My dad had 7 sisters and 5 brothers, making 13 siblings in his family. As they grew up things were pretty rocky, financially. Some married pretty young and began their own families, moved to other parts of the United States and began their own lives. Having said this, needless to say I have many, many cousins and a large extended family.
As I grew, I would spend time with a few family members here and there, just depended on what was going on at the time. With a family this size, you become accustomed to numerous family gatherings and obligations cropping up repeatedly and at short notice.
One Thursday afternoon, we received a call from my Aunt Jamie. This call was one of the calls you dread ever receiving. My uncle had passed away. He was unfortunately hit by a city bus. He had gotten off work at a local factory and stopped off for a few drinks with his buddies. Instead of driving home after his 2 beers, he decided it best to walk home. He stepped in front of the bus as the bus left one of its stops. The vehicle was not going very fast, but the impact was enough to knock him off of his feet, he hit his head on the raised curd of the side walk. The head injury caused bleeding, he never woke up.
The final arrangements had been made to afford the family and friends services to pay their respects. Both my mother and father had to work and were not able to go to the services as it would be 2 or 3 days away. It was decided that I would accompany one of my aunts to the services to pay respects for our branch of the family. We would be staying 2 nights and 3 days in Sioux City, IA to attend all of the functions.
Although I was only 15 years old at the time, I had been to several funerals prior to this, unfortunately. Again, this is what sometimes happens with a large family. I was not frightened or nervous about the services; at this point I had come to accept these rituals as part of life. I was, however, not happy about having to be gone from home for an extended time. When you are 15, 3 days can seem like a life time!
As we drove the 2 1/2 hours to Sioux City, much of the conversation revolved around my Uncle Danny. I had not seen him since I was 8 years old. He had gone off the so called beaten path. He did not choose to go to church, to be involved with a lot of the family after he moved to Iowa, so he was not always around. My aunt I was traveling with mentioned that he had gotten involved in an cult. She was not sure which one, how or their beliefs, but for a somewhat rural type family anything out of the norm such as a cult was just ghastly!
We arrived at a huge rambling older home. There were 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and many, many other rooms including a concrete basement that spanned half of the house below ground. As we arrived, many other family members were already there milling around. I was kind of surprised that for a single man, my uncle had lived in such a large house. My aunt that I came with explained that someone had left the home to him in their will, my uncle fell in love with it and kept it. He apparently only lived in about half of the house, keeping the other rooms closed off.
I was assigned to a bedroom on the top floor of the three story home for my stay, right near my aunt I had come with. We climbed the stairs to the bedrooms to freshen up before the wake.
While climbing the stairs with my aunt behind me, my leading the way I kept getting the shivers. I thought maybe the air conditioning was turned up, it was August and a humid and sweltering 89 degrees out doors. I told my aunt as we climbed that I was cold. She said I was just tired. I mentioned the air condition and was informed that the house did not have air conditioning as it was too old and my uncle really didn't see the need for such frivolous comforts.
We reached the top landing and I was directed to got 2 doors down on the right and I would be staying there, apparently other family members had been up to clean and air the rooms and halls because the place was immaculate and spelled faintly or lavender. My aunt indicated that there was a restroom directly across from where I would be sleeping. All of the doors on this floor were closed. I found that odd, but thought maybe family was occupying these rooms and had the doors closed to get ready for the services.
I picked up a bag in each hand and started down the hallway. My aunt informed she had forgotten something in the car and would be right back; she ascended the stairs leaving her two bags lying at the top of the stairs near the landing.
I was road weary and couldn't wait for a shower and a change of clothes. I looked up and there were 3 white shadows hovering in the middle of the hallway. 1 of the shadows had a human shape to it, the other 2 just a dense white fog. I blinked a couple of times, and then heard what sounded like wind chimes and they were gone. Poof! Gone!
I ran down the hall and entered my assigned room, closed the door and locked it. What the heck! My heart was beating so loudly I couldn't stand it. I sat down on the bed and tried to find logic in what I had just witnessed.
There was a soft knock on the door, thinking it was my aunt, I jumped up, turned the lock and opened the door. There was a man standing there smiling at me. He stated he had seen me run into the bed room and wanted to make sure I was okay. I asked who he was. He smiled very wide and warmly and stated that he was a related to my dad and he knew just who I was. We entered the bed room, leaving the door open and sat in chairs facing each other, and visited. He was very easy to talk to. He told me stories about my dad and my aunts and uncles as they grew up. I was very relaxed.
About an hour later my aunt was calling to me from the hallway, I stuck my head out the door to acknowledge her. She stated it was time to go to the funeral home for the services. I told her we would be right out. I turned back around and there was no one in the room! He was gone.
I ran out of the room, telling my aunt about my visitor, that he said he was related. When she asked how he was related, I realized I did not know, I had not asked. My aunt stated that the ride and the heat must have gotten to me because there was only one door out of the room and I had been in that door way, there was no where for a person to go in the room. I grabbed my purse and we headed down the stairs.
As we reached the landing to the second, a framed photo to the left reflected the sun and caught my attention. I stepped off the landing into the hallway and walked over to the picture. It was a photograph of the man I had been visiting with! I asked my aunt who the man was. She told me it was the uncle whose wake service we were going to be late for if I did not hurry up. She said they kept the photo there on the wall because the second floor was his favorite. I explained that was the man I had been talking to! She stood there and stared at me for a few seconds the chastised me for trying to upset her by telling a fib like that. I just remained quiet. I was dumbfounded.
I continued through the next couple days services kind of in a fog. Before we were to leave for our trip home, we had tea with some of my other relatives. They were discussing the sale of the house. One of my uncles who were involved in the conversation stated we would not be able to sell until all of that nonsense on the second floor was gone and burned. Well, now I HAD to know what was on the second floor.
I kind of slinked away from the gathering and went up to the second floor. I stopped at the photo, staring at it for just a moment, then (I am not sure if this was a trick of my eyes or not) the photo winked at me.
I moved down the hallway and opened the first door on the right. It was painted bright red with a single kneeler with a red cloth draped over the top in the middle of the room. The windows were completely covered with tin foil so no sun light was visible. I shut off the light, suppressed a shiver and closed the door.
I opened the next room's door; it was painted black with a single kneeler with a black cloth draped over it. Windows covered the same way as in the other room. I shut off the light and closed that door.
As I neared the third door, I could hear a murmur of voices behind the door. I thought well there is other family up here; I am not by myself going through this mysterious house alone. I opened the door and the room was pitch black, there were no lights on. The murmur of voices was still there, very low in the room. I reached over and flipped on the light. The room was again painted black, but there were 3 rows of chairs in the room, each with a black cloth draped over it. There were no pictures or a pulpit or anything, just the chairs. All of the sudden, the murmur of voices got more intense, like being inside a bee hive. I closed the door, forgetting to turn off the light. I ran down the stairs and asked my aunt if we could leave, now! She asked what was wrong. I told her nothing, I just wanted to go home.
We drove for quite some time in complete silence. My aunt then told me in a very no nonsense voice that I should not have went on to the second floor of the house, that it was bad manners to poke around without permission.
We have never spoken of that visit to Sioux City since then and rarely is my uncle mentioned.
What does all this mean? I have no idea, but... It was terrifying and has stuck with me over all these years.