This ghost story was told to me by a slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable co-worker at 3M where I worked during the late 1990s. I’ll call her Samantha. At the time, I was working on my first book Haunted Texas Vacations: The Complete Ghostly Guide and using my weekends to travel around Texas researching haunted locations and interviewing witnesses.
One day, Samantha walked past my cubicle and heard me talking about ghosts with our graphic designer. She asked to speak with me in private. Samantha told me that she and her husband were living in one of Austin’s oldest neighborhood’s, Hyde Park (Hyde Park was developed in 1891 and is considered Austin’s first suburb). Samantha loved her house, but there was a problem. For months now, she and her husband had been experiencing strange happenings in the house – things they couldn’t explain.
Samantha and her husband often felt watched by an unseen presence while in the house alone. Both had heard disembodied footsteps and scraping noises coming from the attic at night. Recently, as they lay in bed watching the 10 o’clock news, every door in the house had opened and slammed shut at exactly the same time. Most alarming for Samantha, her birth control pills went missing every other day and turned up in strange places. Through it all the couple, who were both engineers, continued to deny that anything supernatural was causing the disturbances in their home. They did not believe in ghosts.
But then something terrifying and bizarre happened one night when Samantha’s husband was out of town. She was struggling not only with what she had witnessed, but also her reaction which made absolutely no sense to her. She’d been unable to tell her husband about it because of her unnerving reaction to it. Samantha could no longer deny the possibility that she was living in a haunted house.
Samantha had been sleeping soundly on the couple’s floor futon when all of sudden she was wide awake. Moonlight streamed through the window blinds. Although the room was in shadow, she could clearly see a man lying on the floor next to her. He was on his back and appeared solid. He wore jeans, a plaid shirt, and work boots and had brown hair. His face was turned away and Samantha was grateful for this small mercy. Even though he looked just like a person, there was something very strange about him. He was perfectly still. Not holding-his-breath still, but inanimate. He was somehow missing aliveness.
Samantha studied him for what seemed like several minutes. She remembered telling herself, “It’s just Bob” (the landlord), even though this man looked nothing like her landlord. Then she did something she couldn’t explain – she rolled over and went back to sleep. In the morning she woke up to an empty room. Convinced that it had been an intruder in the night, she jumped up and checked every window and door in the house. All were securely locked and bolted.
Her confusing reaction to finding a strange man in her bedroom made her feel ashamed to tell her husband what had happened while he was away. She was close to tears and desperate for some reassurance. I told her I had heard of many cases where paranormal witnesses had displayed equally puzzling behavior. I had even interviewed a couple of people who reported doing just what Samantha did when confronted with seeing a ghost in their room at night – they rolled over and went back to sleep.
Seeing a look of relief cross Samantha’s face, I explained that when we are faced with something so unfathomable, the brain can create false reasoning as a defense. It seems this tendency is more prevalent in those possessing a highly developed left brain which uses logic to form strategies. The left brain functions as the seat of practicality and comprehension. It is reality-based. The left brain duties include order and pattern perception and the understanding of math and science. The left brains knows and facts rule. Both Samantha and her husband were engineers with highly functioning left brains.
By contrast our right brain uses feelings and the language of symbols and images. It understands philosophy and religion. The right brain takes risks. It is fantasy-based and presents possibilities.
I assured Samantha that her behavior, while confusing in the light of day, made perfect sense to her left brain that night. It did what it needed to do to protect her. And it was successful.
Samantha eventually told her husband about the man. He believed her. They spent the final few months of their lease living a bit uneasily in the house, but nothing else paranormal happened.
A couple of years later when I last saw the couple, they were living in a new, old house – a beautifully renovated Victorian near downtown Austin. They’d been in the house for a year and reported having a handful of odd experiences: lights going on and off, feeling watched when alone, and seeing things moving in their peripheral vision. Samantha told me they were open to the possibility that their new home was also haunted. She joked, “I’m just fine with it as long as no one appears for any slumber parties while I’m alone in the house.”