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Dad's Ghost Stories, Part 1

Updated: May 11, 2023

I can think of three ghost stories that Dad told that have no explanation. It’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s not, because Dad was known for telling tall tales and exaggerating things. I caught him at it a few times and even called him out on it. However, when he told these three stories, his expression was different from those times he fibbed, and none of the details changed or grew when he repeated them. I can only assume these are the true stories of Dad’s past. Whether they are paranormal or not remains a question.

Whenever I heard this story, I imagined a bathtub like this.
bathtub under a window

We’ll start way back in 1955, when Dad was only five years old. He lived in Oakland, California, with his parents and little sister, and there were several relatives living in town. Among them was an aunt who lived only a few blocks away, where he often stayed the night when his parents were busy.

This is what he was doing the day of the incident. His aunt decided that she was going to give Dad and his cousin, who was a similar age, a bath in the bathroom. She filled up the tub and put the two kids in, leaving them to their own devices while she went about her chores. Dad and his cousin played in the water for a while and had a great time, but this all changed when Dad happened to look up.

There was a window over the bathtub that looked out into the back yard of the house. It wasn’t clouded or frosted, as bathroom windows are today, so he had a clear view to the outside world. What he saw out in that yard was so instantly terrifying that he screamed and promptly vomited in the tub.

Dad’s aunt came running the minute she heard the scream. Dad was still crying from what he’d seen through the window and the fact that he threw up in the bath water. His aunt tried to get him to tell her what he saw, but he was too upset to say anything. When she looked, she saw nothing unusual out there.

Shrugging, she removed the kids from the bathtub, drained the water, and cleaned up the vomit. However, even after Dad calmed down, he couldn’t tell her what he had seen outside the window. It was so terrifying and horrible that his memory of the incident had been wiped. He couldn’t begin to describe the horrific image that awaited him in that yard.

Dad’s aunt tried to get him in the bath again, but he cried and screamed. Whatever it was that he saw, it had spoiled bath time for the rest of the day. He was scared of taking a bath for several days afterward, much to the annoyance of his parents.

Today I have to wonder exactly what it was that he saw that afternoon and why it terrified him so much. Was there some kind of monster in the yard? Did he see something traumatic going on that he spaced from his mind? Or is there a perfectly logical explanation for the sighting?

The fact that Dad vomited suggests that he wasn’t actually feeling well that day. It’s possible that he had a fever and saw some temperature-induced hallucination. This would explain why his cousin didn’t react and didn’t report seeing anything. However, Dad never said anything about being sick otherwise and his aunt likely would’ve noticed he was feverish.

It’s also possible that whatever was in the yard was a perfectly normal object. However, the steam from the bath could’ve clouded the window and distorted the image into something frightening to a small child. This could explain why his aunt didn’t see anything unusual, especially if she cleared away the steam before looking outside. Unfortunately, I don’t have any report from Dad as to whether the window was steamed up or not.

Finally, being five years old may have played a role in the incident. Children around that age have rather active imaginations and sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy. It’s entirely possible that he imagined whatever was outside that window, that there was never anything there to begin with. If he and his cousin were playing a pretend game, it could’ve gotten out of hand and scared Dad.

Unfortunately, the incident was a long time ago and I was not a witness. I can only rely on the details Dad gave me when he told the story. It’s entirely possible it was a fever, or steam, or imagination, or something else I haven’t thought of. Then again, maybe he really did see something terrifying wandering through his aunt’s back yard. Whatever it was, we will never know for sure.

Summer camp is a hot bed for the unexplained, and Dad’s experiences are no exception. Tune in next week for a tale far stranger than the goings-on of a five-year-old boy.

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