Yeah, you heard it, too. I know you did.
And don’t try to tell me it was the house “settling” again.
You and I both know that a house isn’t going to wait until the same time, every night (seven minutes after midnight, actually), to start creaking and thumping.
That wasn’t a stiff breeze that made the curtains flap around like that, either.
Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty sure I remember that we’re getting new windows, especially since I’m the one who called.
Did you happen to notice how the trees weren’t moving when all that was going on?
Wind doesn’t sound like a little kid laughing, either.
Oh, great. There’s the pipes. Moaning. Again.
We’ll need a plumber AND a paranormal investigator if we ever want to sell this place.
We could probably use some solid blocking up front, too, if you don’t mind, to keep Bravion Roy out of our backfield.
I just wish I could keep the “Ghostbusters” theme out of my head.
So, who ya gonna call?
Well, heck, I don’t know: Colton McKivitz sounds pretty good.
The heart tells the tale
Today is Halloween, the (for some) glorious day that sanctions the lifting of the veil that separates this life from the next.
A day that ghosts and ghouls come out to play.
Mountaineers and Bears, also.
A work-in-progress WVU lines up against the as-yet-undefeated Baylor in Waco, Texas, for some Halloween night football on ESPN.
Kickoff is 8 p.m., Morgantown time, and the aforementioned Colton will be there on the offensive line for the Mountaineers.
The aforementioned Bravion will go bump in the night on the other side of the ball for Baylor.
You won’t see any fear rippling off Colton’s No. 53 jersey — but there will likely be anxiety.
Colton is already armed for Bear.
He spans 6-foot-7 and shakes the earth with his 312 pounds, like one of Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur extras in “Jurassic Park.”
He used to be a varsity basketball player and he’s still pretty fleet of foot, despite his bulk.
Even so, there’s still a little pulse of quiet dread in his psyche, just like Poe’s tell-tale heart under the floorboards.
“I guess if I have a fear, it’s the fear of letting people down back home,” he said.
“You come from a small town like I do, and everybody knows you. You play Division I [football] and they cheer for you.”
And, on this Halloween, as anyone with a battered, been-to-hell-and-back Stephen King paperback on his bookshelf can tell you, small towns make the best backdrop for ghost stories.
But, in such ‘burgs, the football stories might come first.
At least in the fall, in Belmont County, Ohio.
That’s where Colton hails from: Jacobsburg, a tiny, unincorporated town right over from Wheeling, and just down the road from Steubenville, in the football-fertile Ohio Valley.
English majors who know the rhyme scheme of both a Petrarchan sonnet and a safety blitz might recognize the region.
Jacobsburg is just a half-hour drive on Ohio
7 from Martins Ferry, the football place James Wright made immortal in his oft-anthologized poem, “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio.”
Wright’s work is presumably about football, but poets don’t let you get anything without working for it.
The poem’s stark and dark stanzas are really speaking to the complexities of terrible love, as opposed to the pure, shining glory of football victories under Friday Night Lights.
Kind of like a ghost story on Halloween night.
When it does come time for those, Belmont County has a coffin-full.
There’s poor, unfortunate Louisa Fox, for example, who was stabbed to death by her would-be husband in 1869.
Her parents didn’t want their 13-year-old daughter marrying a 22-year-old coal miner.
Today, when the moon is right and the fog doesn’t hug the ground too hard, it’s said she can still be seen wandering the stretch of Starkey Road, where she took her last mortal breaths.
Belmont County even has a ghost elbow.
It’s attached to a ghost arm and a ghost hand — all of which became abruptly unattached from the driver of a truck who was the victim of a grisly, rollover accident.
Skeptics say it’s the wind in the leaves, but others swear they can hear ghost-fingernails scratching the headstones of Old Egypt Cemetery, during the arm’s annual search for its original owner.
So, why do we do this to ourselves?
Why do we dress up for Halloween, tell ghost stories and flock to gory, jump-scare movies just so we can shudder and scream?
Same reason Colton subjects himself to Division I football, with a goal of a continued pummeling on Sundays in the NFL.
It’s fun, doggone it.
Don’t go in there
Fun, even with the fear.
Vic Koenning, WVU’s deadpan defensive coordinator, went whistling across the cemetery with that one earlier this season.
“If you’re not willing to go to a place that’s a little bit nuts and a little bit crazy,” the coach intoned, like a fortune teller during a full moon, “you aren’t going to be able to play this game.”
Which brings it back to Halloween.
Colton can watch just about any “scary” movie out there, with nary a flinch.
There’s a term, by the way, for all that multiplex screaming — immediately followed by all that multiplex laughing.
Glenn Sparks, a communications specialist and researcher at Purdue University, calls it the “excitation transfer process.”
It’s actually clinical. It’s a jolt of adrenaline followed by escapist relief that only intensifies if you’re seeing the movie with friends, since people in groups tend to feed off one another’s emotions.
Don’t let the football player fool you, though.
No. 53 does have his celluloid Kryptonite, just like everybody else.
“I don’t mess with the paranormal business,” he said.
“But ‘Jurassic Park’ kept me awake when I was a little kid. The velociraptors in the kitchen? I’m getting nervous, just thinking about it.”
Then he laughed.