Whale of a Fear

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I’m horrible to watch Antiques Roadshow with. I find myself shouting at the screen a la Indian Jones, “That belongs in a museum!”

And this really is the core of my being: I am excited by old things, find them amazing, fascinating, want them to be accessible to all, and want to get others excited about these objects as well. To learn is to better one’s self and I’d love to write and educate, to spread enthusiasm for something in my daily career.

There are 2 things I want to do with my life. To the average person, they’re very mundane. But to me, however, they’re the equivalent of becoming a rock star.

I want to:

1. Write lesson plans in accordance to state regulations for historical societies and museums in order to entice local schools to take field trips to such establishments.


2. Work and write for Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen, working as an Ethno-Foodologist or, even better, a Food Archeologist.

When I was in junior high and high school I would skip class about once a month or so. None of my friends would ever want to join me and my parents were always very supportive of these escapades. You’d think I had egghead friends and that’s why they wouldn’t skip, or that I had hippy dippy parents that would allow me to be so flagrant about my education, but neither was the case. Well, my mom could kinda be hippy dippy, but that’s a different story. When I decided to skip school I would get a ride to the train station and take Metro North to Grand Central Station. Exciting, right? Who wouldn’t want to skip school to hang out in The City all day?! I would then walk up Park Ave. to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or I would head west across the park to the American Museum of Natural History (or what’s know as the Museum of Mother Fucking Awesomeness by its fans) and I would spend hours and hours reading in silence, smiling over beauty…with the periodic stop off at the Central Park Zoo to finish the trip. I did this over and over and over again.  In high school I was fairly popular, I was certainly no prude, and the most epic parties were normally hosted by my brother or I. But when it came to what I really wanted, it was historical solitude. I would have shared that time with others, allowing them to tag along, but who cared for those things but me?

Photo Credit Jessica Hische

I’m extremely fortunate in the sense that I’ve been to the museums of NYC so frequently that I can’t even count the days spent in their ancient and loving embrace. Dozens of times? Definitely. Hundreds? Very possible. I’ve moved away from that area a couple of times since graduating high school and being unable to take advantage of those museums is always the number one issue that I have when living more than a train ride away. I guess I miss my family, too, but I really  miss those museums. In fact, when I visit my family, a jaunt to a museum in NYC is always one of the first afternoons planned. I am not so ego maniacal to ever think I could work at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In order to do something like that I would have had to make all the right moves, and absolutely no mistakes, in the professional decisions of my life. The employees and curators of those establishments are my heros, my Steven Tylers and Brad Pitts. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve done the opposite of not making professional blunders thus far in my life. I’ve created quite the resume and educational experience with not one, but two degrees under my belt. They’re just as far from the museum and/or food path as humanly possible. Awesome.

The first time in memory of going to a museum, I was about three years old and with my parents and brother. We headed out to the Museum of Natural History. My brother and I never really got along very well, and on trips like this we were more simply in the same place at the same time rather than actually experiencing something together. We walked passed the dinosaur skeleton in the entry hall and made our way around the mammoths and the naked, hairy neanderthals with the droopy boobs. This was prior to the Rose Center, otherwise we would have probably made a bee line for the giant glass box of Space. The favorite at this time, however, was the Great Hall. The Great Hall is massive, primarily so it can fit the life-sized model of a blue whale. It’s romantically lit, and by that I mean, that it’s somewhat dark, like the depths of the ocean. It consists of two levels with marine life exhibits lining the walls and a large open area in the center, from which one can admire the whale.

Photo credit Linden78. That bitch’ll crush yo’ ass.

I say “admire”.

There are two things I remember from this day, one of my earliest trips to the AMNH:

1. Being horrified in the Great Hall by this massive whale that was going to crush and/or eat me at any moment while…2. George Michael’s Careless Whisper played over the loud speaker. I mean, yeah, technically it was a Wham! song, but, c’mon, it was all George Michael and that damned whale. My mother said she heard “teeny, tiny pounding feet” and turned to see me flying toward her staring over my shoulder at the whale, horrified. And what self respecting toddler wouldn’t be? Even at that young age I knew anything from above could crush you below, both literally and figuratively.

It’s a hazy memory, but it’s very real, and it didn’t just end with that day.

I then proceded to carry around a fear of being in an ocean for years. Playing in the surf = good. Playing far enough out where water could go over your head and therefore allow you to be crushed from above by a whale = bad. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I could picture myself getting out of a boat and into open waters. I wasn’t afraid of whales, so much as being in water with them. I grew up along the north eastern seaboard, so going whale watching was a common activity. I respected their beauty and their power. And their ability to crush me in real life in the ocean or as a giant model in a museum.

Soul inhibited experience or no, I knew to differentiate my fear from what actually caused it and not where the experience occurred. Loosely translated: I didn’t blame the museum for this silly fear that followed me around for a couple of decades.

And to this day I want to be apart of some historical and educational organization that learns from and loves the past, whale or no.

I Don’t Believe in Ghosts, but…

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“I really wish you hadn’t told me that.”

I stared at the ceiling. Nothing makes your fear escalate like finding out that the person who is normally the voice of reason in your life is also very scared.

Mark Twain once said “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I am afraid of them.” An excellent sentiment indeed.

My boyfriend’s father owns the original West Redding train station, and lives in it. It was built in 1852 and it’s beautiful. Converted into a home decades ago, it still contains the original flooring, paint, and various items and debris in the basement. I won’t enter the basement, but that’s most likely because I’ve been groomed as a child of the ’80s and ’90s to associate basements and attics  with horrible secrets and misdoings (thank you Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, War of the Worlds, etc). The basement contains the original foundation of hand laid rocks, all wet and moldy, and the cat box was down there at the time of this particular story, so it smelled awful, though I prefer the term “foreboding”.

The house, a few years ago.

The main floor consists of a living room and a large kitchen. The upstairs contains two large bedrooms and a bath with a gorgeous claw foot tub, which my boyfriend hates. Not because the tub is haunted, but because when he was fifteen or sixteen he had to carry that beast up the narrow 1852 stairs. There is a short narrow hall that ends with stairs that continue up to the attic. The house isn’t huge, but it’s wonderful.

I had not experienced any kind of super-natural anything in my life time. Not up until this particular night, anyway. It happened in the hall of the upstairs area. I had spent countless days in this home up until this and was never worried, never scared, never nervous. So when I woke up one evening to use the bathroom it hadn’t even occurred to me to be the slightest bit frightened about anything.

I climbed over my sleeping boyfriend. I didn’t even pause to turn on a light as I squinted toward the outline of the bedroom door. There was no need. I knew this house well. I padded softly toward the hall in my striped pajamas and quietly pulled open the door.

The next thing I knew, I was on my back on the floor, the wind completely knocked out of me

Photo credit ForkParty

I honestly have no idea how to describe what happened. I had opened the door, which didn’t even make the slightest creak, when I saw a thin man staring down at the boxes of things piled by the attic stairs just to the right of the doorway. Or rather the silhouette of a man. A black, but perfect shape of a man, thicker than smoke, but not any more tangible.

Then suddenly it was like someone socked me powerfully – yet softly – in the stomach, knocking me onto the floor and crushing all the air out of my body. I wasn’t hurt, but I was shocked.

And there I sat, my heart pounding, breathing, trying to comprehend what happened. My boyfriend didn’t even stir.

And I still really needed to pee.

I must have been mistaken about what I saw…right?

I stood, closed my eyes and sprinted toward the bathroom. I’m positive I made the Guinness Record for fastest pee in the dark, washed my hands without looking in the mirror, closed my eyes and half sprinted-half groped my way back to the bedroom.

I climbed back into bed as quickly as I could, smooshing myself between my boyfriend and the wall. That way if whatever I saw was going to come back and come into the bedroom, it would get my hubby first.

I calmed myself. I must have still been dreaming, I must have fallen out of bed, I couldn’t have seen what I thought I saw. I eventually calmed myself enough to fall back to sleep.

But I didn’t stay asleep for long. And I wish I could say the experience ended there.

Photo credit AimeeLikesToTakePics

I woke up about an hour or so later and my boyfriend was no longer in bed. I sat up. There were no lights on, no lights coming from the hall, and I couldn’t hear him in the bathroom.

I didn’t mean it when I said that what ever I saw could get my boyfriend first if it came back.

I forced myself out of bed. Eventually I made myself stride confidently to the door. I could take down a ghost. Sure I could. I had muscle and pent up anger from working on my bachelor degree while working full time. I could muster rage to take down a super natural being.

I opened the door. There was nothing in the hall. This was good, because that’s right about the time any confidence and courage I had mustered left me.

“Chip?” I squeaked. “Chip!?…”


Thanks, honey. A disembodied shushing wasn’t super creepy at all. I turned to see at the top of the stairs was the very solid silhouette of my boyfriend. I moved toward him.

Then I heard it.






The wooden grind of chair legs shifting on the floor.

I froze. If I hadn’t peed before I would have peed then.


Scrape on the wood floor.

Clink of silverware and glass.

“Come to bed,” I whispered. I begged.

I went back into the bedroom and crawled as deeply under the covers as humanly possible. After a few moments, my boyfriend joined me.

“It’s just mice,” he lied. What a nice gesture.

I swallowed.

“I saw a man,” I blurted it out, like saying it would release me. “Before… I went to pee and – In the hallway. I saw a man in the hallway and he knocked me to the floor.” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.

I heard my boyfriend sigh deeply. He waited what felt like an eternity before saying something I thought for sure would comfort me.

“I really wish you hadn’t told me that.”

That response did not comfort me.

He was already scared of the “mice”. He didn’t want to hear that there was more going on in the house that night.

I hadn’t told anyone about this until Chip made me tell his father. His father was very unconcerned and didn’t seem surprised in the slightest. I was thankful for his calm manner regarding the story; it wasn’t a reaction I ever thought I would receive. If whatever I saw was in fact real, I don’t think he meant me any harm. I think I maybe surprised him as much as he surprised me. And I think he was fed up with the clutter of stuff in that house, as I often was.

Since this has happened I’ve told this story maybe three times, because I feel so silly about it all. But it’s a good story nonetheless.

Photo credit AllFromWeb