In honor of Halloween, I share with you now my own spooky ghost story. This is all true, my friends. Right down to every last banana…
When I moved into the ground-level unit of a quaint brick triplex, I was desperate to find a place to live on short notice. Freshly sprung from the near miss of an ill-fated engagement, I was lucky to find such a score just as winter began to dig its heels in. Friends and family pitched in to set my spare furniture just so, settling my dog and me into our new home. Just the two of us. Safe and sound.
I spent a happily solitary Christmas drinking wine by the fire, the weather finally cold enough to need one, and at midnight took the dog for a moon-lit walk around our quiet new neighborhood. When we returned home and set feet crunching on the frost-encrusted lawn, I was confused to find the porch light off, the whole doorway cast in darkness though I was certain I’d flipped the switch on our way out. Once inside, I saw that the fire had also been snuffed out; only a few hissing embers simmered and snapped behind the mesh metal curtain of the fireplace by then, though the fires I build are the kind meant to burn slow and strong the whole night long. I checked the flue for drafts and flaws, and, finding none, next checked the wine bottle atop the kitchen counter to see if I’d left behind less of its contents than I’d intended. None of my inspections gave me satisfying answers, but I shrugged my shoulders at the dog, turned off the rest of the lights, and went to bed.
That night, I slept fitfully, dreaming of otherworldly images. I finally began to drift back toward consciousness shortly before dawn. Before I had the clarity of mind to open my eyes, I heard the sound—and felt the sensation—of a man speaking in my ear, pressed closed to my head. I opened my eyes and sat up, breathing hard, expecting to see a stranger standing next to my bed. But only the shadows danced against the walls, only the curtains flitted up and away from the windows in the slight breeze. I was too terrified to remember what he said.
I looked down at my dog, Mona, sound asleep in her memory foam bed on the floor in the opposite corner, completely undisturbed. “Some watchdog you are,” I said as I flopped back on the bed, scooted closer to her, and pulled the covers over my head.
Returning home from a friend’s party the morning of New Year’s Day with a particularly wicked hangover, I grumbled and shuffled my way into the kitchen to make a hopefully curative smoothie. I plugged in the blender, pulled frozen fruit from the fridge, and then reached into the empty air of my wire fruit basket where I keep my bananas, finding none.
I turned my head to look at the basket. Where’d they go? I had just gone to the grocery store the morning before, had purchased a giant bundle of bananas for this exact purpose, and had placed them in this precise location, just as I always do. I began looking around, thinking that maybe I had moved them to the refrigerator by accident, but they weren’t there. None of the other logical locations produced my bananas either. Finally, I looked up to the cabinets directly above the wire fruit basket, slowly placed my hands on the silver knobs, and pulled the doors open. There, pushed awkwardly against my juice glasses and wine stems, were my perfectly ripe bananas.
Since I live alone and was away from my home the previous night, knowing that no one else had a key to my house, and being of positive certainty that my dog had not moved those bananas into the cabinet six feet off the ground, there could be only one explanation and there was no use denying it any longer: I was being haunted by a Bananageist.
I reached out with tentative hands to pick up the bananas, sure to get slimed or zapped upon contact, and when no malevolent forces struck me down once I had them in my hands, I placed them back in the wire basket. All the while, I looked side to side in order to see if I was angering any ghosts or geists watching from nearby.
I wondered if perhaps it had all just been some kind of fluke, or if maybe there was a scientific reason I could Google, something like “Spontaneous Banana Levitation.” That could be a thing, right?
But the next morning, I woke and entered the kitchen on tiptoe, nervously measuring my breaths to keep quiet. My belly roiled when I saw that the cabinets doors I’d carefully closed the night before were now open, cast wildly apart. Again I found that the bananas had been moved, and this time two cheap but often used Ikea juice glasses had rolled to the floor and broken in the process. Clearly, the Bananageist did not want me interfering with his interior decorating inclinations.
In the quiet morning stillness of the kitchen, I felt the uneasy stare of the ghost as it watched me, felt the weight of us together in the small space. Part of me wanted to run out the front door just to get away from it, but the other part was getting annoyed. This was my house, and bananas didn’t belong in the cupboard. I moved the bunch of paranormal bananas back down once more. Morning three: bananas again in the cupboard with my favorite Green Bay Packer mug on the counter, the handle cracked in pieces. On day four, I decided my only recourse was to stop eating bananas altogether. My collection of glassware couldn’t continue to suffer these kinds of losses.
Getting dressed one morning with Mona asleep at the foot of the bed, I heard the distinct doi-oi-oinggg of the spring-coil doorstopper behind me. It was as if it had been kicked with the stub of toe. As if someone, or something, were trying to get my attention. But of course I knew better because I lived alone, and the dog was fast asleep right in front of me.
Suddenly aware of being shirtless, I grabbed a throw from the end of the bed and covered myself, casting an anxious glance behind to the bedroom door. Of course I found the doorway empty, the door itself unmoved, but the little brassy spring with its rubber-tipped end was still vibrating above the carpet.
As winter wore on, the stories told about my friendly ghost became legendary as guests and visitors began firsthand hearing the disembodied male voices and seeing books crash to floor. When my friend, Kelly, needed to use my home office while her own was being renovated, the houseghost wasted no time introducing himself. All day as she worked at the computer, Kelly kept hearing a sort of whistle at her left ear, the nasal whine as if someone with a partially congested sinus cavity were breathing near her head.
At first, she suspected Mona to be snoring from the other room, but quickly found that to not be the case. When Kelly next bent under the desk to see if the computer’s cables were somehow the source of the noise—perhaps emitting some kind of electromagnetic hum or buzz, she heard, or rather felt, the breath of that whistle move from her left ear around her head to the right. With the movement came the unmistakable feeling of being watched, of being pressed upon by another entity. Kelly fled the house in panic, and never entered the premises alone again.
In February, I started dating a painter named Thom. We didn’t take things very slowly, because it wasn’t that kind of fling, so I began bringing him around the apartment a few nights a week. Shortly thereafter, my eager poltergeist stepped up his game. Bananas quickly became the stuff of child’s play, the gentle whisper in my ear during the midnight hours not enough call to attention. Thom and I used to joke about the ghost, wondering if he’d become enamored of me over time, if perhaps that was his reason for overstepping bounds on occasion. Thom wasn’t afraid, or so he’d said; he was the type to not only believe in spirits and energies, but to welcome them so long as they didn’t threaten his girl.
Thom was the prototypical Seattle man-child, 34 years old and still painting city-commissioned murals and receptacles as if his wealthy anonymous benefactor dreams were going to come true at any moment. Covered neck to ankle in tattoos Thom was tall enough, bulky enough, polite enough, and proficient enough in all other areas to make me start falling for him. The fact that he continued to make irresponsible choices, such as skateboarding with the gusto of a 14-year-old, though he never made a priority of getting himself some health insurance no matter how often he got injured, only made him the more desirable. The houseghost, however, clearly disapproved of my taste for boys who made poor life decisions.
After dinner and a movie with friends, Thom and I returned to my apartment eager to escape the rainy Seattle skies for the warm covers of my bed and the touch of each other’s hands in the darkness. Instead, we opened my front door to find the living room in shambles: our two dogs had torn the place apart, ripping into rolls of toilet paper, emptying the garbage can by tossing it on its side and spreading its innards across the floor, and pulling the blankets off the bed. Neither dog was known to act such a way; something must have spooked them. I followed Thom inside, my hand gently clutching at the hem of his shirt.
We walked through the hallway leading back to my office, not turning on the light. Neither of us said a word. He kept going through the doorway, and then stopped. I entered the room a pace or two behind, peeking around Thom’s trunk when I saw the contents of my desk strewn on the floor in front of his feet. From the bookshelves had somehow fallen several books, including—at the very center of the room—Stephen King’s “Full Dark, No Stars” and the David Auburn play “Proof.” I stepped to the side and bent closer to study the two titles, wondering at their potential significance. Behind me, I felt Thom quietly turn on his heels.
I stood again and looked up into his face, now ashen-white and drawn. “What’s wrong?” I brought my right hand to the hip of his jeans and dropped it immediately, feeling a surge of something cold run the length of my arm.
Thom looked back at me and said in a voice I’d never heard him use before, a feathery kind of monotone. “It’s on my back.” I cocked my head to the side, not understanding. He said again, lower this time, and louder. “Its On. My Back.” Mounted by the Bananageist, Thom’s posture stiffened to granite, his lips hardened to a straight line like the edge of a knife.
Before I could form a thought or sentence, Thom rushed past me and fled the room. I left after him, feeling a guillotine of cold air slice through me as I passed under the doorway of the office. Whatever creature or presence had been sharing my home with me for the last two years had morphed into something stronger, something angrier than I’d given it credit for, and my heart was pounding inside my chest when I reached Thom in the kitchen. His coloring was pallid, his breathing still as panicked as my own.
“Should we sleep at your place tonight?” I half-begged.
“No—we shouldn’t let it chase us away.” Thom opened the front door and lit a cigarette, leaning against the doorframe with his hands on the baggy knees of his jeans.
“But you don’t want to stay here, do you?” I reached out for his cigarette and sucked the sour smoke, instantly regretting it. I can’t pretend to be a smoker even when it’s timely.
“Doesn’t matter. We have to show it that it’s not the boss.”
“Good. Okay. I agree.” I nodded, resolute. I liked this plan, in theory anyway.
I admit I slept like an angel that night, curled against the warm mass of Thom’s great torso pressed tightly to my back. Thom’s artfully bespoke arms were my pillows, his legs with their Nate Dogg portraits and skateboarding scars my cradle.
The next morning, I woke feeling as though my body hadn’t budged a millimeter all night, my muscles and tendons stiff. Thom squirmed behind me and he whispered in my ear if I was awake; I nodded. Before I had opened my eyes, he brought the sheets down and my shirt up. We moved quietly but more intensely than ever before, his heat warming my entire body.
After, when he got up to leave, Thom’s face wore a night’s worth of exhaustion. It was still early when he closed the door behind him, and we didn’t speak until the following week.
He texted mid-afternoon on a Sunday, came over armed with both dog and skateboard, a kind of dual-force security blanket. As he cooked dinner for me, he explained that while we slept that night the ghost had been toying with him all night long, waking him at odd intervals and running the length of the house. Taunting. I sat on the counting, drinking a beer and listening. Trying not to emasculate the big strong man in my kitchen by being less afraid of the ghost than he.
“And the next morning, when we made love,” Thom lifted his beer to his lips and let his head drop back. Watching his throat relax, his eyes search the ceiling, my heart began to work a faster rhythm. “It didn’t feel right.”
“What does that mean?”
“I didn’t feel like myself when I was, you know, with you. It was like there were three of us.”
I dropped off the counter, my feet hitting the counter and taking me into the living room where I began pacing in the small space. I drained my beer. I couldn’t look at him. Whose eyes would I find staring back at me?
The whole time I’d lived in there, feeling the ghost’s presence, I’d never felt threatened, or even all that frightened. None of the Bananageist’s antics seemed particularly malicious—at least not when directed toward me. But the boundaries were beginning to blur, and the Bananageist was cramping my style.
Thom soon emailed to tell me that he’d experienced enough to feel unwelcome in my home and in my life. No matter. I saged the apartment, ordered the ghost to leave. Hired a healer to bless and cleanse my home. Night after night, I held my knees and rocked, calling out into the empty house commanding Bananageist to move on.
The house is quiet now, has been for years. I like to think the geist obeyed and found some other girl to bother. That he isn’t just watching me from the shadows in silence, biding his time.