The Halloween Season Isn’t the Only Time for Paranormal Encounters
Fall’s ever-earlier darkening skies and the crunch of leaves underfoot may bring forth favorite ghost stories for most, but it was in the midst of the stifling summer heat that I found myself trapped in the most frightening of tales.
Long before the addition of children made such adventures a thing of the past, my husband and I would occasionally take off for a weekend to stay at a bed-and-breakfast and explore some charming nearby town.
One such weekend, we took off for Weston, Mo. It was the ideal place to explore: antique shops, a winery, and one of the nation’s oldest underground pubs. Having been a center for steamboat travel in the late 1800’s, Weston offers a quaint, historical downtown area that beckons for a leisurely stroll and window-shopping.
We checked into our captivating bed-and-breakfast, one of a handful of vintage Victorians that sat outside the downtown area. The wrap-around porch, spindle accents, antique furniture, and pastel-hued walls were the epitome of charm.
What was less than enchanting was the warm, tepid air inside. The plentiful windows were open to invite a breeze, while above our bedroom door sat a transom window, as close to air-conditioning as to be found in the 19th Century. Still, it was muggy, and there was no escaping it.
But we hadn’t come to Weston to sit in an oppressively warm—albeit cute—room. The city was filled with funny knick-knacks, delightful boutiques, and a winery, where we enjoyed a picnic. We had dinner at a fabulous restaurant before venturing to the underground pub, which was pleasantly chilly in comparison to the humid air outside.
By the time we made it back above ground it was close to midnight. We were agreeably full, a bit buzzed, and exhausted. We walked back to the bed-and-breakfast, tiptoed upstairs, and fell asleep as the ceiling fan droned on above us, sluggishly stirring the lukewarm air.
Typically when you awake suddenly in the night, your eyes open and your mind scrambles to catch up. Was that the dog? Did a car alarm go off? What was it that roused me?
In stark contrast, when I was jolted awake a handful of hours later, it was an entirely different experience.
The first thing I became conscious of was my mind repeating over and over again, “Don’t open your eyes until it’s over. Don’t open your eyes until it’s over. Don’t open your eyes until it’s over.”
The second sensation was one of absolute and complete cold, as if I’d been plunged into an ice bath. Confusion gave way to terror at the realization that this was not a dream.
As quickly as the sensation began, it departed, and once again I was in the muggy stillness of the guestroom. I jerked open my eyes and in horror peered into the darkness while grabbing my husband’s arm, shaking him awake. He groggily tried to make sense of the words tumbling out of my mouth.
Typically the steady, hard-to-panic sort, my terrified state left him unsettled. He checked the room but was helpless to offer an explanation or calm the sheer panic that left me shaking.
I was unable to sleep the few remaining hours of that early morn and showered, dressed, and packed before 6 a.m. I paced the picturesque porch while the complimentary breakfast was readied.
The hostess was incredibly friendly, and as my husband and I sat down to delicious fare, we made small talk. I wanted to ask her about my experience but didn’t know where to begin. Trying to gently push for information without appearing daft, I mentioned seeing t-shirts the day before emblazoned with “The Weston Ghost Tour.”
“Oh, yes!” our proprietor responded. “We’re such an old town and have our fair share of hauntings. Actually, there’s a room in this very house that’s well known for ghost activity. We have paranormal investigators come in often. The room is booked during the Halloween season months in advance…but I won’t tell you which one!” she added, winking.
We were on the highway within a handful of minutes. I couldn’t wait to distance myself from that charming house with its wrap-around porch, antique furnishings, and whatever the hell remained in the room to the left at the top of the stairs.
All these years later, I still fancy myself as the relatively unshakable sort. But when I hear people claim they could bravely handle a ghostly encounter, I numbly nod. Because I remember thinking that same thing, once.