old habits die hard bump shooosh, bump shooosh

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

OLD HABITS DIE HARD. Who has not heard that hoary saw? Whether it’s al­ways so, I don’t know, but I do know that cer­tain habits that I formed while sharing a bed with my brother Charles when we were kids be­came SO much a part of me, that I simply ceased to no­tice their pres­ence in my nightly rituals.

In our shared bed­room on Warren Av­enue, the left side of the bed facing the door that led into the hall and then to the stairs that led to the first floor. Since I was the oldest, I claimed the left side of the bed. My rea­soning?

It gave me a bee­line to that door, and I could, there­fore, exit faster when the things-who-dare-not-be-named-that-lurk-in-the-closet and their even more fright­ening brethren under the bed made their pres­ence known. You know, those things that only come into ex­is­tence at night and scare the crap out of kids everywhere . . .

(Bump. What’s that?)

As a fur­ther pre­cau­tion against those name­less crea­tures, my brother and I slept with our backs pressed to­gether in the center of the bed. The foot or so that re­mained on the two sides that were be­tween us and a fall from the bed to the floor was a sort of no-man’s-land.

As long as we kept the blanket over our­selves and no-man’s land, we were safe!


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Defensive measures were taken

Two other de­fen­sive mea­sures were a part of our prepa­ra­tions for bed: we al­ways turned our pil­lows so that the open end of the pil­low­cases faced in­ward. That left no open end facing out and tempting the mon­sters to crawl up the bed and into our pillow!

We also po­si­tioned our­selves as close to the head­board as pos­sible: feet hanging over the end of the bed was also far too tempting to the lurkers under the bed.

(Bump, bump shooosh. It’s moving!)

The closet was also on my side of the bed, so it’s not like I wasn’t taking chances. I mean, on Charles’ side of the bed were just two win­dows looking down onto the front porch roof and then onto the street.

He was fairly safe, as, for rea­sons we never un­der­stood, the mon­sters NEVER en­tered from the out­side. So, in hind­sight, I guess you could say that I was being heroic by taking the left side of the bed, seeing to my little broth­er’s well-being.

Sort of . . .

Anyway, the closet was, you know, a closet. Open the door and it was four feet deep and four feet across. There was the usual bar at head height (I was al­ways tall) holding our clothes and there was lots of room on the floor for shoes and boxes of stuff our par­ents stored there.

The scary thing about our closet was that it was wider than its door. That left a foot or so of closet to the right of the door that was MUCH creepier than the rest of the closet.

And that’s where THEY lived.

Of course . . .


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Picking up bad vibrations

Now, know you that in all the years that we shared that bed and that room, nei­ther Charles nor I ever ac­tu­ally saw a ghost or a ghoul or any­thing else that could go bump in the night and that threaten our sanity, if not our very safety.

But—and here’s the op­er­a­tive as­pect of the sit­u­a­tion—we could feel them. We could feel their pres­ence, their bad, bad, bad vi­bra­tions. Some­times, we thought we could hear them.

(Bump, bump shooosh.
 Bump, bump shooosh.
 Uh oh . . .)

Well, I am happy to re­port that both Umphred boys sur­vived their years of terror. But, I was not left un­scarred: It was not until I was in my thir­ties that I be­came aware that I still turned my pil­lows so that the open end of the cas­ings faced in­ward. When I fi­nally be­came aware of this, I was sleeping on a large futon on the floor of my house in St. Helena.

As I had no bed for there to be an “under the bed,” I dar­ingly took to turning my pil­lows open-end out! It was invigorating!

Also, fu­tons on the floor do not have head­boards, so there was no un­con­scious need to press my head in that direction.

There was still the matter of my feet, which were so used to lying atop a softish sur­face that I didn’t re­ally con­sider any need to alter that part of my sleeping pattern.

In my for­ties, I dis­cov­ered that I ac­tu­ally LIKED sleeping with my feet hanging over the end of the mat­tress or futon! (As long as they were cov­ered by a sheet.) I had been lib­er­ated from my neu­rotic child­hood fears and trepidations!

And it all just . . . happened!

(Bump, bump shooosh.
 Bump, bump shooosh.
 Bump, bump shooosh.
 I think it’s get­ting closer . . .


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HEADER IMAGE: All the photos in this piece were taken from Robert Wise’s bril­liant 1963 movie The Haunting. Based on Shirley Jack­son’s novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959), the movie starred Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tam­blyn. It is both the most in­tel­li­gent haunted house/ghost movie ever made and the scariest, de­spite nothing much happening.


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you got it wrong neal, if you sleep close to the door of the room or of the tent any­thing that comes in will get you first. that’s why i al­ways let my wife sleep next to the door of the tent or the room so if a bear or wolverine or some­thing came in thru the door i’d have plenty of time to get away while she was fighting it off.

Butch must have pre­dated Sam & Toy.

Ha­haha. When the movie “The Tin­gler” came out, the hus­band was trying to scare his wife to death and there was this scene where she steps into the bath­room and the tub is filled with blood and a hand rises from it, and she whips away from it to see the med­i­cine cab­inet fly open and her death cer­tifi­cate is on the back of the door. The bath­room was laid out ex­actly like ours, and for years, every time I stepped into the bath­room, I had to look be­hind the shower cur­tain to make sure the tub wasn’t filling up with blood. Now why is it I re­member junk like that, when I can’t re­member what I had for break­fast yesterday?