Ghosts in the Burbs: The Beginning

I chase the scare. After a childhood of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Stephen King, Ghost Busters, Scooby Doo, Fear Street, and Christopher Pike,  I stumbled upon paranormal reality television. It was a dream come true. It feels so real, it probably isn’t, I mean, it totally isn’t, but who cares?

Alas, there are only so many times you can get a thrill from listening to the definition of EVP after watching someone ask “what is your name” to an empty dark basement. Eventually, I felt the need to take things up a notch. But I am a wimp. No way could I stand in the middle of a  dark room with a digital voice recorder. What if something answered when I asked the inevitable, “Are there any spirits here with us?” No. I wanted to jump from  soda to NoDoz, not Chardonnay to crystal meth.

Inspiration came on a grey October morning. I walked past the community message board on my way into the Wellesley Free Library where I work as a children’s librarian. An image of a flier popped into my mind: Ghost Stories Wanted.

That’s it! I thought, a text bubble popping up over my head. Instead of watching some guy in night vision say “I swear to God, dude, that door just opened by itself,” I would find people – neighbors! – to tell me, in person, “I swear to God, I saw this [insert terrifying oogly boogly thing] in my house.”

I created a little sign and pinned it to the library’s community message board. I promised free coffee and muffins in exchange for a scary tale. My husband thought I’d get calls from, what he termed “hippy dippy dreamcatcher people” who wanted free Quebrada pastries.

He was wrong.

I met some really nice, normal, regular, quirky, kind, funny, intense, charming, smart, genuine people. Wellesley people. I admit that I went into this thinking a bit skeptically. I figured, yeah, sure, maybe someone left a door open and didn’t remember, or heard their old house settling in the night and freaked out. But here’s the thing – I didn’t care because I love story. I love television, and books, and podcasts, and movies.

I loved sitting quietly and listening to my mom and her friends gossip and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t notice me and tell me to “go play.” I miss sitting criss-cross applesauce (what my teachers called “Indian-style”) on the story time rug as a passive yet enthusiastic consumer. This project is about me chasing that cozy feeling of listening to a story well told. My favorite kind of story: the scary story.

Well, I found it. And I have the nightlight to prove it.

I changed the names of the people interviewed for this blog because none of them want their houses added to some New England ghost tour. These Welleslians were eager to tell me their stories and they allowed me to tape our conversations so most of what follows is their own words. I wanted you to “hear” these stories the way I did – from the source. I have added my own side commentary throughout  because I have a terrible habit of interrupting. I hope you don’t mind.

So, come on, pick your spot on the rug, criss-cross applesauce and chase the scare with me. Things look shiny and bright here in Massachusetts, but remember, there are ghosts in the burbs.

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