True Ghost Story in Niles Canyon
True Ghost Story in Niles Canyon, Fremont, CA
By Renee Charles
When I was 20, I lived with my mother and stepfather while I figured out what direction to take with my life. I had settled on joining the Coast Guard and was waiting for school to start when we moved into an old house built in 1886, in Niles Canyon.
It was a charming house, although small. Only two bedrooms, both attached to the single bathroom. A parlor, dining room, and large kitchen took up a good third of the house where everyone spent most of their time. The house also sported a mudroom, basement, and attic complete with cobwebs. I stayed in the small bedroom off the parlor in the front of the house. I loved the room, with its tall windows and ornate wood trim. Beautiful. We lived there for about three months before the dreams began.
I wasn't prone to nightmares, and if I did have them, they were usually made of the typical stuff, falling out of a plane or my teeth falling out. Never monsters. Never ghosts. Until then. I began having a reoccurring dream of a black cloud like thick ink that floated over my bed undulating and flowing back in on itself. It pulled at me like it wanted something until I couldn't stand it anymore and would wake up. I didn't understand, and even once awake, I could feel the sense of desperation hanging over me. The dream didn't happen every night, but each time it did happen the pull grew stronger. I didn't know what it was and I didn't tell anyone.
One day, I brought a friend home from work on our lunch break. She was very animated and bubbly while we made sandwiches, then we went in my room to grab a couple of things and all of a sudden she was silent. She didn't sit down and she stayed near the door. On the way back to work she apologized and said there was something strange about my room that made her uncomfortable, and not to take it personally, but she would never come home for lunch with me again. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. I was young, active and always on the go. I always brought friends home. Because I lived with my parents, when I entertained, we hung out in my room. Her reaction struck me as strange, but unimportant.
A few weeks later I invited a boy I'd been dating and another couple over. Once we entered my room my date's demeanor changed. He became unusually quiet. No one else seemed to notice. They were laughing and joking as usual, but he did not speak a word. Then, after about 20 minutes, he abruptly stood up and said, "I've got to leave."
He rushed out, and concerned, we followed him to the large front porch. Agitated, he apologized for his weirdness, but there was a presence in my room and he couldn't stand to be in there.
That was the wakeup call. There was something wrong with my room. The dreams that still felt so real in the mornings were growing stronger and more frequent. I had to tell someone what was happening. I couldn't tell my family. No one else seemed to be affected by it. So, I told my best friend, Danielle about the dreams. When I did, her face grew pale and she told me whenever she spent the night she heard whispering in her sleep that she could still hear as she woke up and she didn't like sleeping over.
Six months after we'd moved in, my mother informed me we were moving out. When I asked why she confessed the house seemed "uncomfortable" to her. Being a firm Christian therapist that was all she would allude to.
The week after we moved out, my mom asked if Danielle and I would go back to the house Saturday to pick up the extra boxes, newspaper and tape that we'd left behind. We agreed without a second thought. On the way, we chatted about a guy we both knew, John, who'd asked out on a motorcycle ride the next morning, and the fact that I was scheduled to swear in to the Coast Guard on Monday and ship off to boot camp soon.
When I opened the back door and we stepped into the old house, the oppressive feeling engulfed us, and was so heavy that it literally sucked the breath from me. It was no longer just in my room. It was everywhere. There was a weight on my shoulders and my feet felt like cement blocks. Danielle and I worked quickly and silently. The parlor at the front of the house seemed much darker than it should have been at dusk. Without a word between us, we both stayed well away from the door to my bedroom. When we finished, we got in my pickup and drove away, still silent.
As we got further from the house the pressure lifted, and my friend finally asked if I had felt what she felt. I told her it was the same thing I dreamt about nearly every night by the time we moved. But I had never felt it while I was awake. It terrified me. My hands trembled on the steering wheel as I drove and I could not shake the horrible dread, as if the heaviness were trying to follow me, but couldn't stretch far enough. I dropped my friend off at her house and went home to bed. Thankfully, I did not dream.
The next morning was my date, but when the boy was a half hour late, I called Danielle to tell her I was having second thoughts. When I explained something was telling me not to go, she laughed and said John was sweet and to give him a chance. I mentioned it didn't matter if he stood me up or not since I would probably never see him again after I left for the military. John came right after I hung up.
At 9:30 am Sunday morning we left for a motorcycle drive through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Forty-five minutes later we were in a horrific accident that left us both alive but in the hospital. I had broken my back in three places, severed nerve endings in my leg, destroyed a toe, broke several bones and wound up with a double concussion. John broke an arm and a leg.
We survived. Both our lives changed that day. I did not leave for the Coast Guard as scheduled.
I never felt the black oppressive sensation again. I never dreamt of it again. Was it the evil presence everyone thought it to be? Or was it trying to warn me? Either way, I am glad I got on John's motorcycle that morning, because my life did indeed change that day. That boy eventually became my husband of twenty years.