Rumor was the girls bathroom was haunted. For the majority of an entire school year my daily habits revolved around this “fact”. The restrooms were in the rear of the elementary school. The girls was located one side and the boys on the other side. You went down one flight of stairs to the landing that went to the back door and turned around and went down another set; this one concrete, which led to the dungeon-dark damp basement. Lights out, it was pitch black. Never failed if all the stalls were occupied, someone would flick the light switch off…one has never heard such ruckus as that of screaming frightened little girls. The ones in the stalls, often me, would fumble and stumble with pants down trying to find the door lock. If we made it out of the stall there was the challenge of trying to get out of the bathroom without running into the sinks, other girls, and the walls or slipping on the wet tiled floor.
I don’t know who started the rumor, but my friend,Regina, did her part in feeding the fire of keeping it going. With her gift of storytelling, she made it believable. Her vivid details both enthralled and frightened me. I sat beside her on the bus each afternoon, hanging on to her every word, expression, and hand gesture. She had seen the witch with the long frizzy black hair. The witch had chased her and almost scratched her with her long curvy fingernails. She’d heard the wails of the little girl ghosts who couldn’t get out of the bathroom. She knew the witch was trying to give us messages from dead people. Personally, I didn’t want to receive any messages or see any ghosts. Yet, I wanted to hear everything she knew about the haunting.
My other friend, Carol Sue, came up with the bright idea that we should have a séance so the witch or little girls would talk to us. She planned for a group of about six of us to go into the basement during lunch. She said each of us should think of all the people we knew who had died and suggested we would call out their names in the dark around a lighted candle. She told us the witch would speak in the voice of one of the dead people we named and tell us things only we knew to prove to us it was their spirits speaking. She volunteered to bring the candle and matches. All we had to do was show up. My cousin, Cindy, and I were petrified. We agreed we’d hold strong together and refuse to go into the bathroom with them during lunch. The problem was we didn’t know how to get out of it without being called chickens.
The next morning I feigned a sore throat and cough, but my mother still ordered me to school. Sure enough at lunch time Carol Sue pulled out her paper bag and motioned for us to all follow her. I shook my head no.
“Chicken?” she taunted. Then Judy and Robin joined in, so I got up and followed. My stomach felt like something was trying to crawl out of it, and my hands were shaking so I put them in my pockets to keep them from making fun of me. My legs were so heavy I could hardly put one foot in front of the other.
When we got to the bathroom, Carol Sue pushed us in and motioned us into a circle. I held my breath as she turned out the light and joined us in the ring. She struck a match which lit up the faces of everyone. I didn’t see fear in any of their eyes. She held the flame over the candle until it caught fire. Light bounced off the white of the porcelain sinks and cast a shadow on the wall. A few girls walked in, screamed, and ran out. I wanted to scream and run out behind them, but my rear end seemed to be glued to the floor.
Carol Sue swayed a bit, moaned, changed her voice to a deep tone, and started asking the ghost if she was there. We held hands, heat and sweat bonding us, and moved back like the tide lapping against the shore. She instructed us to close our eyes. Of course, I peeped and noticed everyone else was squinting as well. There was a loud thump, probably more like a rattle in the pipes. We all jumped up. I started to run in search of the door. Carol Sue yelled for me to come back. She said we needed to sit back down because the ghost was talking to us. The others obliged, but I refused. I didn’t give in this time when they all called me a chicken. They gave up, blew out the candle, and blamed it on me.
I had told my sister earlier about the ghosts in the bathroom, and she’d told me not to worry about it because it wasn’t true. I’d told my mom as well, and she’d shrugged it off. She had no idea how serious the problem was until Cindy’s mom told her we had been avoiding going to the bathroom and that we went together when we couldn’t hold it any longer. Because my father happened to be hunting buddies with the principal, my mother knew him. She told him how frightened we were. He told her he had heard the kids talking but didn’t know it had gotten out of hand. We children were then warned there would not be any more talking of ghosts and scaring one another. Things settled down, but I still would not go in the bathroom alone for the rest of that school year. The threat of ghosts in the bathroom lingered in the back of my mind for the remaining few years I attended school there.
Living in the Gap
February 7, 2012 -High Performance Flyer
The hawk glides through the air, rising higher and picking up speed. Such grace as it soars through and around the trees. It circles again and then perches itself high in the tree looking over the neighborhood. It must spot something… it lifts from the branch, spreading its wings to soar the heavens once again. In the distance I see it dive low, and I wonder what it has scored for lunch. Secretly, I’m thankful it didn’t drop any “sushi” in our yard for the dog, though she quite enjoyed it the last two times it happened!