Author Archives: birer@usc.edu

Silence of the Lambs

“For about a month straight after watching the horror movie, Silence of the Lambs, I woke up at the same time every night with really bad night terrors. They were so bad that sometimes I was too afraid to breathe because I was so certain that a monster was across the hall waiting to attack me. I could not control my fears and I could not control the nightmares that struck me every night. One day, my younger sister told me that she had been having nightmares recently too, so I decided to sleep in her bed with her. I hoped that it would calm both of us down.”

“That night, I woke up at 3:30 AM, the same time I usually had my night terrors. I immediately noticed that my sister was awake as well, and she was sitting up in her bed staring at the corner. She looked frozen; she would not move a muscle. In a panic, I popped up and said ‘Leila what are you looking at???’ to which she responded, ‘Tara don’t you see that? Don’t you see that face in the corner?!?’”

“Immediately after, Leila sprinted out of the room and slammed the door. I was left alone in the room and was so scared I could barely function. I swear to G-d I felt something emanating in the corner of the room, it looked like the outline of a man’s face. I worked up the courage to get up and sprint downstairs to my parent’s room, where my sister was already screaming and crying. My parents were shook by my own fear as well as my sister’s fear and in turn, they anointed Leila’s room with holy oil and threw away a bunch of books. After that, nothing of this manner ever occurred again in my home. I also never woke up at 3:30 AM with another night terror again. I don’t know what happened and I don’t know if I am crazy, but my sister and I were both overwhelmed with and are convinced that we both saw a face.”

 

My Interpretation of this story:

 

Through my research, I have notice many stories that involve the corner of a room being the place of question. This makes me curious as to why the corner of a room has such connections with the supernatural or the irrational. Besides that part of the story, I believe this is a classic case of the mind. Personally, when I was younger and watched horror movies, I experienced similar troubles. Horror movies give the sense of terror without actually having to personally experience, which can be analogous to dreams giving people a sense of reality without it actually being real. Because of the similarity in feelings and less of a physical experience than real life, it can be determined that the imagination has taken over. The movie, most likely, took over the sisters dreams and caused them to feel an even further effect of imagination, because they had never experienced such and thing in real life or even in their dreams. The level of intangibility of the situation in addition to the time of night can offer an explanation for these visions and feelings. Additionally, once the parents of the teller in a way ridded the room of the bad vibes and the terrors disappeared, I felt more of a sense of personal security from the story rather than an actual ghost experience.

The Blue Sky Lodge

“About three weeks ago I went to the Bay for my first cousin’s wedding. I was super excited to reunite with all my siblings and extended family in Carmel, which is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in California and by far my favorite. My parents checked us in to the Blue Sky Lodge on a Friday afternoon. Immediately after walking in to our room, I looked at my sister and said ‘This place is so sketchy.’ I looked around at the layer of dust covering the creepy paintings and outdated furniture. I also screeched as the wooden floors let out a creek with every step I took. My sister and I ran to our parents’ room next door and complained about how strange this place was. Mom told us to stop complaining and to get ready for dinner.”

“After a beautiful rehearsal dinner overlooking the ocean, my family returned to our weird lodge and got ready for bed. I noticed that there was a light in the closet that did not have a switch to turn it off. Instead, a single string hung from the ceiling, which I gently tugged at to make the room dark. I got in to bed next to my sister and we put a movie on. Then, we were interrupted by the closet light flickering on and off continuously for the next two minutes straight. My sister and I were both a little tipsy from the evening’s festivities, leading this occurrence to freak us out big time. We put the covers over our heads and watched our movie in total darkness since we were both too scared to get up and examine the situation.”

“Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up to a loud screeching noise followed by the closet light flickering on and off AGAIN. This time, the light was flickering faster and faster and it went on for five minutes straight. I woke up my sister, but both of us were too tired and scared to grab our parents. The next morning, we ran in to my mom’s room and told her that this place was SCARY. We then decided to look up our hotel online, only to discover that it is one of the most haunted places in all of California! There have been reports of paranormal experiences and various guests described feelings of uneasiness in reviews online. One website claimed, ‘Inexplicable fears, stress, and vivid nightmares make for a very restless evening.’ The feelings of unease that I felt at the Blue Sky Lodge led me to believe that there were haunted spirits in the Carmel atmosphere. I am not really sure why this happened and I don’t have an explanation, but I am certain that there was some type of paranormal activity going on.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

In listening to this story, there are many possible reasons for the specific paranormal activity that happened in the tellers room. It is noted in the beginning of the story that the hotel is not the nicest of places, which does not make it hard to believe that there are mechanical errors in lighting and other appliances. The sounds of screeching can also be explained through the wretchedness of the hotel. What I found interesting was what followed the actual ghost story, and that is the research on the hotel. A trait that makes a ghost story more likely to be accurate and believable is consistency. This hotel and are in Carmel has a history of strange experiences that have been reported but multiple guests, that support the claims made by the story teller. It is noted that the teller has not specific ties with the hotel or the area, meaning that the experience must be related to the hotel or its location rather than the people effected. Because activity has been reported by many of different people, it is evident that the situation is revolved around the hotel specifically and can be attributed to the other strange occurrences that have happened there.

 

The Red Cardinal

“I really think that my Dad comes back to me as a bird. He was obsessed with birds and bird watching, especially the red cardinal, his entire life. Only after my dad died is when I started to notice red birds fly around me all the time. Occasionally when I walk outside, I see a red cardinal just fly out from around a tree and perch right near me and I think…there is my dad.”

“There was one particular instance that really spooked me. It was about two months after he passed. I was visiting my mom in Livingston, New Jersey, helping her pack up my Dad’s old clothes and trinkets. I brought my youngest daughter, Maddie, with me. Over dinner one night, my mother broke out her bird watching book and bored Maddie to tears after detailing all of her favorite birds. When she flipped to the page of the red cardinal, my mom and I looked at each other and smiled. ‘This bird was your grandfather’s absolute favorite. He loved how low they lied to the ground and always fed them each morning in New Jersey’ my mother explained.”

“The next morning, Maddie, my mother, and I walked down to the lawn where my Dad always sat. We took a seat on the lawn and ate our breakfast. Suddenly, we were interrupted when a small red bird with a black face swooped right in and took a piece of bacon off Maddie’s plate. The bird was clearly a red cardinal. All of us jumped up and looked at the bird, perching itself on a tree right next to us, eating its slice of bacon. Not only was my father a lover of the red cardinal, but he also lived for bacon in the morning. ‘There he is…’ my mother whispered to me. I really think that the afterlife sends signals and I believe my dad is sending me one in the form of a red cardinal.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

When it comes to the loss of someone loved very much and have strong familial ties to you, it is common to notice little things in life that can be associated to them. In this case, it is apparent that the family was very close and appreciated and miss their father and grandfather very much. Because the father/grandfather had many particularities, it seems to be easy for the family to associate specific things with their father/grandfather. The strong connection to birds allows them to feel his presence when they simply just see or think about birds. The specificity of the red cardinal does allow the family to speculate this specific situation and offer an alternate explanation to give them a sense that the father/grandfather is not truly gone, but in a sense “watching over them”. The addition of the bird specifically taking the bacon as opposed to a different food, in the place that the father/grandfather usually enjoyed his morning bacon, does add more to the idea that the bird in fact could be the spirit of the father/grandfather. In my personal opinion, I believe this is a classic case of attaching the love of a lost one to a tangible item in the real world. Emotions have a huge effect on our mind and thought processes and give us the ability to link specific objects and situations to others in order to give us a more holistic mindset.

The ghost that pulled me back

“I think my house is haunted. It was built in like the forties. Maybe it’s not fully haunted but definitely a little. One of the reasons I think it’s haunted is because there is a little spot in my parents’ room that you look at and just think to yourself… what is this? My dog will not step foot in that corner. One summer there were a bunch of flies flying around it with zero explanation and my parents had to hire special exterminators to get rid of them.”

“Anyways, unrelated to the corner… one time, I was sleeping in my bed and I awoke to this strange feeling of a hand grabbing my side. So, I get up and I start screaming at the top of my lungs and I tried to run to the light switch to turn them on. But I could only get to the middle of my room because this mysterious hand pulled me back. I tried to get the hand off of me by pulling on it super hard. I was somehow able to get to door but I could not find light switch. Then I tried to open the door but I felt myself being dragged backwards. My parents found me in my room screaming and were like ‘CLAUDIA WHATS GOING ON?’ I was fully in high school like I was not a young kid. I told them I felt a hand grabbing at my side and it felt extremely realistic and weird. They told me not to worry and that it was just my own hand. I told them that I grabbed the hand so hard so if it were my own hand I would have felt the residual gravity. Clearly they didn’t know what to do so they left me alone and I didn’t go to sleep the rest of the night.”

“I know I sound crazy but the hand feeling was so scary and realistic I swear there’s some type of haunted spirit in my house. Also the fact that my dog gets spooked out by a corner with all these flies makes me think so as well. I think there must be some eerie history that makes my house kinda haunted.”

 

My interpretation of the story:

 

Because the storyteller has no knowledge of the history of her home, it is hard to determine a link as to why it would be haunted. What stood out to me in this story, was the actions made by the family dog. Dogs have amazing senses that humans do not, they are able to sense emotions, hear things better, and have a general knowledge of what is going on even though they are unable to communicate with us. I have always thought that dogs have somewhat of a “sixth sense”, that allows them to develop strong relationships with beings of other kinds. The fact that the dog shows caution towards this corner makes me think that there most definitely is a reason for this beyond human knowledge. The dog must sense something that we cannot, making it not want to go in that corner because it knows there is something wrong, although it us unable to communicate that to us. A lot of times, dogs try to communicate with us through their actions, so also, the dog may be trying to tell the family that there is something wrong in that area or in the house as a whole and that they should either move or not be in that area. Another aspect of the story that I found interesting was the tangible physical contact between the teller and the supposed ghost. In many ghost stories, there is no physical contact between the actual person and the ghost. It can be thought that ghosts do not have a real foot in this world and cannot make direct physical contact. Of course, there are other cases of ghost stories that do involve physical contact, but these cases usually have deeper ties than just the random thought of a place being haunted. Indeed, there can be other factors that the teller is unaware of that can support their story, but until more information is discovered, I don’t believe this story can be determined as a true supernatural exchange.

Two daughter angels

“I would consider myself a pretty religious Catholic woman. I like to follow the word of the Bible verbatim, and with that came being a nonbeliever in ghosts. However, over my children’s Christmas break in December 2007, all of my beliefs, or rather my non-beliefs, were tested and everything I thought I knew changed overnight. It was Christmas Eve, and I was sitting in my mother’s home in Switzerland with my family. My two boys, Paul and John, were joined by my youngest child, Charlotte, on the couch as they watched Christmas movies and anticipated the upcoming morning. After their movie, I tucked my babies in to bed and then I quietly arranged their presents under our Christmas tree. Shortly after, I joined my husband in bed and began reading a book before going to sleep.”

“It was a long day of cooking, family time, and preparing for Christmas Day; all of this made me pretty drowsy. While reading my book, I felt a strange sensation that there was someone watching me. Falling in and out of sleep, I did not think much of this sensation. I clearly remember opening my eyes and seeing two beautiful women in long, white dresses, floating above the canopy of my bed. They were both brunette with blue eyes, just like my daughter Charlotte. I was unsure if I was simply dreaming or if I had gone mad, but before I could truly put much thought in to it, I was fast asleep.”

“The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of my kids screaming with joy at Santa’s gifts and I met them downstairs to revel in their excitement. After all the kids opened their presents, we sat down for Christmas breakfast. My brother, who was also spending the holiday at my mother’s house, announced to the table that he saw the strangest thing while using the restroom in the middle of the previous night. He said, ‘It was the strangest thing, I opened my bedroom door to use the bathroom and I looked down the hallway. In the distance, I saw these two young brunette women in long white gowns. Both of them were wearing beautiful gold jewelry and had bright blue eyes that I could see from across the hallway.’”

“I instantly started to freak out because my brother’s description of these women was exactly the image I saw floating over my bed as well. He went on to tell me exactly what the dresses looked like, and I recalled that the women I saw had the same detailed white gowns. Although I thought I was just having a strange dream, the coincidence was too poignant for me to wrap my head around. Ever since that Christmas Day, my beliefs regarding the presence of ghosts and spirits in this world has changed. Maybe there are otherworldly presences in this world…”

 

My interpretation of the story:

 

In hearing this story, the part I found most interesting was the resemblance of the tellers daughter and the ghosts she seems to have seen. I has been medically proven that in our dreams, we are only able to dream of people we have seen before, or a compilation of different features from different faces we have collected over time. Our mind in our dreams don’t just make things up, they have purpose and derive from our subconscious. In this story, the relation in physical appearance between the two ghosts and the tellers daughter must be noted and taken into consideration. For the teller, as opposed to her brother who had also seen these women, she had been unsure if she was asleep or awake. Our mind has a way of playing tricks on us when we are in between states of being awake and asleep. This must also be accounted for because both sightings happened in the middle of the night, which is a time where the mind is not fully alert. Indeed, this may be a coincidence too strange to just all it a mind game, but at the same time, there are no intense markers that are present to determine the details of the story are of ghostly origins.

My Grandma came back to sing

“So, my grandma was an opera singer. She had the most stunning voice I had ever heard so when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she was more upset about losing the ability to sing then losing her memory of anything else. My sister and I absolutely loved when Grandma sang to us. I was eight years old when she died and her funeral was the first one I ever attended and I remember it really clearly.”

“At this point in time, my sister and I shared a room with two twin beds. The night after the funeral, I laid awake in bed for a while unable to sleep because I was sad. I turned over to my side and I started to hear the voice of my Grandma singing in my home. I was so terrified and upset because I knew no one would believe me. I remember thinking that I was crazy and never told a soul.”

“Years later as an adult, I was talking to my sister Lisa, who lied in the bed next to me the night after the funeral. It was out of the blue, but Lisa told me that she heard Grandma singing in our house that night. I quickly told her ‘I HEARD IT!’ It was crazy because we both corroborated the same story as adults. Lisa and I think that after Grandma was relieved of her pain from the disease her spirit came back home to sing for us.”

 

My interpretation of the story:

 

As it is said by the story teller, she and her sister had a very tight relationship with their Grandma. It can also be determined that both of them had associated her with song specifically and noted how hard it was for her to not be able to sing anymore. With emotions, it becomes evident that the mind can stray and make up things it believes to be true, or wants to be true. To me, this seems like a case of just that. Because this time for them was highly emotional due to the loss of their beloved Grandma, it is completely possible that the mind is playing tricks on both of them, rather than the Grandma being relieved from her pain and coming back to entertain her grandchildren. On the other hand, the children and the Grandmother do have familial ties in addition to emotional ties, so that does offer support to the idea that the Grandma had returned from the afterlife. With such strong bonds and connections and the presence of a lot of the Grandmothers stuff could “give entry” to the grandma back into the world as a ghost or a spirit. Personally, though, I believe that with such high levels of emotion in the situation, it is more possible that both sisters had mental lapses.

The painting in the living room

“Whenever someone asks if I believe in ghosts, I instantly shout ‘YES’ because one time I had the most bizarre experience that convinced me that there are, in fact, spirits existing amongst the living. Most of my friends think I am crazy and hardly believe this story but I am going to tell it to you anyways.”

“So when I was 15, my family moved in to a new, smaller home on a creepy street in New Jersey. My dad lost his job so we had to downsize big time. The house gave off a haunted vibe but I swallowed my pride and acted content with our new place. The previous owners had cleared their things from the house but decided to leave a single painting hanging above the fireplace. Of course this painting was an outdated portrait of an old couple; both the woman and man depicted in the painting looked pretty creepy and somber. My brother and I were not fans of the portrait and demanded that our parents find a replacement for it. They laughed at us because we were so freaked out by it but they agreed.”

“Before they even had the chance to take down the painting, I experienced some really freaky paranormal activity in my new home and I am convinced that painting has everything to do with it. I had just gotten a new phone so my little brother begged me to play with it before he went to sleep. I handed him my phone and went in my room to watch some Netflix. In the middle of the night, around 4 AM, I realized that my brother still had my phone so I went in his room to grab it. I was shocked to see that neither my brother or my phone were in my room, so I walked in to the living room.”

“My brother, who almost always sleeps through the night in his own bed, was sprawled out on the floor in the living room sleeping right under the painting. I picked up my phone, woke up my brother, and put him back in to his own bed. When I got in to my own bed to go to sleep, I decided to check out my phone and see if my brother had done any damage. When I opened up my photos, there were about fifteen new photos on the camera roll. They were photos of my brother sleeping, above the painting, with the shadow of an old woman in the corner, taking the photo. I jumped up, went in to my parents room, and asked them if they had taken the photos. ‘Honey, no. I’ve been asleep since 11! You must have done it in your sleep’ my mom told me. I know for a fact that I did not do this in my sleep. I’ve never slept walked in my life and I am also a light sleeper! My parents took the painting down shortly after but the event was so weird that I looked in to it further. Turns out that the painting was 100 years old and depicted the faces of two serial killers. Try telling me that’s not a coincidence!!!”

 

My Interpretation of the story:
I have heard many ghost stories throughout my life and this one seems to be the most fascinating to me. There are many aspects to a ghost story that can help support the idea that it is true. In this story, there is photo evidence of a shadow that is thought of to be the ghost. In many myths and tales, ghosts are thought to be invisible to the naked eye, but sometimes can generate shadows. This story seems like a classic case of a shadow ghost. In addition, all other events leading up to the photos support the idea that there was actually a ghost haunting this house. The house contains many aspects of something that could be haunted. It was originally owned by someone else, therefor it has a history beyond this specific family. The fact that the painting depicts serial killers from over 100 years ago enforces the mystery of this story and gives it some sense of truth, noting that it could be possible that this painting is the link between the weird stuff that had been happening in the house.

Balloon Volleyball

“On Christmas Eve, my whole family would play balloon volleyball. We took blankets and quilts from all of the rooms in the house and make a line down the middle of the living room. The walls were like the ‘boundaries’. There was no net, so it was pretty lax, just like a line in the middle.”

 

“It was nice because the balloon took so long to fall, so it was easy for all of us to play, like the old people and the kids. It was a very inclusive game.”

 

“We were supposed to play until someone got to 21 points, but we never finished. We always ended up in a dog pile or something, some cute family stuff. My dog would run in and ruin the game sometimes and pop the balloon.”

 

“My mom’s from San Jose, in the Bay area. My dad was born in Dayton, Ohio, but then moved to Athens when he was little, so he spent most of his life there.”

 

“I think we just made up the game on the fly. There isn’t any traditional game like that, that my parents played with their families when they were little. Or not that I know of. I think we played because it wasn’t too aggressive and it was something that we could all enjoy and participate in as a family.”

 

“If you won you only got bragging rights, there was no prize or anything. Bragging rights went a long way in my family though, like I would run around yelling ‘I’m the balloon ball king’ if I ever won.”

 

My Interpretations of this story:

 

Through my research, I have noticed that a lot of childhood games stem from other games such as sporting matches, but in less intense forms. This makes a lot of sense, because those games and matches are no place for a child. It is important to teach your children health competition in a way that allows them to succeed but additionally shows them that winning is not the most important thing. It is also important to get children active and involved, so it makes sense that games like balloon volleyball are being create and played throughout the world. Personally, I have played many different versions of balloon volleyball and find that in addition to being really fun, these modified games are much more inclusive. Scheduled and planned sporting games and events with all these rules are not structured for children, at least in the beginning. It is important to establish an identity of a child before sending them into a rough competitive world, because that will affect their development and future traits that come. Also, I believe that it depends on what type of culture you stem from. More individualist societies, like over here in the United States, stress the importance of individual success and flourishment, which can change the childhood gaming experience. Some parents might not want their kids to participate in such easy going and fun games because it causes them to lose their competitive edge, drive, and grit, which are highly valued characteristics in their culture.

5 girls and a Ouija Board

“It was over the summer after my senior year of high school, so June 2016. We were all sitting in my friends ’s backyard, like 5 or 6 of us, just hanging out and listening to music and stuff. I guess a couple days before that she had borrowed someone’s Ouija board and you know, we were at a sleepover and that’s the kind of stuff girls do at a sleep over. So we open the board and it’s just your classic Ouija board, probably from target or something, with all the letters lined up and a couple words like yes, no, hello, goodbye, etcetera.  We all put our hands on the moving piece thing and start asking questions. We kept asking if anyone was there and nothing happened. Then we started to ask personal questions, like about boys, friends, and life and stuff, and still nothing happened. We all promised beforehand that nobody was going to move it to make sure that it was just one of our friends messing with us. After a couple more times asking if anybody was there we gave up and all took our hands off. My friend went to grab the moving thing and as she picked it up my other friend screamed and then everybody started screaming, I think just because her scream scared them though. When my friend picked up the thing, my other friend noticed there was a glow in the dark arrow pointed to the word goodbye. I was a little freaked out but figured that was just some weird trick thing with the board. It wasn’t until like 20 minutes later when the front door randomly swung open that I started to get sketched out. Nobody was around it, we were all in the kitchen and it just swung open. We were all just like ‘did we awaken a ghost?’.

 

“I know that my friend had recently redone her house, so I feel like that means there can’t be a haunted spirit or anything from the people that lived there before. Maybe it doesn’t work like that though and it’s more based on the people rather than the place”

 

“I honestly have no explanation or thoughts as to why the door swung open. I don’t really get how that could happen. Like, it’s a shut door.”

 

“I’ve never seen her door swing open like that and I don’t remember her saying anything about it happening before.”

 

“I don’t necessarily think that it was a ghost, if it was that easy to call upon a spirit or something it would happen a lot more. The door thing was super weird, but I guess something could’ve just happened to the lock or something.”

 

My interpretation of the story:

 

Personally, Ouija boards to me that are sold at Target or Toys R Us are just a child’s game. I’ve seen in movies more intricate Ouija boards that involve a lot of aspects that seem as though they could work. Based on this story, I think the two events were unrelated. The door opening could simply be because it wasn’t shut all of the way and the wind opened it up. The interesting part is that over the summer in Florida, where the story takes place, it’s not very windy. With that in mind, I still do not believe that it was a ghost that was called upon by the Ouija board by the storyteller and her friends. With no known haunted background of the house or the general area and the fact that the house was redone makes me believe that it was simply just a Ouija board trick and so faulty door hinges.

Is it a sign?

“I was sitting at a sales convention in Orlando and nobody was stopping at my booth. It was a tough year for business and I found myself thinking about the existence of God, you know, just something to think about in my boredom. I remember thinking exactly ‘I just need a sign or something to know’ you know? Not even a minute after that I get a call from my wife telling me that she and my two daughters have gotten into a car accident with a Faith Farms Ministries truck. It was a minor accident and nobody ended up being hurt, but it was clearly no coincidence.”

 

“It was 2010 around the time of Rosh Hashanah, I think probably mid-September. I wasn’t planning on going to the convention because of the holiday, but business was not doing well that year and we needed all the help we could get. We decided it would be fine since I was going to Yom Kippur services.  Just the whole thing, the religious holiday and everything, it was all too much to be coincidental.”

 

My Interpretation of the story:

 

When I first heard this story I felt that it was too much to be just a coincidence. The storyteller asked a question to God and it seemed as though God answered. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this story, to me, seems like an instance of wanting something to be true. I recently have watched a video online that described how the human brain can put so much energy into wanting something that to them it happens. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are making it up in their head, rather using what happens around them to support their desires. I believe that this is the case in the story with the storyteller. As it seems in the beginning, the storyteller is questioning the existence of God, but I believe they are just looking for more assurance. People have the need to reassure themselves, it’s a natural human instinct. Personally, I do not believe this was a sign from God, but at the same time, I do not believe it wasn’t. I think it is possible especially because nobody knows for sure how or why we are here and if there are higher powers. I would need a more than this “sign” to confirm my beliefs.