Happy Hell Night, or Mischief Night, or Devil's Night, or RUGGY'S BIRTHDAY(!), or, you know... Thursday. I thought it might be fun to throw back to an old post every now and again for this hashtaggable day. Maybe you'd like to join in, and dust off an old tale that new friends may have missed? For the first #tbtpost, I've got a ghost story for you. Added bonus: Now With Proper Capitalization. (Miss the ee cummings vibe? You can peep the original lowercase post here.)
I was very lucky to spend my collegiate years in the historic old town of Boston, MA, at an historic old college founded in the historic old mid 1860s. I chose to live on campus-- well, technically, as a freshman, there wasn't a choice. "On campus" meant a block long row of victorian brownstones acknowledged in the National Registry of Historic Places (told ya). I was down for that coolness, freshman or no.
As a pink faced first year, I was assigned to a sprawling room with 12 foot ceilings, crown moldings, and two windows that faced the back alley. The back alley of death. Now, as a grownup, armed with years of city living experience, I'm quite certain I would not walk down this back alley by myself. Not even at high noon with clear skies in broad daylight. But I did it at all hours back then. I had no choice, it was the shortcut to many classes, and as a quasi-triple-major I didn't have time for the long way. Once, I met a police officer running full tilt down the alley, pausing to tell me to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE ALLEY, as he was busy chasing a suspect who had just assaulted a woman. At 1 in the afternoon. HAD I SEEN HIM? No, officer.
I'm not even shitting you.
But I digress.
(Mom and Dad, obviously I survived the back alley so please breathe. Okay? Okay.)
My dorm room came with two roommates. The first hailed from a sunny tropical island, and we hit it off immediately. She was absolutely game to take the bed by the windows, she wanted the sun, and I was absolutely game to take the bed waaaaaay over on the opposite side of the room, away from the fire escape leading to the back alley of death. We left the bed in the middle for the absentee number three. We rummaged each others' closets, hung the prerequisite comedy/tragedy masks and posters of gloomy rock artists whose music we'd never heard, and went off galavanting nightly in the week before classes began. We had so many days as a twosome, we weren't sure number three would ever arrive. Luck was ours! We had the biggest triple in the brownstone, nay, in the SCHOOL, for two! We Urban-Oufitted the third bed for late night geekfests and schoolwork.
But she did arrive. Weeks after the official start of the year, in a stink of rain and hail. The daybed was suddenly enveloped by a dark cloud that seemed to have been accumulating for 17 years. We opened our closets to her, we offered her the fancy daybed pillows, we hastily took our posters off her wall and encouraged her to hang her own.
She was not having us.
The triplet down the hall was much more her style, girls I would deem "popular" and "cool" in high school-- we were the straightlaced nerds. She smoked. She drank. She was on academic probation almost upon setting foot in the front door. But she was stuck with us. Beyond miserable, and completely volatile to boot, she would scream and curse at us before storming off to the triplets. Our quirky brownstone loft became quiet and gloomy. We went with relief to our classes, dreading going back to the dorm.
One night, around 3 am, I woke up completely and calmly to the sound of something shattering. I turned to look at island roomie, way across the room by the windows. And saw a man sitting at the edge of her bed.
It was dark, and he wore a mask. Even in his seated position, I could tell he was he was very tall: he was hunched over the foot of her bed, elbows on his knees. He was slowly moving his head from side to side, looking first at my sleeping roomie, then turning his gaze to rest on the sullen newcomer a few feet away. Each time he turned his head back to my fair haired roomie, the soft glow from the back alley security light positioned on our fire escape would catch his face, illuminating the shiny brown mask covering his features.
I watched him do this for minutes. It seemed his only purpose. I truly didn't feel he was there to harm anyone, but still, feeling worried for my roomie, and safe enough in my far away bed, I reached for my glasses to get a better look.
And found he had stopped his motion to stare directly at me.
I whispered, "okay, you're cool", and hearing every-bit-of-horror-music-ever-played in my head, I purposefully clenched the covers and pulled them up, slow motion, over my face, seeing him stock still, fixing me in his sights the entire time. Under the covers, with my glasses still on, I waited to hear his footsteps fall across the room. They never came. and finally I fell asleep.
The next morning, covers still over my head but with the sweet light of back alley sun flooding across the room, I sat straight up and found island roomie stirring. Third was comatose, and usually was till noon. My glasses were still on, the only evidence that anything had happened at all. I grabbed my shower kit and headed for the door, when my foot hit something cool and shiny. A thin ceramic mask, with not a nick on it. A brown mask, of the tragedy sort, lying face up on the floor, seven feet away from where it used to hang... above my bed.
Island roomie saw my look of complete horror and as I stammered out my story, third awoke. Mad. But listening, quickly quieting, and then turning pale. She barked questions at me. What did he look like? Was he tall? Was he staring at both of them? Or just her?
A week or so later, she was gone. Left school, went home. The triplet down the hall told us, not without some guilt, that her boyfriend had been killed in a car crash, weeks before she was to start college. All of her anger towards us made sense. We had no idea.
We took the masks down and gave them away. After freshman year, I stayed in the dorms, becoming a resident assistant, and made it my business to stick my nose in everyone's business. I still feel badly about her.