I’m thrilled to be joining ten other authors for the Northwest Author Festival, to be held Saturday, November 7, from 2-5pm at Klindt’s Booksellers in The Dalles, Oregon. This will be my second year to attend, and I love visiting this charming bookstore and chatting with readers. If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello.
The scenic town of The Dalles is located along the banks of the Columbia River, and as Oregon’s oldest bookstore, Klindt’s Booksellers is a gem in the community. They’ve been selling books, stationery, journals, and office supplies since 1870, and the original floors, cabinets, and bookshelves remain intact. They even have their own ghost, as well as the ashes of three cremated people. The ashes of beloved former owners, Philip and Linda Klindt, are there, in addition to those of a customer who had stated in her will that she wanted to be at the bookstore (not a shabby place to spend the afterlife). While it’s unclear if the former owners or their loyal customer haunt the shop, it is rumored that a former employee does.
Ingwert C. Nickelsen opened the store over 140 years ago, and then, in 1928, he sold the bookstore to the Weigelt family. Brothers Gus and Paul Weigelt, along with their spinster sister Edna, owned and operated Weigelt’s Bookstore & Stationers for the next fifty years.
Edna Weigelt was an important part of the bookstore’s history. When Philip and Linda Klindt bought the bookstore from the Weigelt brothers in 1981, Edna agreed to stay on for one year to help the new owners figure out how to run the business. However, her love for the store and the community turned one year into twenty. Edna worked at the bookstore until she passed away at the age of 91.
According to the store’s manager, many of the staff suspect Edna still hangs around the bookstore. She used to put down the toilet seat and stand on it so she could reach the high shelf above the toilet. She was petite, with notoriously small feet. Sometimes staff members find the toilet seat down, with a tiny, dusty footprint on it!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
What do you dream about? Are your dreams filled with realism or fantasy? Do you remember your dreams when you wake up? I do. I have all kinds of dreams, and remember many of them. Some of them are pure escapism—flying, exploring places I’ve never been to in my waking life, or seeing the world as if through someone else’s eyes. The dreams I remember clearly are the ones that are the most vivid, the ones that seem so real, I think I’m awake.
It can’t be easy sleeping next to me. When I have nightmares, I startle awake, breathing hard. Other times, I’ve said things upon waking, still caught in the fabric of the dream. When I was first married, I had a silly dream about riding in a boat. A flat fish jumped aboard and wrapped itself around my hand. I could feel the slime on its scales, the spines in its fins. I sat up, shook my hand in the air, and yelled, “There’s a fish on my hand! There’s a fish on my hand!” For a moment, before I was fully conscious, I could still feel the pressure of something wrapped around my hand. I must have slept funny, causing my hand to lose feeling, but it was an incredibly stupid dream, and my husband and I had a good laugh about it.
Other dreams haven’t been so amusing. I’ve done battle with a variety of monsters and spooks, including zombies and a killer clown. Usually, my nightmares aren’t too bad, but every now and again there’s one that stays with me long after I’ve woken. I’ve never forgotten the worst one. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, asleep or awake.
I was sleeping over at a friend’s house, on the floor of her bedroom. In the middle of the night I woke up (or thought I woke up) to the sound of her crying. I looked over at her bed and saw her lying there, trembling with sobs. I sat up in my sleeping bag, and looked around the room, trying to figure out what was going on, why she was crying. I remember seeing moonlight coming through her window, and how it illuminated her desk and bookshelf.
I glanced back over at her bed, and there was a person standing there, watching my friend. I must have made a noise, because the person turned, slowly, to look at me. With a shock, I realized the person looked just like my friend—but it wasn’t my friend. I could see my friend, lying in her bed, still crying and shaking.
The person standing next to the bed wasn’t human. I knew that in my gut, and knowing made my blood run cold. The thing pretending to be my friend resembled her physically, but it was almost like it was wearing a mask of my friend’s face. It smiled, and slowly started walking toward me.
The expression on its face was one of pure evil—an unadulterated lust to hurt me. It shuffled across the room, as if it knew that moving slowly was somehow more frightening than lunging at me, as if it was savoring my terror, feeding off it.
I started screaming. It kept coming, and I screamed the same thing over and over, “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” What I was saying made no sense, but it worked. I woke up for real, my heart thundering in my chest.
I sat up, searching the room for any sign of what I’d just seen. The house was deathly silent. I could see my friend lying in her bed. She wasn’t crying, and no one was standing over her. But the moonlight was streaming in through the window, and in the faint light, the room looked just as it had in the dream.
I heard a soft sound and turned. My friend’s cat padded over to me, curled up on my sleeping bag, and stared at my friend’s bed. I don’t know how long I sat there, petting the cat, trying to catch my breath and assure myself it had just been a dream. I do know I will never forget the look on that thing’s face.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
If ghosts exist, how do they spend their time? Are they mindless apparitions, reliving the last moments of their lives, or self-aware, watching us live ours? I think they may watch us.
Last week I posted about seeing a shadowy figure in Old Main. That wasn’t the only unsettling experience I had while working in that building. There seemed to be a presence in the bathroom, which makes the idea of being watched all the more unnerving.
The ladies restroom on the ground floor of Old Main was small–it only had two stalls. The one furthest from the door was larger, designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. On the surface, there was nothing spooky about the room. There was a tall window set in the exterior wall, where the larger stall was. The window was frosted for privacy but still provided plenty of light. There was nothing visibly creepy about the restroom–the walls were painted a pristine white, so there were no dark and gloomy corners where something could hide.
However (and there’s always a however, isn’t there?), whenever I used the smaller stall, I always got the sense that the larger stall was occupied–that I wasn’t alone in the restroom, even though I could clearly see that no one was using the other stall. Still, the feeling of someone being there was so tangible, I’d find myself peering down, looking for feet in the other stall. It was an odd feeling, but one I kept to myself out of fear of appearing paranoid.
Then, one day, a co-worker came into my office and said, offhand, “You know, it’s the weirdest thing…” and went on to describe exactly what I’d experienced. We decided, given that our experiences corroborated with each other, and considering other ghostly rumors we’d heard about the building, that there could indeed be a nosy bathroom ghost, à la Moaning Myrtle. You would think the idea of being watched while doing our business would have caused us to use the upstairs restroom instead, but it didn’t. Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
Academia is the last place I’d expect to encounter the supernatural. While working at the University of Arizona, a school dedicated to scientific inquiry, I had a number of experiences I can’t explain. Before I became a writer, I was a researcher there, and I worked in Old Main, the oldest building on campus. It was a beautiful place to work, with tall windows and a veranda that wrapped around the entire building. On one side was a lovely garden with a fountain. I worked on the first floor, which boasted gorgeous tin ceilings. The building had character, and I felt privileged to work there.
One Saturday I came in to catch up on a research project. The long hallways were dark. I turned on a few lights and checked out the place, locking the doors for safety, since I was there alone. I didn’t want to be vulnerable to having someone walk in off the street while I was working by myself. Certain that I was safe, I opened my office door and dropped my bag next to my desk. My desk faced the window, and normally, I loved looking out at the garden outside. That day, however, I felt uneasy about having my back to my office door. Even though I’d made sure the building was secure, I didn’t want to make it easy for someone to sneak up on me. As a woman working in a large city, I’d learned it was better to be safe than sorry. As an extra safety measure, I shut and locked my office door, and then fired up my computer and got to work.
Without the kind of interruptions that can occur during a regular workday, I was making good progress on my project. The quiet made it easy to focus. Then, without warning, I had the odd feeling that I wasn’t alone. I turned my head to glance at my office door, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone standing there.
Startled, I sucked in my breath. How had someone gotten into my office? I was sure I’d locked the door. How long had they been standing there, silently watching me? I swiveled in my chair toward the figure, but whoever I’d seen had vanished. I studied my door. It was still closed. I opened it and scanned the hallway. There was no one there.
Later, I told a co-worker about my experience, and she relayed a story the janitor had shared with her. Once the janitor was working alone in our building, when he heard knocking coming from inside the supply closet. I’d met the man—he didn’t seem like the kind of person who would be easily startled. This time, however, he was shaken up by the noise because he knew he was the only person around. It was late at night, and all the outer doors to the building were locked. No one could have gotten in and slipped into the closet. Hesitant to open the door, the janitor called out. “Hello?” No one answered, but the knocking continued. Finally, more angry than scared, he said, “Well? Are you coming out or not?” The knocking stopped. The janitor opened the closet door to find it empty—no one inside playing a joke, and nothing that could have made the knocking noise. I don’t know if he ever heard the noise again or experienced anything else that was strange, but he kept working there. So did I.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015