Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Weird House, Post 2

Sweet reader, I would be so mortified if by my recording of my so-called paranormal experiences you form the idea that I am one of those silly women (and it usually is women) who believe that nine-tenths of the things that happen to them are haunted and who see in photos of dust motes and lens flares a world of proof and wonder! So if what I say in this post strikes you as ridiculous, think of it not as excited and breathless look-at-me (which I truly hope it is not) but as the commentary of a woman who, through a genetic disposition toward mental imbalance and the ravages of alcohol, is possibly losing her mind, and who is perhaps vaguely aware of it and subconsciously attempting to document it on the way down.

Sometime between 2:15 and 6:45 on the morning of September 23 (the time between my going to bed and getting up), there may have emerged in our house one of those spectacularly undramatic little splinters of weirdness that seem to poke us here every now and then. These events are so nearly pedestrian that they're almost indistinguishable from ordinary occurrences; my husband views them that way, I think, or at least he doesn't seem to spend too much time dwelling on them; and even the booze-riddled magic box in my own head is leaning about three-fourths of the way over on that side, and would already have slipped off the table if it weren't for the tiny catch that each of these episodes, somewhere, has: a little hook of weirdness that snags in my mind and restrains it from splattering onto the clean-scrubbed sterile linoleum of rationality.

It is so easy for our attention to be lured by distraction and diversion! There is a reason why, in the grubbiest and most soiled of human pursuits like thieving, politics, business, and war, misdirection is elevated to a pinnacle of art. And I think that for many of us who stumble blindly through the foggy meadows of the paranormal -- certainly for third-rate intellects like mine -- we all too naturally let ourselves be drawn toward the bonfire flames of the highest strangeness, the ultra weird, the most unsettling tales, partly because they are more fun to listen to (or, if you prefer, more stimulating to the intellect), but also because we may assume that, since these slashes through the cloth of the workaday world are so dramatic and so rare, they must let in a sudden light upon the truth, just as lightning on a dark night instantaneously illuminates the world (before flashing out and leaving one with light-dazed eyes, more blind than before).

But so much has been speculated about the deceptions of paranormal visitors, about the "look at me!" aspect of strange lights, or the ridiculous behavior of entities, that many students of the paranormal wonder if all the drama isn't intended to cover up or conceal something else that is happening while we're mesmerized by the theatrical waving of the magician's visible hand.

John Keel, in The Mothman Prophecies, speculates on the link between UFO lights (the possible diversion) and cattle mutilations (the possible "payoff" for whatever is running the show). I am not a conscientious enough scholar to be sure, but it does seem from the scatterings of information I've picked up (again reminding me that I am attempting to reason from ignorance and should just shut the hell up, but then again when has ignorance ever stopped anybody from exploding half-baked nonsense upon the world) that the two are occasionally paired -- some of the alleged incidents at the Skinwalker Ranch, for instance, suggest this -- but not enough that it seems to be a consistent feature. But of course livestock don't exist just everywhere any more; and who knows what is going on in places where the diversion of lights is seen but no apparent payoff is detected?

I think most of us make a very large mistake, most of the time, in assuming that we have a pretty good idea of what's going on around us; but in reality countless acts, decisions and events -- some of which may turn out to have significant impact on our lives -- are happening all the time that we never do find out about simply because we never notice them ourselves and nobody tells us about them, at least not until after the damage is done and the horse is out of the barn.

One of the biggest fallacies of modern times is believing that everything of import makes it onto the news; one of the biggest fallacies of the rationalist, when he attempts to explain away the weirdness of the world, is to assert that if there were anything to any of this science would have investigated it and everybody would know about it.

My outlook on all of these things -- on everything in fact -- not that I have any great reasons for believing it, it's just the workings of the inner shapelessness and inconsistency of my mind; but I feel that all that we know, or think we know, or perceive, is a blend of real and false, truth and lie; I think some dazzling spectacles of high weirdness likely are Baltic Concessions and German-Soviet Nonaggression Pacts, attempts to pacify and inveigle us so we lower our guard, lessen our suspicions, and close our eyes to what might be going on behind the scenes, whereas other episodes may be the paranormal equivalent of panzers clanking over the frontier.

I am interested in the history of the Soviet Union and a while ago read something that stuck in my mind. In a new biography of Joseph Stalin, the Russian historian Edvard Radzinsky, when discussing Stalin's apparent shock at Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union -- about the preparations for which Stalin had for weeks been receiving rather ominous intelligence -- mentions that Stalin had been tracking the price of mutton in Germany and noticed that the prices were not going up. In the labyrinths of that wily byzantine mind this proved that Hitler was not planning to attack, since if he meant to attack the USSR he would need to lay in a stock of sheepskin winter clothing for his soldiers, which would have diverted sheep from the table to the textile factories, which would have meant that mutton would be in more limited supply and hence more expensive. In reality, it was just that Hitler thought that he'd tear through Russia in a couple of months and be done before it got cold, so Stalin was being a little too sly for his own good; but it opened a splinter of light for me on the kinds of ways that people in intelligence agencies may go about their jobs, ignoring the brightly-lit spectaculars staged by foreign governments in favor of obscure details which on the surface seem meaningless but when collected and analyzed may point to the existence of deeper machinations.

High weirdness is beyond my ken; it doesn't happen to me. But every now and then I am given the equivalent of an odd little newspaper article, or a mysterious spike in the price of a commodity, which possibly suggests that something might be occurring in the shadows that lie beyond. I think it is likely a lot of people experience such things. But, because the events are so minor and unshowy, we tend to ignore them and forget about them, and so a person like me, who has had them happen on and off throughout my life, when asked will usually say that I've had little or no paranormal experience. But if I had compiled them all I might well be able to see a pattern.

I am glad now that I made an effort earlier to set down the details of the last splinter, because now I can go back and see that it jabbed us four months ago almost to the day, and, curiously enough, again occurred one day after one of us (in this case me) had gone away for the weekend.

Like the last episode, this one occurred in our kitchen, which seems to be the room in our house in which most of the weird things occur (the runner-up is our former bedroom, which is above the kitchen).

My husband does not like having our kitchen cabinets left hanging open because he says it will mess up the hinges. Alas for his peace of mind and those poor hinges, I frequently forget to close them, which sometimes earns me a lecture. So on Monday morning I shamble into the kitchen to get the coffee started and he comes in and at some point notices the cupboard over the refrigerator and asks me why I left the door open. I look up and sure enough the cupboard is hanging wide open, but I didn't do it. I never open that cupboard because a) I can't reach it without standing on a chair, and b) there's never been anything in it but some old spraycans left there by the previous owners and some glassware wedding presents which in more than 10 years of marriage I have never had occasion to use.

Now I know doors can swing open on their own. Once we had the hall carpet taken up for a few months and the basement door is so poised that without the carpet to obstruct it, the movement of air caused by your body as you walk into the hall would cause it to drift shut as if under the action of an invisible hand. This never did stop creeping me out, since it always seemed to happen when I was home in the house alone at night, but I understood that it was a perfectly natural occurrence.

The problem with that refrigerator cupboard is that, since it is never used, the hinges are springy and tight. You have to pull it open -- it won't just swing -- and if you don't open it more than halfway it will snap closed again. I got up on a chair and messed with it for ten minutes or so trying to get it to come open on its own but I couldn't manage it.

I finally dismissed it as a fluke, but on the morning of the following Sunday my husband called me into the kitchen because the door was open AGAIN. I confess I felt rather more nervous about it than is strictly mature, particularly when I realized that with the door open you can see the brand name on the glassware box -- Mikasa -- and I wondered if something was trying to tell us "mi casa" or "my house". Not that I'd have any reason to suspect anything in this neck of the woods would be likely to know Spanish, but I suppose it is possible that on some plane of consciousness the meaning of words may eclipse the various phonetic sounds assigned by different languages to those meanings.

In any event, whatever caused that door to open up twice hasn't repeated itself as of yet, more than ten months later. And that is fine with me.