It was one of the best lines ever uttered in a movie by a terrified 10-year-old boy, played by Haley Joel Osment in the movie “The Sixth Sense.”
I love scary movies, but they scare the heck out of me. Why do you think I have white hair at such a young age?
When Osment whispered the confession to Bruce Willis, he was scared half out of his mind.
He was tormented. Haunted.
“I see dead people.”
So do I. I’ve seen them all my life.
Ghosts. Spirits. Things that go bump in the night.
It’s not something I like to admit, but I’ve told more than my share of ghost stories growing up.
For the longest time, I thought my eyes had played a trick on me. I’d get these quick glimpses of movement out of the corner of my eye. That’s what my parents said, “Your eyes are playing tricks on you.”
Houdini couldn’t pull off that many tricks.
During my younger years, I was the victim of an overactive imagination. I’d wake up screaming from nightmares, enough of them that my parents considered taking me to a head doctor.
The term “night terrors” popped up in hushed conversations around the grown-ups. Night terrors are more vivid than nightmares, but nothing to be overly alarmed about, the doctor said. This was our pediatrician talking, the same guy that set a dislocated and broken finger by saying, “This is going to hurt a bit,” as he grabbed a hold of my errantly pointed pinky finger and gave a big yank.
After they scraped me off the doctor’s office ceiling with a spatula, I asked the doctor to define what he meant by “hurt a bit.” You mean does it hurt like amputating an arm? OK, then.
These weren’t night terrors. These weren’t imaginary. These are real.
I still see these things, and as for night terrors or nightmares, I’ve learned to enjoy them.
Before you shake your head and dismiss this as “that guy’s crazy,” let me explain.
Every house I’ve lived in has been haunted in some way.
I enjoyed a brief stay at the Inn at Houndslake, and I was the insomniac walking the halls at 2 a.m. because I heard things like the calculator in the office across the hall.
I see my grandparents all the time. I saw my father-in-law after he died in 1991. They peek out at you from around corners.
They are fleeting glimpses passing down the hall, like Darla, the petite woman with long flowing brown hair wearing a white gingham nightgown that haunted a house I once lived in. I described her to my next-door neighbors when I asked who had died in our house.
They blanched and asked, “How did you know?”
I told them I see her all the time and proceeded to describe her.
“That’s Darla,” my neighbors said. “She had an aneurysm and died in the living room. She was wearing a white gingham nightgown when she died.”
She’d been unable to sleep, having experienced severe headaches, and was in the living room when she collapsed around 4:30 a.m.
My writing office was set up apparently right where she died.
When my grandson was a newborn infant, he would look at a spot at the ceiling, right over my shoulder, and smile and coo. He wasn’t smiling at me but at something behind me.
I asked him several times, “Carter, what do you see?”
I love writing ghost stories every Halloween. I’ve been on my share of ghost hunts right down to Ghostbuster-like tri-coder equipment.
I see ghosts and spirits everywhere, and I love it. It’s amusing.
Of course, I’ve also claimed to see UFOs and Bigfoot, too, but you didn’t hear that from me.
Dan Brown is an award-winning humor columnist, author of five novels and the government reporter for the Aiken Standard.