Friggatriskaidekaphobia…the fear of Friday the 13th…an irrationality driven by superstition and urban legend. Whether you’re superstitious or not, face it, we can’t get away from our fascination with the supernatural, the paranormal and the unexplained. We like it weird, we like it gory, we like it odd, and we like to be scared…as long as it’s make believe and we can choose when to walk away or turn it off.
The number thirteen is in a class by itself…it’s mystery immersed in religion and myth…stories fueled by fact, fiction and a pint or two of liquid courage.
The rituals of superstition are as varied as the believer. Athletes have their lucky underwear. Brides have their “something old…something new…something borrowed…something blue”. Business men have their lucky pens…their lucky ties. When I was growing up I had a good luck troll. I named him Bartholomew. Someone stole him from me. I saw him on her dresser. I knew it was Bartholomew because my brother had drawn in the ass crack on his rear side. I stole him back. It was the only time I ever stole anything in my life, but it doesn’t count because technically he was mine to begin with. I still have him. My daughter cut his hair when she was little, so he may have lost some of his luck. See what I mean? Crazytown.
Interest in the paranormal is global.
I can’t say that I believe in ghosts…but I won’t say that I don’t. I think it’s unlikely, but I have had a few experiences that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
When we first moved to Tennessee, we were building a house so we had to stay in a motel for three months. People got so used to seeing me around the premises that they started to think I worked there. One day I found myself helping with the motel laundry…and I decided it was time to start getting out…or get a name tag.
There is a town square near the motel with a lot of antique stores. One rainy day I went into one of them to kill some time. I love old people but I don’t like old things…I can’t explain it…they have a funny smell and feel to me…the things…not the people. You know I have issues.
The store had two floors. Upstairs there were dozens of headboards, footboards and bedframes. As soon as I cleared the landing and stepped into the room I was overwhelmed with oppression. It was the same shivery feeling I get when I step into a hot bath. I call it the bath dreads. The room seemed to get smaller and I pressed against the wall because I felt my knees buckle. I went down the stairs with my back along the railing. When I got to the bottom the gentleman who owned the store wanted to talk to me about John Kennedy. I stood there for ten minutes with the blood rushing in my ears, certain something was coming down the stairs to get me. I finally made it out of The Twilight Zone. I have never gone into that store again.
I can’t tell you what it was…it was just an evil feeling. Across the same square there is a store with the head of a Bigfoot in the front window. Supposedly a couple of hunters hit it with their truck one night and brought it to a taxidermist who must have had to perform a skin graft because the fur on the face looks like rabbit to me.
I know my rabbit skins. When I was a kid our family went camping cross-country a few times…parents, six kids, a black lab, tent, sleeping bags and luggage…we stopped a lot and it was usually at a Stuckey’s, where I developed a strange habit of buying rabbit skins. I also remember wearing a shellacked bagel on a leather lanyard around my neck. I told my daughter it was a fad and when I couldn’t find anything about it on the internet so I could prove it, she left me a pamphlet for a rehab center.
When people come to town I always take them to see the Bigfoot head, but I will never step into the store with the beds again…just in case.
I do wonder if there are outdoor poltergeists because I have shut the car door on my own head three times in the past two years.
There are a couple of old houses on my farm and I have a cemetery. When I first learned I had a cemetery I was a little freaked out. But it is a very peaceful place and I don’t get an evil or scary vibe at all…although I did have an…incident….
My ex-sister-in law came with me one summer to check out the work we were having done on the farm. I took her over to the cemetery. The dirt on the top of one of the graves looked like it had been disturbed. I reached down and stuck my finger under the edge of what felt like a wooden lid.
What happened next went something like this:
“The top is off the casket and it’s pushing up out of the ground!” “Ahhhhhhh! Ahhhhhh!” There also might have been some shrieking and running in a circle with our hands in the air.
Bear in mind that the graves are from the late eighteen hundreds and any wooden caskets have long rotted away.
“What do we do? Call the sheriff?” I reluctantly brushed some more dirt away. “Oh…wait…it’s just the edge of a flat rock.”
Thank goodness we didn’t call the sheriff. My farm follies were already the stuff that legends are made of. My friend Teresa at our local Co-op told me that the farmers used to look forward to hearing my latest farm fiasco…and checking out my cleavage.
During the construction of our house I was usually at the farm by myself. My ex-husband was always out of the country shooting a movie. When they delivered the logs for the house, it began to rain, and the log company told me to cover them in black plastic. They suggested I get the giant rolls that are used to cover hay. I could find them at any Farmer’s Co-operative…a farmer’s version of a Lowe’s. I was curious to see what that was all about.
I asked the front desk clerk at the motel where I could find the nearest co-op. He drew me a map and said it was just down the road a piece.
Never…ever…ask a Tennessean for directions…unless you have plenty of time on your hands and plenty of gas, because everything is just “down the road a piece”. “A piece” is a Tennessee standard measure. It can be ten miles or a hundred miles just depending on the arm reach of the individual giving you the directions.
I had been driving for over an hour. The double lane paved road turned into a single lane dirt one. Uh oh. There wasn’t a house in sight.
I was about to turn around when I saw an elderly lady at her mailbox. She had waist length gray hair and rosy apple cheeks. She smiled and waved. She had no teeth…a native. Her mailbox was in front of a little white cottage with red trim. Next to it was a big red barn with some white cutouts over the door. They looked like some kind of animal. Next to that was a garden with about ten neat rows of vegetables growing. It was a perfect little farm and looked like a movie set.
I rolled down the window and asked her if she knew where the Farmer’s Co-op was.
She smiled widely…I could see her tonsils. “Ya wanna see my caats?” “Cats” had three syllables.
“Excuse me?” I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly…Southern speak can be tricky.
“Ya wanna take yer a look at my caats?” She pointed to the red barn.
“Ohhh…your cats…well…sure.” I didn’t feel threatened. She was nine thousand years old and four feet tall. I could take her.
I followed her behind the barn. Suddenly she had a lot of pep in her step. When we rounded the corner I saw a twelve foot tall cage built against the back of the barn. A huge tree was laying across the center of the cage. And sunning themselves in the branches of the tree…were four huge bobcats.
“Go on inside…they won’t hurt ya.” She was holding the cage door and beckoning me to step in.
I’ve worked in and seen enough horror movies to know you don’t go down the cellar stairs and you certainly don’t get in a cage with wild bobcats.
I looked over my shoulder, convinced I would see a graveyard of cars and trucks belonging to other victims like in From Dusk to Dawn.
No wonder she had that sudden pep in her step. She’d just found lunch for her caats…AND IT WAS ME. I made my excuses and walked back to my car just slow enough not to make it look like I was running. As I passed the barn I thought it might be entirely possible she had a Leatherface son sitting just inside gassing up the chainsaw and I ran the rest of the way to the car, jumped in, locked the doors and zoomed away.
When I got back to the motel, I found out that the desk clerk was new and really didn’t know his way around. The closest Co-op was just down the street in the other direction. Oh well.
My kids had an experience in one of the old houses on my farm. My son had a very creative drama teacher. She assigned them a paranormal project right around Halloween. He and his team wanted to go out to one of the old houses at night and see if they could make contact with a ghost. I have some high end video equipment with a boom mike that we use to shoot little movies. They planned on taking temperatures and recording audio and video. This was going to be a top-notch production. I sent my daughter and her friend with the three of them.
I watched the ghostbusters head across the field…it was just getting dark. About an hour went by and I heard the dogs barking. I looked out and all I saw was flashlights up…flashlights down…up…down…they were running and they were screaming. I wasn’t concerned with them…I was worried about my camera equipment.
The five of them pushed past me into the house. They were wild-eyed. They were all talking at once…my daughter and her friend included. They claimed that they were walking around in the house, asking if there was anyone there who wanted to make contact. They got a sudden temperature drop and then they all heard something.
We popped the video into the t.v. and took a look. My daughter was running the camera and her girlfriend was holding the boom. The three boys were in the shot. One was holding a little tape recorder. One was holding the thermometer. He called the two others over to show them the temperature drop.
My son turned and asked, “Is there anyone here?”
I heard some kind of sound on the video…and then chaos…all of them started running and screaming. The rest of the video was of the ground as they ran back through the field to the house.
They all stared at me. I didn’t really hear anything. I had a sound recognition program on my laptop. We downloaded the audio from the little recorder and we played it back.
My son: “Is there anyone here?”
A chilling and startling second later, we very clearly heard: “Get out.”
It registered on the sound wave monitor. It was a voice. And it didn’t come from any of the boys because they were all on camera.
It seems to me that when you see those paranormal shows, the ghosts always say “get out”. I don’t know if there are ghosts…I don’t know if ghosts have a limited vocabulary, or maybe our subconscious makes us hear “get out” because that’s what we know we should be doing BECAUSE WE JUST HEARD A GHOST.
But I am here to tell you…that night someone or something made contact.
The other boys on the team went home. They were certain they were all getting an “A” on the project.
After they left my kids were awfully quiet. Uh oh. True confessions. My daughter pulled out a piece of paper. It was an old letter…the edges yellowed, the creases almost see-through. She had found it under some bricks that had fallen near the fireplace in the sitting room of the house. It was a love letter and was signed with a perfect beautiful red lipstick print.
Back in the “olden days” red lipstick was indelible. My great-grandmother was a crabby old lady who always had chapped lips and dry skin. One time she woke up in the middle of the night to put some chapstick on her mouth. She spread it all over her lips and up into her nose and down her chin. She had grabbed the Red Cherries lipstick by mistake. It took weeks for it to wear off of her nose, chin and mouth. It took months for us to look at her without giggling. Her own daughter, my Grandmother, laughed too, but we got in trouble. Her last name was Taylor. She always ratted us out. We called her Grandma Tattletaylor.
I told the kids we had to take the letter back. I’m not a scarebaby, but I said we could wait until the morning. There was NO way I was going back there in the dark.
My daughter was upset and wished she hadn’t taken it. It was a really sweet letter and I told her we would put it someplace in the house where no one would ever be able to find it again and take it. We went back the next morning. The house was quiet and not scary in the least. We found a place for the letter and it will remain there forever, where it belongs.
My son and daughter wanted to apologize to whomever they disturbed in the house. Though I don’t really believe in ghosts…I said a quick “I’m sorry” too…just in case.
Friday the 13th is just another day to me.
Although thirteen is my lucky number. I used to have a fixation about the number 3…I had to repeat actions three times…loved multiples of three…and really loved the number thirteen because the one pushed up against the three made a “B” and that rhymed with three…I had issues…and a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder…potato potahto…
I also think I stunted my own growth after seeing the movie The Blob…the first version with Steve McQueen. There is a scene where the blob goes up under the blankets at the foot of someone’s bed and absorbs them while they sleep. From that night on for about two years I slept with my knees tucked up under my chin. One night I tentatively stretched my legs down and finally was able to fall asleep with my feet near the foot of the bed, but those were my formative years and by then the damage was done.
If you don’t think this holds water, then you should see a picture with me and my five brothers and sisters. They all hover around just under six feet to six and a half feet. I am five foot four and a half if I sleep all stretched out the night before. I am vertically challenged and had to wear my little sisters hand-me-ups and The Blob was totally to blame.
Friday the 13th occurs two more times this year after today. If you’re feeling freaked out…just stay in tonight…
Just don’t take a shower…and whatever you do…don’t go down the cellar stairs.
Day Three Hundred and Forty Four…off to exORcise…