Monday, October 31, 2005

Swimming with the Paranormal

The air outside is crisp, the warm autumn breeze has stilled for the night and fog has made an appearance. The streetlights radiate in the mist and the mood is perfect for the holiday. Tonight, the children will run from door to door, dressed as goblins, ghosts, and ghouls. Some may want to be a pumpkin; others may want to idolize Darth Vader. Some others may combine the costumes. And the doors will open and bowls of candy will empty as the kiddies follow tradition and yell, “Trick or Treat!”

Halloween is a holiday I do enjoy, even though I do not participate as much as I did when I was younger. I forget to get a costume every year and I have not gone Trick-or-Treating since 1991, the year of the Halloween blizzard. Something about three feet of snow turns one off from the experience.

To honor the holiday this year, I sat down to brainstorm ideas about Halloween. The images that come to my mind are snow, candy, kids’ costumes, and spook stories. Since I’ve written before about snow and the Darth Vader pumpkin kid, I was left with two choices. I could write my spook story or write about another set of costumes. I have decided a spooky story fits here today.

The tale I bring to you this evening is not a Halloween story, you will find it starts out on a hot summer day. The setting does not fit a classic tale of terror, rather would make people want to go to the beach, or the pool, for a swim.

I was only seven or eight years old when this happened. Our family was visiting my cousins and aunt in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during July, staying at a hotel near to the townhouse my relatives had. The complex was large and graced with a swimming pool, yet the pool was kept off, away from the buildings. On a hot day as this was, the pool was normally filled with people who were all anxious to cool off a bit. Kids would be splashing the adults, but when we set off for the pool this day, we found it deserted, all the better for us, or maybe not.

The pool was a private place and had a large chain-link fence surrounding it. A magnetic key was needed to get in and out. Five of us were there that day. My cousins, Ellen and Brad, were both older and in charge. Two other children from the neighborhood were with us; they were both a few years older than I was. I do not recall the other kids’ names, only that they lived a couple of doors down from Ellen and Brad and Ellen used to watch them, as she watched me during the summers.

We were all in the pool; the card to leave tucked safely inside a bag Ellen brought. I was never a strong swimmer and my fear of water was only reinforced by this day. Four of us were in the shallow end of the pool, playing simple games like “Mermaid” (basically swimming with your legs touching all the way down to your toes) and having the Barbies I brought in the pool. Brad was swimming in the deep end. There was not a cloud in the sky that day or even so much of a light breeze.

Our group had been in and out of the pool a few times over the couple of hours we’d been there when an odd thing happened. Out of nowhere, a strong wind whipped through the area. Potted plants were pushed from their resting areas and the wet towels flew from one side of the pool and were caught by the fence. The papers on the table did not move an inch. We all saw the ripples in the water and each noticed how they ended as soon as the shallow end started. Brad was in the deep end and was forced under the water, feeling a hand on his head pushing him down. It was only a few moments, but it was enough to spook all of us. We wanted out of the pool, wanted out of the area, and wanted to be back inside a.s.a.p.

We grabbed our bags, gathered up the heavy towels, and we went to leave. Ellen reached in the bag for the key. The bag had not moved at all during the gust, but the key was missing.

Panicked, we started searching everything. Brad spotted the key. It was resting in plain view on the other side of the fence. It was too large to fit through the fence. The other strange part of where it was had to do with the fact it was on the side of the fence that the wind came from. We were now trapped inside.

Brad was able to pick the lock and get us outside of the pool area. He ran over and grabbed the key and we ran half of the way back to the house. On the way back, we joked and laughed nervously about those Time Life series commercials airing on television. The commercials would show four or five men walking through woods late at night and suddenly one of the men would be levitating.

Back at the house, no one believed us. Even now I doubt what happened. It was probably some sort of mini-twister or something, but it was spooky. I keep remembering how the ripples stopped when the deep end did and how Brad was forced under the water. I never swam in that pool again.