In the late 1960's, into the early 1970's, my family lived in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1971 we drove from Jeddah to Riyadh and moved into an old house owned by a General of the Arabian military. My first impression was that it was haunted. It felt as if the house was longing, lonely and sad. I was 11 years old, my younger sister was 9, my brother was 7, and my baby sister was 5.
The house was surrounded by eucalyptus trees. One of the trees reminded us of 'Big Bird' from Sesame Street. The house had been empty for a few years before we arrived. It took us a few weeks to get the house comfortable. The interior was painted sea foam green and bright pink and white. Outside in the front lawn was a cistern. Our mother made us promise never to open it. She was afraid one of us might fall in and drown.
It wasn't long before I began to hearing a woman's voice calling my name. The odd thing was that she called my name in very rapid succession in a whispering tone, "Theresa-Theresa-Theresa-Theresa" on and on and on without pause for a breath. The first time this happened I was home alone. My mom, sisters and brother had gone to the store. At first I thought I was imaging the voice until it followed me from room to room. It scared me so I finally went outside on the porch to wait for their return.
My baby sister's room was down the hall from mine. The ghost frightened her too. She would come into my room in the middle of the night saying the ghost was near and crawl into bed with me.
The ghost would wake me up by violently bumping my bed during the night. Sometimes she would do this numerous times. When I'd wake up, I was very aware of someone's face being very close to mine, but instead of feeling a warm breath, I felt a strange cold. I was petrified, too afraid to even breathe. I'd cover my face in my coverlet and tremble myself back to sleep, too afraid to breath, speak or move. It was horrifying for a child. So, when my little sister asked to join me in bed, I would console her. I always felt as if someone was watching us in that house.
One morning my mother and I were sitting in the kitchen alone talking when we suddenly heard heavy footsteps approaching, as if coming from the tiled entry, through the living room into the dining room. They suddenly stopped when they reached the kitchen doorway. We both stopped talking expecting to see my dad, but there was nothing. In fact he was still asleep in bed. No one else heard the footsteps.
There were times when I would be doing my chores, perhaps washing dishes, cleaning the floors, or doing laundry, when I'd feel this being engulf me. I'd find it difficult to move, weighted down. I could feel it was desperate, sad, and sometimes playful when it scared me. I'd see images out of the corner of my eyes. It never let me see it directly, until one day when I went out on the front lawn and opened the cistern. We'd open the cistern when we knew my mother wasn't watching. We were kids.
One afternoon, I felt it wanted me to open the cistern. I felt that she led me outside, and I opened it. There were what appeared to be two eyes looking back at me. I was lost in time, lost in that gaze. Then the eyes receded down into the watery depths. I dropped the door and ran for the house. I never said anything about it.
When I was 12 my father had the house repainted. Oddly enough, much of the activity stopped. I felt it, but not as aggressively. It still woke me up at night, but not as often.
In the summer of 2008 my mother was visiting us, and we reminisced about that old house in Riyadh. I finally told her about the eyes in the cistern. She stopped, and I could tell that she wanted to say something. Mom finally spoke. "I didn't tell you, but do you remember the General's Egyptian maid?" I told her yes, that I remembered her. "Well," mom continued, "she told me that a man killed his wife in that house, and put her body in the cistern. I never told you kids that. I believe that's why the house was haunted, by her spirit. What you told me is scaring me. You probably saw her spirit still in there." I finally had closure.