Age 7: Watched Ghostbusters for the first time. Retained none of the plot but managed to pick up a crippling fear of marshmallows for the next few months as well as the paranoia that should I not take proper safety precautions gargoyle hands would come out of my bed and grab me. I didn’t go so far as to imagine what the gargoyles would do after grabbing me (whisk me away to gargoyle land to sweep cathedrals? eat me? let me go?), but I knew that I didn’t want to be grabbed by gargoyles, and that by positioning stuffed animal sentinels on either side of me (usually 2-3 per side, but on particularly frightened nights I might’ve employed as many as four Beanie Baby guards at a time for each side) I could avoid this possibility. Before this I’d only had nightmares about Godzilla dying (usually in apocalyptic fire bombings ordered by military colonels with trembling jowls) which would leave me catatonic and weeping on my bedroom floor, so this was my first experience having an irrational psychological threat to my own well-being. Coincidentally also the first time I learned that my penis would tingle if rubbed properly, thanks to the Ghostbusters scene where the actress Sigourney Weaver plays a possessed character trying to seduce Bill Murray. Began to wonder if the ability to orgasm was a supernatural power gifted solely to me, and reasoned, through much seven-year old squinting and deliberating, that probably one boy in every four American states could attain what I referred to as “the tinglies.”
Age 9: Asked mom, for no reason I can presently remember, what her opinion was on the likelihood of supernatural beings existing. She answered, very seriously, that she often saw ghosts, their presences indicated by otherworldly “shimmerings” in the air. I said, also very seriously, that I saw shimmerings in the air too, especially on hot days right over the pavement. She ignored me and said once she’d gone with some friends to visit the house of a deceased celebrity and they had lit candles and sat on the floor and held hands and channeled the spirit of the celebrity, who she said had been a guitarist, I think. She said she had closed her eyes when she heard a voice that didn’t sound like any of her friends’ voices and something cold brushed her shoulder. She emphasized, strangely it now seems to me, the fact that although she’d drank “a bit,” she’d been under minimal drug influence at this point in time so she’s sure she didn’t just “imagine it,” as her friends suggested to her when they left the celebrity’s house.
Age 10: Had a friend who lived in an old colonial house with a mysterious door in the basement that never opened. Felt emanations of otherworldly cold from this door, phantom whisperings, celestial tugs on my spirit, etc. Decided it was a gate to hell and invested a solid few months of my “play dates” with this friend in trying to prod it open/sitting in front of it guessing at the secrets sealed within. One day I went over to discover his mom had opened said hell-door wide for spring cleaning and all it did was lead to the weed-tangled section beneath his porch. Had a similar experience with the upstairs of his garage, in that when we finally mustered the courage to climb its rickety steps all we found was wasp nests and an afternoon nursing wasp bites.
Age 12: Summer camp, journalism class. The camp was hosted at a private middle school where, as I determined from various “In Memory Of” plaques scattered around the building, a student had died. I think technically the student had passed away from a statistically rare disease during his time attending the school, but my fellow campers and I agreed that this method of death was decidedly “lame” and it was much more likely he’d been murdered in the upstairs section of the school, which was admittedly draftier and thus “spookier” than the rest of the building, and that the plaques were the faculty’s attempt to cover up the gruesome slaying (which had been carried out by a former teacher turned serial killer, we inferred). We told our counselors that we wanted to do an interview with the deceased boy in question’s ghost. They eagerly supported this idea and lauded us for our creative initiative. We went to the deserted upper floors and sat in a dusty classroom for ~45 minutes, hands folded in our laps, studiously awaiting the ghost’s appearance for our interview. I felt at one point a profound pressure on my bowels that I concluded was not related to my need for a bathroom, but was instead an indication of the ghost’s presence lurking there among us. When we returned downstairs, a counselor asked us what we had written for the interview and we had said the ghost hadn’t revealed himself to our eyes or otherwise made contact with us, so obviously nothing, and the counselor got mad and banned us from going upstairs, despite my fervent protests that I’d “felt” a spirit nearby.
Age 20: Was having sex with my friend in her apartment over college break. As such, her roommate was out and we had the place to ourselves, something we had initially considered an advantage in that we could pee with the bathroom door open and make out while playing Mario Party. Mysterious banging noises off in the distance mid-coitus and a bedroom right by the first floor window quickly changed our minds about these perks. I pulled out immediately and bolted upright, grabbing an empty beer can as a weapon, figuring if worst came to worst I could throw it and rely on its aluminum impact as at least a disincentive to any potential robbers/serial killers/bloodthirsty spirits seeking revenge. Wandered the apartment for the next half hour completely naked, flipping back shower curtains, glaring under beds, etc. Concluded the disturbance had probably just been her cat mauling a toy. Smoked marijuana together to celebrate this discovery, which just so happened to heighten our paranoia. Stayed up for at least two more hours after that listening to every minor creak in the apartment, venturing guesses as to what supernatural force could be causing them. Last thing I recall saying before falling asleep was, “It sounds like an alien pacing on the front porch because it hasn’t figured out how to use doorknobs…yet” between uncontrollable giggles. Last thing I remember her saying was, “Ghost cock block,” in a reverent whisper.
Age 21: Moved into a new apartment before the rest of my roommates. It was spacious and cold, the only heat coming from a spider-web of propane tanks and pumps in its basement that clunked ominously at uneven intervals throughout the night. First night alone heard something that sounded like what I imagined an oak bureau tumbling down a cramped stairwell would make. Too tired/drunk to get out of bed, I figured it came through the wall from the neighbor’s apartment next door. In the morning I discovered that a bag of apples on my counter had toppled over, covering the floor in bruised, semi-green fruit. That night I got drunk again and paced the kitchen with one of the aforementioned apples in hand, its skin torn and darkening, not so much yelling as I was speaking in what I hoped was a loudly assertive tone, “Come face me, spirit, come face me.”