The Murmuring at 4:40 AM

After Mom’s death, we lived in the first house we owned for another year.

And, after her death, the house got right back to its old haunted routine.

In our final year, and when now looking back, only three incidents really stick out.

The first of the three occurred only days after my mom’s funeral.

I was overwrought with grief but I now had no other distraction since my caregiving responsibilities were over and, since I’d left my blossoming academic career and also turned down a promotion,

there was nothing to return to.

Only unassigned time rolled out endlessly before me.

As a result, for a short time, I slept as if I hadn’t slept in years.

I fell into a deep, dark, dreamless sleep almost immediately after laying down.

Present voice: I remember that. That was nice.

I emphasize the deepness of my sleep at that time because, at 4:40 AM on July 8, 2017, I was wrenched out of my unconscious depths abruptly by a dull thump which was followed by murmuring sounds.

The sounds jolted me awake.

You just never want to hear a “dull thump” or “murmuring” in your home. Such sounds rarely mean anything good.

I had been sleeping on my side and that *thump* was so distinctive and plain I found I was suddenly awake, tense, and staring at the wall.

Now conscious, I continued to lay and listen to the sounds. The murmuring sounded as if people were whispering or speaking in hushed voices downstairs.

But the voices were strange.



My husband David continued to sleep and I didn’t wake him. We were exhausted and, if he didn’t hear the noise, he wasn’t going to hear about it from me.

For the record, I’m pretty sure our mastiff Hemi, who was lying on the bedroom floor, heard the noises but she just pretended to sleep.

She was not a brave dog and her goal was always to make it to our bedroom so, as far as she was concerned, neither hell nor nature could make her give up her good thing that night.

Thus, she continued to lay limply on the floor.

I stared at the yellow wall before me. I didn’t need her.

A few years ago, weird noises would have put me in full-blown emergency-crisis-worker mode with a heavy sprinkling of Dolph Lundgren.


And that part of me wasn’t completely dead by this point.

Accordingly, simply unable to let it go, let it rest, let sleeping dogs lie (except for Hemi), and also feeling that I could face hell itself,

I set my feet down on the floor and slowly rose from bed.

How dare they make this noise right now. We are mourning.

At first, I was flooded with adrenaline, almost hoping someone had broken into our house.

I had watched so many ridiculous westerns as a kid I had unconsciously been socialized to feel that I was never outnumbered and could take on any number of foes.


I could probably take on two foes at one time.

I was also aflame with sadness and, thus, the combination of these two components compelled me forward, my eyes shining.

I told myself it was probably burglars.

A few weeks ago, I’d had a close encounter with a young person who seemed to have changed his mind about robbing the nearby Walgreens when I happened to be there.

And since I was there when my mom was actively dying for the last time, I was in no mood for a robbery or any such nonsense… I was there for a humidifier… and, the kid had a mask on and it was pre-coronavirus and also a terribly hot and humid day and he seemed really nervous and naturally he strode up to get in my face, or, at least, the side of my face and, since I hadn’t knowingly made any enemies to that degree I amazingly didn’t think I had anything to do with whatever was bothering him and, rather, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and I was feeling so unearthly calm a pride of lions could have at that moment strolled into that Walgreens and I would not have flinched so this nervous kid with the mask who was also shorter than me was not going to distract me from MY PLAN TO REPLACE MY DYING MOM’S BROKEN HUMIDIFIER and so I didn’t blink or turn my head to look at him, no, I just stared straight ahead, watching the people in the line ahead of me getting restless with the scene, looking at them looking back at me and this masked person and,


the cosmetics counter staff person called out that her register was open and I simply stepped forward and then around the masked person – “Excuse me” – and marched over to the cosmetics counter.

The woman who ran the cosmetics counter at that Walgreens had a daughter who had been a soldier and who had been killed in Iraq. She had a photo of her daughter, smiling and wearing her dusty fatigues, which was framed and always sat to the side of the counter.

The nice woman who worked cosmetics at that Walgreens asked about my mom as she always did.

Our eyes shone with commiseration.

And, by the time I was walking out of Walgreens with the newly purchased humidifier, the masked kid was paying for something he had apparently purchased.

I made myself laugh by saying “Oh, he must have just wanted my spot in line” and then didn’t care and went home to resume the death vigil for my mom.

So, given that recent encounter, in the back of my reptilian mind which had assumed controls momentarily for a period of time around then,

I knew the hot weather had made the crime activity in the area spike and it was very likely burglars were downstairs, quietly conspiring on the first floor of our house.

Yet, by this point, given the preceding four and a half years of the other kind of activity in our house, I was sadly also aware that I wholly believed the noises had not been made by burglars.

I could feel the air being let out of my sails with that realization.

I sighed as I quietly walked out of our bedroom and soundlessly perched on the top step of the stairs.

After doing so, I heard no other noise.





No additional thumps and no more murmuring.

From my seat on the stairs, I also saw that the front door was still chained shut.

And then any lingering bravado drained from me as soon I realized I was now facing that oval mirror which had come with the house and which continued to freak us out from its position on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.

Consequently, I edited my plan.

I decided I was not going to take on the ghosts once and for all that night.

Instead, I was only going to grab the baseball bat at the bottom of the stairs and then run back upstairs and shut it and my family safely inside our bedroom.

I was the only one of us awake/willing to move (Hemi), the only one who has apparently heard the noise or wasn’t faking that they were dead (Hemi), and so it was my responsibility to quietly barricade us in a safe space.

However, once I stood and quickly made my way down the stairs, I grabbed the bat, DEFIED THE MIRROR, and walked around on the first floor (not quite briefly brave enough to search the basement) and saw no signs of intrusion.

I saw no signs of anyone.

Or anything.

And so I quickly, quietly, ran back up the stairs.

I shuffled into our bedroom, turned and pushed the bedroom door shut behind me.

Hemi lazily looked up at me (“Oh! Did you get up?”) and I glared at her and swiftly jumped back into bed.

As I lay there, staring at the ceiling, I thought

we really have to move out of this house.

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