By Beck

I’ve been writing about Halloween every day recently – or more accurately, I’ve been attempting to write tongue-in-check horror posts about children’s books. And so of course as soon as I decided to do that, I started being told tons of interesting stories that just cry out to be written.

Like this one that I was recently told by a pleasant young couple who had bought an older house and moved in along with their 3 kids. The house has a steep staircase like many old houses (including mine, which is perilously steep) and so even though none of their kids were babies, they put a latching baby gate at the top of the stairs.

So it’s their first night ever in their new house and the kids are tucked in and the parents are in bed when both of them hear the sound of the baby gate unlatching and the unmistakable sounds of a child walking downstairs. The father got up to tuck the wandering kid back in, saw the gate swinging at the top of the stairs – and checked his kids… who were all sleeping soundly in their beds.

Boo.I don’t know what ghost stories mean, really. We don’t believe in them unless we do, unless it’s us standing at the top of that staircase. And then we don’t believe in them again in the morning and tell people these stories with a bemused shrug, with a “You’ll never believe what happened to me” look on our faces.


My mom told me this story.

It was the 1970s. She was visiting some friends at their new house and it was dark out and everyone kept being bothered by the sound of a child running on the back porch, bouncing a ball and kicking it around. Who was that child, my mom asked? Who let their kid come over in the middle of the night to play on a neighbor’s porch like this?

Open the door, said the houseowner, laughing. See who comes and visits me every night. And the door was opened, of course, and there was no porch, no child.

I woke up the other night, suddenly wide awake in the middle of the night. One of my babies is crying, I thought, and started getting up when I realized that I was hearing something passing by my house – a calling bird, a passing car, two lovers drunkenly walking – and that all of my babies are older, captured in photographs, in the loud yelling selves of my growing kids who sleep soundly and no one walks around my house at night.

A child runs down the stairs, a child kicks a ball at night and I sit straight up in my bed thinking that I hear a baby – my baby – crying. These are all, in their way, ghost stories.

12 Responses to Footsteps
  1. Stephanie
    October 22, 2009 | 10:03 pm

    I have several I could tell. The most vivid one for me involves my small battery operated keyboard that had the little speaker you could record a sound or word and then play it like a regualar piano key (think “Jammin on the 1”) and one night it started playing when I was in bed “Home! Home! Home!” and I ran and gave it to my Mom, in a fright, for there were no batteries in it.


  2. Sherri K. Edman
    October 22, 2009 | 10:35 pm

    The one with the rolling ball still creeps me out.

  3. Nicole
    October 22, 2009 | 10:43 pm


  4. Mary-LUE
    October 22, 2009 | 10:45 pm

    Look at you, turning ghost stories into a growing up story! What a great post this is.

  5. Omaha Mama
    October 22, 2009 | 11:59 pm

    Oh. I have that hollow feeling in my chest. Air sufficiently sucked out. So thanks.
    Now I must go tuck in my babies one more time, their long legs have a new habit of always coming out the bottoms of their fleece blankets. Blankets that seemed too big for them not that long ago.

  6. patois
    October 25, 2009 | 9:57 pm

    This is delightful. Thank you.

  7. Ser
    October 26, 2009 | 10:05 am

    Whenever I start getting all online stalkerish, all, “Beck and I are lost soul sisters that should be BFFs,” you freak me out with some real life ghost story. I HATE scary stuff. But this post is lovely nonetheless.

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