Friday, October 31, 2014

Ghost Story

Of course I've wandered the globe and been to plenty of strange places, but I was trying to think of a good ghost story for you for Halloween.

Only one comes to mind.

I went to college in New Orleans, and my resolutely bohemian existence there (which I will address in my next memoir) continued for a couple years after I graduated.

I worked in a restaurant briefly, but supported myself mainly on a parental stipend -- the money that was left over from my college fund. This meant I had plenty of time to drink, fuck around, take LSD, read, and write. (I wrote and mailed off a few horror stories, but none were ever accepted.)

I lived in a number of colorful dumps in the French Quarter, in small studio apartments that overlooked a courtyard -- these were referred to as "slave quarters" as they were usually where the servants lived apart from the main house. I lived in one on 524 Governor Nichols (which doesn't appear to be any less of a dump these days). This was back in 1993, I believe, not long before I left America pretty much for good in 1994.

(This is the actual place.)

I paid something like $275 a month for rent, and lived there with no furniture, sleeping on the floor and with only a folding table and chair. I was in a mopey depressed state following breakups with the two girls I'd been going out with (at the same time, in different cities) for the previous few years, and I'm sure I'd also fucked my seratonin levels up pretty well with a lot of drug and alcohol abuse in my late teens and early twenties.

Anyway, at this particular place, I kept seeing a dark shape moving out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a dark-colored cat running across the room.

It could have been a rat, I guess, but it seemed bigger and rounder than a rat. I never saw any evidence of droppings or mouse holes or anything. It certainly could have been possible that it actually was a cat that had crawled across the roof, jumped on the balcony, and gotten in somehow,

But I could never find it. I would just see it running, at the edge of my vision, a few times a week.

Now I'd heard plenty of ghost stories in New Orleans. There were plenty of Goth chicks obsessed with demons and spirits and vampires, plenty of girls who practiced Wicca witchcraft rituals (that they usually just made up themselves, I think) and plenty of brain-damaged old drunks. An old bartender I'd worked with said he heard whispering voices every time he went in the basement of one French Quarter bar he'd worked at.

I'd lived for a while on Royal Street across the road from the most famous allegedly haunted house in the French Quarter, the LeLaurie Mansion where a group of slaves had burned to death in a fire after being abused and chained up by their evil mistress.

One girl who lived near there said she'd been putting on make-up one evening and seen, clearly, reflected in the mirror, a little girl standing behind her watching her. When she turned around nobody had been there.

One night I even thought I felt the mysterious cat sleeping on me. I woke up and searched the house and couldn't find any sign of it, so I assumed it had just been an oddly tactile dream.

Then one afternoon I went down to the Riverwalk Mall to see a movie; I knew a girl there who would let me in for free. I'd missed the start of the movie, however, so I went home for a while and then came back.

As I walked into the mall, I noticed I had three large horizontal scratches across my upper bicep, which looked much like cat scratches.

I was mystified. I hadn't seen or held a cat that day, or walked through a park or anything like that where I could have been scratched by tree branches or something.

The girl who worked at the movie theater confirmed that I hadn't had the scratches when I 'd first come to the movie theater.

So there you go, definitive proof in the existence of the supernatural. Happy Halloween!

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