Urban legends never cease to interest me. There are the old standbys you’ve probably heard before, like the killer who escapes from prison and has a hook for a hand. Or the one about the girl who is driving on a lonely road one dark night when someone starts tailgating her, flashing their car’s high beams. When she finally gets home and runs into her house to escape the weirdo following her, she finds out the guy driving the car wasn’t a psycho after all, but actually saved her life. Because there was a man in her backseat, you see, a man with a knife. Every time the man was about to stab her, the hero flashed his high beams and the man ducked back down behind the driver’s seat. These stories get passed down from a friend of a friend of a friend, and they must be true, because they happened to somebody’s cousin or aunt.
Here’s one you might not have heard before. On the northern Oregon coast, where the Oregon Coast Highway meets the Sunset Highway (the junction of the 101 and 26), there lives a legend. “Lives” might not be accurate, because no one knows if the Bandage Man is alive or dead. Perhaps he’s undead.
As the story goes, one night a young Cannon Beach couple went out for a drive in pickup truck and parked in the forest near the junction. They weren’t paying a lot of attention to what was going on outside the vehicle because they were busy doing the kinds of things teenagers do in parked cars. You know, gaze at the stars. (Teenagers are really fond of astronomy.) Anyway, all of a sudden, the truck jounced a little, like someone had climbed into the bed of the truck. Then, BAM! Somebody banged on the back window.
The young couple turned to see a crazy man wrapped in bandages, slamming his fists against the window of the truck, trying to get in. So they did what any sane person would do. They freaked out. Then they drove off, back to the city of Cannon Beach. By the time the boyfriend got to the girlfriend’s house to see her safely home, the bandaged man had vanished. But when the boyfriend peeked into the bed of his truck, he found a piece of gauze much like the man’s bloody wrappings. And it stank like death.
So what is the Bandage Man? A reanimated mummy? Unlikely. A ghost? Maybe. Some people say it’s the ghost of a logger who was horribly burned and wrapped in bandages before he died. If you drive in that area at night, he might just hitch a ride, and you’ll find out who—or what—he really is.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
A friend recently told me a story about a crying ghost in the house where she lives. This wasn’t her first brush with the supernatural. When she lived in a different house, she once woke up to see the spirit of an elderly woman sitting in the rocking chair in her bedroom. The ghost seemed to be benevolent, to her family at least. The spirit never did anything to frighten them.
When one of her daughters was seriously ill, my friend and her family had to make a temporary move so they could have better access to health care. The girl was on a list for a lung transplant. They ended up letting a friend and her partner stay there to house sit. The agreement was the couple could live at the house for free, so long as they paid the utility bill while they were there. The couple agreed, but soon after, my friend got a huge heating bill. She called the friend staying at the house, and the woman explained that she had cranked up the heat. She promised to pay the bill, but didn’t.
This was a huge problem for my friend. She was in the middle of a medical crisis with her daughter, and then she was burdened with a large, unexpected expense. She called her friend again, urging her to pay the bill.
Not long after that, the ghost intervened. The woman called my friend to tell her strange things had started happening in the house. Whenever the couple wanted to watch a show, the television would switch off on its own. They would turn the TV back on, and off it would go again. There wasn’t anything visibly wrong with the television set—it was plugged in and had worked fine before. There were also weird noises coming from the kitchen—like someone was walking around in there, rifling through drawers and banging cabinet doors.
Eventually the couple moved out of the house…and they paid their bill.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
This week a friend shared a story with me. She’s lived in a number of houses—some that are peaceful, where nothing supernatural happens, and others that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. You can guess which type of house she lives in now.
Several nights ago, she woke to the sound of crying. It was kind of a sniffling cry, and sounded like a young girl. She opened her eyes to see a dark figure standing at the foot of her bed. Thinking it was her daughter, she sat up and asked, “Are you okay, sweetie?”
There was no answer.
She reached over to the nightstand to find her glasses. She put them on and looked at the foot of the bed. There was no one there.
Puzzled, she got out of bed and went to her daughter’s room. She opened the door and said, “What’s going on? Are you okay?”
Groggy, her daughter answered, “Nothing’s going on. I’m trying to sleep.”
“You weren’t just standing by my bed, crying?”
“No,” the daughter answered.
“What’s weird,” my friend told me later, “is earlier that evening, I could have sworn someone was standing in the doorway, but when I turned to look, there wasn’t anyone there.”
I asked her to keep me posted—I want to know if the crying ghost comes back.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
Bath time with a toddler can get pretty crazy. There’s giggling and splashing. Multiply that times two when you stick twins in a tub, and it gets loud and wet. Kneeling by the side of the tub when my boys were little, I usually ended up soaked.
That’s all right—my kids and I have fond memories of those times. I would turn on music and let the boys play. Sometimes we used bath paint or I would put a few ice cubes in the warm water because the boys thought it was funny to watch them melt.
Once, after my husband made a grocery run, I decided to give my children a bath. Since he was out running errands, I cranked up the music louder than he would have preferred, and we had a bathtub party.
The shindig was in full swing when something odd happened. My back was to the bathroom door, and just behind me was the sink. Sitting on the sink counter was a bottle of baby lotion. The lotion bottle flew over the toilet and hit the side of the tub, as if someone had picked it up and lobbed it. Startled, I whipped my head toward the door, fully expecting to see my husband standing there, trying to get my attention.
That was the explanation that first came to mind, because it made the most sense. The music was so loud, I would not have heard him come in. But he wasn’t there.
I rose and poked my head out the door, looking up and down the hallway. There wasn’t anyone there. Puzzled, I ducked back into the bathroom and studied the lotion bottle, lying next to the tub. It had not simply fallen off the sink. If it had fallen, it would have landed between the sink and the toilet. Instead, it had landed more than two feet from the sink.
Not wanting to leave toddlers unattended in the tub, I quickly rinsed the boys’ hair and got them out, toweling them off and getting them diapered before checking out the house. Then I went room to room, scared someone else was in the house. I saw no one, and my husband didn’t come home until later. So here’s the question: who—or what—was trying to get my attention?
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
Merry Christmas! This is our fifth year living in Oregon, and we’re excited to celebrate the holidays.
Our first Christmas here was rough. We were in the middle of moving 1500 miles from Tucson, Arizona to the northern Oregon coast. My husband ended up moving here first for a job opportunity, while my seven-year-old twin boys and I stayed behind to sell the house and so I could fulfill my job contract. We missed each other and were grateful to be able to spend Christmas together.
At the time, my husband had rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in an old Victorian in Astoria. It was a cool building, even if the apartment was sparsely furnished. On Christmas Eve, we were in the middle of tucking our children in bed when one of our sons suddenly sat up and said, “Who’s that man in the hallway?”
My husband and I looked at each other and then stared out into the hallway. We couldn’t see anyone, and we knew no one but the four of us were there. The only other rooms in the apartment were the living room, the bathroom, and a small kitchen. We knew we had locked the front door and all the windows were closed.
We asked our son to describe the man, but he shrugged. “It was just a man, walking down the hall.” We turned to our other son and asked if he had seen anyone. He hadn’t.
I recently asked my son, now twelve, if he remembered this happening when he was seven. He nodded. “Yeah, that was so creepy.”
I wondered if, now that he was older, he could describe what he saw. “It was this shadowy man,” he said, “wearing a trenchcoat.”
I have no idea who our Christmas Eve visitor might have been, but it sure wasn’t Santa Claus.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
I’ve talked about seeing shadows at work, in Old Main and the Nugent building, and how co-workers shared their own odd experiences with me. I also had a weird experience seeing a shadow in my house.
After work, I’d come home, feed and bathe the kids, and get them to bed. Then, relishing a few hours for myself, I would write.
Sometimes I’d stay up late writing and pay for it the next day when I had to get up early for work. Sometimes my husband would go to bed, and then, hours later, would come out and remind me not to stay up too late. When I was into a story, it was easy to lose track of time. My husband worried about me not getting enough rest, especially because I often had trouble getting to sleep when we lived in that house.
I had experienced a number of unsettling things in the house, so I tended to be on edge, waking at the slightest noise. Sometimes the noises weren’t so slight. For a while, I’d wake up to someone screaming. When you have young children, your sleep is often interrupted, so I was already sleep deprived and hyperaware, listening for their cries. Once I was fully awake though, I’d realize it wasn’t my boys screaming. I would go check on them, and they’d be sleeping peacefully.
A few times I woke up thinking one of my boys was standing next to the bed. I’d sit up and slip off the covers, ready to take my son back to his bed, but there was no one there. Again, when I would check on the kids, they were in their own beds, fast asleep. Night after night of that was slowly making me nuts, and I needed more sleep than I got. That’s why staying up late writing was not the best of ideas, but it was a nice escape from other stressors.
One night I was sitting at the kitchen table, writing. It was late—probably eleven—and my husband had been in bed for about an hour. In the middle of typing a sentence, I stopped, struck with the feeling I was being watched. In the periphery of my vision, I saw someone standing in the hallway. I thought it was my husband, coming to tell me not to stay up too late.
I turned my head and saw a tall, dark shape standing in the entrance of the hallway. Motionless. Watching. Then the figure vanished.
I probably should have gone to bed at that point, but I was so unnerved, I just sat there, my fingers poised above the keyboard. Somehow it seemed like a bad idea to acknowledge the entity. I thought, “Nope. I did not just see that.” Then I kept on writing.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
I’ve shared my experiences working in Old Main at the University of Arizona. I also had odd experiences working in the Nugent Building next door, which was built in 1937. When my department was moving our offices, I had to visit the storage room in the basement. The fluorescent lights were dim, making the room seem darker than it should have been. I got a strong feeling, like I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t welcome. Unnerved, I grabbed what I needed in a hurry and got out of there.
Later, after carrying a box of supplies to my office on the second floor, I headed downstairs and found myself alone on the first floor. Everyone else had left for the day. I walked down a darkened hallway, lit only by the glow of an exit sign. I could hear my heels clicking on the tile floor. Then I heard a second set of footsteps, like someone was following me. I stopped and looked behind me, but didn’t see anyone.
Sometimes I would work late, and I’d be the only person on the second floor. More than once, I caught a dark shadow out of the corner of my eye, like someone was standing there, watching me. When I would turn my head, there wouldn’t be anyone there, though I could see the faintest afterimage—a fleeting glimpse of a dark figure. I didn’t tell anyone what I was experiencing, but after that, I always kept the lights on when I was there alone.
Then I heard a story from some co-workers whose offices were located in the basement. They told me they had heard strange noises and the electrical equipment—copiers and fax machines—would often malfunction. One woman swore she’d taken a photo and could see the faint image of a person—one that could not be seen with the naked eye.
After a tragedy on campus involving the death of a student, our supervisors decided to have the building blessed. The student had been Native American, and even though she hadn’t died in the building, her loss had a huge impact on the close-knit community. The cleansing ceremony was meant to help everyone heal.
What is weird is that after the smudging ceremony, my co-workers said the strange incidents in the basement stopped, like whatever had been down there was finally gone.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015