Ghost Chaser

This is the fifth and final installment in an informal series, The Vermont Animal Diaries, about the pets Kendra and I tended when we lived for a year in Vermont. Part One was Fat Stella. Part Two was Dumb Andrew. Part Three was Crazy Oscar. Part Four was Evil Bala.

One night during our first week living in Vermont, Kendra and I were sitting quietly on the couch in the living room, watching television. Each of the animals was sprawled in his or her usual favorite comfy spots, just pleasantly lazing.

Now, they say that animals have a kind of “sixth sense,” that they can tell when something huge is going to go down, like a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a tsunami. They say also that most animals are in touch with a dimension that most humans can never feel—an afterlife, a parallel existence if you will, the spirit realms. So when animals start to freak out, smart people take notice. You can take full advantage of their highly attuned senses going off, leveraging that for your own survival.

Pretty much all at once, everybody (and by everybody, I mean all the cats and the dog) scrambled first to their feet and then to the floor, and then all stampeded as a unit for the front hall and directly up the stairs. (This still being early in our stay, we had not yet blocked the stairs with the baby gate to contain Oscar.) There was no barking, no growling, no meowing—just a cacophony of desperate panting, claws, and a herd of little footpads slipping and sliding across the wood floor, then clacking up the wooden stairs.

Kendra and I just sat there dumbly, still on the couch, spellbound, blinking at each other, our mouths gaping. “What was that all abou…?”

And then just as suddenly, there was a loud BANG! somewhere over our heads, and the entire crash of beasts came thrashing down the stairs just as quickly, just as frantically as they had gone up. From our spot still on the couch, we could hear them piling up on top of each other in the front entry hall, and then we witnessed one of the most bizarre images ever etched in my memory: Some freakish, giant, dark butterfly-like thing fluttered across the living room, herding our entire cowardly cavalry in front of it, pretty much directly in front of us. They were falling all over each other, trying desperately to escape the demon beast, scrambling into the kitchen and cowering into various hiding spots. And the entity vanished into the dark behind them, just as quickly as it had materialized.

This entire event, from the first moment everybody leapt up to the run up the stairs, the crash, the falling back down, and the running into the kitchen to hide, all took place in the span of literally less than two minutes. I got up to investigate, flipping on every light within reach. And I found…absolutely nothing.

After several minutes, having gathered her courage, and no doubt discouraged with my own obvious lack of progress, Kendra joined in the hunt. And she found it. There, perched inelegantly, dangling from a knitted white blanket hanging over the back of a chair, was…a bat. And it was a cuh-reepy son of a gun, no bigger than a small mouse.

And then ensued a comedy of errors involving a broom and a bucket. Have you ever heard the phrase “hysterical laughter”? That’s a real thing. For the next ten minutes or so, Kendra flailed around on the couch, with her feet drawn up, mingling terror with shame, trying to contain her bladder, cackling as I tried first to smack the vile beast to the floor, then to beat it to death, then to get it into the bucket. Once the deed was done, I took the body unceremoniously outside to the compost heap, where I disposed of it.

The very next evening, Jean and Dan, whose pets and home we were to be caring for over the next ten months, called to check in on us. They were staying at Jean’s parents, and they were leaving the very next morning, bound for India. I told them the story of what had just happened the night before. Silence on their end. My mind raced. Do they think we’re crazy? ARE we crazy? Did that really even happen? Was it a pet, and I killed it?

And then Jean said to Dan (who was on another phone): “Can you believe that? That’s crazy!”

And Dan said, “Yeah, I would never have believed it. There was no reason even to tell them about that.”

And then Jean proceeded to explain that they had lived in that house for several years, and one evening during the first week they lived in the house, essentially the same thing had happened to them. A bat had gotten in and terrorized all the pets, they had searched for it and finally found it hanging on the back of a chair, killed it, and gotten rid of it. It didn’t occur to them to warn us about such an eventuality, because it had only happened the one time, and it had been years before.

When my own turn came, I’m just glad I was man enough to rise to the occasion.

Have you ever had a bat in your house? How did it turn out? What about some other freaky devil beast that scared your pets? Why do bats even exist? I mean… really.

8 Responses to “Ghost Chaser”

  1. Bea October 25, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Toooo Funny!

    • Brannon October 27, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks. Of course, you’ve heard this story at least a hundred times…

  2. Kevin Mills October 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    I walked by a baby bat when I was in seminary back in Kentucky. Just a dinky thing, but when I leaned over to examine it, the thing screeched like a banshee. It was one of the most terrifying sounds I’ve ever heard in my life. Ever.

    Bats are creepy.

    But honestly? I was hoping for a whole “Mothman” twist in the end.

    • Brannon October 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

      Sorry I couldn’t accommodate you in this instance. As you know, I strive for only the highest standards in journalistic integrity and absolute truth. A “Mothman” twist would have compromised the reality, and therefore, my legitimacy as an artist. (Plus I didn’t think of it.)

  3. Cooper Strange October 29, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    One evening, I found two baby bats clinging to and crawling on the front screen of my sixth floor apartment which opened on to our open air stairwell. Evidently, the mother was out on the night shift busy putting bugs on the table, but has chosen my front door as her temporary cave for the night.

    There they remained the next day. I went to class the next morning, leaving my two tenants on the door, after enjoying a few minutes admiring their incredibly baby-bat-sized paws and claws. They remained throughout day. Mom did not show up all day…out irresponsibly partying all day long, I would wager. She showed back up that night and moved them to some other temporary dwelling. I bet CPS was on her tail. Poor kids.

    That is all true…except I cannot prove the CPS stuff, of course.

    • Brannon October 29, 2010 at 11:58 am #

      When Kendra and I signed our paperwork, I don’t recall any checkboxes under Race for “Bat.” It’s a shame, really. If we don’t look out for the poor bat children, who will?

  4. Scotti October 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Each year hornswallows come back to their muddy nest under the eve by our front door. Once they can fly they dive and scare away anyone who dares to enter our home through the front door. Once, Dustin Quinton braved the front door and as he entered our home, so did one of the birds. You would have thought it was a bat when you heard all of our horrified screams! But thanks to Dustin and his ability to outstretch his arm and touch the ceiling with a flip-flop in his hand… The bird flew into the flip-flop and was knocked out long enough to be scooped up and tossed outside.

    • Brannon October 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

      Which just proves what I have always said: Dustin Quinton is greater than human.

      And also I hate your birds. (Just sayin’.)

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