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"Red"

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Feb. 12th, 2016 | 09:55 pm

When I was 6, one late night when everybody else was asleep, I was in the long bathroom that connected my bedroom to my grandmother's. Nana always slept with a nightlight on so she wouldn't trip and fall on something in the dark. Peeing, I glanced through the open door into Nana's room, and I swear I saw a figure of a man pass quickly across the doorway. I was so scared, I ran back to my bed still dribbling and hid under the covers, absolutely frozen stiff with fear until morning.

Fast forward about 10 years. I was in high school, and Nana was still living at home. Again, I was in the bathroom one late night. I saw something out of the corner of my eye, looked over, and saw the image of a very young, thin (and grinning) red-haired man, sitting on the end of my grandmother's bed, right by her feet. I shifted my gaze for a split second, and he was gone. It was just like things vanish in a dream, but I definitely wasn't dreaming. I realized then that the shade of a man I thought I saw in that room when I was little was not just my imagination, after all.

After college, one time when my parents were out of town, I had a friend come stay over the weekend. I put him up in Nana's old room (she'd died some years before). We partied and listened to music into the wee hours, and eventually, we retired for the night. When I woke up, I found Glenn sleeping on the couch in the living room. I asked why.

"I couldn't stay in there," he said. "I woke up and felt like someone was in the room with me. I turned on the light and saw a man in that mirror, but no one was really there."

"Could you tell what color his hair was?"

"Red."

"Was he maybe smiling?"

His eyes widened. "Yes!"

Then I told Glenn the stories. He was always interested in matters metaphysical, and fascinated by the idea that he might have seen an actual ghost – but apparently not fascinated enough to want to sleep in that bedroom again the next night. ;-)

Funny thing about that tall, almost floor-to-ceiling mirror where Glenn saw what he saw. There was a long, pull-out drawer directly beneath it, and strange things happened to objects that were inside. Scissors and sewing accessories made of steel formed a rust-like coating on the surface that was so fine and so precisely patterned, it looked like red magnetized iron, and it could be blown off with a slight breath, as though it were merely dust. New coins placed in there would quickly tarnish. Fabrics would stiffen and fall to pieces when picked up. An old makeup mirror's plastic handle had gradually decomposed into hundreds of tiny, brittle fragments over the years, and its silvering had turned jet black. Strands of hair in an old hairbrush similarly became brittle, and would actually fracture if touched. Because almost everything in there seemed to decay in some bizarre fashion, I came to call it "The Drawer of Corruption."

Another funny thing about that bedroom. The far corner of it was sometimes distinctly chilly. This could happen even in the middle of the summer. A person could stand five feet away, feeling warm as toast, then take one long stride toward that corner, and the temperature would drop perceptibly in an instant. In later years, my mother made that corner inaccessible by piling a stack of random clutter there, high as a person's head. It came out from the wall just far enough to cross over the invisible boundary where the chill began. Hmmm. Made me wonder if Mom had ever encountered our red-haired man, too.

If there was a ghost in a house, you might expect the people living there would talk to each other about it. But we were a Catholic family, and we weren't supposed to even believe in things like that, let alone make it a topic of discussion. Fact is, in all the years we lived in that house, no one ever brought the subject up - except for me, and only one time.

One day before I left home for good, in the early '80s, I was in the kitchen with my mother and we were talking about paranormal stuff. Mom had visited a psychic recently, and she was venting her disappointment over how totally wrong the lady had been about everything. This seemed like the perfect time to ask her about our supernatural houseguest.

"Mom, have you ever seen our red-haired man?"

Without even making eye contact with me, she muttered a mechanical, monotone reply.

"No one's ever died in this house."

So she knew what I was talking about! And that was all she'd say about it, too, but I knew after that that Mom must have seen him. By her way of thinking, I guessed she had convinced herself that what she'd seen couldn't be a ghost, because hauntings are said only to occur in places where someone has died. I didn't press her for details. I could tell she didn't want to continue the conversation. But it was enough for me to finally have confirmation that I wasn't the only one in the family who had seen Red.

After Mom passed, it came time to sell the house. I was writing up a disclosure list of possible problems with the property to give to the realtor, and I wondered, should I maybe mention our resident ghost? I decided not to. I really didn't want to complicate the sale, and anyway, I never sensed there was anything malevolent about the young red-haired man. That only time I'd seen him distinctly, he appeared to be truly happy. So indeed, the house was haunted, but it was a benign haunting. Never anything we really had cause to be afraid of.

Not long after, I moved all of the furniture out of the house – everything, except that tall mirrored chest of drawers in Nana's old room. I left that exactly where it had always been; all 32 years we lived there. I imagined there was someone behind the looking glass who would probably appreciate being left to rest in peace, alone at home at last. At least until the new owners moved in. :-)

 

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