Well, guys, here I am. I survived the haunted hotel.
And I’m like 98 percent sure nothing followed me home.
But that two percent sure gives me chills when I jolt awake at two in the morning.
Which I’ve done every night since I slept at the haunted hotel.
Kidding, guys. Kidding.
Our drive to the hotel took us through the rolling farms and autumn-bedecked forests of New York State. It occurred to me the hotel might be in the middle of nowhere. My palms grew damp.
I mean, what if we had to run from poltergeists or demons or whatever infests the hotel? You can’t run into a forest when you’re evading hotel ghosts. It’s not like the topiary garden made anyone’s life better in The Shining.
Of course, running into town is no guarantee of safety, either. Look at what happened in Children of the Corn.
Yet I was still hoping for town, a yearning I voiced to my husband. He was leaving me at the hotel with our oldest child.
“You’re in town,” he said, pointing to the map. “We’re almost there.” I saw homes, restaurants, businesses.
And a penitentiary, which I later learned had imprisoned Ronald DeFeo, the first man to claim the house in The Amityville Horror was possessed by demons. I’m thinking the now-deceased DeFeo is buried near the hotel. Or, you know, lurking undead somewhere waiting to get me.
I know, I know. He’s dead. He can’t harm anyone. But I wasn’t exactly itching to test the veracity of that in the haunted hotel, you know?
We checked in, ascending a black, Munsters-esque staircase to our second-floor room. A tall, transomed door greeted us, opening into a delightfully incongruous pink, floral suite — complete with a claw-foot tub.
“Is there a reason you chose the Rose Room?” one of our three hosts asked me.
I chose it because it has a bathroom. The hotel has common bathrooms. Our room was one of the few with an en suite. I wasn’t dealing with ghosts and other people all in the same weekend.
We gathered with the other guests in the hotel’s great room, like the beginning of every horror story ever. I thought about The Haunting of Hill House, the book by Shirley Jackson in which guests in a haunted mansion meet en masse upon their arrival. I thought about 1408, the Stephen King story about a writer trapped in a possessed hotel room.
Should I really have endangered my child like this?
The hotel owner was talking as I reflected on my situation. She said some people leave in the middle of the night, too terrified to sleep at the hotel.
“Not us!” my child declared confidently.
I agreed, but only because my husband would not be thrilled about picking us up before dawn’s merciful hours. I was just as trapped as that writer in 1408.
“We don’t allow crossovers,” the owner was saying. “If a spirit attempts a crossover, just find out what they want and tell one of the staff.”
Wait. What? What?! WHAT?!?!
What had I gotten myself into?
I’ll tell you what I had gotten myself into: One of our hosts shared the tale of an Irish mobster who haunted a second-floor room.
Second floor. Where I was sleeping.
She told us that, as a medium/psychic, she and the mobster spoke frequently, but never about his work.
Do you know why?
“Because I’m his girlfriend,” she said. Pragmatically. Like she was discussing last week’s episode of Interview with the Vampire.
That was how I learned A) mobsters keep their girlfriends ignorant of their business; B) there’s a difference between medium and psychic; and C) I was in deep trouble.
I don’t believe in ghosts. Right? I don’t. I’m too practical. Sensible. Like rubber-soled shoes.
But, well, I don’t not believe in them either. I’m a ghost agnostic — simply too afraid to declare ghosts as nonsense for fear they’ll prove themselves to me.
As our hosts told tales, as lights flickered, as motion detectors trilled, I mentally poked holes in every occurrence.
Until the staff maneuvered us into a circle.
Let’s just say I was shoved.
By absolutely no one.
Surely the floor was tilted, right? Or it was mass hysteria? Maybe I tripped?
Later, I checked the floor. Though it appeared level, though I couldn’t reproduce my backward tumble, I still think — hope? — I imagined it.
That is much easier to believe now that I’m home.
That book in a different position on my table each time I passed it. That strange ping echoing through my house last night. The garage lights flickering in the dark morning.
After several hours of touring the hotel, we were turned loose, free to explore. We went out back to the well, home to a dead inhabitant of the hotel.
Let me tell you something. Last summer, I went camping. I awoke alone, in the middle of the night, with a pressing need for the bathroom.
The “bathroom” was a portable toilet.
I don’t do portable toilets, and I really don’t do portable toilets in the middle of the night. I didn’t fear the bears that probably inhabited my campground. I was afraid of snakes and ax murderers.
Like I said. Practical.
But a haunted well at one in the morning? That’s better than a portable toilet.
My kid and I huddled at that well in the frosty autumn air, a prison nearby, a ghost (maybe) beneath our feet, a light flickering in an empty room in the hotel behind us, my teen whispering that this was the best night ever.
Yeah. It was.
Hopefully, the book-moving, ping-making, garage light-flickering ghost that followed me home read that.
I’d like to keep it happy.
And for it to stop waking me at two in the morning.
But maybe not.