A Door Unopened

A Door Unopened
Knock, knock...

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Looks pretty innocent, doesn't it? Cue ominous, foreboding music...
Despite the fact that I'm a scientist and  am not religious in the traditional sense of the word, I do in truth, believe in ghosts. It’s generally not a thing I blurt out for everyone to hear because I’m well aware that people tend to think you’re a crackpot when you say stuff like that. But in light of what I’m about discuss, I think it's fair you know this in advance.

I probably wouldn't be so sure about the presence of ghosts except for the fact that I’ve seen one. I was 21 when a ghost of unknown origin appeared to me in the middle of the night. It was not a hallucination. I was not dreaming. The reason I know I was not dreaming is because I was wide awake while she—the apparition—hovered at the foot of my bed, and I remained wide awake until sunrise finally melted me out of my petrified state many hours later. While she floated near my feet, my ghostess had both hands outstretched as if wanting something from me, but I didn’t know what she needed. I was pretty sure I didn’t have whatever it was, but I was very sure I wanted her to go away. She was opaque and slightly glowing in the classical way that ghosts are portrayed in cinema. Her clothes were turn-of-the-nineteenth-century, ragged and dirty. She appeared to be a beggar.

In response to her presence, I froze. An almost full-body paralysis overcame me. In that moment I knew precisely the meaning of the phrase “scared stiff.” The only things I was able to move were my eyeballs. I couldn’t turn my head, but found I could avert my eyes. So I looked away from her as far as I could. In my peripheral vision her image persisted. She remained levitating but still for maybe another 30 seconds, arms and hands beseeching. That half minute seemed like an eternity. She faded while I remained tightly clenched, an overwrought mound of panicked protoplasm.

When enough light infiltrated the curtains many hours later, I got up cautiously and with no small amount of trepidation, crept out of my room and told my mom about it. She’d been sleeping in another room across the hall and had neither heard nor seen anything unusual. For the next four weeks I slept in the same room and, thankfully, the needy spirit left me in peace. My mom, who lived in that house another year or two, never saw her or any signs of her.

Subsequently, I worried that maybe I was one of "those" people—the kind of person to whom ghosts feel the need to make their presence known. A few years after this event, I attended a neuroscience conference in New Orleans and was lodged in the French Quarter in what used to be slave housing. In modern times the place had been refurbished—Big Easy bungalows was how I thought of them. I figured if there was any place likely to be haunted, this was it. My week’s stay was uneventful and unmarred by anything that could remotely be described as eerie. In a town overflowing with voodoo and other supernatural fallderall, I felt a sense of relief. I must not be susceptible to ghosts after all. Whew!

Nothing paranormal happened in the next twenty-plus years so I stopped worrying about it. Although I had talked to two people who'd had similar experiences, (there is some comfort in hearing other peoples’ spirit stories—makes you feel less crazy) I didn’t dwell on my apprehension of apparitions. I was over it.

Then, about eight years ago, we took a family trip to Newfoundland.  It was Tim—my husband-to-be—his two kids, Katie and Mike, and my son, Theo. The kids were fourteen, thirteen and nine respectively. Turns out Newfoundland is bursting with ghost stories. I’ve never been to a place so heavily laden with tales from the crypt. We talked about, but didn’t end up taking a walking tour of the capital, St. John’s, which highlighted ghosts and haunted places. I bought a book of collected spook stories of the island. You could say we were immersed in the incorporeal.

On the last leg of our stay in Newfoundland we rented a house in the town of Trinity. Trinity’s claim to fame is that it’s where the movie, “The Shipping News” was filmed. In addition, Trinity seems to have more than its fair share of ghost legends, even for Newfoundland. There was a high incidence of drowning in Trinity Bay and the local sentiment is that those sodden souls cling to the area relentlessly. Admittedly, by this point of the trip my spirit sense was heightened.

The house we rented was old but had a clean, modern look and had been somewhat recently remodeled. It was simple, with two stories, three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. We stayed for three nights. Every evening the wind picked up and I’d hear knocking against the outside of the house. On the second night I asked Tim to see what was making the noise. He reported and I verified: There was nothing near or touching the house that could be responsible for making the sound. Huh, I thought. Weird.

On the last night of our stay, we watched "Casablanca" on videotape. While the five of us watched, the channel on the TV changed all by itself three separate times. We changed it back and continued with the movie. Then again, without human intervention, the TV switched off. We switched it back on and were able to get to the end of the film. I went to sleep that last night hearing the ever-present knocking apparently emanating from nowhere.

I said nothing to the kids or even to Tim until we got back to the States. Once home, I brought up how extraordinary the Trinity events seemed. I told Tim I thought the place was haunted—not in an evil way, just a sort of eerie, annoying way. Then he told me something he’d not mentioned before. When the leasing agent walked him around the house and the rest of us were out of earshot, she told him that under no circumstances was anyone to go in the basement. Oh. NOW he tells me? We discussed it a bit more and agreed—there was something pretty strange going on there.

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up, because you know this preamble is leading somewhere. So here goes—

We moved into a new house last June. The house is only five years old and we got a good deal on it because it was a foreclosure. It’s modern, roomy and allows us to spread out and live large. We have loved the design of this house ever since we saw the model five years earlier. We feel extremely fortunate to have gotten the house “on sale” so to speak.

About a month after we moved in, Tim and I christened the master bath Jacuzzi tub. We lit candles, had champagne and enjoyed a bubble bath for two. The next morning at about seven a.m. the jets in the tub turned on all by themselves. I got up, stumbled into the bathroom and shut the thing down. We couldn't quite figure out how it had happened. Huh, we thought. Weird.

Since then things have been calm and normal—I say that even though I went through a major upheaval and changed jobs. We are settled in and loving our new house. We do wonder about the previous owner—I feel badly for him, losing such a beautiful home. Lately, we’ve been dealing with a shower leak we thought we'd dealt with in June, but other than that things are basically copasetic.

Last night we watched Paranormal Activity 2. To me, the family seemed vapid and shallow so I went upstairs before the end. Tim stuck it out to the finish and liked it. We went to bed around 11:15.

This morning at a few minutes after seven, the Jacuzzi jets powered on. Tim apparently recognized the sound right away. I heard the noise but couldn’t place it. I thought the garage door was going up. “The tub” he grumbled, as he elbowed me—apparently it’s my job to deal with anything involving the haunted tub. So I staggered out of bed and zig-zagged  toward the tub. I hit the power button and turned it off. No one has used the tub in probably two weeks. Huh, we think. Very weird.

So if anyone reading this has any idea as to what might be causing our tub to switch on by itself that doesn’t involve spirits, ghosts or poltergeists, I’d be happy—thrilled in fact—to hear about it. Please feel free to explain. I’d feel so much better knowing a power surge or lightening strike could have this effect. You have no idea how happy that would make me.

Anybody out there have any ideas about this tub?


  1. If not ghosts, must be aliens.


  2. The simplest explanation is that you have a short in the control switch.

    Could be a problem with air pressure if you have an on/off air switch, though I don't have a ready hypothesis for how that would occur, and I've never encountered it with any of our air switches.

    If the tub came with a remote control (many big jacuzzis do; not sure about jacuzzi tubs), you might have a conflict with some other device in your home. We have a ceiling fan that turns on randomly all the time because of this. You might be able to select another frequency.


  3. Definitely spirits. What happened to the previous owner? Nicely done.

  4. To Rich: My dear brother. You are always such a comfort.

    To Steve: Thank you! I think you're onto something. Looks like we're not the only ones' who've had this issue. Someone else (Thanks Greg!) passed along this link: http://forums.finehomebuilding.com/breaktime/general-discussion/air-jet-tub-turns-no-reason

    To Cindy: You know how it is with spirits. They're never far. Thanks for reading.

  5. Nice piece of writing. I've never seen a ghost, but I'm haunted by more than a few.

  6. I've never seen a ghost but I believe my cat saw one once (not kidding). I know SO many people who have seen ghosts that I have no reason to believe they don't exist. Anyway, cool story! (Have you seen Paranormal part I? I thought it was successfully creepy.)

  7. Hi Jeff! I haven't seen Paranormal Part I. Tim liked it though and agrees it was successfully creepy. And he's with you--never seen a ghost but believes and possibly had a close encounter with one at the Boulder Dam Hotel. After the fact, he found out it was notoriously haunted.

  8. Gary, Thanks! Yes, without a doubt, ghosts in many forms abound.

  9. Whether ghosts, divine intervention, unexplained forces of nature resulting in paradoxical or seemingly impossible events, UFO sightings, or anything that is beyond the laws of science and nature as we know them within the limitations of our knowledge, I do not discount anything as being possible. My career in medicine has reinforced that to me many times over. I do not equate psychopathology with ghost sightings, UFO sightings, or any witnessed occurrence that deviates from everyday happenings. Great job with this blog, Lyn.