I see dead people. I see them everywhere. Hostels, villas, school field trips; there are no bounds when it comes to supernatural encounters. Typically during these encounters I don’t realize right away that anything is out of the ordinary. It’s not until after the fact that the reality dawns on me. I was actually alone, or there is no possible explanation for what I’d just seen.
The hauntings have followed me (or come out to me) across the pond, down under and beyond. I really wish they wouldn’t. I’d like to enjoy my travel time without the random blood curdling apparition throwing a wrench in my plans. But what can you do?
Hostels are for some reason just creepy by nature. (Insert obligatory rant about that god awful film). But I’ve always felt right at home in them. A bed is a bed, and it feels like home to me. Many travelers and backpackers sometimes find themselves falling victim to the allure of the hostel life, never taking the initiative to leave. I’ve met individuals who planned to stay two nights and ended up staying for 5 years (not very cost effective but however you wanna live man…).
And some, whether by choice or some fucked up existential reason I’ll never be able to comprehend, find their souls dwelling in the hostel halls for all of eternity.
Team No Sleep
If you’ve ever really submerged yourself in the backpacker lifestyle, you know that it is both a rarity and a gift to have a hostel room all to your lonesome. Even if it’s just for a few glorious hours.
It was still just the beginning of my backpacking expedition. I’d hit two surf towns on my way up the coast, and now I’d found myself in a night club oriented city that had earned the title “Miami of Australia.” Surfer’s Paradise is absolutely nothing like Miami but I suppose I can see the connection? It’s on the beach…they have dance clubs…everyone speaks Spanish (but the population here is primarily from Chile) close enough I guess?
Australia as you know is a relatively new country in terms of imperialism and “colonization.” But the land mass itself has existed just as long as the rest of the Earth. It’s early inhabitants, although not of the white European-decent that currently controls the country lived there for thousands of years. The aboriginals are very superstitious people. Although they may not have the run of the land, the ancient spirits that they worship and respect certainly do; whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
And the spirits are not happy.
Anyway, I had a hostel room all to myself in Surfer’s Paradise. The night before I had three relatively quiet but nice enough roommates from Chile, but they moved on as travelers do. I knew I couldn’t waste this golden opportunity to nap without disturbance; so I through on my eye shade and hit the sheets before the next batch rolled in.
I had this strange feeling that I wasn’t alone, although I knew all too well I was. This was the first time during my travels that I was actually alone. No travel partner, no boyfriend, just me. I thought maybe that hollow, empty feeling was accounting for the creeps. I always try to rationalize before accepting when I’m dealing with the supernatural.
But I ignored the feeling. I was too tired to care. I nestled into my bottom-bunk palace and began to drift into a gratifying sleep. That’s when I felt the bed shift. My eyes shot open, every nerve completely on edge. What. Was. That. The entire frame of the bed shifted over as if someone was leaning against it. I laid rigid, not daring to move, but preparing to bolt. Then the bed shifted back, they backed off.
It had to be my imagination. I had to somehow be shifting the weight of the bed, even though I hadn’t moved at all. I rationalized with myself and managed to calm down enough to start drifting back into sleep. I just began to slip into REM when the bed shoved over again, much harder this time.
As my body reacted to the pulse of the bed, I jumped up and out the door in one full movement, forgetting my room key, my backpack, everything. I walked down to the beach and just kept walking until the sun began to set. Surely my new roommates had to have come by now.
Luckily they had. Three young German backpackers had replaced the Chileans and they were ready to party. I decided against telling them about my experience.
It’s probably not the best way to make friends.
Watch out for Sparkles
As a precursor for this story, I should probably explain my relationship to Sparkles. Who is Sparkles, you ask?
Sparkles isn’t anyone at all. She’s more of an idea, the embodiment of a feeling.
When my friend trips on acid, she likes to dress up in a lemur onesie. Sparkles the Lemur.
This may not have as much bearing on the story as you and I may have liked but it needs to be stated in order to make sense.
We once again return to the sleep paralysis phenomena. For the most part, I was able to avoid channeling energies in most places. Probably because I usually went to bed incredibly intoxicated which tends to black out my dreams.
It was my last week in Australia. I was staying in a beach-front hostel in Bondi Beach, one of my most beloved spots. I was sharing a 4 -share bedroom with three other girls. One from Germany, one from Japan, and one from Brazil. I was on a mission to spend as much time with my friends in Sydney as I could before I left so I never really got a chance to know my roommates, but the girls were all nice enough.
During one of my last nights, I drifted off into a horrifying nightmare. An ancient, aboriginal spirit (perhaps demonic? I’m not too sure. I feel that most ancient spirits are slightly sinister) was following me, and it wanted me dead.
I was able to evade the spirit for a time, but it had shape shifting capabilities. No one could be trusted. I managed to make it back to the hostel and curl up in my sheets, preparing to accept my fate. Naturally, there was a thunderstorm to set the scene. I shivered beneath the sheets with each clap of thunder, waiting for the spirit to emerge from the darkness.
I saw a shadow slowly rise before me. I lunged back in terror, my back pressed up against the wall, waiting for the worst. A clap of thunder and a strike of lightening revealed Sparkles The Lemur kneeling before me, her eyes wild and crazed. Momentarily relieved, I thought my friend was here to save me.
Another flash of lightening crashed through the room revealing the sinister spirit occupying Sparkles, forcing her to do his bidding. Just for a moment, just as the light illuminated her face, I saw him. His round, dark face streaked with white tribal paint. His fat, flat nose. His eyes, dark and inky like a great white shark closing in on its prey.
I grabbed her neck to hold her back, but she started chewing through my arm like a rabid zombie. I could feel her hands grabbing me, crushing me.
That must have been when I started crossing back over into consciousness. I was flailing wildly when I came to, my roommates surrounding me, clearly very concerned.
Apparently I’d been hysterically screaming in my sleep, calling for help! (How embarrassing…) My arm was streaked with blood from fresh scratches around my wrist. It took me a moment to come to. To accept that I was really safe.
I retreated to the roof for a while to smoke the last of my weed, hoping that it would numb me enough to lull me to a dreamless sleep. Miraculously, it worked because when I finally awoke I couldn’t remember a thing. Bless.
The next morning I went down to the front desk to return some pots & pans I’d rented during my stay. While the attendant fiddled around to retrieve my deposit I scanned the flyers and pictures that littered the walls. On the far left end of the room there was a tiny plaque. Black with gold lettering. I leaned in closer to make out the wording that was barely legible.
THIS HOSTEL WAS BUILT ON ANCIENT ABORIGINAL TRIBAL LANDS.
WE HONOR THOSE OF THE CADIGAL & BIDDIGAL TRIBES.
WE OFFER YOU OUR THANKS AND OUR RESPECT.
You can offer your respect all you like, but it obviously isn’t enough.
The spirits are not happy.
(The man pictured above isn’t nearly scary enough for a proper depiction, his eyes are too kind. But just to give you an idea of the face paint.)
The Woman on the Balcony
Walking the streets of Verona, Italy, everything is just so enchanting. These streets that existed hundreds of years ago, that Shakespeare once walked and felt so inspired that he created the most famous love story in existence.
Over the centuries, there have been many tragedies, many deaths. Many opportunities for displaced spirits to inhabit and haunt their late dwellings, scaring the piss out of unsuspecting passerby’s.
On a whim, I decided to stay with some friends in Verona, Italy for a week. I flew home from Hawaii, packed my bags, and set off within a few hours to cross yet another ocean. By the time I got to Italy, I had been awake for a solid 30 hours. (I can’t sleep on planes, it’s just a thing.) It was still the early morning. I’d learned by that point that you just need to push through that first day to regulate your sleeping patterns and keep jet lag at bay.
So we spent the day touring the city, finding weed, eating fresh pasta and sipping Aperol spritzes (wtf Italy, WHY DO YOU DRINK THIS?! THEY’RE DISGUSTING!!!!) And after an incredible dinner in Piazza delle Erbe, it was finally nearing an acceptable bedtime.
My friend and I turned the corner to her villa nestled just a few steps away from where we were dining. The door to her building was off to the left, and one quaint balcony lay ahead. Just as we were turning the corner, I caught a glimpse of a woman stepping out onto the balcony ahead of me, swinging the doors open and looking down at us. I looked directly up to get a better look, but no one was there. But the doors had indeed been opened, the apartment behind it completely pitch black.
I slowed my pace for just a second. It’s the sleep deprivation, I told myself. Those doors must have already been opened.
But my friend noticed my body language, my face. The way I cautiously eyed the balcony as she unlocked the door.
“What.” It was more of a statement than a question. “What did you see?”
Not wanting to scare her, I shook it off. “Nothing, it was nothing.”
Unconvinced, she shrugged and turned the light dial. The light didn’t have a switch, it had a timer with a maximum of 30 minutes. She cranked it to the max and we made our way up. When we crossed the threshold of the first floor (she lived on the 4th) a sudden icy chill crawled up my spine. There was only one door off to the left, leading to the apartment where I’d seen that possible phantom. There was a slight gap beneath the door, revealing a deep impenetrable darkness that lay behind. No one was home. I pressed my back against the wall as I slipped around the stairwell, putting as much distance between myself and the door. My reaction did not go unnoticed.
“What the hell did you see? You’re freaking me out. Just tell me.” I couldn’t see any benefit from keeping it in. It was probably just the sleep deprivation. Shadow people. A long term adverse effect from the multitude of hallucinogenics and ecstasy I’d done in the past. Nothing to worry about.
As we made our way up the last flight of steps, I decided to spill.
“It was probably nothing. But I swore when we turned the corner those balcony doors were closed. I thought I saw someone open them and walk out, and when I looked up they were gone. It’s just weird. But it’s probably nothing.”
She gave me a cautious nod. Clearly unconvinced that everything was fine. She reached into her bag to retrieve her keys. She looked up at me.
“Shit. I forgot my keys.” And then…
Someone had turned out the lights.
We were alone in the stairwell.
The timer was set to 30 minutes.
It had been maybe 2 since we set up the stairs.
Panic stricken, we frantically started going back down the stairs. But it was pitch black, if we tried to run we would fall and probably die. Then there would be three phantoms terrorizing this stairwell. We held onto the wall and quickly baby stepped down the stairs, whimpering and screaming all the while.
We finally made it down the stairs and bolted for the door, running out into the street, hysterical and indisposed. My friends boyfriend turned the corner to meet us, knowing just by a glimpse that we’d seen some shit.
“God dammit Jenn Beach! Don’t you bring that evil here!” He half joked.
We screamed over each other, trying to explain the events of the last horrifying 5 minutes. His face twisted up with confusion as he scanned the balconies behind us.
“Which one? All of the balcony doors are shut.”
Our petrified eyes locked into each other before we dared to turn around. Slowly, we turned to face the phantom balcony. He was right.
The doors were closed.
Regretfully during my adolescence and early adulthood I thought I was too cool for school. I just never went. And if I did, I’d frequently take half-days, excusing myself with a handwritten note from yours truly, posing as my father.
But there were a few classes I never missed. The ones that truly interested me. Basically, anything that wasn’t math or gym. I work out now, but I still can’t math. As you might imagine, English was always one of my better classes. I loved to read and write. The teachers usually got me (except for one who hated me until she read my mid-term paper) and I never, ever missed a field trip.
During our freshman year of high school, our English and Social Studies classes (that we called World Cultures) were correlated. We read books that appealed to whichever world history we were learning about. In World Cultures we were studying early 20th Century China, and in English we were assigned to read a selection of books from this era. I read Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. But most of the other students chose to read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck.
I never actually read that book, but when we had the option to visit Pearl’s house in Buck’s County, PA I jumped at the opportunity to get away from the grind.
Upon arrival we were greeted by the keepers of what is now a museum. We spent a few hours browsing through the home and admiring the artifacts. Since I never read the book I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I rolled a joint in the bathroom and waited for lunch to sneak off and enjoy the countryside.
Finally we were given a one hour recess to eat. There was a tall grove of Cyprus trees lining the property, separating the neighboring farm from the museum. A rounded doorway was carved into the trees leading out to the pasture, that’s where I saw her.
Zoning out, taking in my surroundings, and breathing in that magic smoke, I was traipsing along the properties edge when I noticed a woman walking towards me. At first I thought she must be an actor. She was dressed like it was still the Victorian era. She wore a floor length, canary yellow dress with white lace detail. Her spine crushing corset boasted her tiny frame and hefty caboose. On her head she wore a giant matching hat, canary yellow, with white lace lining the brim. She didn’t seem to see me as we walked towards one another.
I hadn’t noticed the doorway until I saw her disappear into the trees. For whatever reason I broke into a run to see where she’d slipped off to. I stopped in front of the doorway, my eyes met by a wide, lush field. She was nowhere to be seen. I poked my head through the threshold, craning my neck both ways to see where she’d gone. No one was there.
There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. She’d only slipped through the doorway a mere minute before I had, leaving no time for a stealthy retreat. To this day I’m convinced that I saw the ghost of Pearl Buck. Watching over her homestead, showing off her beautiful yellow dress that perfectly complements her figure.