Do you know what this is?
It’s a smudge stick: a bundle of dried sage that is used to “cleanse” a house, object or person of any negative energy. Smudging is a Native American tradition that entails burning the end of the bundle and blowing the smoke around the perimeter of the home, fanning it into all the corners and hoping it doesn’t burn the house down. Apparently the smoke attaches itself to the negative energy in the room and carries it away someplace. Or something.
Sounds totally batshit, right? Deep down I am mortified to even share this with you. MORTIFIED. Oh, look! Tracy has left civilization, moved to the woods and lost her fucking mind. While LJ’s at school and Pete’s finding creative ways to take advantage of gullible schmucks (advertising!), I’m sitting in our cozy home casting spells and burning things that I ordered off Amazon for five bucks. WHY, you ask?
Well, for starters, I moved to New England. We all know this entire place is haunted. I mean, right? If you drive through the historic section of my town- which is where we’re renting a house- you can practically see the ghosts waving at you from the windows of every home. The house at the end of my street was built in the early 1800s. Surely the owner is possessed by some disgruntled Revolutionary War soldier’s spirit and that’s why he’s such a jerk.
From the first night we moved in, back in March, Lotte would have nights where she slept really terribly. She would cry out repeatedly throughout the evening, leaving us all cranky and exhausted in the mornings. It wasn’t every night, but it happened enough and we chalked it up to the new surroundings. On more than one occasion when I dashed into her room at some ungodly hour she would shriek something like, “THE FACES! I DON’T LIKE THE FACES!”, and I would grumpily shout, “What are you talking about? THERE ARE NO FACES!! GET A GRIP AND GO TO SLEEP OR MOMMY WILL GO CRAZY!”. (I know. Nice. So compassionate.) She would point to some corner where “the faces” were supposedly chilling, but I saw nothing and demanded she go to bed immediately or Santa would never come again.
Then, one morning over breakfast, Lotte looked up from her Puffins and matter-of-factly said, ”Mommy, five skeletons came into my room last night. They said, ‘If you need us, we’ll come back’.”
IF YOU NEED US, WE’LL COME BACK.
Now, she was almost 4 when she said this. She has never heard a ghost story or seen a horror movie, so she certainly doesn’t know what spirits are: that they can “come back” or that they even were once alive, you know? That statement made my skin crawl. Pete the cynic, of course, decided she heard that on tv and we were to never speak of it again because it was stupid (translation: he was scared.). What I hadn’t admitted to him until then, though, was that I had been seeing and hearing creepy little bits as well- minor things that made my heart race and my hair stand on end. Only at night. Only upstairs, where the bedrooms are located. I hadn’t told him because Pete’s the kind of person who leaves the room when a horror movie comes on. He hates them. He hates being scared.
I don’t mind having a little fright. My apartment senior year in college was so haunted my mother still talks about how she watched my rocking chair rock with nobody near it. It happens. We all survived (by smoking a shit-ton of weed to forget about the slamming doors and blowing tapestries). So, I wasn’t wigging out about Lotte’s nighttime visitors, until she kept mentioning them, unprovoked.
A week or so later we had the following conversation, which I made note of on my phone:
L: “They were talking to me last night.”
Me: “Who? The skeletons?”
L: “NOOO! The skeletons don’t talk, the shadows do!!”
Me: “What shadows?”
L: “THE SHADOWS THAT SURROUND ME.”
Excellent. Okay. Overactive, really awesome imagination, maybe? Pete accused me of “leading the witness”, but I know he was just freaked out and really wanted her to stop talking about it either way.
This all came to a nightmarish, “Holy Christ is this Paranormal Activity?” fever pitch one evening last month. We were all sound asleep snug in our beds when Lotte let out a BLOOD-CURDLING SCREAM. A big one. Not the usual whimpering cries, but a SCREAM that jolted Pete out of bed and sent him running down the hall. When he reemerged wide-eyed from the dark hallway back into our bedroom, he was clutching my terrified daughter in her pink princess nightgown and he said, “Tell Mommy! Tell her what you just told me!”. Lotte tearfully whispered,
“I need someone to tell the ghosts to stop touching me.”
As he plopped her down onto the bed and she scurried up to snuggle between us, I felt something.
It felt like something had crawled onto the foot of the bed.
I jumped up shouting, “WHAT THE FUCK?! SOMETHING’S THERE! SOMETHING JUST CLIMBED ONTO THE BED! THE WHOLE BED MOVED BY MY FEET!”, but Pete hissed at me to be quiet, to stop scaring everyone, and it was probably just the dog.
The dog was sleeping on the floor across the room, and the cat was curled up on the dog’s bed in the opposite corner.
I didn’t sleep that night, obviously, and as soon as it was a reasonable hour- and I wasn’t too terrified to get up and walk around my scary-ass house- I went online and ordered the smudge stick pictured above, because seriously? I don’t like the idea of ghosts touching my kid. Who would? Were these simply nightmares? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Regardless, I smudged the hell out of this house.