The Tape Recording – Ghost Story

While in college, one of the required courses in my major was a Speech class. As one of the class requirements, each student had to present a speech, on any given subject, using visual and/or audio aides.

I pondered several topics, and dismissed each one. Finally, after watching a program on television, in which investigators had made recordings in a cemetery of alleged spirit voices, I found my topic. According to these investigators, spirit sounds could be captured on tape, although the human ear could not detect them.

What better topic could I find than to present the class with an actual recording of sounds in a haunted house? My grandparents home (now my own) was the selected sight. There had been obvious paranormal happenings there for as long as the family had owned the house, so collecting my data should be a piece of cake.

My grandparents were to be gone the following weekend, and the house would be effectively empty. I purchased a long playing cassette, and dug out my old portable tape recorder, and on Saturday, conned my brother Scott into taking the recorder to their house and setting it up. (I never said I was a BRAVE ghost hunter, did I?) Scott took the recorder, and placed it on the couch in the living room, close to the stairway leading upstairs. He turned it on, and left, locking the door behind him to insure that no one interrupted the recording.

While waiting for the tape to capture whatever sounds were present, if any, Scott, my mother and I sat in our own living room talking. The topic of conversation naturally centered around the ghost, and what we might find on the tape. Jokingly we imagined what we might hear, and our reactions to it. In the course of the conversation, I remarked that I felt that the spirit of my uncle (my father's brother) who had died in an auto accident a few years before, was present in the house. Although I did not feel that he was the original ghost, I expressed the conviction that his spirit was held earthbound there by my grieving grandmother, who had never really accepted his death. While alive, he had spent many hours in the living room, sitting in his favourite rocking chair, reading and smoking cigarettes. A huge sea shell, a souvenir of one of my grandparent's trips to Florida, served as an ashtray on the nearby coffee table. The bottom of this shell was not level, which resulted in a distinctive rocking of the shell and the accompanying knocking against the table top whenever anyone extinguished a cigarette there. I stated, that in my mind, if his spirit were truly inhabiting the house, I would envision it sitting in his favourite chair, smoking, his book and notebook across his lap. ( He was forever making notes in his big yellow legal pad, but, of what, I never knew.)

After an hour, Scott went back to my grandparent's house (we lived next door) to retrieve the recorder. My mother and I waited in nervous anticipation. A few moments later, Scott returned to the house, recorder in tow. As he entered the living room, I felt a cold chill run the length of my spine. The oddest look was on his face, he was pale, and his eyes as big as saucers.

“What's wrong?” my mother asked. Tossing the recorder on the couch, he went directly to my mother and threw his arms around her. Eyes filling with tears, he said, “Mom, the rocking chair was rocking when I went in the door!” Mind you, Scott was not a child at this time, but a fully grown, mature adult, one not given to melodramatics. He was sincere in his statement, and very unnerved by his experience. Needless to say, his statement unnerved us all, and we were all a little tearful for a few minutes.

Finally, we plucked up enough courage to listen to the tape. Again, I was covered in goose bumps, and shaking in nervousness. I'm not sure what I feared I would hear, but what I did hear was enough of a confirmation that spirits could be recorded, and enough to insure an “A” in my class.

Turning the tape on, the three of us sat quietly listening. The first sounds on the tape were those picked up as Scott had set the recorder down, after turning it on, and the sounds of the door being closed. For a few moments, the only sounds were those of the static generally heard on an empty tape. Then, loudly, came the chiming of the clock my grandmother had in her family room. Gradually, other sounds began to be distinguished. Clearly, the sounds of dishes being washed could be heard. The sound of silverware, glasses and other dishes as they are washed appeared. Then, in the background, just barely audible, came the sound of singing. Though the words were not distinguishable, the sound was very familiar. My grandparent's home had been host to an annual “May Meeting” of the Primitive Baptist Church for many years. The songs sung at these meetings are “called”, with the song leader voicing the lines, and the chorus of singers echoing each line. The songs are always slow, sad, without any musical accompaniment, and yet beautiful in their own haunting way. These were the songs captured on the tape. About half way through the tape, the clock, made to chime the half hour, chimed once more. Then came the very audible and distinguishable sound of footsteps descending the staircase, and walking across the living room floor. After this, the squeak of the old rocker as someone sat upon it. (The background singing and kitchen sounds continued throughout.) Finally, just before the tape ended, we heard the sound of the shell ashtray, knocking against the table, as if someone were putting out a cigarette. Proof enough for me!!

I used selected portions of the tape in my Speech class presentation, and sparked a lot of interest in the class. I even received offers to have the house investigated, which I declined, since I wasn't sure if my grandparents would appreciate a bunch of strangers prowling through their home, and especially since one of the spirits there might indeed be that of my uncle. And besides, I kept remembering what my mother had said, after listening to the tape. “Well,” she said, “that proves something. But I wouldn't try it again. Next time, you just might hear something you don't want to hear.” I agreed. Some things ARE best left alone.

© Paulette Boyd

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