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In A Pickle  

Phantom window knocker

Gasping with fear, we bolted upright in bed to the sound of knuckles hammering on the bedroom window.

I thought the thin glass would shatter as it rattled in its frame. The noise sent shivers down my spine.

My 19-year-old sister, Ellen, and I scrambled out of bed when she abruptly spun around and shushed me with a finger to her lips.

She ordered me to stay put on the chair she had pushed under me, then took off to investigate. I fainted from fright, but didn’t hit the floor.

Days earlier, Ellen had accepted a teaching position in a small town and next to the schoolhouse was a teacherage cottage for us to use.

She persuaded our parents to allow me, Maureen, her 15-year-old sibling, to live with her for a year and take my Grade 11 under her tutelage. Ellen didn’t want to be alone, and now we were in trouble and she was doing her best to protect me.

To suss out the cause of the ruckus took a lot of courage and to calm herself, Ellen took a deep breath and crept into the abyss.

Ellen hoped it was Grade 8 boys playing a prank on her, the new teacher. She tip-toed around, checking the doors and windows to make sure we had locked everything up and nothing was amiss.

The eerie rapping was reminiscent of the warning our spinster Great Aunt Catherine had given us when we had the giggles, keeping her awake in the next room.

The elderly woman, who had travelled from Ireland to Canada alone, joined our large family and helped Mom with chores and watched over us children.

Her nieces and nephews remembered Aunt Catherine for her stern reprimands, instruction in manners, prayers and morality; they were forever etched in our minds.

It was, however, not all tedious as Auntie peppered the lessons with Irish ghost stories that kept us on the edge of our seats.

The supernatural tales involved saintly souls, so we weren’t afraid. Now, I would have given anything to have Aunt Catherine with us, but, sadly, she passed away several years ago.

I was startled out of my reverie by Ellen’s shrill voice.

“The Knocker, whoever it was, awakened us in the nick of time as the wood-burning kitchen stove was red hot, on the verge of starting the wall behind it on fire. If we’d stayed asleep, we may not have gotten past the oven to the exit.”

Our home was like a sauna and the heat scorched my nostrils as I inhaled, but the place quickly cooled down when we opened the front door and kitchen window. Ellen scooped up some embers and put them into a metal bucket, and tossed a shovel full of snow on it.

We sat around the table, head in hands, thinking about what had transpired. It was surreal.

Nonetheless, Ellen remained convinced that tricksters had banged on the glass; therefore, we went back to our bedroom and peered out the window.

Fresh goose bumps danced upon our skin when we saw the newly fallen snow spotlighted by the full moon without a footprint in sight.

We stared at each other, mouths agape. Great Aunt Catherine was still looking out for us.

This story is based on true events by Maureen Hanak, who responded to my request for written accounts of people escaping tragedy by uncanny means. If you feel inspired after reading her story, tell me of your miraculous intervention at d[email protected].

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More In A Pickle articles

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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