I don’t believe in ghosts because I haven’t seen rigorous scientific proof that they exist. However I don’t believe they don’t exist. I’m agnostic on the topic. If anyone ever produces evidence that passes rigorous, repeatable double-blind studies that prove ghosts are real, I’ll pretty much accept it, but that hasn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t be too surprised if scientists do one day discover something that we would call ghosts though. Humans know as much about the universe as ants know about global politics. As ignorant as we are, there’s a 100% chance that forces exist in this universe that we’re ignorant of.
The story I’m about to tell you is real, and some people would cite tales like mine as proof positive that ghosts exist, but I’m not one of those people. As convincing as my story may be, the phenomenon I experienced can’t be measured, reproduced or fully explained. Since I can’t fully explain what I experienced, and you can’t verify it, then this story can’t be used as proof of anything.
My story takes place in a creepy, elegant house in Paris, Texas. It was built in 1818 in the style of a Southern Victorian plantation home. It had two floors with a large staircase for the owners and a smaller staircase in the back of the house for the servants. Black slaves must have worked there, which is depressing, but the old woman who lived in that house during America’s civil war took in a wounded Union Soldier and nursed him back to health in the room that became my older brother’s. This woman would have been hung as a traitor if anyone ever found out. So she cut up the soldier’s uniform and hid it by sewing the pieces into a quilt, which has been passed down through the family ever since.
The last tenant of the house before I moved in was a yoga instructor back before yoga was cool. He looked exactly like a red-headed George Carlin and acted like one too. A brilliant and eccentric man, he remodeled the entire house to reflect his personality. The bedrooms had sinks and faucets. In the room that became my bedroom he’d mounted heavy wooden posts and poles in one corner so he could hang from the monkey bars in contorted angles. He installed a porcelain bathtub with hot and cold running water into the back porch. There were hidden compartments in almost every room and a hidden room underneath the stairs. On the front of the house he embedded an orange start with a black diamond in it, which was his personal logo, and he named the house, “The Palmer House” and posted a tasteful white wooden sign in the front yard with the house’s name in black beveled letters.
The man poured his heart, soul and finances into projecting his personality into his house, and in the end it took his last breath too. He fell off a ladder while doing repair work and suffered crippling back pains. His doctors told him his condition was irreparable, and the only way he could manage the pain was to be on pain pills the rest of his life. He ended the pain by shooting himself in the mouth with a shotgun underneath the heavy wooden breakfast table mounted to the floor in the alcove where the slaves used to eat.
One way or another he had always planned on dying in that house. He named it after his brother, Palmer, who shot himself in the mouth with a pistol in the room that became my twin brother’s room. The leather recliner he did it in was still there when we moved in. Their mother died of pneumonia in the room that became my mother’s. The bed frame that she died in was also still there because it was built into the floor.
This didn’t spook any of us out. The way we looked at it, people die in houses every day. That doesn’t make those houses cursed. The story of a person’s death is the story of their life. Death stories are life stories. They’re golden threads in the rich tapestry of history. But we didn’t have to get that philosophical. The house was just way too amazing to pass up, tortured spirits of the dead be damned.
I didn’t/don’t believe in ghosts, but I still never got up for a single midnight snack the entire time I lived at The Palmer House. I hoped I’d experience something, but I didn’t expect it, and I never lost sleep out of fear… except for one night.
To understand what happened that night you need to know the layout of the house. It was built almost in a perfect square. All four corners of the second floor were bedrooms. The stair case ran straight up the middle of the house so the whole floor had one square-shaped hallway that wrapped around the staircase. Since both the stairways and the halls were made of old, hard wood, you could always hear where everyone in the house is by the sounds of their foot steps creaking in their path.
I was laying in bed one night around 1am tossing and turning when I heard footsteps creaking up the stairs. That didn’t surprise me, because there were three teenage boys living in the house. I assumed I was listening to my older brother trying to sneak in the house without waking my mom up. Since I could hear the footsteps from my room with the door closed, my mom would be able to hear the sound from her equidistant room if she were awake or sleeping lightly. So I stopped rolling and listened to the footsteps slowly creep up the stairs.
I listened to my brother walk about halfway up the stairs and then stop. I assumed he realized how noisy he was being and paused to lay low. So I waited for the creaking to start back up, but the next three steps I heard were on the second floor near my mother’s door, which sat at the opposite end of the hallways that the stairs opened up to, which meant my brother would have had to climb up the railing, which was possible, but I definitely would have heard that.
A few moments later I heard five or six footsteps walk past my door, which was located caddy-corner from my mother’s room, on the opposite side of the house with a staircase hole and railings between them. Then I heard two steps come from another side of the hall. I laid under my covers for what felt like thirty minutes listening to intermittent footsteps walking up and down the stairs and around the hallway, and they always started and stopped absurdly far away from each other.
In my panicky, scientific mind I considered every possible explanation for the chaotic spread of echos, and I ruled out every logical explanation. I did consider just getting up out of bed and investigating, but part of me didn’t want to know the answer. I also considered the fact that if there was something malevolent in the hall, hiding under my blanket wasn’t going to help me in any way. Yet I still chose to just lay there inhaling recycled breath and contemplating my position on the existence of ghosts.
If you’ve got a personal ghost story and would like to share it, feel free to leave it in a comment for the rest of us.
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