Nightmare on Wadsworth Court

Rough draft for ghost stories night (Halloween, natch) at Toastmasters. I think I need to add a bit about how incredibly ugly the house was as well… it would probably add to the creepiness factor.

Nightmare on Wadsworth Court

October 1981. My dad had decided our growing family needed more room and so in short order we sold our one-story ranch-style home and moved halfway across town into a newer two story towards the end of a cul-de-sac near Piner High school. I was six and my younger brother was five. In three years’ time, my older half siblings would come to live with us in the house. We had recently transferred from public school to Christian school and I had decided I was a follower of Christ. I believe this, more than anything else, could possibly account for what happened in the house.

Fellow toastmasters and honored guests, don’t ever let anyone tell you that a newer home cannot be haunted. Over the new several years, I saw and heard things I can never forget.

When we were looking at the house, shortly before my parents made the offer, I remember seeing a tarantula in a terrarium next to the garage door. That, as it turns out, was just a foreshadowing of events to come.

We lived in the house for about two weeks when the night terrors began. I dreamt that malevolent spirits were devouring the eyes of all my stuffed toys. I know it sounds funny, but to me it was a terrifying dream and I never forgot it.

My entire life I’ve had very vivid dreams, but during this period I began not only talking in my sleep but sleepwalking as well. Over and over and over again. I had terrifying dreams almost every night for several years and, when I was awake, I was a nervous kid. My mom worked nights at a local hospital and, often, when she wasn’t home I would lie awake at night and worry. The few times my parents went somewhere and left my brother and me with a babysitter I was convinced something terrible would happen to them.

Then, the noises began. [play breathing noise] Only whenever I was alone in a room would I hear them. Someone would walk in, and the noise would stop. The person would walk out and the noise would begin again. My parents tried to explain it away as water rushing through pipes, yet the same noise followed me when I switched bedrooms and could be heard during the day, at night, whatever time of day in either room.

One day, I was sitting in my bedroom, alone, when the noise started up. I ran to the door and attempted to leave the room. I grabbed the doorknob and it wouldn’t budge. Panicking, I shook the door and pulled wildly. Finally, after about a minute of this terror, the door opened.

I got suddenly very ill one night. I was laying in my bed, unable to sleep when the walls began to move in and out – I could literally see the flower pattern moving away and then drawing near again. Then the lights flashed on and off. On and off. My soft, warm blankets suddenly became heavy, like slabs of concrete, falling on me, one after another. My parents were down the hall, watching TV, and the Mac trucks on the show they were watching were suddenly in the hallway, making their way toward my bed to run me over. I screamed for my mom, who came running in, with a worried look on her face. I explained what was going on, and she asked me a most peculiar question: “Who am I?”

I paused. I wasn’t sure who she was. I thought… she’s my sister? Maria, maybe? I opened my mouth to say this but I wasn’t sure. Her eyes grew huge. All I could say was “I don’t know! I can’t remember who you are!” She quickly got my dad, who gave me Tylenol. Within a few minutes, my 104 degree fever had subsided, and I could remember that it was my mom, Carolyn, standing at the foot of my bed.

By far, however, the most terrifying incident of all happened just a few months after we had moved in. Laying awake one night, unable to sleep, I happened to look out my open bedroom door and into the dark hallway. You know how, at night when it’s really dark, you sometimes see “static”? I clearly saw the dark figure of a man, outlined in white, wandering silently up and down the hallway. I knew it wasn’t my dad, as I could hear him snoring down the hall. It wasn’t my older brother; he was asleep in the boys’ bedroom with the door closed. What I saw that night looked remarkably like this: [photo of shadow figure]. Paralyzed with fear, I pulled the covers over my head and lay awake that way the rest of the night.

Other things happened while my family lived in the house – some very easily explained, some not. My older brother left home abruptly one night and joined the Army. We didn’t see him for two years. My sister had a near-fatal car accident and spent two weeks in ICU. My younger brother had more mishaps – medical, legal, personal – than about anyone I’ve ever known. And during those years, I developed extreme insomnia and rarely ever slept through the night.

I lived on Wadsworth court until I was 14. When, at long last, we moved into a brand new house in Windsor, the night terrors, the high fevers, breathing noises and apparitions stopped. We sold the house to a nice couple and I scarcely thought about the house ever again.


Listen to Your Heart

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a health scare. At just 37 years old, with perfect numbers and no family history of hearth disease, I was experiencing brief, yet sharp pains on the left side of my breastbone regularly.

I’d felt them before occasionally, starting last Fall, but they’d been increasing in frequency and were becoming more worrisome. After noticing them one day for well over a minute, I finally called Kaiser, who wanted me to come in ASAP to be seen.

I still don’t know what’s up – could be GERD, could be an inflammation of the ribcage; neither the doctor nor I have ruled either out – but the experience made me stop and ponder. What do I really want out of life, and how am I going to get there?

An even bigger question is where do I want my focus to be? My eight-year-old recently joined Boy Scouts and has finally been assigned a one-on-one aide to help him though the school day. My career is moving along, albeit maybe not to the full extent that I’d like. I’ve become a Competent Communicator at Toastmasters and am also a club officer. Finally, I made some headway towards my physical fitness goals a while ago, but had to pull back due to sheer lack of time to exercise (which I still manage to squeeze in once or twice a week).

Ultimately, I think our time on earth is best spent with those we care about and who love us back. For most people, this means family, although some have such dysfunctional relatives that this is not necessary or advised.

Nor must you include your entire family in your trusted circle. Over the past year, I’ve absolutely lost faith in several people and will have to decide how to proceed. This happened again just last week and I won’t give details here, but I’ve been composing a response, in my head, to this person for a couple of days and am about to give it to them straight.

One of my new favorite shows lately is The Big C. I like it because it’s both funny and heartwarming, and touches on this very topic. Cathy’s family is far from perfect, but beneath the layers of dysfunction lie a group of individuals who would do just about anything for each other.

When you’re facing the ultimate big question of What does my life mean, how do you go about finding the answer?