It only happened a couple of times. In fact, it was so long between the times it happened that the first occurrence became a distant memory. Deep down inside I knew it had happened, but I had tried to trick my brain into thinking that it might have been a dream. I was hoping that I would grow up and move out of the house before I had to experience it again. It was scarier than knowing that one of the previous owners had died in the kitchen; scarier than knowing that my Dad and Uncle Johnny found a dead man out in the middle of the cotton field within a quarter of a mile from the house; scarier than knowing that the poor man had lain in the sun so long that he had decomposed and our dog had eaten part of him. And it was much more scarier than hearing the creaking of the rocking chair downstairs going back and forth in the blackness of the night when no one was awake. I remember one of the Rogers girls coming over to baby-sit us occasionally, but none of the other baby-sitting age girls were brave enough to be at our house at night.
The upstairs light didn’t have a light switch. It had a pull-chain with a long string that hung from the light way up on the ceiling down to the halfway point of the stairs. There was a large coat button tied to the end of the string and when you walked up the stairs you were immediately looking for that button so you could turn on the light as soon as possible. The string had enough stretch to it that there were times that when you ran down the stairs and pulled the string too hard to turn off the light, it would spring all the way up into the room and land on to the other side of the railing. That meant that to turn on the light again you had to walk all the way up the stairs in pitch black, walk around the railing and walk around the room waving your arms to find the string. Before I would go upstairs I would yell for Brandt and find out where he was in the house, since I never put it past him to be up there in the dark ready to scare the bejabbers out of me.
Both episodes happened in the middle of the night when the windows were open. The windows had these funny ropes on each side inside the frame to help steady the windows as you opened and closed them. There were screens in place to keep the bugs out and it didn’t take much movement of air outside to feel the breeze come through the curtains. I could sit up in bed and see all around the farm and down to the intersection of Val Vista and Guadalupe, the front driveway, the tops of the citrus trees, or the sheep out in the field. The tin roof of the first floor was right outside my window. It was too steep for anyone to climb on, but if someone were brave enough to get up there, I could have sat up in bed and had a conversation with them through the screen, being only a couple of feet from each other.
I was in a deep sleep both times when I heard it. It wasn’t something that wakes you up and then you wonder what the sound was. It was LOUD and I was immediately awake with my heart pounding in my chest and with my eyes shut as tightly as I could. And it was right outside the window on the roof at eye level. Something was rolling over the tin roof going back and forth and back and forth very loudly and quickly. It was squeaking and squealing the entire time with a mechanical sound as it hit the raised parts of the roof and I could feel the vibration coming through the walls. But yet it had a breathing quality to it as well that I’ve never been able to adequately explain to anyone all these years. It lasted no more than about 15 to 20 seconds and if I were brave enough to sit up and peer out the window, I would have been able to look right at it. As young as I was, I was never able to muster the courage to sit up and look while it was happening. All the other stories I had heard about the house made me too scared and I was never able to confront it. I was just too scared to find out what might be staring back at me just a few inches away through that flimsy screen.