As this is my first story shared on this site, I felt it makes the most sense to begin at a beginning. I'm a rare individual who has always known ghosts, and therefore has never doubted them. I'm also a lucid dreamer; this is also a part of me that is hard wired. Unfortunately, when one is under 4, this makes for some very confusing and terrifying experiences, not helped by the fact that one can barely speak properly. And for anyone wondering, yes, I can remember being 18 months+, and I have memories that have been corroborated by my very surprised parents, and ones that weren't captured on photographs (false memories or other memories can be adjusted to fit a photograph and the more one sees it the more "real" it appears in their mind; memory is a funny thing).
There were two main spiritual experiences I had as a kid, one benevolent, the other just negative, though it never seemed to notice me much. I had what my parents called imaginary friends, but they weren't imaginary: they were in my dreams. Their names were Goohsap and Pop Pop, and they were two men in the 60's-70's who drove a red convertible and wore Hawaiian shirts with Khaki pants and lived in the country. They held hands and shared a small cottage in the country, and I had dreams about them and me having meetings at my Church. They were always associated with god and other spiritual beings, and were quite kind. It got to the point where I packed a bag, scared my parents, and sat on the front porch and waited for them, backpack, sneakers and all. I remember falling asleep in the twilight on a spring or summer evening, my reality carried over to the dream, and they explained that they only existed in dreams, and couldn't be found in reality. I was pissed, and only saw them intermittently after that.
The first malevolent thing I remember during potty training years was the struggle with what I called "Frankenstein". I don't know when I began calling it that, it just was the only thing that fit. I'd feel fine during the daytimes, but at night, even my earlier memories, when the shadows were at a certain angle, and everyone else was asleep, I'd hear chains and groaning. Never did they seem to come for me, but consistently I'd awake at a similar time as the shadows from the trees outside my window were in similar or identical places (it was the 90s, I had no clock in my room, and I couldn't read yet anyways).
There were never any lights left on (my dad is an environmentalist/we were broke) and I would feel fine in the house up until midnight or so, up to the age of 10 when we moved. This was a time specific event, to the point where my cats would come in and sleep with me, and run in when I heard the chains. Pablo and Ezra, my cats, would sleep with me in my crib. My parents were frustrated that Ezra and Pablo insisted on sleeping in my crib, but we refused to be separated, and each of us would mewl and cry uncontrollably until we were reunited. I remember little about Ezra as he died when I was a bit older than two, but I remember not understanding, not crying, and asking my mama where he was to the same answers and the same tears when he died. It made no sense to me, and Frankenstein continued. It also meant, unfortunately for my parents, plenty of bedwetting, as it was too terrifying to walk through the dark house, into the hall, 8 feet, with a creepy mask next to my room and Frankenstein howling. Whenever I gained the courage to yell for my parents, it always took them time to wake as it was after midnight and they were dead asleep. Lights would turn on, Frankenstein would cease. Until they went back to sleep, that is.
My sister was born when I was 3 1/2, and I experienced this both before and after her birth. I eventually had my own bed, which Pablo would sleep with me as well. He would always come running when Frankenstein began. Once when my sister was too little to share my room (we shared a room in this house), so I was 3 to 4, I walked into my room when it was dark (it was bedtime). I looked down, and saw red eyes, and was absolutely sure my parents would notice that. I screamed for them and didn't leave, as I wanted them to know this was real, but Pablo got there first, and dove under the bed. Seconds later, my parents entered and turned on the lights, and I saw the red eyes for a moment longer but Pablo won. They saw nothing, and told me it wasn't real.
Frankenstein continued intermittently, but I'd awake often at what I now knew to be about 2 am (I eventually got a watch, probably about 8 when I went to Girl Scout Camp). I would often hear Frankenstein, but as I got older and braver, I'd either wait for it to pass, try to be awake past my parents and leave lights on (I'd read a book with my flashlight to pass the time) or use a flashlight (it was the 90s) to navigate the hall, with Pablo close by. A note about my sister: She has always been a heavy sleeper to the point that she can only wake with the most intense alarms that both scream and vibrate her bed, even as an adult. It was always frustrating for me, as I'm a light sleeper, would hear the chains and the groaning, and would pray and hope I'd fall asleep as fast as I could.
I got mega creeped out when I moved. I didn't want to encourage these spirits and had shared as little of this with my caretaker, who I'll call Mrs. Lewis, as I could while trying to figure it out. She remembers me being concerned and asking her about ghosts repeatedly for years between 2-10. I've always been religious (yes, even as a young child I relished church, the incense, the rites, the music, the rituals, the readings, everything about it). Mrs. Lewis did as well, and we are both Episcopalians, so when I felt I would be free of Frankenstein, I told her everything. When we moved out, Mrs. Lewis, who lived but a block away, asked me if I knew of the trolley. I live in a suburb of D.C., and it was one of the first, and used to have a trolley that would carry people from the city to my town. What I didn't know, and had no way to know, was that this trolley used to go through what was my neighborhood. My neighborhood was developed in the 1950s-early 60s, after the trolley had been taken out, and right atop the old tracks.
We don't know where exactly the tracks went, but Mrs. Lewis is a D.C. Native and had lived in that neighborhood since the 1970s. Guess who built the railroad tracks according to all the people of her generation and earlier? Prisoners. What does a chain gang sound like? Chains and groaning, though I can't find any sources on this, it is often the disenfranchised who were coerced/forced into building railroad tracks. How could I have known any of this before I could speak, or before I could read? How could I have made this up when I can't even find sourcing on this now? I know it was real, and this appears to be the only explanation. I now have pity for "Frankenstein", as it appears to have been forced labor, and what I think of as an emotional imprint that likely attracted other things, like the red eyes under the bed. It didn't seem very conscious, as it never got closer, and simply echoed down the hall to me, and avoided light. More of an echo, less of a conscience, but filled with pain and agony. The cats weren't fans either. I now wish I could help those imprints, spirits or whatever. They don't seem happy to me.
A note: Mrs. Lewis is still alive, we talk and see each other often, and she remembers this too, and still insists that the tracks were built by prisoners. She lives in the same neighborhood, and though she's had her share of experiences in the neighborhood, she's never met "Frankenstein" as such. I don't know why I would always awake to it; were they reaching out, or just waiting for everyone to sleep to express their anguish? Or did something happen at 2-3 am that wasn't entered into the historical record but that they still feel? Why haven't my neighbors had similar experiences? I have no answers to this, only questions. All I know is it opened me up, and the experiences didn't really stop, though Frankenstein did. I have more tales of poltergeists and one house I lived in during my college years that seemed to consume me and my friends, and we couldn't finish the lease, it was too hard. That is for later. All for now.