A Ghost StoryOctober 31, 2014
In typical hardcore California fashion, I call myself spiritual, not religious. I'm pretty agnostic, but I know there's something good and interesting after this life, because I've felt close enough to dead people that there just isn't any other explanation (to me). If that's just my brain tricking me, that's fine, too. I'll take it.
But I do want to tell you about the haunted guitar gig bag. Look! Already, this is slightly exaggerated! Here's how I got it:
I popped into a very old but newly-renovated music shop in Oakland one morning after having breakfast with friends. I wasn't shopping--just looking--but I'd seen that they had a good selection of ukuleles as I'd walked past, and what's a girl supposed to do?
The owner of the shop was cordial, giving me a friendly hello and then going back to his laptop. I noticed he was completely intent on the screen, his eyes huge. Finally, I asked the price of a baritone uke, and he kind of jolted himself back.
"Oh! A hundred."
"Ah," I said. It was a beautiful instrument, and I waited for him to try to sell me on it, although I already was.
Instead, he paused. Then hesitantly, he said, "You wanna see something?"
No! No. When a man you don't know asks if you want to see something on his computer screen, a safe answer is usually Back off, ass-hat. But he honestly didn't strike me as creepy--he seemed more like a guy I'd hang out with, a guy who would fit in with my friends. So I said, "Maybe?"
On his computer were four screens, three normal, one infared night vision. There were all of the interior of the store, two in front, two in back: security cameras. This wasn't odd: it's a music store full of instruments in a high-crime area.
He pointed. "That's me." On the screen, a small image of him walked around, multiplied and synced by four, seen from four different vantages. He was obviously looking for something. The store was lit, but not well, and he used a flashlight to help him peer into boxes.
"Look," he said. "This is a couple of nights ago. I felt really weird that night. So I played this back the next day. I can't stop looking at it."
We watched the mini-him scoot around the store, tidying something, then digging his keys out of his pocket. He went to the front door to unlock it.
Something small and bright zipped in front of the two front cameras. It was gone as fast as it had come.
On the screens, the owner pulled the door open, went outside, and turned around. Through the glass, we watched him lock up the store. "I was leaving to get the PA equipment I'd rented to a place down the street," he said to me. "It was just after midnight."
As he walked out of view, all four screens shook a little. All four went dark. Then they FLARED to life. They showed the shop, the front and the back of it, but now it was as if a bright light had been switched on and the light was catching dust motes fly around.
Only these (I swear this to you) weren't dust motes. First of all, motes don't glow like that. Second, motes don't work independently of each other. Most of them were fast, zipping by in clumps, zigzagging in groups, darting like flocks of tiny, bright birds. Some, though, swooped lazily in spirals. Some (this freaked me out) flew toward the cameras and did pirouettes, almost as if showing off, before looping slowly off screen. The cameras kept their slow time, the seconds in the time stamp on each changing normally at the top.
I was gobsmacked. Slack jawed, literally. "I...I..."
"Right?" he said. "Now watch this."
On the film from the front cameras, someone is seen on the sidewalk. It's the guy. "I forgot the paperwork I needed them to sign for the amps. I came back to try to find it."
As soon as he's seen outside, the bright lights pause. As he inserts his key and opens the door, all of them zoom out of sight. Holding a flashlight, he enters and searches for a piece of paper on the counter. A single bright mote flies across the camera and then is gone again. Another dances in the corner, almost invisible. A few fly behind his back.
Then he leaves again. As soon as he's not visible on the sidewalk, the orbs (because I swear, that's what they were) filled all the screens, dancing and zipping again.
"I've never seen anything like that," I said, kind of truly freaked out.
"I have," he said. "I've seen it before out of the corner of my eye, but that night was crazy, and I didn't even notice them. I just felt them. I never get scared here, but I didn't have the car that night. I always walk home, never had a problem, but that night, even though I hadn't seen these tapes, I called my wife at one in the morning, woke her up, and had her wake up our baby so they could come get me." His eyes went big again to make his point. "I made my sleeping wife wake up our sleeping baby to drive the few blocks here because I was scared."
Then I noticed the date stamp on the tapes we were still ogling. Just after midnight on on All Soul's. I literally didn't even bother to point it out to him. I figured he was probably well aware of the date.
"Why don't you get some ghostbusters in here?" I asked.
"They saw the lights, and they said they were concentrated in the back room, where an old man used to live, where he died."
"And?" I said, almost hopping up and down.
"He wasn't a good man," he said. "According to them, he was a really, really bad man."
"You have to be on TV or something! You have to show people this!"
He looked crestfallen. "But then I'd own the haunted music shop."
"Yeah? And?" [Aside - I just checked on Yelp, THE MUSIC STORE MOVED. Still stellar Yelp ratings, but no longer in the same place. I'm SO going back to ask him if that's why he moved.]
"I don't want to be that guy. I just want to sell guitars."
I leaned forward and propped my chin on my hands. "What does your wife think?"
"She doesn't believe it."
"But--she's seen the tapes?"
"She says it's dust or something."
"But they move. Together. And apart. They act like they have brains, or will, or something. And there are so many."
He shrugged. "It makes her feel better. I've seen them at home, though."
"Are you serious?"
He nodded. "I'll see them zip by, just out of sight, just like they do here. I think they follow me home, but my wife doesn't want to hear about it."
I started to doubt the wisdom of my planned purchase, and I suddenly understood his reticence to be known for being haunted. "If I buy that uke, will I take some home?"
He straightened. "Nah. No way."
"What about the bag?" The uke was so big it was resting in an old Martin gig bag. The bag was ripped and soft and looked more like a sleeping bag than the protection it was supposed to be.
"Oh, you can have that. That's been around here forever."
I didn't mention I didn't want it, I just paid and took both home.
Then, when I got home, I couldn't bring the bag inside. The ukulele, sure. I kind of blew on it and said, "Don't come in here, 'kay? This is a nice place. Stay outside." Then I felt dumb and hoped the neighbors didn't see me talking to the uke. But the bag . . . just felt wrong. It didn't feel right. I did finally bring it in out of my car, telling myself I was being stupid, but a few days later, I put it in the trash. I hated having it in my office.
Silly, I know. A haunted gig bag. But it felt real.
And isn't that the part that matters?
OH MY GOD I FOUND SOME OF THE FOOTAGE - he put it on YouTube!!! Augh. Cue delicious chills.
In this one you can't see him entering or exiting the door, but you can see at .20 whatever it is is active, and when he's in the shot with his flashlight, whatever it is is much less active.
This is from a different, color camera, same thing, different vantage. Skip to about 1.20 to see it start.
I KNOW. Thank goodness I couldn't find the flaring footage -- that was actually scary. I can't believe I just found this though.
Now, I won't bore you with the tale of the ghost I've felt on the edge of my bed (and the cheeky way it tugs on the sheets!) (not at home, don't worry), but I'll ask you today, on Halloween: what's YOUR favorite ghost story?
(Oh, and don't forget to read yesterday's post and leave a comment to have a chance to win No Plot No Problem!)