“I came in from the wilderness,
a creature void of form.
‘Come in’, she said. ‘I’ll give yah…
shelter from the storm.’”
– Bob Dylan
The first time I met Dead Things Mikey, I knew I was going to end up writing a story about him. Let the record show that I’m referring to our first meeting in for-real life, or “actual meatspace” as it’s known in more scientific circles. Of course, Mikey and I had been communicating via email and texts for more than a month and by then he already felt like an old friend. Our initial correspondence began after Mikey discovered my Thought Catalog articles and sent me a message providing his phone number and asking if there was any percentage of my stories that wasn’t complete bullshit. Though, in his defense, the question had been motivated by more than simple curiosity.
Mikey was hoping to purchase the Halloween attraction featured in my story, There’s A Shack Called ‘The Devil’s Toy Box’ In Louisiana And People Who Go In There Supposedly Lose Their Minds. I politely explained how that would not be possible; less than a week after the story was originally posted, its titular attraction was burned to the ground by several senior chairmen of the local parish council.
“So… You a big Goonies fan or just a total weirdo?” I asked in a joking tone and was pleased to hear laughter on Mikey’s end.
When he was done chuckling, Mikey sighed and finally replied, “A little bit of both?”
“Believe it or not, you’re actually the first person I’ve met who knew what my name was from.”
“Oh, I believe THAT no problem. Most people are awful. It’s like a rule somewhere.”
Dead Things Mikey went on to explain that he had adopted the title during his many travels to amass what would eventually become “North America’s most extensive private collection of paranormal memorabilia.” To put it more simply: Do you remember that scene in the Conjuring where the pedophile from Hard Candy showed off his room full of supposedly haunted objects?
Well, the third floor of Mikey’s place made that room look like some lonely housewife’s porcelain tchotchke collection. His catalog of fucked-up mementos was so extensive that Mikey told me there were days when he felt more like a curator than a collector. And I can’t say that I blamed him.
The sizable loft which took up the bulk of Mikey’s third floor certainly resembled a museum more than it did any home. The wide, narrow space was sectioned off by an alternating series of standing shelves and expertly-lit glass displays. The latter was for housing the collection’s more costly and/or fragile pieces. And it was indeed quite a collection. Some of its more notable entries would be…
“The First Ouija board”
The wood it’s made of is from a species of tree that went extinct sometime during the last ice age. The letters ornately carved into the board’s surface are believed to be from a previously unknown variant of the Elamite alphabet. In place of where the moon and sun symbols would be located on a modern Ouija board (the top right and left corners respectively), there is what appears to be the head of a cuttlefish on one side and a triangle with an eye crudely etched inside of it on the other.
VHS containing security footage of infamous school shooting
Common decency prevents me from disclosing which shooting. Plus, I’m pretty sure that’s not the type of thing you’re supposed to have. But it’s worth noting that the events shown on the tape I saw didn’t exactly jive with the narrative fed to us by the media. As they often are, the perpetrators in this case had been painted as yet another group of preteen pariahs with a grudge, acting out depictions of violence they had gleaned from horror movies and video games when the truth was that their real motivation had been something far more nefarious. I’d rather not go into detail but let’s just say that writing these demented fucks off as simply “maladjusted kids” is sort of like saying, “Hitler was a real jerk.”
“Haunted” studio copy of the Beatles album, Let It Be
There isn’t much difference between this particular Quadraphonic 8-Track and the album that was eventually released to the public, save for a line in one particular song that the album’s producer couldn’t account for and Paul McCartney himself didn’t remember singing. During the track “Two of Us”, in place of the following lines…
“You and I have memories- longer than the road that stretches on ahead.”
Instead, McCartney can clearly be heard singing…
“My third eye sees dark things- A lone psycho will shoot John in the head.”
I was given the grand tour of this floor-length collection of rare spooky stuff that night when Mikey first invited me over to his house “for dinner and a show.” Our overlapping professions had made us fast friends and since Mikey was also a New Orleans native, his invite had seemed like little more than the natural progression of that friendship. Yes, sometimes I really AM that gullible…
We may have both called NOLA home but Mikey lived just a bit above my own pay-grade. He owned a large craftsman-style manor in the city’s highly exclusive Garden District where even the most modest home will cost you roughly five times the annual salary of a drug-trafficking kingpin. Of course, Mikey was a good ten years older than me and at that point I still didn’t know what he actually did for a living, but I’ll admit that I felt more than a little intimidated as I parked my ‘91 Cherokee in the circular driveway lined in luxury sedans and started up the stone walkway leading to the front door of his imposingly-sized home.
The gate had been left open for me to pull my car in, so I didn’t need to use the buzzer and I assumed I hadn’t alerted anyone to my presence as of yet. A nagging, self-conscious voice that I was all too familiar with started up inside my head…
You can still turn around right now. If you wanted to, right now you could turn around and run back to your car and flee this place forever and never look back and right now no one would be the wiser. No one’s feelings would have to get hurt if you did it RIGHT NOW…
It was a comforting thought that was immediately doused by the large oak front door swinging open to reveal a handsome middle-aged man with the bleached-white teeth of a Disney Channel celebrity and the haircut to match. Mikey was dressed in a teal tailored blazer and black designer skinny jeans. His shoes were matching teal Converses, which immediately prompted me to ask, “Where did you get teal Converses?”
“The internet.” Mikey pointed at me as he asked, “Joel?”
I aimed a thumb over my shoulder and said in a joking tone, “No, I just thought you had a cool house and decided to pull in. Is that weird?”
Mikey laughed and I immediately felt better. I’ve found that if I can make someone laugh, they’re usually a lot more forgiving of my… let’s call them idiosyncratic tendencies but if you read my stories then chances are you already know this so, moving on…
“You ARE joking?” Mikey’s tone suddenly became serious as he widened his eyes at me.
“I am,” I said, nodding promptly.
Mikey let out a relieved sigh and said, “Good. Also, just curious: You’re not like a total homophobe, right?”
“What? NO. I went to art school…”
Mikey opened the front door wide enough for me to enter and replied, “Great. Otherwize, it was going to get really awkward when I introduced you to my husband.”
Mikey’s husband was named Mauricio and he was about my own age, though that’s where our similarities ended. Mauricio had the classic good looks and toned physique of a movie star and he smelled like the mahogany-lined office of a prestigious boat captain. And contrary to what most of my nicknames in high school would lead you to believe, I’m about as straight as they come. That being said, even I thought Mauricio was a total catch.
“OH! the guy who writes those stories,” he said, sounding excited as Mikey introduced us. We were in their predictably massive kitchen. Mauricio quickly replaced the lid on the pot he had been checking and wiped his hands on a nearby towel before offering the right one to shake as he continued, “I was super excited to hear you were coming. Michael made me read your article… The one with the cam-girl? I REALLY liked it.”
I shook Mauricio’s outstretched hand, genuinely impressed by his comment. “Really? That’s my strangest piece by far and THAT is saying something.”
“Normally, I hate that kind of stuff too and he knows it.” Mauricio waved a hand at Mikey and then turned back to check the simmering pot in front of him as he said, “When I finished the first chapter, I was like there’s no way this guy is coming over for dinner. But then I kept reading. I couldn’t stop, which is also rare. I’m not normally a big reader but I don’t know. I loved the Enid character. She reminded me so much of my sister.”
I hadn’t realized Mikey left the kitchen until I opened my mouth to respond and he suddenly returned, holding an old white landline office-phone and abruptly derailing my train of thought as he held up the phone and said, “Check it out.”
“It’s… an old-ass telephone?”
Mikey smirked at me and was about to reply when a gray haired woman who looked like she could’ve been your local librarian’s older, more socially awkward sister suddenly leaned in from the hallway and said in a quivering half-whisper…
“Is this a bad time?”