IT STARTS WITH A BANG
THIRTEEN HAUNTS OF HALLOWEEN
poltergeist: German for "noisy ghost" or "noisy spirit"; in ghostlore, a type of ghost or spirit that is responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved or destroyed. They are purportedly capable of pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people. Most accounts of poltergeists describe the movement or levitation of objects such as furniture and cutlery, or noises such as knocking on doors.
It starts with a bang.
“Literally,” Christina swears. “Just bang bang bang, over and over again. It’s, like, three o’clock in the morning and all of a sudden the whole house is shaking with this crazy banging. Sadie started losing her shit. But she wasn’t barking. She wasn’t defensive, you know? She was scared. Whining and pacing with her tail between her legs. She bolted straight down the stairs and started pawing at the front door. She wanted out. Like, bad. I tried to lead her to the back door, but she wouldn’t go. Wouldn’t even walk through the living room. It’s like there was some kind of force field holding her back. That sounds stupid, but it’s true. She would take two steps forward, four back, and just go back to the front door and scratch at it. So I go into the kitchen, and that’s when I see it. The cabinet door just open, close, open, close - all on its own.”
She waves her hand back and forth to demonstration.
“And it’s slamming,” Christina continues. “Slamming hard every time it closes. Bang bang bang. Over and over and over again. So I walk up to it, and it starts to go even faster - bang bang bang bang. And I can still hear Sadie crying at the door. And I stand there for a while, like...I mean I was scared, you know? Of course I was scared. But I can’t just stand there and do nothing, right? So I wait until the cupboard closes again and I slam my hands on it. One last big bang. And I can feel it, like, shaking under my hands. Just shaking, but only for a second. It stops. I take my hands away and it stays closed. It gets really quiet.”
“So that was it?”
“No,” Christina says. “I thought it was, but then - out of nowhere - it starts again. Bang bang. Real slow. And this time there’s another noise, like something clattering. Like, um.” She takes her silverware up off its folded napkin and clangs the fork and knife together. “Like that. Sadie’s going nuts again, barking a little bit this time, and I can still hear her scratching at the front door. I turn around and bang bang, my drawers are just opening and closing and opening and closing, all on their own. Everything inside is getting all shaken around and thrown together, and when I move closer, just like with cabinet, it starts to happen faster. Bang bang bang.”
“What do you do?”
“Same thing,” Christina says. “Basically. I go over and grab the handles and I slam the drawers shut. But I can only do one, maybe two at a time? So it turns into this crazy, fucked up game of whack-a-mole.”
“That game’s fucked up as is.”
“What I mean is that I’m the mallet and the moles are possessed kitchen drawers.”
“What else would you call it?” Christina asks.
“I don’t know. Keep going.”
“Fine. So, I’m playing whack-a-drawer, or whatever. Everytime I get one closed, another one pops open. It’s like they’re mocking me or something. Until it just stops. Out of nowhere. I take my hands off the handles and all the drawers stay put. Sadie quiets down. Everything just...stops. I go back upstairs, go back to bed. And that was it.”
“Woah,” Jenna whistles.
“Yeah,” Christina agrees.
“That’s one crazy dream.”
“Yeah,” Christina says again. “But it’s weird. It didn’t feel like a dream. It felt...real.”
“Nightmares usually do,” Jenna says, always rationalizing. “And you’ve been having some wild ones lately, last night’s not excluded. Maybe you should talk to someone? I mean, this could all have to do with-”
“-Michael,” Christina finishes.
“Well,” says Jenna, fumbling. She recovers with a sigh. “Yeah.”
“I know I’ve been weird since-” Christina knows how the statements ends, but she can’t bring herself to finish it. Saying it makes it real. Saying it means it happened, means that there’s no turning back, and though Christina knows that this is her reality, it’s a reality she’s not yet willing to face. She shakes her head. “I know I’ve been weird,” she says.
“Not weird,” Jenna insists. “Grieving.”
“Right.” Christina says. “Yeah.”
“I can help you look,” Jenna says. “For a therapist, I mean. Make a few calls.”
“Thanks,” Christina says. “I just feel like everything’s falling apart. Like, I’m just unraveling or something. Like I’m a ball of yarn and some kid found Grandma’s knitting kit, and now they’re pulling me apart strand by strand.”
“I know,” Jenna says. “I miss him, too. I know it’s not the same.”
“If you can find someone that specializes in dreams that don’t feel like dreams-”
“-They’ll skyrocket to the top of the list. In the meantime, if you’re up for some company
“That’d be great,” Christina says. “Thanks.”
“White or red?” Jenna asks, then, “Forget it. I’ll surprise you.”
The surprise is Pinot Grigio in a bottle far too big for two people, but Jenna and Christina make a valiant effort. By midnight they’ve left little more than one glass worth. Christina offers it to Jenna, who raises her half-emptied glass and says, “All yours.”
“I’m good, too,” Christina says, pointing to her own empty glass on the coffee table. She goes into the kitchen to grab a bottle stopper - black rubber with a silver dog perched on top - to plug the bottle. When she returns, Jenna has risen from the couch as well, and is standing by the front door sipping at her wine.
“You okay?” Christina asks.
“What are these marks?” Jenna asks. Christina moves closer and looks where Jenna’s points, finding shallow grooves carved into the wood of her front door. Her brows knit together and she leans forward, reaching out to touch the cuts. Her collie, Sadie, trots up to her and nudges Christina’s hand with her nose.
“Must be Sadie,” Christina says, patting the dog on the head. “Can’t think of anything else.”
It starts with a bang.
“Literally,” Jenna whispers. “From there.”
She points toward the kitchen. Sadie has taken up residence by the front door, turning in desperate circles and jumping up on the wood. Christina listens carefully; Jenna holds her breath. Bang bang bang. “Shit,” Christina says.
“I’ll go,” Christina says. Jenna rises with her, though, and follows her cautiously into the kitchen. Bang bang bang. The cupboard door opens wide and slams shut, over and over again. Bang bang bang. Of its own accord, the door swings on its hinges. Bang bang bang.
And then it stops, the last bang ringing in their ears. Sadie sits on the welcome mat, still whining. In the dining room, a chair slams hard against the floor. Christina and Jenna swivel around in time to see it rattle to the ground, then the legs scrape against hardwood as it floats up to right itself.
“Holy shit,” Jenna says. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.”
Sadie jumps onto her four feet and walks backwards until she bumps into the wall, barking all the way. The chair levitates centimeters off the ground, then slams down with a thud so hard it shakes the whole house.
“Chris,” Jenna says. “I don’t think you’re having nightmares.”
“No,” Christina says. “I’m pretty sure I’m not.”