I’m not a ghost person. I’ve heard plenty of ghoul-geared stories. My mother lived in a house coveted by The Ghost of Hay Hill, a well-known former-farmer entity in Toro Canyon, spoken of at Montecito cocktail parties, heard coughing and using the stairs by my younger sisters. I knew a woman who knew a guy whose quiet campfire was crashed by Big Foot one dark, lonely Oregonian night–not that Big Foot is a ghost, but BF, Nessie, Yeti, Tasmanian Blobster, the haunted house at Disneyland–no, no, not for me. I start channel surfing at the first mention of Queen Mary hauntings or the tiniest glimpse of Linda Blair’s head twirling around.
But either my hormones are having fun at my expense, or something really did play the keys, just briefly, one, two, of the rickety old piano in the charming Valley Village house I’ve been visiting. And now, because I can’t explain what happened, I feel funky, hesitant to return to the house and perform neighborly bits like bringing in the mail (which means passing the piano), watering potted plants, eating someone else’s ice cream and giving my son pool time.
I don’t want to go.
So I Google Valley Village ghosts and come up with one site claiming that classic, Sleepy Hollow type ghost-activity occurs in Valley Village all the time–ghosts floating about Huston and Morella at night with their heads tucked under their arms, hatchets in their chests, bloody knives in their ghoul backs and such. I don’t believe this site–way too cliche–but still, l can’t shake the funky feeling. For me, sweet Valley Village has bared uber, blood-dripping fangs.
I’d like to ask the owners of the house if they’ve heard their piano playing all by itself, but they’re in rainy olde England visiting historic sites like the Tower of London (talk about hauntings!). I could ask the fabulous visiting-us Brits if during their stay at the house they’ve had “experiences”–but they’re up in San Francisco visiting historic sites like Alcatraz Island (hauntings!) and if they haven’t noticed anything unusual to date, I don’t want to scare them, or their nice kids. I might ruin their return and the rest of their stay in Stepford Valley Village. Way too much responsibility for me.
The piano keys incident: I was breastfeeding T on the lovely den couch, watching the Olympics on the massive, wall-hung flat screen TV while my husband was in the quaint Valley Village bathroom. During someone or other’s triple-double-flippish gold medal dive, I heard it: Plink, plink. I could see the piano from where I sat. Heart in my throat, I flicked my eyes back to the TV and kept on breastfeeding. The second my husband vacated the bathroom, I said:
The piano played.
What do you mean? he said.
What do you mean, what?
A note, Beethoven’s Fifth, what?
Oh. Two notes together. Did it twice.
My husband nodded and looked around soberly, hands on his hips. Then he made an announcement:
Spirit, whatever you are, we love it here in Valley Village, we admire this house and wish it was ours, we bring nothing but good wishes. Peace! How’s that? he asked, plopping down next to me on the couch.
I regarded him wryly, amazed at how swiflty he believed there was a ghost and simply took action. Especially when what I really wanted to do was run screaming from the house and never look back. Because I hate ghost crap, the unexplained, or wasting energy freaking out when probably it was air on piano strings, or a heavy bug on the keys. But you can’t run screaming from scary situations when you’re a mother. You have to stay calm, be an “adult” and figure things out–fast–and let your husband in on the events. I mean, if it was a ghost tinkling the keys, if it was malicious or “Exorcist”-nasty then the owners wouldn’t live here with their three kids. The house wouldn’t look happily occupied, cozy, meticulously maintained. It would be empty with boards over the windows and signs spraypainted in blood-red, warning TRESPASS AT YOUR OWN RISK and GHOST LIVES HERE.
I want to leave, I told my husband.
Well, okay, sure, he said, glancing at our snoozing son. Whatever you want, babe. Spirit! We love this house and have enjoyed it and especially the pool. Thanks for having us as guests!
My husband talking to the “spirit” was freaking me out even more than eerily tinkling piano keys. Although I was impressed by his lack of fear, was it a good idea to admit the existence of an “it”? Was that just plain asking for a Mozart sonata played by invisible fingers? One thing is certain: I am no Jo Beth Williams in Poltergeist. I could never put a helmet on T and let some “spirit” push him across the kitchen linoleum.
Here’s the thing: the night before the piano keys incident I had a dream so horrible I woke Scott up with my odd moaning-yell. I dreamed I was in a bathroom drying my hands on a towel when the bathroom door slammed shut and a buzzing “thing” took over the towel and I couldn’t get out of the room, couldn’t move. The only thing I could do was stick my face in the buzzing “thing”, meet it head on and scream. And then Scott woke me up.
Am I ripe for a Freudian brain-squeezing?
Here’s another thing: an hour or so before the piano keys incident I was alone in the house while Scott was on a walk in the lovely V.V. neighborhood with T. I had just brought in the mail and had the oddest, strongest feeling that I was not alone. The feeling was so overwhelming, I looked around, checked out the cute rooms, peeked in some closets. Nothing. Until:
And then there’s my novel, which I’ve been reading over, re-re-re-editing and procrastinating a lot about lately and which needs an ending. My novel is full of ghosts as seen by my heroine, a blocked scribe who may or may not be schizo.
Someone gave us The Secret DVD and if I’m to believe that, then I’ve “attracted” the piano playing ghost and have no one to blame for any haunting but myself. Even though I don’t want to attract ghosts, apparently just by saying I don’t want to attract ghosts will attract them. Or is that the law of opposites. I don’t know. Funky!
And there’s one other thing: the day after the piano keys incident I did a drive-by of the V. V. house. Not seeing any ghost from the outside, nevertheless I was still too chicken to go inside. I made an executive decision to drive T to a nearby park. My plan was to cool my heels by swinging my baby and desperately cultivate some backbone. As I waited at a red light to cross Colfax, which is seldom trafficky, I glanced left and saw a car fishtailing down the road. I watched it coming for a few seconds, then decided I’d better back up as it was heading for the minivan. I put the van in reverse, but before I could move, the fishtailing car fishtailed hood first into a lamp post. BAM. Colfax suddenly came alive. People vaulted out of their Valley Village homes. Many people dashed to the car. A woman in a white terry bathrobe appeared next to my van. I put the window down and we commiserated on the horror. Then, as we watched a woman emerge from the driver’s side of the mangled car, an orange kitten bolted either out of the car, out from under it, or from right near it. An orange kitten shot into the road and made for the other side. Bathrobe-woman and I gasp-screamed as the kitten darted before the wheels of an oncoming truck. The truck, horn blaring, missed the kitten by inches. The orange kitten shot through the white pickets of somebody’s fence and into their manicured V. V. yard and that somebody went looking for it.
I revved the van and got out the heck out of Valley Village. When I was safely home and feeding T lunch, I called my husband and told him we are never, ever moving to that pocket of town.
Currently, I don’t feel crazy, hallucinatory or that I’m the sort who hears dead people. I do feel tired, but that’s nothing new. And as I type this I am IN the sweet V.V. house. Scott and T are out walking. I am: alone. Except for the Olympics on the massive flat screen TV. It’s nice to be back here. It’s nice not to feel as freaked out as I did last week. I can’t explain what happened, or if it did happen or if I confused the piano keys with Scott’s cell phone or a passing ice cream truck. I don’t know. There’s no one in charge I can ask. There’s me: mother, “adult”, mother, “adult”. Perhaps my subconscious “created” the piano keys incident for its own reasons. If so, hopefully everything is worked out now in a healthy, conscious manner. I haven’t dreamed about buzzing ghosts again. We’ve had a fun day with T. All is well in our world. So I’m going to let the piano keys incident go–unless the keys start playing right now…
Inherited from my grandmother, Nomi, who would not be pleased with the old girl’s clutter, scratches and trick right leg from being moved up and down condo stairs (by old girl I mean the piano, not Nomi, who passed decades ago, RIP–PLEASE!).
Which is scarier?