When I was a kid, my parents had a collection of coffee table books from Reader's Digest and National Geographic and Time Life. There were books about world history, and the solar system, and national parks... all with plenty of pictures to browse through, in case the wordy paragraphs got too boring. Every now and then I would pull one of these hefty tomes off the bookshelf and curl up on the couch (or just sit on the floor) and flip through pages until something caught my eye.
The books about World War II and the ocean and the universe were all interesting... but my FAVORITE book was this one:
In fact, even though I found this random picture on the internet, this could BE our old book. I mean, I'm pretty sure the cover on ours was just as creased and well-worn as this one...
Anyway... yes, the Mysteries of the Unexplained. This book was filled with supposed "true" tales of UFO encounters, people with psychic abilities, monster sightings, and ghost stories. And I say this was my favorite of all the coffee table books, but really, I had more of a love/hate relationship with it. I mean, sure -- in the light of day, when the sun was shining and the birds were singing, it was fun to sit on the floor near the bookshelf and read ghost stories. But as soon as darkness began creeping in, and the entire world, it seemed, fell silent, memories of what I'd read earlier in the day would pop into my head... and now, they'd seem so much scarier than they'd seemed when the sun was cheerily shining. I'd climb into bed, willing myself to forget about that famous picture of the "ghost" on the stairs:
Which, in reality, is probably one picture superimposed over another... but who needs reality when you're trying to fall asleep in your dark, quiet house? And I'd wonder... can ghosts get through the covers on my bed? Am I safe if I just hide under here? But no matter how many times I'd scare myself with this book, I'd always eventually go back and read more... which inevitably resulted in another night of hiding under my ghost-repelling blankets.
Now, of course, I'm older and wiser and no longer worry about things like ghosts or the Jersey Devil or alien abduction. That's not to say that I'm not unsettled when the springs in my window explode in the middle of the night, or when the light in the ceiling fan in my bedroom turns itself on at random times. But at least these things have logical explanations. At least I am reasonably certain that my condo isn't REALLY haunted by the ghost of someone who likes to read in the middle of the night.
And then something like THIS has to go and happen: Rick was watching TV the other night, while I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom. I heard a sing-songy warbling coming from the living room, and assumed it was something in the show on TV. Suddenly I heard Rick call my name -- in a tentative, I-have-a-weird-question-to-ask sort of way -- so I went out to the living room, where the TV was now muted and Rick was searching the room for an unknown object.
"Uh, do we have something in this room that plays music??" he asked.
I thought about it for a few seconds, but couldn't think of anything specific.
"I don't think so... why?"
"Because something was just playing music over by the bookshelf."
That's when we both remembered that we DO have a music box sitting on a shelf in the living room. A music box that neither of us has TOUCHED in I-don't-even-know-how-long. Maybe not since we moved in to this place. I mean, I run a dust rag over it now and then, but haven't actually wound it up and played the music in YEARS.
I looked at Rick. "Wait, you're saying that noise DIDN'T come from the TV??"
"No -- when I muted the TV, it kept playing for a few seconds."
Whaaaaaaaaaat? What what what what what???
So a music box that hadn't been played in years suddenly decided to just play itself?
In the lexicon of "things that are creepy," music boxes that play for no reason are SERIOUSLY CREEPY.
Rick's theory is that since he was watching some kind of action movie with lots of explosions and "shake the walls" bass sounds, the vibrations shook something loose in the music box and caused it to rattle off a few notes. I suppose that seems reasonable.
But you'd better believe that I hid under my ghost-repelling duvet that night...