A Missed Op-para-tunity

When joining the ranks of paranormal enthusiasts, everyone gets asked the same question: What brought you here? In many cases, it’s a brush with something they couldn’t explain, often at a tender age. Though I wish I had an exciting tale of growing up in a haunted house or being visited by a dead relative, the origins of my interest utterly lack that kind of glamour.

Instead, I was drawn in by the romance of ghosts and the thrill of feeling scared by good storytelling. Throughout my childhood, I was drawn to all things morbid and spooky, and I read every story and saw every film I could to scratch that itch. The local librarian (with my parents’ consent) even helped indulge my interests by allowing me access to books generally off-limits to my my age range.

I couldn’t get enough of the stuff, but, for the most part, the idea that there might be an objective reality to some of these stories remained distant, as I didn’t “see dead people” or know anyone who did. My family wasn’t actively religious or interested in esoteric pursuits, so spiritual discourse was limited to vague bible stories and Halloween specials.

As a teenager, I naturally realized that there were those who not only believed in the paranormal, but actively pursued it. At that point, I was far from ready to be a “ghost hunter,” but still I loved hearing about those who encountered things unexplainable. And then, during the wintry week between Christmas and New Year, I got to experience one such story up close.

It was at this time we briefly visited my uncle, who was superintendent of a large, medium-security correctional facility in New York state. Due to his position, he occupied the warden’s house located at the edge of the property. Dating back to a time of in-house servants and large families, the place was big. Really big. And, to hear him and my aunt tell it, haunted.

They talked of two entities. The first was a spectral woman, clad in a long, old-fashioned nightgown and carrying a candle, who seemed to disapprove of electric lights. It was common to turn one on, only to later discover it was off; and my aunt told the story of actually seeing the apparition turning off the hallway light one night.

The second was something more bizarre, if not sinister. The steps leading to the part of the attic formerly used as servants’ quarters often sounded as though they were being tread upon by invisible feet. One time, my uncle reported, he witnessed the sight of an troll-like creature descending the stairs. Any further details of his account have escaped me, but the fact that he was certain it was not human adds a layer of thrill to the tale.

While there, did I experience anything paranormal? Aside from the nonstop, nocturnal creaking of the aforementioned attic steps (which abutted the wall of the small room where I slept), I can’t say that I did. However, this visit, with its spine-tingling stories related by my family, were a pivotal moment in the development of my interest in ghost hunting.

I’d go back in a heartbeat, but, unfortunately, it’s been a number of years since my late uncle held that position and occupied the house. For a number of reasons, it seems quite likely that this mansion – and all the mysteries dwelling within – will forever remain a missed opportunity.

Of course, as all in this field well know, stranger things have happened.

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