At the turning of seasons—specifically when winter transitions to spring and summer into autumn, I get the distinct feeling that I’m remembering, or somehow feeling residual energy from, past lives. Something hard to name comes over me. It’s in the feeling I get from the sound of wind rousing a chime through an open upstairs window while a crow caws in the distance. Or upon hearing the coo of a mourning dove just before the sun sets over a late summer lawn. Or the smell of wet leaves and the texture of a worn corduroy jacket. Though all these things can be tied to sense-memories of my own life, for reasons I can’t explain, I know it’s something beyond me, and it’s so close to supernatural that it’s somewhat disquieting. It’s like a combination of recalling a dream, having déjà vu, and leaving my body. I’m not explaining this well, and I know what you’re thinking:
Ooooo-weeeeooooo-oooooo…put on the tinfoil hat, we’re steppin’ into the Twilight Zone.
I hate writing about anything abstract for fear of coming off melodramatic or maudlin, or just full of it. I’m that “down to Earth” person with a great bull-shit detector, right? But all this is part of who I am, whether I like it or not (I don’t, really). Bear with me.
The first time I can clearly remember having this eerie feeling of existential displacement (what?), I was somewhere between grade-school and junior high. Maybe on the cusp of puberty. Back then, school districts listed the bus-schedules in the newspaper, in a two-page spread, just before the beginning of the school year. I was on the love-seat in the living room with my mom, facing the front yard, and could see through a window onto the front enclosed porch. A sunny day lay beyond, and cars cruised up and down our street. After perusing the bus schedule, my mom handed it to me so I could check out which number Spanier (the local bus company) I’d be on that year.
The only way I can describe the feeling that came over me seconds after I lay the open newspaper on my knees was dread. It had nothing to do with school buses, as far as I knew, or the impending school year, or newspapers or anything that had to do with me, a still smallish, brown haired girl in St. Cloud Minnesota. It was beyond me.
My chest constricted, and my heart began beating faster. I felt faint. But more importantly, I felt a shift. Was it in my world, or someone else’s, or what? I couldn’t say. I only knew this: something was wrong. Something was bad. It was as if the biggest, blackest, heaviest cloud had just settled over…somewhere… and people were going to be suffer, get hurt, maybe die. Or perhaps, something was just irrevocably changing for the worse. Somewhere, something very bad was happening, and I was feeling it. I felt haunted. Although it was quiet, I’ve tried to imagine the sound that accompanied this feeling—and it’s something like the droning of broken bagpipes. My face was hot, and I felt I was going to cry.
“Something’s wrong,” I told my mom. I didn’t know how else to put it.
My mother, who was not excitable and considered most of my complaints baseless whining, seemed concerned. She must have known I really felt something.
“Put your head down,” she told me. “Put your head between your knees. Take a deep breath.”
I might’ve been shaking, or dizzy, or crying—I don’t remember. But I will remember that moment for as long as I live. It was the first time I felt what I can only call an aura of something completely beyond the periphery of my own life.
I know it sounds bizarre, and I would say the same to anyone who told me that story. And I’m not sure how it ties in to the rest of this—I only know it does.
I’m a skeptic. I’m an atheist. I don’t consider myself particularly “spiritual,” and mostly regard new-age beliefs as a load of shit. I scoff at ghost hunting-shows, (“dude, did you just hear that?”) but I watch them. Why? Because I’ve always been interested in the supernatural and paranormal, and that space between sleep and awake where you’re not sure anymore if you’re dreaming, and I’ve always, always been a dreamer, not in the “head in the clouds” sense, but literally. I dream almost every night, all night. Vividly, often lucidly. I always have. I dream so much that I often find myself wondering in the middle of the day if I might still be sleeping, and how little I’d actually be surprised if I suddenly woke up and laughed about how mundane it is to dream I’m at work or reading a book or watching a YouTube video. It’s not unusual for me to wake up yelling, or to believe I’ve heard something incredibly loud, like a gunshot, explosion or a scream, when in reality, the house is totally quiet. Turns out this isn’t uncommon—look up “exploding head syndrome.” Mine is often accompanied by what feels like a tautly wound cord snapping from one part of my body and audibly projecting through the top of my head, often with a “zing!” or an electric fizzling sound.
But what may not be as common, is that often, things I dream about will repeat themselves in the waking world shortly after. And dumb things—not necessarily events so important that I could label the experience “prophetic.”
For example, earlier this week, I fell asleep on the couch, waiting for my husband to get home from work. I dreamt that I was at his workplace (thought it had morphed from a liquor store to a department store of sorts) at closing time. The lights were off, but there was still a lone straggling customer roaming around. He wasn’t really looking for anything to buy; instead, he was antagonizing my husband, challenging his intellect. In the dream, I stood off to the side, not intervening, but thinking, “if this guy pulls anything, he’s going to feel my wrath.” I felt very protective of my husband in that moment, but the dream faded. Just a little later, I was woken by my husband coming in the door.
As I drowsily followed him around the kitchen, he told me about one of his last customers—a real jerk. Seems a young guy had come in and tried to buy booze. When Carl looked at the ID handed to him, he saw that the kid was born in 1997, and was therefore 20 years old, not 21. “I can’t sell to you,” he told the kid, who put the ID back in his wallet, smirking and nodding. “Very good,” the kid said. “You did the math.” My husband said he felt like the kid was testing him, challenging him. He told me the kid he was going to get someone in trouble, make someone lose their job, and he was right, and I was irritated that the kid would do that—but moreover I was a bit baffled that I was hearing Carl describe my dream.
Another time, a few years back, I dreamt that I drove into a very small town with crumbling stone bridges and aqueducts, but no people. There were banners all over the town, some that had been torn at one corner and were flapping—that read, “Welcome, Walter Cronkite.” I drove all over this little town, not sure why I was there, but eventually pulled over, where I spoke to a lone man on the side of the street. He told me the town had been anticipating the arrival of the famous newsman, but the festivities had been abandoned and everyone had gone home, because Mr. Cronkite had died.
I woke from this dream bemused, and wandered into the living room to turn on the morning news. And the first words I heard uttered by the anchor was that Walter Cronkite had died at the age of 92.
Okay, this is the part where you’re like, “That’s the dumbest coincidence I’ve ever heard.”
Look, I know that sounds like a crock of crap but I don’t know what else to say. Why would I care about Walter Cronkite? He was of no special significance to me. Had I heard this somewhere before I went to bed? I guess it’s possible, but I believe it happened overnight, and I don’t recall hearing about it until that morning. I just know I can’t hear Walter Cronkite’s name without picturing about the crumbling town and the torn banners. It sounds so stupid! I think when I told my husband about this, he sputtered with laughter. I don’t blame him.
It wasn’t the first time—I had stayed at a new friend’s house in the late 90’s for the first time, and while I slept, I dreamt that a woman in a unique dress came to my room and thanked me for befriending her daughter, although she was still very wary of me being in her house. I knew that my friend’s mother had passed away years ago, so when I woke up, I told her about the dream. She seemed very comforted, and I was glad, and was sure there was no more to it than a contrivance of my sleeping brain. I told her about the dress too—because I thought it was so peculiar. That’s when she asked me to wait while she recovered a photo from a shelf in the bathroom, then showed it to me.
I’m sure you can guess what the woman was wearing in that photo.
What does this have to do with past lives, or sense-memory, or nostalgia or anything? I don’t know. Part of me wants to relate this all back growing up in what I believed to be a haunted house, and to an incident with my cousins and brother and a Ouija board, right around the same time of the bus-schedule meltdown. It’s something I’d rather forget and I’m sure my family doesn’t want to hear about again, so I digress. I’ve always believed that the onset of puberty brings a bunch of really weird, powerful energy into a person’s surroundings—if you think about it, the ability to conceive another human life is suddenly thrust upon a young girl, and that has to carry some sort of energy—and hasn’t a lot of documented “poltergeist” activity been attributed to the presence of a pubescent girl in the home? I know. It’s a ship-load of horse-shit, and can be so easily explained by the phenomena of our naïve minds trying to process things beyond our intellect—just look at how easily a magician (I hate magic—for the record, because I don’t understand how it works and magicians won’t tell you) like David Blaine or David Copperfield or Criss Angel can make us believe that they’ve levitated or can read your mind or made the statue of Liberty disappear or what have you. We are obviously incredibly impressionable. We love to believe in stuff like the Loch Ness Monster and ghosts and faeries and illuminati and Atlantis, because that stuff is so much more exciting than shopping for paper-towels and filing your taxes and fixing your furnace and going to the dentist and falling asleep in front of X-Files re-runs. I’ve believed in most of those things myself, along with a lot of other nonsense in the past, just because it’s fun and thrilling and life is so boring. But what I do believe in, without a doubt, is human energy.
As the most highly evolved species on Earth (at least we think we are because we can blather about it on the internet and dolphins can’t), humans are capable of such strong emotions—lust, greed, cruelty, affection, obsession, addiction, grief, ecstasy—that I imagine those feelings could manipulate the physical world, or at least leave behind such strong impressions that another person, whether somehow tied to that energy or not at all, could experience them. And couldn’t our own emotions create physical manifestations? Each person has so much within them—is one lifetime, one person, enough to carry it all, or does it spill over into other places and people, and dreams?
When I first moved into the house I live in now, I didn’t have much feeling for it beyond “this will feel like home soon enough” and “where should I hang this clock?” I was seven months pregnant at the time, and very caught up in myself and the life inside me that I didn’t notice much of anything else. But after my son was born, I started to feel uneasy. It was mostly just a feeling of unfamiliarity with the house and neighborhood once I finally had time to start noticing it. I was stressed out, sleep-deprived, suffering post-partum depression, and I hadn’t been in the house long enough to know that “this is what it sounds like just before the furnace kicks in” or that the topmost step always creaked or that sometimes wind currents would pull lightweight doors shut upstairs and slam others. Before I finished typing this sentence, a gust of wind came through the kitchen window and knocked a drying skillet off the dishrack into an aluminum can and they both went crashing onto the floor just feet behind me and I barely flinched. I’m used to the house now, and am calmer now that my son is almost four and not hanging off me like a suckling piglet. But at the time, I began to see and hear things in the house.
Once, as I stood at the top of the stairs with my son in my arms, speaking to my husband at the bottom of the stairs, I stopped mid-sentence as three white blobs fell in succession from the ceiling to the floor, leaving no trace on the carpet. My son saw them too; I watched him jerk his head towards the globes as they moved. They were quarter-sized, and opaque, but like I said, when I looked down to the floor where they certainly must have landed, there was nothing. No white paint, no wetness, nothing. I couldn’t finish my thought and could hardly express to my husband what I’d seen—and what my son had seen as well. A few nights later, as my husband and I watched TV in the living room, my eyes were drawn to the hallway outside of the kitchen. Two black shadows, about ankle-high, came from opposite sides of the hall, crossed over each other, and disappeared back into the wall, very quickly. We were watching the show “Once Upon a Time,” and since then, I have had no desire to watch it again, because I can’t separate it from what I saw. Plus it sort of jumped the shark.
I began to feel a sense of dread about the house, and wondered how I could have missed any bad energy when we first moved in—even though I don’t consider myself any kind of “energy empath.” But why was this stuff happening now?
Honestly, I think it was me. I think my anxiety and depression at that time were clouding my mind and creating visual representations of fears I had about parenting. I recall a period of about two months where I drove home at night, and again felt a sense of dread when approaching my new home. I even spoke to a friend who had dealt with odd happenings in her home and seemed somehow “tuned-in.” She asked me if I might want to smudge the house, to cleanse it. I said no, I didn’t think it was necessary, because 1. Again, I’m a skeptic and 2. I didn’t want anyone else to think I’d gone bat-shit.
The feeling was short-lived, though. It faded as I gained confidence and calm in my parenting. By the time my son was two and done nursing, I felt only affection and good energy in this house, and do to this day. There isn’t a trace of anything sinister or even mysterious. There isn’t a room or threshold that feels off. The windows are open, the sun is streaming in, and the house is full of love. I’ve stood in the same spot I saw the white orbs and the black shadows a thousand times, and even though I might recall the apparitions, if that’s even what they were, of my own mind, I don’t fear them, in the least. I think what I was fearing was myself. Becoming a mother is a very powerful thing. It carries a lot of energy, both elating, and frightening. You are suddenly the keeper of a life that is more important to you than your own. You can’t tell me there’s nothing supernatural there. Or maybe it’s completely natural. What do I know?
I write this now because spring has come. And with it, that old unexplainable feeling that first came to me as a kid on the cusp of adolescence. There’s something in the air, and it comes from somewhere very far away, that’s somehow found a home in me. Maybe it’s who I’ve been before, or who someone else still is but can’t contain in one body.
Or maybe my house is full of hallucinatory fungi-mold.
Here’s a little ditty to lighten the mood: