Letter from a Haunted House: Part 2


First Person

The story so far

Usually I go to bed early, but given all the recent ghost activity in my house, I was getting a little spooked. So I was still up at eleven P.M., in bed and on the phone with my husband, Clancy. While we were talking, something black circled my bed twice, so fast I wasn’t sure I saw it, and then flew into a storage area where I have been slowly setting up a shrine. I yelled out twice while it circled me, but somehow Clancy didn’t hear me and continued talking.

I said, “There’s a bat or a bird in my apartment.”

“Is it a bat or a bird?”

“I don’t know. It may be a bird. I think it’s a bat.”

It had flown through so quickly, now I wasn’t sure I’d seen it. I said, “I think he’s in my shrine.”

I got a broom and went to look. It was only my second experience with a bat, and I didn’t know if he would get scared and come flying at me.

On the far wall, hanging from a pipe, was a very small thing. It might have been a clump of dust, or a piece of metal pipe with a cap over it, or it might have been a very tiny bat, hanging upside down, wings folded.

“I think I see him.”

“Get a flashlight.”

“I have a broom.”

“Why do you have a broom?”

I went and got the flashlight. I shined it on the bat, who was still swinging from his fast landing. I still wasn’t sure if it was a pipe.

I said, “I’m going to call my landlord.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea, baby. The last thing you want is to be bitten at—”

I was very scared, and I lost my temper. I may have yelled.

I called my landlord’s daughter twice. The first time she let it go to voice mail; the second time, she ignored it. I sent her a text: “I have a bat in my apartment.” I was close to adding, “You know the place is haunted, right?”

I called my landlord.

He said, “Well, the only thing you can do—what I would do if I was there, but my daughter hates—is kill it. But let me tell you, Amie, it’s very difficult to kill a bat. They have this incredible sonar system. You can swing at them with a tennis racket and they’ll just … The other thing you can do, I don’t know when you’re planning on turning in—”

“I’ll be up a while.”

“Okay, then, is you can just leave your door open, and it’ll make its way out. Believe me, the last thing he wants is to come after you.”

I was reassured. As we were getting off the phone, he told me he’d be around the following day, and the two of us could discuss removing the globe light from the ceiling fan.

“Oh no,” I said. “I know more about this place now. I want that light!”

He laughed. He said, “That’s funny.”

I took a Valium and called Clancy back. He was in Austin getting his eldest daughter set up at college. As it got later, he started to expose his own fears. It seemed he was having some worries that come from some complicated place inside him, a dangerous place. He revealed that he was worried that, living apart, I was going to cheat on him. I had a bat in one room and a ghost in the other, and I was not feeling very sensitive. I may have hung up on him after saying, “Yes, I’m going to cheat on you. I’m going to go do that right now.”

He called at around four A.M. It woke me out of a fog, only barely, so that I almost don’t remember looking at the phone and deciding not to answer. In the morning, I read a few e-mails he had sent during the night. They were a bit panicked. We spoke the next day, resolved things, and he said, “I think Sadie likes you a lot.” Sadie was our ghost.


He told me he’d had a nightmare. He was in an abandoned warehouse or condo. The windows were made of mirrors, and they reflected angry wolves who were moments from attacking. A gaunt, narrow-shouldered girl with long hair looked him in the eye. She looked at him, Clancy said, like, “It is you.” She said, “Come with me, babe,” and led him out of the building.

He said, “I know what she looks like now.”

“If you see her again,” I asked, “will you ask what she wants?”

“It was just a dream.”

“I know it was a dream.”

“But … she wants … bread.”

“What kind of bread?”

“Hot, warm, white bread. I’m sorry. I feel insane.”

“No, it’s okay. I just wish I could make a bigger fire. When you’re here we’ll make a big fire and burn fifty loaves. I feel like I can only burn enough to tease her.” Burnt offerings seemed the way to approach ghosts.

“She doesn’t want fifty. She wants someone to be gentle with her. No one has been gentle with her in a long time.”

When Clancy came to town we made a big fire in the afternoons three times. We burned sugar, scotch, milk, apples, candy, salad, chips, peanut butter, and other things that ghosts are supposed to like. Later, at night, while I was doing Riwo Sangchod meditation in the scary little room where we felt Sadie most strongly, Clancy saw two figures. He was staring at the wall, and he said, “They were like dark shadows dangling from the ceiling. They wanted to scare me, and they wanted me to look at them. They were swinging by their heels.” The second night, when I went to meditate, he saw them again, and then he turned and saw a thing about five feet around, black, with an empty space in its middle. It was not like an ordinary ghost. He said it felt like it wanted to eat up the room if it could. “I couldn’t tell if it was attracting the other ghosts or repelling them,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure it’s what Sadie was scared of. Not us, like I thought at first, but that thing.” (He only told me this later, after I’d moved from the house—he refused to tell me before, because he knew I was already too frightened.)

The day after Clancy saw that thing, I got another message from my spiritual adviser, Rinpoche, communicated through his secretary. It said, “Move.”

I moved out a couple days ago. By the time I left—ever since I’d read to her from Tibetan Book of the Dead—I’d had the feeling Sadie was gone. It felt like too much to hope for: that reincarnation is real, and she’d heard this book from me and made it out. It felt silly. Clancy said he didn’t think she was gone—just no longer frightened. He went to give her a little gift before we locked the door for the last time. When he came out he said, “You may be right.”