2. Why so sensitive?

So, seeing shadows growing up, hearing voices (someone speaking my name, normally), feeling like I’m being stared at from the outside I thought was normal. Perhaps it is, but either way I just assumed everyone saw these things just as I did as a snot-nosed punk that would play with his Star Wars figures until I’d lose capes, light sabers or their heads would fall off.

But it really isn’t, at least not the way I experienced the scent of my grandmother’s perfume pass by me. Or those days when visiting my grandparent’s home in Edinburg — after my grandfather died — I could smell him and his boots. Grandpa used to wear work boots after retirement, and for a spell, instead of wearing a cool ventilated baseball cap outside he’d instead wear a hard hat to keep the sun’s rays from baking his thinning hair.

Grandpa was a typical grandfather (or at least in my culture): He would go days without showering, would wear the same white undershirt with a flannel over it, some khakis and long tube socks. In any case, I loved the man, but he was stinky and we all knew it. We just dealt with it.

In any case, every now and then I’d go to a room and in a specific spot at the time (the scent wandered from time to time) and I could smell him. For confirmation I summoned my cousin, who also could sense the paranormal. Her’s was a bit more scary than mine, which I’m thankful for. Then I called my aunt over, and she couldn’t smell a thing.

Calling my aunt over was really not to confirm what we could smell, but to test her sense of smell. We would joke with her after one day she came into our room (my cousin, and sometimes her and her brother — also my cousin in case that is lost on you — would share a room — and exclaimed that she could smell our ‘body oil.’ Well, if she’s so sensitive, I wanted to test how sensitive it was. Apparently it was reserved for bodily fluids, and not much more beyond the realm of the living.

In any case, that was a mild example of what I have the ability to do, although I’m not the only one in the family who has abilities. My cousin, as I mentioned, also has her gifts. Trouble is she seems to pick up on the very negative a lot. From growling voices speaking to her as she walked from our mobile home to my aunt’s house just 20-30 yards away in the dark to seeing red glowing eyes outside of a window staring at her. Her sensitivity is far more intense than mine.

I mentioned the scent, I also lightly went over seeing shadows. Aside from those advantages (we’ll call them advantages for now), I could feel spirits, and if I concentrated just enough I could figure out what they were like. Man, woman? Old, young? Serious, jokesters, angry, just observing? Things like those I could sense.

I was even tested by another sensitive. She wasn’t trying to do it, but another friend mentioned what my skills were so I was placed to the test. We were at a friend’s house and I was asked if I sensed anything there. After about a few minutes I said ‘yes.’ I mentioned it was a man, maybe young or an older teenager. He wandered in her hallway, but stuck to rooms at both ends of the hallway.

He was just trying to tease the living because he enjoyed it. I got a sense of a clown. Now, I’m not saying I think he was a clown, but I think he’d clown around a lot. A prankster. I said it was scary to the kids to see him when he appeared too them because, well, who wouldn’t be? But really, he’s just observing and sometimes playing practical jokes.

The other ‘sensitive’ agreed. She wouldn’t stop staring at me as if she couldn’t believe I picked up on all that. She was a believer then, as was the friend who thought she’d put me in an awkward situation by seeing if I really knew what the hell I was talking about.

I consider those gifts pretty minimal. At best I can sense people, events, or situations that are about to occur. An innocent example was when I was a pre-teen and visiting my family up north of the Dallas area. I spent the summer there and I would do whatever would keep me busy (whatever I did, tv watching wasn’t one of them).

One day I was upstairs, looking through my older cousins albums (I was young, but we had similar tastes in rock music). I heard my uncle’s pick-up truck pull up outside and then I heard him shout my name so that I could go outside and meet with him. The way he said my name I knew what I was about to be ‘surprised’ with.

The first thought in my head? He bought me a bicycle. I went down the stairs (which were rumored to be haunted by a little boy who roamed at the landing at the top, and the bottom step, but never anywhere else) and there was a used kids bike. It was the best bike to me, a banana belt, good color, nice tires and it was mine. In any case, just the way the truck rolled up and the sound of his voice specifically told me he brought me a bicycle. Or was it the little boy whispering in my ear to alrert me what was about to happen? Hmmm. I just thought of that.

So in any case, I don’t think I have these great powers for the supernatural, but I have always had a few elements that have tipped me off to presences, future events, avoiding a certain road, waiting a little longer before leaving the house, or just the idea of staring at something random on my way out of the house — like, say, a utility knife. I’d keep staring at it wondering why it drew my attention, but left the house without it. Of course, some situation would arise where that utility knife would have been beneficial.

I don’t leave the house when something tells me not to leave something behind.

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1. Hometown history

Before getting started on the short travel through time these next few days/weeks, I’d like to start with a couple of entries that I think are necessary to set up my ghostly experiences.

I grew up in a small town called Edcouch, named after its founder Edward Couch. Now, I repeat what I know about its history from memory from a history class I had in the seventh or eighth grade. We studied the histories of Edcouch and neighboring city Elsa. Both communities were known as the Twin Cities because of their close ties and overall familiarity with each other. Even the school district is called Edcouch-Elsa ISD.

Today the two towns struggle to stay alive, although Elsa is faring much better, being the home of various businesses like Wal-Mart, Jack-in-the-Box, Whataburger, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, Diary Queen, McDonald’s and, of course, H-E-B.

Edcouch, on the other hand, is struggling to maintain its relevance, have nary a gas station within city limits to quench your ride’s thirst. Just like almost everything else, you have to take the two-mile drive or less to Elsa and get your necessities.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

When both towns were first founded, Edcouch began growing quickly, becoming home to various businesses. That was largely due because the Missouri-Pacific train would travel through with goods back in the 1920s and 30s. Edcouch was the place to be for business and consumers alike. The city’s unofficial slogan was, “Edcouch: Where 30 minutes is ancient history,” or something along those lines.

Elsa was no different. Even their main factory (I think it was a food canning operation) was definitely the center of town and also mere hundreds of yards from the MoPac railway. The canning business was such a large part of the city’s business that most major streets led straight to it. The roads, similiar to those of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (or the White House), went south to north, north to south, east to west, and diagnally to meet at the end where the canning plant was.

Both cities were booming, and business was good. Folks would travel as far away from Brownsville, what now is an hour and a half drive almost by a car going up to 80 mph in some stretches on the expressway. Who knows how long it took by horse and buggy? But folks would make the trip to conduct their business in these two cities.

But as most of the nation was at the beginning of the 20th century, there was segregation. The Mexicans were kept to one side of town and were forbidden to travel across certain boundaries after hours and were even handed a curfew each night.

Segregation or not, the railroad still brought fortune with it in every load of supplies it left local businesses.

Then the stock market crashed.

With that came the same fate that did of the rest of the country. Business closed down, people stopped traveling to the Twin Cities, and slowly the cities began a slow death. Nearly 100 years later, save some prosperity in recent years, it’s still suffering.

Now, this part I wasn’t taught, but going through what I experienced when living in both cities, I know something else may have been going on that history doesn’t explain. With so much business and clientelle, and so much money exchanging hands, surely there should have been some vagrants, robbers, heists, thieves and the like attracted to the area. Back in those days, one can only imagine what justice was like. Perhaps death from gunfights? Hangings? Who knows?

One thing I drew a conclusion from, after I learned that most of the supernatural goings on that I have experienced and that I’ve heard others speak of, all occured very near where those railroad tracks used to lay. What went on? I don’t know, but experiences of mine, my family, and friends who leaved within 100 yards of the railroad all seemed to coincidental.

Growing up I’m still not sure if we were poor. We did live in a four-room wooden house built on concrete ‘risers’ (I can’t remember the word I’m looking for, but as soon as I do I’ll come back and edit that). My parents shared one bedroom, my sister claimed the other, and I think my brother and I took turns on the couch and carpeted floor at night in the living room. The other room was the kitchen, and the bathroom wasn’t added until I was very young, so I dont remember much about showering in the shed out in the back that doubled as a shower with a toilet in the corner. Taking a shower during the winter (whicha re mild in deep South Texas) was still pretty rough.

Either way, I saw plenty. I heard plenty, and was uncomfortable at times. But most of the time, growing up with it on nearly a daily basis, I didn’t think much of what was happening. It wasn’t until later when I realize that sort of activity is not normal.

Hearing voices, shadows, losing toys only to find them later just where you left them even though it was the first place you looked, feeling touched, and getting a sudden chill were experiences not normal for a six-year old.

But of my brother, sister and parently, why was I the only one who could see, feel, smell and hear these things? Well, that guess will be my next installment.

‘Tis the season to be scared

Halloween used to be my favorite time of year next to Thanksgiving (can’t beat food and football) for years. It wasn’t so much the dressing up or passing out candies to the local kids, but just the overall feeling of fall, cooler weather, and the beginning of a wave of holidays.

The nights felt different.

Somehow the darkness felt like it was staring at you, like a stranger peeking through a crack in the curtains or blinds. While you go about your business, you feel something, but you don’t quite know what it is. Yet somehow your stare every now and then is pulled like gravity to that slit so small, but big enough for something outside to get a good look.

These were nights where falling asleep came a little slower, like a skit in a cartoon where your eyes kept drifting shut, but also kept opening up a little less until the weight of the eye lids and lashes were too much to battle.

But as someone who enjoyed a bit being scared, the next morning felt great and the only thoughts you had were, “And I had trouble sleeping last night.”

The day went on as usual, whether it was work, meetings or weekend football games. But at night, the blanket of darkness always brought with it a sense of uneasiness. Something wasn’t right, but you just couldn’t place it.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I spent most of my life in the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas. A place where if local lore about spirits on the railroad tracks, a leg-less torso running across the road using their hands to do so, or a dark figure in a trench coat with red eyes standing on rooftops — stories like that — were part of the local culture.

Consider this entry a preface to what I expect to write over the next two weeks sharing what I personally went through while living there. I may interject stories my family shared, but mostly my experiences are enough to keep someone from sleeping at night.

Halloween is no longer my favorite time of year, but I no longer fear it as I did at one point in my life. I still hear creaking, voices, even the sounds of animals, but I don’t panic anymore. I’ve been through enough for little things like that to bother me.

I probably have enough to write an entry each day until Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), but I’m not making any promises.

I’m not looking to scare anyone, but certainly place you in the mood for this season of the year. I hope you enjoy.