(By Cassie Murdoch @ "The Hairpin.com")
"It all started back in 2003. It was the middle of the night, and I was deep asleep in a bedroom at my mother’s house in Madison, Wisconsin. I was jerked awake when my little dog Eloise (who'd been curled up near my feet) stood up and started growling. Now, Eloise is normally so mild-mannered that she could be mistaken for a stuffed animal, and she never, and I mean never, growls. So when she started up, I was convinced that there was some stranger lurking in the room, just waiting to attack me. I searched around in the dark, but after my eyes adjusted I could see there wasn’t anyone there. I tried to calm Eloise down, but she would not stop staring intently at a spot about three feet from the end of the bed...
I picked her up in my arms, and she was trembling with fear — something she’d never done before. I walked her toward the middle of the room. She grew stiffer and stiffer the closer I got to the spot she was eyeing. When I got right up to it, she tried desperately to scramble backwards out of my arms. I did a little backing up and moving around and figured out there was about a two-foot square of the room that she wouldn’t go near.
I was getting the creeps, so I decided to turn on the lights. As soon as I flipped the switch, Eloise calmed down. But I lay awake wondering what had just happened. Could it have been a ghost? Sure. My mom’s house was built in the 1890s and is the kind of woodwork-heavy, drafty, lovely place where I’d imagine a spirit could happily dwell. Plenty of room, nice and quiet, great views of Lake Mendota — hell, it’s the first place I’d go if I turned into a ghost (assuming you get to choose where you haunt?). But if the house was haunted, why had I never seen a ghost before? I’d spent my entire childhood there, and my mom has lived there since 1971 and neither of us has ever seen anything even remotely haunty. Could it be that ghosts had been showing up in the middle of the night for years, but I just hadn’t noticed because I’d never had Eloise to alert me? Who knows, but I hadn’t actually seen a ghost so the jury was still out.
Then a year or so later, it happened AGAIN. Same scenario: middle of the night, dark room, Eloise wakes me up in terror. This time I was a little more aware, and I could sense that something was weird about the air — not exactly cold, but charged somehow — and I got right up and carried Eloise toward the spot she was fixating on. Again she flipped out. And again I turned on the lights and everything went back to normal.
Huh. It was hard to ignore the mounting evidence that there was some kind of other-worldly thing that was using my dog to communicate with me. I’ve always believed in ghosts, and whenever I hear other peoples’ tales of spirit run-ins, haunted sounds, or spontaneously opening and closing doors, I readily believe them. But for some reason my own experience was giving me a little pause. I searched for other possible explanations: maybe Eloise had some brain disorder that made her go crazy one night every 15 months during a full moon? (Nope.) Maybe it had all been a dream? (It had not.) I guess I just wasn’t quite ready to believe myself, and I think it was largely because I hadn’t technically SEEN anything.
So, I put it in the back of my mind, and years passed without incident. That is until this past January, when I was back in Madison for a visit with my mom. One night she went out for dinner, and I was home alone watching TV in the downstairs den. Eloise and my mom’s dog were sleeping peacefully on the couch next to me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was someone else in the house. It was a blustery winter night and the wind was whipping off the lake and rattling the windows. So I figured I was working myself up over nothing, and when I heard a creak or a pop I explained it away.
Eventually my mom came home, and we both went up to bed. At about 11pm, I had the light on and was reading. I was lying on my side, and I felt Eloise stand up behind me. I cocked my head over my shoulder to make sure she was settling back down, and I saw that she was standing alert at the edge of the bed. I rolled back to sit up, and that’s when I spotted it, standing about two feet from the end of the bed. Eloise’s eyes were trained right on it. It didn’t look like a person — it was more of a static blob. It was a light gray color and the air it occupied was distorted, like when there’s interference on a TV. It had no face, but it was the shape of a grown man with shoulders and a smaller blob where the head should be.
It just stood there. And I sat frozen still, my mind buzzing but unable to form any coherent thoughts. I think I croaked something like “uhhh, ummm, ok, uhhhhhh” but I didn’t scream or lose my shit. I could feel an electric charge in the air, and though it’s hard to explain why — given that there was a strange object/man staring at me — I didn’t feel threatened. Whatever it was seemed to have come in peace, or at least was not going to kill me right then.
After 30 or 45 seconds (which feels like FOREVER when you are staring at a ghost), I got the bright idea to try to take a picture of it. Smart, right? I kept my eyes on “him” and leaned over to get my phone from the nightstand. As soon as I got it in hand and tried to get the camera app open, the blur moved suddenly to the left—toward the window—and evaporated into thin air.
That’s when all the thoughts came pouring back into my head. Mostly, I just kept saying WHO THE HELL WAS THAT!?!?!?! I could definitely sense that he wasn’t someone familiar to me, but he didn't give me much else to go on. Maybe it was a man who grew up in the house? Or perhaps he usually haunts another house down the street but sometimes wanders around for variety? For all I know, it was Abraham Lincoln coming to tell me that he thinks as highly of me as I do of him. I’ve got no idea! All I know, is that I've got my own ghost, he seems harmless enough, and next time he shows up, I'm going to talk him into letting me take his picture!"