got sick for an entire year, but even four doctors couldn't figure out the cause. A 5th doc told me I was probably under too much stress. This was plausible, as my son had entered adolescence and his defiance was overwhelming, but still, something felt like it was sucking the life out of me, literally. I couldn't even tolerate sunlight and had to wear dark glasses during the day outside, and had little strength.
Doctor #6 finally found out the reason: I caught Lyme disease from a damned tick bite. This pissed me off because it had crossed my mind when it began, and asked the first three docs, including a neurologist, to test for it, explaining that I went camping sometimes.
I swear those words fell on deaf ears; they couldn't wrap their minds around the possibility of a black woman living in the area catching Lyme. In addition, they ordered as few tests as possible because my now former health insurance plan was strict about this.
The good news is that medicine knocked that out after taking it three different times over two years, but wearing wrap around sunglasses for all that time was a bummer. I can't express how happy I was when I went a week straight and the sunlight didn't hurt, but this didn't happen until after I moved.
It got me to thinking about houses, though. I have always dreamed of them, often of my original childhood, but more often of being in homes I've never set foot in. Some of these dreams are recurring.
In them, I am always alone and exploring one, and it usually has a hidden room. This mirrors my personality. I'm innately curious and have always wanted to see what the magician or others conceal.
One of the most memorable dreams happened in the last house I owned. I discovered a cavern underneath it that can only be described as nightmarish. I didn't see the monsters, but I could feel their presence.
It was message, I think, from my unconscious that something had gone terribly wrong with my family. This was true - my son was descending into a mental hell that he's not quite yet climbed out of.
At some point I decided to move. I looked at other houses with an agent. (Can't do that now, no full time job yet.)
I noticed things that I didn't when house-shopping before, maybe because I had a heightened sensitivity of houses having a story to tell. Sometimes you get a feel for whether the occupants are happy are not. You may be familiar with the study of feng shui. It's an Asian way of thinking about the "art of placement", architecture and decoration to maximize tranquility and success.
(You might do better checking books on it at the library rather than googling, as you'd have to sift through too many commercial sites that are poorly done.)
There is something to feng shui, but there's something else. It's like spirit of the family who lives in a home permeates it. If you've ever walked into a room and felt a sense of unease, you know what I'm talking about. Law enforcement folks like detectives sometimes have this heightened sensitivity. A home need not be sparkling clean, either. Sometimes a too clean house and lawn indicates something ain't quite right.
The weirdest experience I ever had freaked out my realtor when I was undecided about getting another house or renting down the hall from my now late mother. She and I entered a furnished, four bedroom brick colonial.
Something about that house felt inexplicably sad.
I turned to her and said what I said before I could process the thought.
"Did the owner die?"
She looked perplexed.
"I don't know anything about the people who live here," she answered. "Why?"
"I don't know," I said slowly. "It feels like this house is crying."
Now, y'all know this lady must have thought I was nuts. She did exactly what I would have done: nodded her head and said, mmmm.
We walked around the different rooms some more, and in the kitchen, on a counter, there lay one of those folded funeral fliers. It had a photo of the lady who died, too. She must have been in her 70s. Sure enough, her name showed she was the owner of the house.
I was as astounded as she was, but meanwhile the feelings kept coming in waves. It was weird.
"This house misses it's owner," I said. "Don't know why, but I think it needs a big family, bigger than mine, with lots of kids to make it happy again."
I never did buy another house. Instead, I rented an apartment for several years, and last summer rented this house. Despite the moody landlord in the basement, it has a different feel to it, like it was meant for barbecues and company, and except for when Xavier goes bonkers, that's how it's been. Otherwise I like it, but it still doesn't feel like home, in my heart.
I've been thinking "a place called home", which can be a very different place than where a person actually lives. Many of us move so often that our spirits never connect well with the house or apartment we're in. The residence is seen as a temporary place, while it's inhabitants yearn for a real home.
This yearning is often under our radar. Our lives have stress, but I wonder what part rootlessness plays, from the social alienation we see and sometimes feel, to the personal level of something as basic as yearning to love a home that will cry for you when you're gone.