By: Gabino Iglesias
For horror fans, Halloween is more like a year-long state of mind than a holiday celebrating the last day of October. As someone who belongs to this group, I've always had a passion for all things creepy, gory, and spooky. The steady diet of horror films and books that got me through my early teens made me have some very classic ideas about ghosts. Thankfully, growing up in the Caribbean, a place where Catholicism, Voodoo, Santeria, Palo Mayombe, Mesa Blanca, and other religions collide, helped me grow out of those media-based ideas way before I was out of my teens.
The process of outgrowing the idea that ghosts are as they are presented in movies and novels wasn't really completed until I had two encounters with beings from the other side of the veil. Yeah, I've seen ghosts...or have I? The truth is this: I don't know. What I do know is that I've seen people that weren't there on two occasions, one of them while in the company of someone else who saw the same thing, but my brain refuses to let me think of them as ghosts. That being said, when this time of year rolls around, I like to pull those stories out and share them with folks just to get their reactions or to hear their theories. This year is even better: I'm sharing them with the world. Let's get started.
The first "encounter" (what do you call these things when you're not even sure what they are?) happened to me at an old motel in Florida back in 2006. I was visiting friends and family and staying at a cheap motel across A1 in Fort Lauderdale. The motel had a parking lot in the back and you had to climb some stairs to enter the second floor because that was the only way to get to an elevator. After a long day of visiting with folks, my girlfriend and I stopped at a grocery store and headed to the motel. We parked, grabbed our bags, and climbed the stairs. We turned a left into the hallway that lead to the elevator and saw an old man with khaki pants and a blue shirt making his way to the elevator. He stood in front of the doors for a second before they opened and got in. We weren't sure he'd seen or heard us, so we called out and sped up a bit. The doors kept closing. I ran the last few steps and stuck my foot in at the last second. The door opened. The elevator was empty. My girlfriend was spooked and kept asking me to change the subject, so I did. We talked about it a few times after that, but life went on and the event became just another memory in my head. That being said, every time Halloween decorations start showing up and folks begin to hang ghosts everywhere, I think about it. No, it wasn't spooky like the movies make you think an encounter like that will be. The man was there and then he wasn't. That was it. However, a disappearing man is not something you quickly forget.
The second time I saw a ghost, or saw something that most people would call a ghost, was a few years later. I was living in a first floor apartment on a hill and spent a lot of time out back, reading or playing the guitar. About thirty or forty feet from the end of the communal backyard was a house. The horrible folks who lived there at the time had a dog that they sometimes left on the roof with a bucket of water and some food (please keep in mind that this was in the Caribbean and the midday sun was no joke) and usually played awful music at ridiculous decibels. Then, on a day like any other, the dog was gone and the music had stopped. A few days later, I stepped outside to read and saw a mature, chubby woman pacing back and forth in the house's balcony. She never looked up at me and soon I forgot all about her. I probably saw her doing the same thing three or four times and only ended up mentioning it to a neighbor because I thought it was odd that she always wore the same flowery robe (you know, the kind some grandmas wear). A few weeks later, a couple with three kids moved into the house. Months later, I met the couple through a neighbor who had gone to my college and worked with the man at some point. I mentioned the woman's short stay and how much better they were than the previous folks with the dog. The guy smiled and asked me to describe the lady, which was weird but not as weird as some other questions I've been asked. Long story short, a few days after moving in, he had seen the lady walking on the balcony from his kitchen. He went outside and she was gone. There was never any lady living in the house before them. While bizarre, this second experience was also far removed from the haunted house narrative I'd grown up with and still enjoy regularly. These folks lived in a house with some entity, but said entity was apparently only looking for a leisurely stroll on the balcony in the middle of the day. Not exactly hair-raising, is it?
Well, there you have my less-than-scary ghosts. Now, the real question is that: what were they? I'm not sure, but Halloween's almost here and I'm most certainly embellishing these stories when I share them on October 31st.
About the author:
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gutnmouth (Eraserhead Press), Hungry Darkness (Severed Press), Zero Saints (Broken River Books), and a few other things no one will ever read. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Verbicle, Electric Literature, The Collagist, The Rumpus, Entropy, Red Fez, Marginalia, 3AM Magazine, and other print and online venues.
About the books:
Genre: Horror, Bizarro
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Publication date: 10.23.2012
He has a mouth in his gut. An obnoxious, toothy, foul-mouthed, pig of a mouth. Luckily, his girlfriend doesn't seem to mind. Marie, the one-legged stripper and cyber-prostitute love of his life is very accepting of it. And then a little too accepting. What would you do if your girlfriend cheated on you with the voracious yapper under your belly button? If you live in Gutmouth's world - a bleak city with gruesome, spontaneous mutations are no big deal, klepto-roaches take anything not tied-down, drugs turn pain into pleasure, consumers are tortured for growing food, and your best friend is a misogynist rat-man - you might do something crazy. And what if you go caught?
Publisher: Severed Press
Publication date: 6.7.2015
Nick Ayres wanted to be the first man to explore all of the Caulkers' Giant Cave, the largest underwater cave in the world. Instead of fame and fortune, he found death at the hands of something that defies science, accidentally unleashing it on the island's unsuspecting population.
Gabriel Robles is the man hired to take care of the monster. He knows the water and its inhabitants better than anyone else, but he's never faced something so deadly. Robles has to figure something out quick, because the victims are piling up and it's only a matter of time before the blood in the water becomes a problem for all of Belize, maybe even the world.