Adventures in haunted housesitting
I don't scare easily. Normally.
It started when I landed a sweet housesitting gig way up in the boondocks above Talent.
The house was big, had a massive cable package and came with a CinemaScope view of the hills and forestland of the south valley.
Each morning, I woke to deer and turkeys milling about the yard like extras from a Disney flick. I drank coffee on the porch and sighed at the beauty, fighting the urge to huck a dirt clod at one of the deer, destructive beasts that they are. Rats with horns, as my dad would say.
My temporary roommate was Jabbers, a giant yellow cat who seemed to enjoy football, as he rarely left my side on Sunday.
I often tried to goad Jabbers into chasing the deer, but he was not interested in such conflict.
Jabbers would meow his protest and give me a look as if to say, "Chill out my bipedal brother. There's no call for violence here. Relax and take in the wonders of nature."
Jabbers had long since settled comfortably into a life of easily attainable food, belly scratches and sleeping on warm beds.
My other roommate was Rain, a shy kitty who has a few medical issues. Part of my job was to give Rain medicine two times a day.
My goals during the four-day weekend were to keep Rain alive, read a couple of books, watch way too much television and speak with as few people as possible.
And since Halloween is around the corner, I stuffed my backpack with scary books and horror movies.
It seemed like a good idea. I'd never seen the "Paranormal Activity" movies, and it had been awhile since I'd read anything by H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King.
One particular night, I consumed both of the "Paranormal Activity" flicks in one sitting.
Not a good idea.
They are "found footage" movies filmed in a way to suggest that the ghostly doings were captured by a real family. Who died, of course. That's not to say these movies are on par with "The Exorcist" or "Rosemary's Baby" in terms of fear cinema.
They're pretty damn creepy, despite the shallow conceit. Especially when you watch them alone. At night. In a large house. That sits atop a winding, gravel driveway. In the woods.
It didn't help that earlier that day I had read the first two stories in Stephen King's "Full Dark, No Stars" collection. I hadn't read a King book in years and soon remembered why the dude has sold 140 billion books.
When he's on, King writes some genuinely freaky stuff.
Darkness settled. The sky was clear, allowing the stars to beam down without filter. This made things worse, as the pale light cast shadows in the surrounding trees.
Color Chris Conrad — an adult with a job and a car and a college education — creeped the hell out.
To make matters worse, I realized I had to venture outside in the dark to find Rain. It was cat-medicine time.
I took a flashlight and, on the way out the door, scooped up Jabbers.
I figured that should I encounter a zombie, Wendigo or meth-head, I would throw Jabbers at it. He's a big kitty and would probably put up a good fight to the end, earning me a few precious minutes of flight time. Yes, I am a cowardly bastard like that.
We got to the back of the house near the garden. I called for Rain and was answered by a loud crashing in the nearby trees. My flashlight caught a streaking pair of eyes glinting through the branches. Jabbers decided he'd had enough of this bullscat and tore out of my arms. I followed a tail's length behind.
Of course, they were deer. Most likely paying me back for my anti-deer thoughts earlier that day.
But at the time, with a head full of ghost flicks and murder stories, I wasn't going to stick around to find out.
I got back inside and waited for Rain to come to the door. She showed up an hour later. I grumbled at her while administering the medicine.
Later that night, I called my friend. After a few minutes of chitchat, I confessed that I was calling her because I was a little scared in the house, in the woods.
She kept her laughter to a minimum, which I appreciated.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.