Chat: "This house is clean." January 24, 2020 8:51 AM   Subscribe

As we move through cities, towns, landscapes, some of these places become "haunted" by lost loves, great moments gone by, pain endured while there, and so many other things. Tell me about your hauntings and whether or not the ghosts are still there.

I'm considering moving to a city that I think is amazing. However, I'm pretty sure there are certain key places there that are going to be hard to see again because of what happened the last time I was there. Frankly I'm not sure I can deal with this longterm, but I'm going to try it for a while to see how it goes.

I'd like to hear from MeFites about similar situations in your lives and how the ghosts, metaphorical or otherwise, eventually left on their own, were evicted ... or are still around.

Please note that I'm not compiling an article or anything like that. This is just sort of a gather-around-the-bonfire, let's-tell-ghostly-stories post.

(post title is from the original "Poltergeist")
posted by Sheydem-tants to MetaFilter-Related at 8:51 AM (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I have lived within about 10 square kilometers for the last 14.5 years. During this time I've done a lot of stuff, different jobs & joblessness, different relationships friend/romantic/unclear including an entire marriage and divorce, grad school.

There used to be what I'd term land mines everywhere.

Now, though, and perhaps it's therapy helping me see my feelings and hang out with them in a healthier way, even the places that hosted terrible events are more of a passing thought of "whoa, THAT place". I mean, if I really let places get to me, my own couch would be the worst place on earth, and it's pretty much the best place. So if I didn't live here now, and was thinking about moving back ... it's all cool.

And thinking about Boston, which was before here...I can't think of a place that would hurt. The first place that came to mind is so hilarious (a professor's living room, for no reason that involves the professor) that the funny would supersede any pain.

I don't know if anything I've said is useful, but it's where I am with things. I'd hope the amazingness of the city would hugely overwhelm the ghosts.
posted by wellred at 9:47 AM on January 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

The ghosts that I live with are the memories of two people who hurt me many many years ago. Two separate hurts, years apart themselves. I harbor a bitterness toward those two people that I can’t let go of. No matter how many times I forgive them in my head my heart remains bitter. Funny, both of them had to so with something religious. I had not thought of that before.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:02 AM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I tried to return to a haunted place after a few years away--a city full of people and places I adored before Bad Things made living there untenable--but it was a hideous failure and I pretty much almost immediately lost my mind. The ghosts were everywhere, their presence immobilizing. If I hadn't tried returning, however, I know I would think of doing so constantly, so at least I now know I can't be there. I still like to think that I can orient myself to a return, even briefly as a visitor, one day, but I know it is still a ways away.

Good luck! Despite my experience, I do think it is possible (see above!). Also per wellred's comment, I went back while not at all being in a positive mental space (literally in the midst of a severe depression and thought the move back would help--READER IT DID NOT) and would be able to approach it next time with more awareness of the work I need to do before and during being in the "house". I haven't seen Poltergeist, but I like using the title you've chosen here as an invocation for haunted spaces; I can see myself internally chanting "this house is clean, this house is clean" as a reminder that some (only some!) ghouls are as present as I allow them to be. Hm.

May many successful exorcisings be in your future.
posted by youarenothere at 10:07 AM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh god, no, I'm not thinking much less writing about that. Ouch.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:21 AM on January 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Discovering that my high school girlfriend’s high school girlfriend has spent the last twenty years working the fast food job I quit as a teenager was a harrowing glimpse into a dark funhouse mirror version of what my life would have been like if I had never moved away. I am not exaggerating when I say that I depersonalized right there at the counter.

There’s a reason so many horror stories begin with the protagonist returning to the place they grew up; it’s unsettling.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:03 PM on January 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

I can’t visit either of my old departments at my university in without being confronted by the memory of student vulnerability. The smell in the psych department elevator, ugh, it is the wrong kind of transporting.

The state capitol building in my town holds a differently-valenced corps of ghosts.
posted by eirias at 3:44 PM on January 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


My little ex-wife was from a small town in Arkansas. I met, and loved, and was loved by, many of her people. I was charmed by the way of life these people lived They were interesting, they were fun, they were smart, they were salt of the earth. Her grandfather especially was a great connection for me, being in his house comforted me, being in his presence comforted me. He even had this great name -- Corbett.

Corbett loved me, welcomed me. As that marriage crumbled, it was Corbett that set me down, it was Corbett who gave me incredibly helpful information into my ex-wife's background that helped clarify what was happening to us, and he never held against me the cruelties I visited upon her. He looked me dead on; he told me that I was in an impossible situation, and I damn sure was.

None of that helped me, not really, when my life imploded upon our break. Only *after* our break did I see the cruelties I laid upon her, and would have done absolutely anything to have gone back and not have said the things I said, done the things that I had done.

She moved on, fast, married another guy, and together they lived in Arkansas.

Arkansas was a stab in me. And as I had all of my family in Illinois, and lived in Houston, I many times drove across the state, from the southwest corner (Texarcana) to the northeast corner, and at that time the speed limits were set to 55 mph, six to seven hours in a world of hurt. If only I hadn't done what I'd done. If only I hadn't said what I said. If only I'd been able to find forgiveness in my stone-cold heart. If only I'd have just left, walked from a scene I could not figure a way out of, which, I know now, no one could figure a way out of.

It turned a place I loved into a bittersweet haunt that I spent hours in, some years twice a year, @ 55 goddamned miles per hour. Hurts. Tears. Rage, at myself, at her,at the impossible situation we'd gotten into, at Life. Guilt. Shame. Remorse. Recriminations.

In 1982 I was given the gift of a life without drunkenness. In time, a clear head drifted downward, and began to give me a clear heart. Best of all was that not only did she forgive me but that I was able to accept her forgiveness, and begin to forgive myself, and no longer hate myself, and no longer haunt myself. This process took long, long years; regardless of her forgiveness I just wouldn't let myself off the hook, an inoculation to prevent ever repeating such foolishnesses. And Arkansas, well, there are some fine people there, and I no longer ache at the thought of that state.

Kathy is 23 years in the grave -- cancer, Newport cigarettes. Corbett also has passed from the scene, a man who really cared for me, and about me, and saw the impossible situation that Kathy and I were in and helped me begin to get free. Often when I think of Arkansas I think of Corbett, his kindnesses, the warmth, both of his heart and of his hearth, in that one very cold winter week in his small house out there on that country lane. I could go long here, telling of what Corbett told me, but it'd serve no purpose, other than maybe to flesh out a bit more who Kathy was, and how she became who she was, in a small town in the southeast corner of a state that no longer hurts or haunts me.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:31 PM on January 24, 2020 [13 favorites]

Twelve years ago now I went through a major, unexpected, pull-the-rug-out-from-under-me breakup with someone I'm pretty sure could have been the love of my life if he had just gotten over some issues. We'd roamed a lot around the city during our time together, so a lot of parts of Brooklyn were haunted for me.

I made a point one summer day of deliberately going around to a lot of spaces where he and I had been to see them on my own, sort of just be there, and reclaim the space for me. That....helped, a little.

This being New York, however, as time went on a lot of those spaces and landmarks either closed or changed into other things, so now it's almost moot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:43 PM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Almost two years ago, I was assaulted by someone in my grad program. Everything was hard at first - people talking about person who hadn't known what happened, person talking about person who did know what had happened, being in the physical building (where I also work) where our program is located. Everything was hard.

But just today I was up in their old lab (person is long gone) with a buddy, and... it was fine. We joked about how we need to have an exorcism on the space (buddy had Bad Experiences with this person as well). We left and went to our meeting, and it was fine. Time doesn't necessarily fix things, but it does change it. These days, these spaces remind me of the people who kept me from cracking up during that time, not the trash person.
posted by joycehealy at 7:04 PM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Christchurch. I used to live there, before the earthquakes. Many of my formative young adult experiences happened there. I wasn't living there anymore when the earthquakes happened, nor during the shootings. When I go back now, I don't recognise the city I used to live in, on the whole, but occasionally I'll see a building or place that reminds me of what it used to be like and then it's like the whole former city is kind of lying underneath the current one as a ghost, and that always makes me think about the quakes and the shootings and the people who suffered or died. So it's not happy ghosts, for sure.
posted by lollusc at 7:10 PM on January 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Oh and joycehealy's comment reminded me of another one. For a while my department at my university has a great corridor of awesome people. All our offices were next to each other, and it was a happy place to be. One by one over a period of a year everyone except me and two other people quit (because of one of the remaining people). The other woman and myself started working mainly at home. They moved the problem person to a distant office (thank goodness).

For the next year after that, the whole corridor of offices stayed empty and when I did have to go in, I almost felt like I could see the ghosts of my former colleagues going about their lives. Certainly I thought about them (and recited their names in my head) every time I passed by their rooms.

Now the offices have been given over to people from a different department, so they aren't empty, but are full of near-strangers. I still "see" my former colleagues in that space sometimes.

The building used to be an asylum in the 19th century and first part of the 20th century. I think about those people too, who actually lived in the rooms that are now offices. I have colleagues who won't stay in the building alone after hours because of these "ghosts".
posted by lollusc at 7:17 PM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I really wish I could find the quote (but it's lost amongst new agey quotes) that went something like "Life is the process of attaching unpleasant memories to physical places".

Might have been Antonio Lobo Antunes, sounds like his cheery kind of thing to say.

Or you have the lines from The Smiths:

When you walk without ease
On these
Streets where you were raised
I had a really bad dream
It lasted twenty years, seven months, and twenty seven days

I don't exactly get that, because I'm OK turning towards the familiar places and what they brought, whether bad or good.

The loony bin where I was institutionalised sat next door to the maternity ward where Lil Ubu was born, but the loony bin is gone now. I cycle through there often on the way to work, it's a nice shortcut through Sydney Uni.

Another place erased physically is near my home, where a block of apartments stand on what was once a termination clinic, which played a different part in a different story. I doubt any of the current owners or tenants have any idea what used to happen there.

Not far away in another direction there's a bedroom above a shop where two completely different long term partners lived, years apart. That place is now being architecturally remodelled. It was quite a dump.

And then there's the house we all thought was haunted beforehand (friends kept talking about meeting people-who-weren't-there on the stairs, or in dreams), but when we lost a friend to an overdose or suicide, the entire house (doors, windows etc) started shaking. Occasionally much later I'd see people entering or exiting that house, and ask them if anything was weird about that place and they'd all say Hell Yeah. So that's a literal ghost.

Shane MacGowan always had a way with words, regarding these kinds of things, like:

You remember that foul evening when you heard the banshees howl
There was lousy drunken bastards singing "Billy In The Bowl"


Every time that I look on the first day of summer
Takes me back to the place where they gave ECT
And the drugged up psychos
With death in their eyes
And how all of this really
Means nothing to me

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:36 PM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Pictures are fun!

The haunted house is one of these. I won't say which.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:52 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Every night, just about, I walk the dog around the corner and down that street to the next corner, make a right or a left, then walk further, etc. I've lived here, this part of town, for about ten years now. And I've walked by this one, particular doorway at least a couple hundred times. And yet, in the last six months or so (and it could well be that they simply changed the light over the door or... something... but for the last six months or so I pass the door way and that switch in your brain that says, "Hey, there's someone there." flips and I look over to see who. And there's never anyone there. But I still look to see who it might be, who it could be. And there's never anyone there, of course. Yesterday, curiously, as I walked by the light inside was on and there was someone inside the vestibule, checking their mail-box and even so - damnit but I felt there was someone just outside the door, on my side, either just leaving or just waiting to go in.

The building itself is unremarkable, late 1800's, early 1900's, survived the thrashing Berlin rightly received during WWII and like I said, after almost a decade of walking by it, I've never noticed anything until just now. Damnedest thing.

Last summer we got the chance to go back to NYC, stay at a friends' place around the corner from where we used to live. So much has changed, so aggressively (I/we lived in Williamsburg, the North end of Brooklyn) that buildings where I had passed my idiot 20's were go completely street-scapes erased, enormous buildings vanished. Yet the building I first moved to in the winter of '88 was still there and looked exactly as it had 30 years ago. It was like the entire building was a ghost, and if I could reach into my pocket and pull out the keys, the right keys, I could go through the front door and find myself back in time - and it would not have been surprising. Like the CS Lewis' wardrobe, it might have been a touch shocking at first, but then, really, it would have been just the way it is: surprising but its own internal logic powerful enough to carry the day.

Last summer I stumbled upon an article about a college I spent some time at in the 80's. It was a pretty vapid article, but it swerved at one point. We had a room-mate in the loft (the one above) where I lived who I always really liked and got along well with. She didn't make it out of the 90's and her death was, is, one that still haunts me: she had cut ties with everyone a couple years before and there wasn't really enough 'closure.' And she popped up in this article, one of the people interviewed had been her boyfriend and he mentioned how much he had been in love with her. (all before she moved in with us) I hadn't known. And seeing her name, and this past relationship spooked me such that for a while afterwards I felt my computer was haunted.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:34 AM on January 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I spent my early childhood with my mother and grandparents. My grandma did all the cooking for the first 11 years of my life.
Often, after coming home from school, she’d be in the kitchen cooking or baking something. She never let me help, but she let me watch.
She died in my early twenties. At about the same time,I started learning to cook. Sometimes I felt her at my shoulder showing me a particular technique. It was a lovely, loving “haunting”.
posted by dbmcd at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

Everywhere I go is haunted. I work at the school where I went to undergrad and law school. I live in the house where I spent all but three years of my 30-year marriage. Everywhere I walk my new dog, I walked my late dog, my utterly beloved dog, who was taken from me by my ex-husband's indifference and stupidity. All the happiest hours of my life have been spent here, and all the worst.

And I'm fine with it. These things are a part of who I am. I don't have to throw away all the best parts of my life to escape the worst. I can look squarely at all of these things and feel whatever I feel. I can integrate all of my past into who I am now.

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be my ex-husband, who walked away from everything he'd ever known to a new town, a new job, a new wife. I'm sure it's liberating, and certainly an easier path. But it's not the path for me.
posted by HotToddy at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

I am haunted not by a place, but by a moment of time. I still think about it often. I am pretty sure I would not change it, but I am also pretty sure I wish the outcome were different. I sort of wish the memory was linked to a place because I could keep it in a box and only confront it when I was in that place.

If time heals all wounds, some wounds take a lot of time to heal. Decades even.
posted by AugustWest at 2:02 AM on January 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

posted by From Bklyn at 3:52 AM on January 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Can you have ghosts for a place you've never visited?

I met someone from a country, we'll call it Lastonia. We were pretty close and our relationship was rather intense for a friendship.

Our last meeting ended in a disagreement - mostly because I gave him a metaphorical grenade to ease my own suffering. He said some rude things. The last time I heard his voice, it was choked with tears.

I've had difficulty looking at anything about Lastonia since then. Before, I was interested in visiting and had a ton of books about it, but those have since been relegated to the back of my bookshelf.

This year I forced myself to take Lastonian, and once a week I cheerfully chirp out the language of ghosts. In a classroom full of the living, I am the outlier, trying to catch up to my past.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:11 AM on January 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Update: I'm no longer considering a longterm stay in my haunted place. There are compelling practical reasons to settle elsewhere anyway, but believe me, I'm relieved.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:25 AM on January 26, 2020

I am haunted not by places but by the bands that my ex loved and played constantly. I can't listen to them on the radio.

In an opposite way, songs my parents loved are an immediate rush of good feeling and memories.

I've lived in so many houses and apartments. None of them would be haunted because good and bad happened in them all.

Ironically, the two places that were special to my ex and me here in town have been demolished, so I can't go back to them anyway.
posted by emjaybee at 9:34 PM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

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