Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Ghost Named Bob

Okay, so our ghost wasn't really named Bob. Or maybe he was, who knows. We never actually found out, although not for lack of trying. My Google-fu returned no results and the people in the leasing office gave me nothing more helpful than, "Ummm... I've only worked here for, like, four months? So... I have no idea if anyone died in your apartment." However, for the sake of my little tale here, we will call him Bob.

We were not aware of Bob's presence at first. We knew something was going on, but while The Bastard and I both have always believed in ghosts, we never thought we might actually be living with one. Weird things would happen, though, and there were strange noises - but only after about 11pm. There were thuds that sounded like footsteps in the bedroom on the 2nd floor of our townhouse apartment. There were noises that would come from the stairwell. The TV would randomly change volume or channels, and sometimes turn off altogether when the remote was out of reach. We attributed all of this to old construction and faulty wiring. At first.

And then we got Hobbes, our little black rescue kitten. He was a scrawny, skittish thing I found outside work about 2 months after we moved in. After some coaxing from me and a pitiful, yellow-eyed sad face from the kitten, The Bastard agreed we could keep him.

Hobbes was about 3 months old when we finally acknowledged Bob. One night, I was sleeping upstairs while The Bastard was downstairs on the computer, losing that night's fight with insomnia. Suddenly, I was startled out of my peaceful slumber by the most horrifying, screeching yowl I have ever heard before or since, followed by "What the fuck...?" My eyes popped open to see Hobbes perched on the ledge overlooking the stairwell, hissing and yowling with fur raised and back arched, along with The Bastard, who was standing at the top of the stairs looking down them, trying to figure out what the hell had freaked out the cat. I start yelling, trying to figure out what the commotion was. Then The Bastard tells me.

He was sitting at the computer when out of the corner of his eye, he saw the decorative vines on the wall begin to move. As these vines were located by the stairs, he thought I was awake and had come down for something. As he was climbing the stairs to check on me, Hobbes flew past him, jumped on the ledge, and proceeded to screech at the stairwell. Knowing that animals are especially keen to the paranormal, we looked at each other and finally acknowledged that we had a ghost.

We didn't tell anyone this for awhile. We thought it sounded... well... crazy! But we started adding up the weirdness and realized that everything always happened at night, after 11pm. We also noticed that the thudding sounded suspiciously like someone walking across the bedroom, pausing at the top of the stairs, and then proceeding to fall down them, ending with a thud on the landing. Bob was falling down the stairs every night.

Bob didn't seem to be malicious, but we needed a way to calm him down, especially after we got a 2nd cat who was equally freaked by the stairs after 11pm. We had 2 cats that felt trapped on one floor or the other at night unless we walked with them up or down the stairs! After the Google-fu failed to turn up Bob's origins, I turned it on the hunt for how to calm a ghost. We didn't want to banish him - like I said, he wasn't malicious. Besides, we've seen way too many horror movies for that! I found a few articles that suggested religious icons can sometimes calm a ghost, so we turned to Nurse Mommy on the off chance that maybe Bob was Catholic. Not that Nurse Mommy is, but we knew for a fact that she had a blessed-by-a-priest St. Joseph statue that she swore helped her sell their previous house when she buried it upside-down in the backyard. We put him in the corner next to the top of the stairs. Apparently Bob was intrigued, because he was quiet for a few nights, but then he was right back to his shenanigans.

I considered doing a cleansing ritual with burning sage, but The Bastard nixed that idea. Apparently, burning sage smelled like burning weed, and as we weren't in a great part of town, he didn't want the cops raiding us.

One night, while we were in the living room downstairs, The Bastard said, "Well, it's dark upstairs... maybe he's falling down because he can't see...?" We shrugged and he turned on a lamp... whose bulb immediately blew. We spent the remainder of that night at IHOP.

Finally, after a couple of months of trying various methods (and rejecting some of the more ridiculous ideas that Google found for me), I tried talking to him. Yes, talking to him. According to teh interwebz, merely acknowledging the ghost directly can have a calming effect. So, after work every day, I would stop at the bottom of the stairs and talk to Bob. And by "talk to Bob" I mean talk to the empty stairwell. I would say things like, "Hi!" and "I can't see you, but I know you're there and want you to know that you are welcome to stay" and "Could you please stop messing with the TV? Thanks!"

And you know what? It fucking worked. Bob calmed down, and most nights, we never heard him at all. However, if we forgot, he'd remind us of his presence by launching himself down the stairs as hard as possible. So I continued this routine until the day we moved out. For the record, we didn't leave because of Bob. We left because the leasing office was full of douchebags. No interesting story there, unfortunately, just incompetent douchebags.

So that's the saga of Bob. Now we're living in another state with our two cats. Hobbes is still a bit skittish but no longer scrawny. In fact, he could probably stand to lose a pound or two. And we have not encountered another ghost. I sometimes wonder what the tenants after us thought of Bob. I hope he finds peace with the people who live there now. Or at least, I hope they watch TV shows he likes, because apparently we didn't.


  1. We had a ghost in our last apartment -- we called him Morris. He was nowhere near as dramatic as Bob -- when we first moved in, I would hear noises in the basement in the wee hours of the morning, banging and clanking like someone was working on the plumbing down there. I initially thought it was the heat or water pipes or something, but it happened every night, and never in the day. Plus, it happened in the summer when no one had the heat on. I didn't think much of it until one evening when I was sitting in the living room, talking to my husband, who was standing in the doorway leading to our computer room. I saw a dark black shadow, about a foot or so high, dart between us from the kitchen into the computer room. I nearly jumped out of my skin, and my husband didn't believe me -- he told me I should go to bed. I was pissed, I knew I'd seen something -- I would have thought it was our cat, except, while she is black, she is also portly, lazy, and clumsy. Also, she was snoozing on the other side of the room at the time.

    A week or so later, I was washing dishes when my husband came into the kitchen, white-faced, and told me he owed me an apology. He had been working at his computer, and glanced up to see a dark shadow race along the floor past his feet and through the living room.

    Morris never scared us, beyond startling us the first few times we saw him. If anything, we had a very safe, welcoming feeling whenever he was around. He seemed to pay no attention at all to me or Jeff, but he liked to tease the cat -- I used to see her batting at him, and chasing him around. He also used to tug her tail -- I saw that a few times. I don't know who our ghost was, but whoever he was, he was a benevolent soul. I have missed him since we moved to a new apartment -- on the day we moved, after the furniture was gone and all, I tried to talk to him out loud, and told him he was welcome to come with us to our new place. He didn't, alas.

  2. Wow - we never saw Bob, although one night when The Bastard was on the computer with all the lights off in the room, he saw a bright flash in the corner opposite the stairs. This was a corner where there were no electrical outlets or windows, and we've never come up with any logical explanation for it except that it was Bob.

    The last time I talked to Bob, I asked him if he wanted to come with us, but apparently he didn't. I had the same feelings that you did about Morris, though - a little bit disappointed that he declined the invitation. It's probably a good thing he didn't, though - I don't think Bob liked cats much!