10 Jul

The Willies

On Friday night, I was reviewing present perfect verbs with my students and I got stuck on this sample sentence: �I have never seen a ghost.� I used variations of this ghost theme in several other sample sentences, and such was the frequency of my ghost utterances that after class, some of my students started talking about ghosts. None of them had seen a ghost with the exception of one, Ana. She told us about how when she was in high school, she lived in a long, narrow house, which had a long hallway running through it. She was in one room studying when she heard these quick little footsteps in the hallway. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a little boy, almost just a shadow, run by the doorway, and then she heard his continued footsteps as he continued running down the hallway. About 15 minutes later, she heard an ambulance. Apparently, right outside her house, there had been a car accident of some sort, and a little boy had died.

My students in the morning took and developed a picture of me; in the picture, they claim, you can see a ghost. On the white board, there is a face. It is the face of a gringa teacher who used to teach at SECAP, they claim. Their story is completely unbelievable, but on Friday night, in the aftermath of Ana�s story about the little footsteps in her hallway, I got a serious case of the willies after I locked up the office and started heading down the stairway in the very quiet, mostly dark building. I basically started jumping down 6 or 7 stairs at a time.

On Saturday night, Eileen and I went to the Ordo�ez family�s house for an evening tea. It was a lot of fun, listening to their stories and relaying a few ourselves. I told them the above ghost stories, which kicked off an evening full of such stories. I need to write some of them here before I forget them. Warning: this entry will be pretty long.

Rocio, one of the Ordo�ez daughters, told of when she was a kid and she and her sisters and cousins were together on Christmas Eve one year. They lived pretty near our neighborhood, LaGasca. Anyhow, sometime around 7 or 8 at night, the kids got the idea that they should go out and buy some candy. They asked their parents; their parents refused; they asked again; their parents refused; so they went anyway. They walked pretty far up LaGasca, bought the candy and then started heading down the hill. Well, on their way down, they saw this little guy in a tree, whistling at them to come over. He claimed he had some candy for them. A couple of them started walking over, but Rocio saw his hat and big shoes and recognized him as the �duende.� The duende is more or less a troll. He�s an evil, dwarf-like figure. Rocio shouted, �es el duende, corramos!� (It�s the duende. Run!) and they all took off for the house. Unfortunately, when they got home, the duende was in the garden, still beckoning to them to come over. They went inside, told the story, and cried.

Juan Carlos, the Ordo�ez son-in-law told us about a strange happening at Unibanco, a bank near El Parque El Ejido, which is supposedly built on the graves of the soldiers who died in the Four Hours War (not a war I know much about — sorry). There was a guard who worked at the bank and quit after two days. Why? Well, apparently on his first night, he was on the fourth floor and the lights and computers were flickering on and off. Doors were opening and closing. Naturally, it freaked him out a little. But the next night was worse. On the fourth floor, the same stuff was happening. The security tape even shows the lights flickering on and off. Then you see a door open and the guard freezes with an expression of utter fear on his face. There is no one else on the tape, but there is a shadow on the ground. The guard claims he saw the duende.

Victor told us about one of his two encounters with the �viuda,� or widow. Once when he was much younger, prior to his marriage, he was out at a bar with some friends after a soccer game or something. It was getting late and he announced he had to go; so he headed out, walking toward his home. To get to his house, he had to cross a big empty lot. Quito in those days was much smaller and much darker. Anyhow, across the lot, he saw a woman dressed completely in black. She may have beckoned to him, as the viuda often does, attempting to lure young men to their deaths with a �can you accompany me home?� When he reached the door to his house, she was pretty far away, still across the empty lot. He got out his keys, unlocked the door, and boom, there she was, right in front of him. He could see her fiery eyes through her veil.

Rocio and Mercedes relayed a popular legend about a young man who one night was riding home on his motorcycle. He saw a woman on the side of the road trying to thumb a ride, and he stopped for her and decided to give her a ride. Since it was a little cold, and they were on a motorcycle, he lent her his jacket. When they got to her house, she offered him the jacket, but he said, no, keep it, I�ll pick it up tomorrow. So they say goodbye, and the next day, he went to the house to reclaim his jacket. An older woman answered the door, and he explained that he was here to get his jacket back from her daughter. �You must be mistaken, � she said. And (yes, this one�s similar to an urban legend in the States) she brought him inside and showed him a picture and asked, �is this her?� Yes, he replied. �My daughter died five years ago,� she said. �If you don�t believe me, you can go to such and such cemetery and see her tomb.� He went, and sure enough, there was his jacket.

One more: Juan Carlos told us when he was a kid, his father took him and all his brothers to the �Castillo del gringo loco.� (the castle of the crazy gringo) They walked through this park filled with trees and they were expecting to see a castle, but they saw nothing. �Where�s the castle,� they asked. And their father answered, �it�s under us. It�s completely underground.� As they entered the strange underground castle, their dad told them about how this crazy gringo had built this underground lair and had placed various tubes throughout to supply air to the various rooms. He had also placed a few hidden entrances here and there. Above ground, there was a park and a sort of pavilion where teenagers would have dances. He would grab a girl by the feet and drag her underground and kill her. They never caught him. When Juan Carlos and his brothers got home that night, already thoroughly spooked, their dad told them to be sure to keep their feet under the covers. After all, the never found the crazy gringo, and he always grabbed his victims by the feet.

I should mention that all of the above stories were told with seriousness. They believed the tales they were telling. They were not just stories to these storytellers. I should also mention that during this creepy storytelling session, the 100 year-old abuelita (grandmother) was sitting in an armchair near the table. She seemed relatively with it, actually � answering questions and carrying on conversations that made sense � but she had a habit of laughing to herself at one-minute intervals. It was a little freaky in the light of the fact that we were telling ghost stories.