It wasn’t long after moving into the McBride House that I began to notice odd things. Just little things at first—footsteps to begin with, then doors shutting and even opening. I also heard whispering and sometimes a child crying. I heard the sounds every day, usually during the day when Froston was napping.
As weeks went by, I could actually hear people walking up and down the main staircase. Cold, swift drafts of air would sometimes sweep through and invade the rooms. Sometimes I thought I could smell heavy cigar smoke or a floral perfume. When I was busy and rushing around the house, I felt as though someone were following me from room to room, watching over my shoulder as I went about my daily routine. But what really unsettled me was when I would check on Froston when he was sleeping and he would be covered up with one of his heavy baby blankets in the July heat. The most disturbing thing about the blanket was that it was kept in his dresser drawer. I had never put it inside his crib; therefore someone else was in the house with me.
Another strange thing was the objects disappearing practically right before my eyes. While cooking, I could be stirring something on the stove, put my spoon down, and turn my head for a second, and the spoon would be gone when I turned back around.
Sometimes cooking a meal became a chore. Not only did items vanish, but also my electric burners on the stove would turn off when I wasn’t looking. At first I thought I had forgotten to turn the dial, but after I became mindful of it, I knew that I had turned the stove on. It was evident that something wasn’t right about the house.
Many times while we were in the upstairs bathroom, which sits directly above the kitchen, we could hear the kitchen cabinets slamming shut and chairs sliding across the kitchen floor. I just blew the noises off for a while, thinking I was hearing things that were normal for an old house. But there was no logical explanation for the missing objects and baby blanket other than ghosts, and I was frightened of that reality. Several times I would tell Chris about the odd events I was experiencing.
“It’s because you’re not used to living in a hundred-andthirteen-year-old house. It’s going to have popping noises and creaks because it’s settling,” he would remark in an unflinching voice.
“Settling? It’s had a hundred and thirteen years to settle. No, that’s not it—something is going on here,” I would argue.
“What exactly do you think is going on?” Chris would question.
“I really believe the house is haunted,” I responded.
With a look of curiosity, he asked, “Why would you say such a thing? There is no such thing as ghosts.”
At that remark, I would drop the subject and leave. I know that doctors are taught from the beginning to think only in scientific terms, and a ghost would not qualify on those terms.
I can’t remember being told about ghosts as a child. I know my parents and grandparents never discussed them, at least not that I was aware of. This being said, I believed there were such things as ghosts.
The first time I recall being alerted to the supernatural was when I lived in Antlers, Oklahoma, as a small child. My family lived directly across the street from the old Bradley School, where I attended the first grade. The time was the early 1960s, when kids were allowed more freedom to roam around and explore, although I never was allowed past the school grounds.
There was one building that always drew me to its windows. It had a basement classroom with low windows that nearly touched the ground. I would lie on my stomach and just stare into that classroom, studying the shelves, desks, chairs, and blackboard. I would be engrossed for long periods at a time, intent on finding out what held my attention to that particular room. Nearly every day I would be pulled to that room across the street from where I lived. I was scared, almost dreading to look in, but I knew I could not stop myself. There was nothing significant about it other than a tremendously overpowering feeling.
It was years later after I reached adulthood that I learned the school had been the center of a crisis. On April 12, 1945, the same day as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, an F5 tornado hit the small rural town of approximately two thousand people, destroying much of Antlers, killing eighty six people, and leaving 1,500 people homeless. At the turn of the twenty-first century, this tornado was still considered the third deadliest in Oklahoma history; its devastation stretched twenty-eight miles wide.
The bodies of the dead as well as the severely injured were laid out at the Bradley School until medical help could get to them. I don’t know if some of those poor victims of the tornado were still roaming around the school or if that particular room had a residual haunting left by students long ago.
My experience with things out of the ordinary in Antlers led to me realizing that my aunt Vaunita and uncle Joe had something wrong with their new house in California. My family moved out there just as I was starting second grade. My parents were looking for a place for the five of us to live, but in the meantime my aunt and uncle were kind enough to let us stay with them in their new home.
Their house was less than a year old, but it had a heavy, devious, malicious feeling to it. My little sister was only three at the time, and she would cling to my mother and me and cry when we tried to leave her in a room alone.
Walking down the hallway one day, I saw the bathroom door slam shut by itself. I hastily went inside to see if it was really empty, because I did not see anyone enter. I fully expected to see another family member inside. But I was the only person in the bathroom. Just to double-check, I slowly walked over to the shower—a brave act for a seven-year-old child. I grabbed the shower curtain and promptly pulled it back to look inside. Nothing was in the bathroom.
The spirit began to get more aggressive as time went on. Several of the family members, including myself, were waking each morning with deep, long scratches on our bodies. At the same time, we began hearing heavy, whispery breathing throughout the house. The spirit was also opening the garage doors around midnight each evening. But the most alarming thing was that the spirit was starting small fires in the kitchen. It would turn on the stove burners, and a potholder or some other flammable object next to them would soon go up in flames. One day I could hear my uncle and mother discussing the ghost, so I knew then that it was serious and that measures were being taken by my aunt and uncle to sell the house.
I was glad when my parents found a house and we moved from my aunt and uncle’s. However, there would be times when my aunt would beg me to spend the night with her and my uncle. I always used the excuse that I had a toothache, which landed me in the dentist chair on more than one occasion.
What really broke the ice for Chris at the McBride House was when he, Froston, and I returned home one afternoon from shopping. The trip had made Froston tired and sleepy.
“Chris, I’m going to put Froston down for a nap. Would you please pull back his covers so that I won’t wake him?” I asked.
As we walked into Froston’s bedroom we both stopped and stared. We looked around the room in disbelief, then at one another. All of Froston’s nursery books, which were plentiful, were off the bookshelves and stacked in piles around his room.
“What the hell?” Chris uttered.
“I told you we had a ghost,” I said.
Still looking the room over, Chris stepped aside while I put Froston in his crib for a nap.
“Are you sure you didn’t do this? Were you reading to him and then just placed the books on the floor when you finished?” Chris asked me, still in denial.
“You have got to be joking. You know I was not reading to Froston before we left,” I responded. “Besides, I could not have read that many books before we went shopping,” I assured him.
Hating to admit he was wrong about the fact there was a ghost, he reluctantly did so.
“Well, I suppose the place could be haunted.”
That was the beginning of a long history of supernatural events that would continue to mystify us for twenty-five years.
From Ghosts of the McBride House, by Cecilia Back