"His name was David. At least that’s what we came to call him based off of what we were told by a Ouija board…I know. I’ve never believed them either, but one time we were “communicating” with our friendly ghost and I told my mom I didn’t believe her. She told me to ask a question in my head. So I did. The planchette spelled out two letters and stopped. T.B. or otherwise known as tuberculosis. My mom looked up and asked me, “Did you just ask how he died?” So, from that point on, skepticism aside, our guest was named David.
A little background about where we lived. Our house was built in the 40’s and only had one other family live in it before us. Nothing tragic happened. No one was murdered. But the more intriguing piece is the city we lived in. Struthers, Ohio. A small blue collar town just outside of Youngstown. Steel mills and grit kept the city alive. A bunch of hardworking neighborly people kept the city’s heart beating. Idyllic by nature. There was no better place to grow up.
But looking back on the history of Struthers, it does have one major claim to fame – Struthers, Ohio is the only city in America without a cemetery. I know this is true because I live there. Others know this is true because it was a Jeopardy question.
One theory why we didn’t have cemeteries was that Struthers was a sprawling rural area. Back then they buried the deceased on their land. For as long as I can remember, whenever anyone was planning an addition or putting in a pool, they were always afraid they would accidentally dig up a body. This always made me think of Poltergeist. But, as far as I know, no one ever dug up a body. But according to the $14.99 Ouija board, there was a body buried under the cherry tree in our neighbors yard. Needless to say we never explored that area too often.
Things would randomly happen. A few before I could really remember. One time, my sister woke up screaming. She said that there was a head talking to her inside her dollhouse. Strange, but could be chalked up to a very vivid dream.
My mother would always see a dark shadow either looming just outside her bedroom, or at the foot of the bed. Sometimes it would sit on the bed. She’d feel the bed depress and it seemed like there would be an unseen weight. Grogginess and household pets might explain that one, but my mom was always very close to the spiritual side. Maybe even a little clairvoyant.
One big incident that stands out what happened to my father. My dad, a firm non-believer in ghosts came home late one night and had to be up early for work. Instead of waking everyone up, he decided to sleep on the couch in the living room. Very considerate…unless you were a playful ghost boy who’s living room relax time was interrupted.
As my dad slept, someone threw a baseball glove very forcefully directly at his face, waking him up with a surprised scream and, of course, waking up the rest of the family he so considerately tried not to disturb. He wanted to know which of us did it, but as we stared bleary-eyed at him, he came to his own conclusions…it was David.
Things would always happen. Lights would turn on and off by themselves. You’d hear footsteps walking or running up the basement steps. And sometimes just talking in the basement…ohhhh the basement.
Basements are creepy by nature. Ours wasn’t anything scary. A run of the mill basement with a washer and dryer. A gas heater and my dad’s workshop and den. As a kid, there was always an ominous feel to the basement. Something warding us to stay out. So we only made trips down there as necessary, or to bother my dad as he worked on his projects. Of course our Commodore 64 was down there, so sometimes we’d bite the bullet and go play that. A good distraction from what felt like someone was watching.
One time my dad was working on a project. He was concentrating at the job in hand and saw my mom walk down and stand behind him. He talked to her for a few moments and then she walked into the laundry room. He thought it was odd that she didn’t say anything back to him, but chalked it up to her day and having to wrangle three kids. About 20 minutes later my mom came down stairs carrying a basket of laundry. My dad asked if she forgot to bring that down last time she came down. She told him that she just got home. Whoever came down and had a very one-sided conversation with my dad, was most definitely not my mom.
Moving on to my own experiences is always fun. These are stories I get to tell not so often, but remember them as clear as day. The first experience happened when I was 8. My cousin was spending the night. He was older, right around sister’s age, so teenaged. I was in bed. I could hear the older kids up laughing at a comedy show they were watching on the very posh and dignified HBO in the living room. I had my eyes closed as I was drifting off to sleep, still a little jealous that I was abandoned because of my age.
I shared a room with my brother and we had twin beds. His was closer to the door and mine was on the opposite side. There was a space in between the beds where my cousin made his floor camp. I heard something moving next to me on the floor. Just some movement which could have been anything. Then I started to hear the paper grocery bag my cousin brought his clothes over and it started to tear. I opened my eyes and saw a shadow sitting on the floor by the bag. My first thought was that it was my cousin not wanting to wake me up and rummaging through his bag for a toothbrush. But what happened next verified that it was not my cousin.
A child’s voice, maybe my age greeted me. “Hi. Do you want to play?” I still get chills thinking of that voice. Not malevolent. Not scary. Just not normal. I quickly threw the covers off and ran into the safety of the glow of a tube television and living, non-disembodied voices. I told everyone what happened and we all went back into the bedroom and turned on the lights. Nothing. No one. The only sign that was there was a torn grocery bag on the floor.
The good part is, I got to stay up and watch HBO.
The next experience I had happened a little later in life. Things we quiet for a while. Not much activity. I was probably in seventh or eighth grade. The world of the supernatural was replaced by a new fondness for music and other preteen interests (I still watched cartoons and played G.I. Joes and Ninja Turtles, but that’s our secret.)
It was summertime, a few days before the Fourth of July. My friend Annie was over, we pretty much are up together. She lived a few houses over on the next street.
It was nighttime and we were jumping on my trampoline in my very dark backyard. The only light was from windows and a large halogen light a few houses down. We were both sitting talking about normal preteen things, like who stacey had a crush on, what it was going to be like in a few years when we were in high school or the last episode of Fresh Prince. From the neighbors yard, I heard someone calling my name. “Tony!” Both of us looked over and saw a shadow of a young person being backlit by the halogen light. “Tony! Do you want to come play?”
I thought it was one of the neighbors' grandkids. His son was home from North Carolina for the Fourth. He always brought home fireworks for us when he came in town because at the time they were illegal in Ohio. He usually brought with him his siblings and their children. I thought at the time this was one of them.
“Yeah…” I responded.
“Come over and play!”
I looked at Annie and asked “Do you want to go over? They might have fireworks.” She agreed. We both looked back three seconds later, and no one was there. Nothing. It wasn’t enough time for someone to find a hiding space and run off. They just vanished. Right where the cherry tree was.
This time I had a witness. Years later, Annie would tell this story at work. No one believed her. Skeptics. One of her coworkers at the time, was my future wife. I didn’t know her when Annie told this story all these years later. But my wife asked me if I knew Annie and I told her that we grew up together. She then asked me about if the story she would tell about a ghost kid was real. I told her the exact same story Annie had told her coworkers and I’m telling you now.
From then on, she at least had one person at work who believed her."