Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Visiting Hours. A true ghost(?) story.

I was seventeen years old and living in Marcy, NY in the summer of 1987. Located outside Utica, Marcy was sparsely populated and not known for much beyond Mid-State Correctional Facility, Central New York Psychiatric Center (both are situated on the same parcel of land), and Whitesboro Senior High School. I will let you ponder if mere coincidence accounts for all three resting within two miles of each other. My family moved into an old, state-owned converted farmhouse about a mile down the road from the prison the previous summer after my father became its new Deputy Superintendent of Security. What we later learned about our new surroundings was in stark contrast to their humble appearance. For example, roughly thirty yards to the right of our driveway sprawled a large, two story brick building used for storage by the prison. In fact, it was once the Marcy State Hospital, a branch of the New York State Lunatic Asylum (originally called the Utica Lunatic Asylum in the 1840’s). The old asylum, our house, the prison, and the Center were all located on 1,000 acres of land purchased in 1911 from the Crane family whose burial plot lay across the road from my front door. Two overflowing farmhouses held patients until the Marcy State Hospital was completed in the early 1900’s. I don’t have definitive proof my house was one of them, but couple the lack of any other houses in the area with its glaring proximity and age (proven by an 1861 penny that I found the driveway) and Occam’s Razor points in that direction.

Late August seemed cold that year. I mention it because my perpetually open window was closed the night something visited me in my room. It was about 1 A.M. and I was having trouble sleeping. Normally I fell asleep to the radio, so I got up and lowered the volume on the off chance it was too loud. The pale light from a passing car’s headlights caught my eye as I slipped back into bed. It flowed from right to left on the wall behind the radio, as its kind always did, and onto the wall adjacent to my bed before disappearing. A few quiet moments passed when my attention was again caught by a dim light, but this time it was coming from my overhead light fixture. Power surge? That is what I thought for the second it took me to realize the illumination was at least twelve inches to right of the fixture. The glow gradually grew in dimension and intensity until it was the size of an over-inflated football and its radiance reflected off the fixture glass and ceiling. The lower half was grayish while the upper half was the color of cream. Then, as slowly as it formed, it dimmed until it was no more. The room was dark and the moment was over. At no time did I feel shock or fright. Whatever had taken place over the prior ten to fifteen seconds left me calm and relaxed. It was the next twenty minutes that still bother me.

Immediately after the event ended, a short shaft of light, like that cast by a flashlight, reached under my closed door. Back and forth, the shaft flashed under the door before rising toward the doorknob. There it paused and disappeared only to instantly reappear under the door that separated my room from my parent’s bedroom. It performed the same erratic dance near the door’s base for a few moments and then disappeared. But, as the door was painted shut, I had no way of knowing if it was truly gone. What I did know was it was in the same room as my slumbering parents. Adrenalin erased my calmness with one overwhelming thought: there was an intruder in the house. I grabbed my bat, crept into the hallway and into my parents’ room ready to swing first and ask questions later. I found nothing. My parents were sound asleep. I woke them and explained what had happened as best as I could in my frightened state. We spent the next twenty minutes searching the house for any signs of forced entry. Every window and door was intact. My father said it was a dream and that I should go back to bed. My mother tried to reassure me by adding if I did see odd lights they were probably from the drive-in theatre down the road. I knew both explanations were wrong, but without an alternative, I decided to let the matter go and try to make sense of it in the morning.

The next day brought no answers. I tried to wrap my head around it, but as I didn’t know what ‘it’ was, I was at a loss. I might have relegated the entire episode to a waking dream or perhaps cryptonesia had my mother not confessed several years later to seeing light coming out of my room from under my closed door while she was trying to calm me, though my room was dark when I opened my door.

Our house did not own the market on strangeness, however. The old asylum produced an odd assortment of half words and unrecognizable sounds on quiet nights. Occasionally we would see light behind its barred windows. I have no theories linking the two phenomena, but a few years after we moved away prison security discovered cult paraphernalia (teen wannabes most likely) in the asylum’s basement. That could obviously account for what we saw and heard, but what about my house? Why did I associate the second light with an intruder trying to get into my room? And, what does that say about the first light and how calm I felt? I’ve never been able to answer these questions and nothing like it ever transpired again. It was a singular event and those are often the hardest to explain. Even our cat, with all its vaunted feline senses and sensitivities, showed no change in behavior before or after; nor did she shy from any corner of the house. I’ve talked to others who have experienced odd circumstances and like them, I sometimes wish I had an explanation while other times I want to forget about it. Answers are not always pleasant.

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