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Ghosts in the Machine.

You know how some movies just seem to stick with you throughout life? Those certain films that change your perspective, make you feel triumphant or in-love again? There are the cinematic masterpieces that you can recall in a flash and relive the celluloid moment frame by frame. Oh I have some wonderful films etched deeply in my memory bank unfortunately, it’s the scary ones that tend to creep up when the sun goes down.

It was the end of September when we finally were able to insulate the house. Being semi-earth conscious, we decided that we would use recycled paper pulp insulation blown into the walls (more details later). A messy job, believe you me. And lucky for me I was delegated to filling the machine with the bales of pulp. Doc unfortunately for him, was designated as the pulp pumper. It was a nasty job especially in the 90º heat of the attic. At quitting time, Doc was invited to have a few beers with his buddy down another holler. I was happy to spend some time alone with Sam playing cards and eating snacks for dinner. This would be my first evening without Doc in the new house.

The beginning of the evening was fun, after homework at about 7pm Sam and I played a rousing game of Crazy 8s, watched “That 70’s Show” and ate Mac & Cheese. It was great not to have the old man around, as I’m sure he was happy not to have us around. Being a school night, Sam hit the hay at 9 and I thought I’d do the same. I never realized just how dark the house could be. There were no beams of police helicopters filtering into the house, no street lamps, no porch lights from neighbors illuminating parts of the driveway. No sounds of conversations coming from next door, no pitter pats of dog walkers finally home after a long day at the office. Just the sounds of a house alone at the end of a dark gravel road: crickets, hooting owls and the rustling of millions of leaves. I laid there listening I could feel my heart begin to pound and my mind began to wander aimlessly down a shadowy path.

I’m all alone out here, Doc has the car, it’s too quiet.


What the hell was that? Just the house settling, it’s an old house, yeah that’s it, just the house settling. How old is this house? Over a hundred years old…someone probably died here, maybe in this room. This was the parlor; my grandmother always said that they laid the dead for the mourners viewing in the parlor. Oh my god, I could be laying in the same spot that they put the coffin. Okay, let’s try to get some sleep, I am a fearless woman…


A double thump that doesn’t seem like a settling noise…I’m all alone in a house that’s surrounded by nothing but darkness and trees. Alright let’s think happy thoughts.

Me and my stinkin’ happy thoughts…oh I tried, but all I could think of was a movie. One of the scariest movies I have ever seen in my life: “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote starring Robert Blake. Blake drives up the long desolate country road with his buddy to an isolated farmhouse.


Oh my god, the falling coin scene then the family gets butchered…my mind wanders to the execution scene…I spring out of bed and head straight for my old childhood standby when I would be home alone until my mom came in from work: A bottle of 409 and a butcher knife. My thought as a 9 year old was that I would spray the 409 into the eyes of the killer then stab him and run like hell. Over 25 years later, this still seemed like a viable solution to my fear.


I turn on the TV and all the lights in the living room, I put a sleeping bag on the couch, why a TV makes one feel safer I don’t know. I lay down staring at some Grand Ol’ Opry show from the 60s on the Rural Farm Channel.


There’s no one outside, so maybe…maybe it’s a GHOST! Poltergeist! I’ll just go get Sam and have him sleep out in the living room with me. Okay, it’s a ghost, this area was a major battleground during the Civil War…the unrest of dead soldiers…but maybe they’re good ghosts.


Yeah that’s right good ghosts…

My thoughts turned to Hope Lang and Edward Mulhare, from the television show The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I thought of a handsome Civil War soldier that just merely wanted to get to know me: Mrs. Seay.


There it is again! Maybe this is a ghost of the captain’s wife and she doesn’t want me around these here parts.

“SAMMMMMM!!!!!!” I am no longer a controlled mature adult.

Sam wobbles sleepily over to the top of the stairs. “What’s wrong?”

“Sam I want you down here this minute bring your sleeping bag you’re sleeping in the living room with me!”

“What? I’ve gotta go to school tomorrow, Mom! Why do you want me down there, just come up here…”

“No! You come down here….” I don’t tell him that by going upstairs I’m walking straight in to that suspenseful trap used in every scary movie. Besides, by going up stairs I will have to pass the attic door, nothing good ever happens in an attic. My thoughts turn to those poor children in the book “Flowers in the Attic” and the mean grandmother.

“Why? Just come up!” Sam is looking more amused.

I pause, searching for the right words, words of strength and confidence…

“I’m scared. Yes, that’s right I admit it I’m scared. I know I’m your mom but I can’t help that I’m scared and I’m not going up those stairs, I’m staying right here and you’re coming down to sleep in the living room with me.”

With that Sam busted out laughing…hysterically. I felt so stupid I began to cry.

“Come down, please Sam, please!”

“Ha, ha! My mom’s scared of nothing” He chimed in the typical sing song school kid way


“Alright smarty pants, did you hear that? What’s that thumping?”

With that Sam stopped and listened as he clunked down the stairs…A minute went by no thump…another minute…no thump after what seemed like an eternity there was a THUMP THUMP THUMP

Sam plopped on the couch with a big old grin. I shook him…”Didn’t you hear that thump?” My mind went to an old movie “Gaslight”, and I was Ingrid Bergman going insane by way of my son and husband.


“SAM! Please did you hear that?” I pleaded

Sam got up took my hand and led me through the living room to the kitchen. He opened the freezer and pointed then turned around and headed back upstairs to bed. By opening the freezer door the mystery was solved; it wasn’t a Civil War soldier, a scorned captain’s wife, or even Robert Blake, the ghosts in the machine: The ice maker in our new fridge.

Just as I shut the freezer door feeling like a complete idiot, I hear that familiar sound: THUMP – THUMP! My thoughts turn to little ice cubes, and I believe they’re laughing at me.


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