The Places that Haunt Us

 

2011_Endangered_Grace_Towns_Hamilton_HouseThere should be no reason for this house to appear so often and so vividly in my dreams, but even now, 20 years after I moved out, it calls to me. Often I return to it at night in sleep, stealing my way in while the owners are away, and wandering the halls looking for something I’ve left behind. There is a secret buried there, hidden in the walls or left in a nook in the garage or basement, and I need to find it and get out before the owners return. Sometimes my sister is there with me and we search together, occasionally I bring my wife along and hope I don’t turn up anything embarrassing.

I let myself into the old foursquare house through the side door (only guests use the great front door that opens into the massive front hall and central staircase), and poke my head into the garage. I can smell the must and motor oil, and there are a few bikes scattered about. I wander into the kitchen and check the freezer that I used to raid for frozen Twinkies, then the stacks of unread magazines by the microwave. I push the swinging door from the butler’s pantry into the grand dining room, expecting to hear my father laughing over some joke, but the room is dark and silent.

I wander all over the house, from bright attic down to the basement, though even now I avoid the room behind the furnace for fear of menace that always seemed to lurk there. I may be an uninvited spirit, but within that shadowy existence of dreams are nightmares best left undisturbed.

I always find assorted things we left behind, but never what I want to find. I find my old bedroom set, now in use by a stranger, or I find my fish tank, or I find the imaginary town I made with my sister in the attic, but I never find the secret. I do find lesser secrets, like the Playboy magazine I nicked from my dad, or the hidden base I made for my action figures in the garage for some or another war I had planned with a neighbor, or the cupboard where my mother thought she had safely hidden her Christmas shopping.

Always is the looming threat of the return of the strangers who now must inhabit the house, and however welcoming and familiar the corridors and cupboards are I cannot stop and dawdle. They are returning soon, and they will surely be angry at finding me, and will call me a thief for merely taking back what was always mine. I make sure to wake up when I hear them fumbling with the lock, or when I hear them coming up the wide, old staircase.

——

There should be no reason for this house to so often haunt me.  I lived there for only seven years, even if those years were the tumultuous teens. I had few friends nearby, whereas our prior home was in a neighborhood full of kids my age. My parents’ marriage nearly shattered like an overloaded freighter stranded on a reef while we lived there, while I hid in the attic pouring out my love for a girl from the school down the street in a ridiculous diary. I transitioned from biking all over town to driving all over town while there. Maybe it haunts me because it was the last place that felt like home growing up. We moved at the start of my senior year, and I knew that last one was only a transition for me.

I’ve been out of that house for over 20 years now. I’ve been married for 15 years, and we’ve been in our current house for 10, a far longer time than the years lived in The House. Our current home has seen the births of three of our four children, the lean start-up days of our business through the prosperity of today. Nearly all of our original neighbors moved away, but it just doesn’t have the permanence in my mind of The House. At night I frequently still steal away, back to where I once lived, and let myself in through the side door.

——

Do we all return to haunt places, and do we travel in company? Or do we each visit in secret, alone and terrified lest the new owners return unexpected?

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  1. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    If you send me $9.99 I will help you get over this haunting feeling. Also I will let you know the secret that you long to know.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Yes.

    • #2
  3. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Yes–but to all the houses I’ve lived in.  Recently I returned to my childhood house.  My aunt lives there and has remodeled it quite a bit, but my old upstairs bedroom is still the same.  I’d forgotten how charming it is.   But every house I’ve ever lived in holds memories for me–family meals, birthday parties, babies brought home from the hospital, Christmas mornings, singing around the piano, hours reading on the couch.  When I visit old places, I feel like I am meeting myself coming and going, along with the ghosts of all the people who lived there with me.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I have just awoken from a dream wherein I was Prince William Henry (George III’s son and later King William IV), just off a ship and wondering what would come next.  Not about a particular place, but an interesting dream, neanmois.

    • #4
  5. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    The house wasn’t called Brideshead, was it?

    • #5
  6. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    That’s a sweet, touching tribute. I liked reading that.  Many of my dreams, if I can pinpoint any location in them, take place in the home I grew up in, as well. 

    I do have one recurring dream, that I stumble upon a room in my own home that I never knew was there before.  It usually looks like a pretty summer porch with long windows, sunlight streaming in, and furniture that reminds me of what used to be in my grandparents’ rowhome in Allentown.  My other set of grandparents, who died when I was about 5, did have an enclosed porch on their little home in Bryn Mawr, I barely remember that. But I am always thrilled to find that room – and there’s usually no more to the dream, just the discovery of this place I love.

    • #6
  7. user_6236 Member
    user_6236
    @JimChase

    Ok, I admit to being a little weirded out.  Just yesterday I was revisiting an old blog post I wrote about just such a phenomenon, centered around a tiny, dead farming community where I spent 4+ years, but revisit frequently in my dreams.  I almost posted it to the member feed, and decided against it.  Maybe I will later today.

    • #7
  8. Old Buckeye Inactive
    Old Buckeye
    @OldBuckeye

    I used to read about dream interpretations because I’ve always been able to remember my dreams and they’re usually quite involved with lots of details. According to The Secret Language of Dreams by David Fontana, “Houses in dreams usually represent the dreamer, and can symbolize his or her body or the various levels of the mind….It was from a dream of a house that Jung formulated his theory of the collective unconscious….In dreams, each room and floor can stand for different aspects of the personality or mind, which should be connected and integrated, but often are not.”
    The whole realm of dreams is fascinating to me. The most intriguing type of dream I’d like to experience is lucid dreaming, where you’d know you’re dreaming in the midst of your dream. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but it sounds cool!

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Pencilvania:

    That’s a sweet, touching tribute. I liked reading that. Many of my dreams, if I can pinpoint any location in them, take place in the home I grew up in, as well.

    I do have one recurring dream, that I stumble upon a room in my own home that I never knew was there before. It usually looks like a pretty summer porch with long windows, sunlight streaming in, and furniture that reminds me of what used to be in my grandparents’ rowhome in Allentown. My other set of grandparents, who died when I was about 5, did have an enclosed porch on their little home in Bryn Mawr, I barely remember that. But I am always thrilled to find that room – and there’s usually no more to the dream, just the discovery of this place I love.

     I’ve got one like that, except the door I never noticed before leads to a balcony above a big hall filled with stuff that looks interesting (portraits, landscapes, a suit of armor on display, etc.).  There’s no way down from the balcony.  I usually spend the rest of the dream looking for a previously undiscovered staircase down, but I never find it.

    • #9
  10. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul


    This song always reminds me of the house.

    • #10
  11. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    I occasionally dream about the house I spent most of my childhood in. Typically there’s a secret something-or-other that leads to some amazing feature that was never actually present in the house itself.

    For me, a sufficiently vivid dream risks getting misremembered as waking memory. The annex where my dad had his home office did have an unusually large crawlspace, but not so large that there was room to build a well-furnished technical library whose size rivaled a good-sized high school’s. Nonetheless, sometimes I fleetingly remember that library as part of the house even while I’m awake.

    Far more common, though, are nightmares where I’m sent back to high school – a place I haven’t set foot in since graduation and don’t intend to visit – because some graduation requirement or other wasn’t completed and the world wouldn’t recognize a single accomplishment of mine as legitimate until that graduation requirement was filled. I hate those dreams. They can leave me on edge for days.

    • #11
  12. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Skip, this is beautifully written…Lots of grist for meditation and prayer.  Thank you!  I’ll update this later with what you’ve encouraged…

    • #12
  13. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Huh…  My wife and I were recently in Montana for a little vacation (we both grew up in the same town).  We stayed in the house where she was born, and where her family still lived.  My family has moved many times and my parents now live in a different state, even.  But we went and visited an old building where my Dad used to pastor – it is now a boys and girls club – and where we went through some pretty difficult times (it was an awful church).  It was infinitely harder for me than I thought it would be.  Some of the old back rooms left virtually untouched after nearly 20 years.  I don’t visit there in my dreams, but it was almost overwhelming to visit there in person.

    Buildings are funny like that; just like smells, they can bring you back to a place that you thought was gone.  At once, you realize just how much has changed and how much time has passed.  Even if those changes are good ones (marriage, kids, work, etc…), it’s still a very emotional experience.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I do often dream of the house I grew up in. Typically, I am in the upstairs hallway or what was my room. Although at least once I was in the sideyard looking into the backyard where we used to keep the dog. I think the dog died about 1979, but there he was. It used to be my job to feed him, and as he saw me, a hippopotamus walked by and he just opened up and swallowed down the hippo. Message couldn’t be any clearer, “You haven’t fed me for a long time, and I could eat a hippo.”

    • #14
  15. user_370242 Member
    user_370242
    @Mikescapes

    Strange. That’s the same house that haunts my dreams.

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Typically there’s a secret something-or-other that leads to some amazing feature that was never actually present in the house itself.

    The funny thing is that I never have the secret room dream about the old house . . . anymore. When I was a little kid, I used to all the time. We had a closet under the stairs, and when we were small, we would crawl way back under the stairs and play there. I would sometimes dream that instead of the concrete floor, the closet had another staircase leading down into a big room that had a giant hammock-like net that we could jump into off the unguarded stairs (no rail). It was the sort of room one might picture as a basement laboratory for a mad scientist, being underground and a stairway with no rail, but it was a wonderful children’s play place instead.

    • #16
  17. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Mike Silver:

    Strange. That’s the same house that haunts my dreams.

     It’s a very nice house.

    • #17
  18. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    I used to have this dream a lot.  Don’t much anymore.

    In my dream, the owners were home and about to come in.  Perpetually about to come in.  I would frantically seek escape.

    At once, unnerving and comforting.

    • #18
  19. user_137118 Member
    user_137118
    @DeanMurphy

    I dream about a house I never lived in.  When I was a pre-teen, I dreamt of a white mansion with a colonnaded porch.  I never got to go inside, I would always be riding in a limousine that my Mom was driving.
    Later the house was a split level with 4 levels: basement, living-room and kitchen, and 2 levels of bedrooms.  I was always in danger from robbers or murderers and had to run from the top level to the bottom to escape.
     Nowadays its a two story with a basement, upstairs there are 8 bedrooms and 3 baths, the middle level is a huge kitchen, a sunken living-room, and a big den, and I’ve never been in the basement, but I know its there.

    • #19
  20. SParker Member
    SParker
    @SParker

    Old Buckeye:

    …lucid dreaming..sounds cool!

    Not cool when in a wonderful conversation with someone you love dearly, you realize you’re dreaming and that they went to Glory long ago. You wake up weeping.

    My problem with my recurring house nightmare is the house was in waking life a perfect symbol of my parents’ faults and virtues and the combined effect on house and household. The epitome of a shipwreck. The ship went up in Halifax harbor.

    My dream: Alone in the twilight shambles of the house. I flip the light switch and nothing happens. I become aware of a paralyzing Cthulhu-strength presence.  Entirely too literal:

    “When you can’t turn on the lights.  How does that make you feel?”

    “Well, that’s just how the circuits worked most of the time.  Or the bill didn’t get paid.”

    “um hum.   But, even so, how does that make you feel?”

    “Uh…annoyed…helpless…powerless?”

    “Good.  Very good. And…?”

    “I should always pay my bills?”

    “Splendid.  Unpaid, all service providers eventually deny service.  You’ve made a real breakthrough.  Now,  perhaps try to think a bit about why you would find ‘an invisible, whistling octopus’ at all frightening.”

    • #20
  21. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    About ten years ago my parents sold the home where I lived from 3rd grade through going off to college.  I live 400 miles away now but still visit them in their new place which is about twenty miles away from the old one.  I’ve never felt at home in their new house and never so much as even driven by the old one.  I don’t dream about it, for which I am glad.  I think.

    • #21
  22. Proud Skeptic Inactive
    Proud Skeptic
    @ProudSkeptic

    About a year ago, my wife and I moved out of a beautiful old Victorian in Baltimore where we raised our three children.  We spent 20 years there and renovated it from top to bottom.  I often have dreams about going back there on the weekend (when the current owners are away) and finding that portions of the house were never finished…never renovated.

    Sounds like my subconscious thinks I have unfinished work there.

    Eerie parallels!

    • #22
  23. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    I feel like I am not normal because I am not having house dreams. Is there a book or something? I was thinking of something like “Dreams A-framed my Father”.

    • #23
  24. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    You’re confusing it with that epic novel of the Sock Homeland, ‘Drawer and Peace.’

    • #24
  25. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Pencilvania:

    You’re confusing it with that epic novel of the Sock Homeland, ‘Drawer and Peace.’

     When they make it into a movie, its theme song will be “Houses of the Holey”

    • #25
  26. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    10 cents:

    I feel like I am not normal because I am not having house dreams. Is there a book or something? I was thinking of something like “Dreams A-framed my Father”.

     Well, when you’ve spent your entire live either in a darkened drawer or a darkened shoe I don’t imagine there’s much to remember.  Maybe you’ll be reincarnated as a shirt?

    • #26
  27. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Pencilvania:

    You’re confusing it with that epic novel of the Sock Homeland, ‘Drawer and Peace.’

     Remember what Thomas Wolfe wrote “You can’t go hose again”. Okay it is a gag. A running gag. You know a gag about runs.
    Pencil, when in doubt “Look, Hoseward Angel”. Well at least “Dress for Sock-ess”.

    • #27
  28. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    skipsul:

    10 cents:

    I feel like I am not normal because I am not having house dreams. Is there a book or something? I was thinking of something like “Dreams A-framed my Father”.

    Well, when you’ve spent your entire live either in a darkened drawer or a darkened shoe I don’t imagine there’s much to remember. Maybe you’ll be reincarnated as a shirt?

      “When first we practice to deceive!”, we make a tangled web. Later when we get better we make pot holders. When we really get good we make sock puppets. Trust me on this. Would I de …. de …. de er ahem lie to you? 

    Update: Sorry, I have been off topic. This thread is not about some hose but some house. This mistake will hant me for a while.

    • #28
  29. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    We’ve lived in our current house for nearly 12 years.  It’s an old house and actually came with a house history that told about each former owner and how they had improved the place.  Unfortunately all of them ended up divorced….  We’re going to break that losing streak.  Anyway, twice the owner just before us has come by, once alone and once with a guest, to see the house.  I show him through and he makes comments about how it used to be.  I can’t decide how I feel about this.  I understand his desire to see the house, but it is just a little creepy, like his space invading ours or something.  My husband really dislikes it.

    • #29
  30. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    In my dreams, “home” is almost always represented by the house I grew up in, even though I haven’t lived there since 1988. Even if the characters and situations in the dream are from my present-day life, I’m still living in the old house.

    Similarly, when I have dreams about work, it is quite often in the form of the summer job I worked during college, the first real job I ever had.

    My theory is that my brain long ago established these baseline representations of fundamental concepts like “home” and “workplace,” and that nothing that comes later can overwrite those symbols. So when I dream of those places from my past, I see it not as a return to the past, but as a metaphorical representation of my present.

    Or maybe it’s just a bunch of neurons firing randomly.

    • #30

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