When I was young, we lived in a big old house. Built in the late 1800s, it had history. There were rumors of the families that had lived there. Of tragedy and mystery. But we didn't know anything for sure and at that age, I didn't really think about those sorts of things.
My first floor bedroom was across from the door to the unfinished basement. More of a cellar, really, it had a dirt floor and crumbly brick walls. We almost never went down there. Only in tornadoes. And in Kansas, that was more often than I care to say. Even then, we were none too excited to open that door and descend those steps. None of us had ever had a bad experience down there, it was just a general unpleasant sense that everyone that went down there felt.
The first time something unusual happened to me, I was 8. I lay in my bed. The light in the bathroom across the hall was on and both my door and the bathroom door were open. I don't know what I was thinking, not sure how deep my thoughts were at that age, but I am certain that I was very awake. Quite suddenly, the blankets on my bed were roughly pulled off and under my bed. With the fearlessness of a child certain there are no monsters, I leaned over the edge. My head nearly touching the floor, I looked under my bed, fully expecting to see my sister playing a trick on me. But there was no one there.
After that, I would lay in bed at night staring at the partially cracked door to the basement. A door that wouldn't close all the way, no matter how hard you pushed on it. I stared and I waited. There were no repeats of the sheet snatching but few were the nights that didn't involve troubled dreams and I never truly felt comfortable in that house again. Mercifully, we moved a few years later.
Over the years, a number of other unexplained things have happened to and around me. Shifting shadows, noises, doors opening and closing, objects moving, voices. Some houses have a stronger presence than others. One apartment in a fairly new building I lived in when I first moved to Maryland was particularly active, while some older places have been entirely quiet.
The rational side of me says there are no ghosts, that bumps in the night are no more than settling or wind or little living creatures working their way through walls and floors or perhaps even an over active imagination. But the emotional side. The side that remembers my name clearly whispered into my ear when I sat alone on the sofa watching television. That side says there ARE things we can't explain. And that side will insist on a nightlight this all hallows eve.
As it does every night.