Living the Life Delusional: Part 2

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
April 20, 2017

In last week’s post I described some of the many visual hallucinations I’ve experienced. After reading it, my dear friend Claire M. remarked that I live “a quietly exotic and thrilling life.” This is why she’s a dear friend. She took a description of an addled consciousness and called it thrilling.

She’s partly right, but it’s just my brain that’s having the thrills. And that’s the key difference between all those visual hallucinations vs. the ones I hear: Upon examining the evidence after the fact—after waking completely, recovering from a fever, or walking around to the tailgate to double-check what kind of truck I’m driving—I realize that my brain alone is responsible for producing visual delusions. But I’m not so sure about the auditory kind.

Some of them clearly do fall into the “all in my head” category. For instance, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been awoken in the morning by the ringing of a phantom doorbell. (So many that years ago I wrote a poem about how opportunity had quit knocking and instead was ringing the doorbell to get my attention.) Each time I heard it, I’d crawl out of bed and stagger to the front door, even though our front gate was locked and I knew no one would be there. And no one was.

There have been similar instances of a phantom telephone ringing. (Unless, of course, that was the Nobel Committee calling. If so, I imagine they’ve tired of trying to reach me and have given the prize to some other writer by now.)

No matter how real they sounded—the clarity and volume were always perfect—those telephones and doorbells weren’t distressing, and were easy to set aside. I decided it was my brain poking me, saying, “Hey, dummy, it’s time to wake up.” Since dispensing with door chimes and landlines a few years ago, I’ve stopped hallucinating their voices.

But I’ve also heard things less easy to explain away. Things that have made me wonder if something out there is just messing with me. (Paranoid much, Rooke?) Footsteps. Dead—or otherwise incorporeal—cats meowing (also heard by the dog). Doors slamming shut in the absence of any draft. And twice, things much scarier.

How scary? The first time, I was about 17 years old and spending the night at a relative’s house. By 11:30 PM, all of us had gone to bed and the house was quiet, except for faint snoring coming from another bedroom down the hall. I was reading—something I used to do every night in bed before the invention of iPads and Spider Solitaire. Then came three huge, resonant reports.




The walls shook and trembled, as if in an earthquake. My first thought was that some enormous being—a monster half the size of the city—was stomping the house to splinters.

Then silence. The uproar had lasted only a few seconds.

I was petrified. The female relative I was sharing the bedroom with never stirred. After a few tense minutes of waiting for some disaster to strike, I whispered her name, but she was sound asleep. Then I realized I could still hear the snoring from down the hall. The next morning at breakfast, I asked everyone to be sure, but it was already clear: No one but me had heard a thing. And everyone but me made light of it, which was kind of a relief.

The other time was much more recent: about four years ago.

Glen was out of town, and the animals and I had settled in for a quiet evening of TV, dinner and bed. Cat Phoebe and dog Lucy were on the sofa with me: Phoebe asleep (naturally!), Lucy not. It was around 7 PM, already dark out, and I was turning over ideas of what I could put together for dinner. The TV was at a low volume; I was waiting for a program to come on.

Suddenly, there were three tremendous, crashing booms. But this time, they were even louder, more violent, than they’d been decades before. And I could pinpoint where they came from: Someone was pounding on the door leading into the house from the garage. That solid, heavy door that was only a few feet from where I sat. Someone with gargantuan fists, someone boiling with fury, smashing down the door, there to drain my blood and grind my bones to make its bread.

I leaped up from the sofa, and I think my heart stopped for a moment. Then I looked at Lucy. She gave me a happy dog smile. Phoebe, undisturbed, continued to snooze. Seriously?

It was several minutes before I got up the nerve to check the garage for intruders. I made Lucy come with me, of course. Her obvious nonchalance made it a little less scary, but I was still terrified. I’d heard the door rattle in its frame.

Later I related the incident to Glen and Katie, but we’ve never arrived at a firm explanation. How can we? There isn’t one.

I do have a theory about what it was, though. And while it’s true that the animals heard nothing, it definitely wasn’t all in my head.

And it definitely wasn’t harmless.


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12 comments on “Living the Life Delusional: Part 2”

    1. Part of the problem is that I'm not quite sure how to express what I think it was. But I can say this: Around this time Katie came home during a college break. She felt something unpleasant in the house, and so did I. Something that made us both uncomfortable. It wasn't there long – – maybe a few weeks. It was most certainly malevolent. It just swept in, lingered for a time, and then swept out again. She had gone back to school by then, but I could feel the difference the thing's absence made. It was palpable.

  1. I bet it was probably a scary story knocking on your door, demanding a voice and asking to be written. It does not seem a very polite way to introduce oneself, though, and I can't believe you were able to muster up the courage to go open the door. I would have been reduced to a complete mess, throughly traumatized. I can't decide if your animals were reassuringly placid, indicating that all was well, or just clueless (especially the cat, although that was appropriately cat-like behavior, right? "The human will take care of this- I shall not disturb myself"... yawn... brief purr... snore"). You are a highly sensitive being, dear friend, and I marvel at what your psychic radar picks up on. (Stuff like this NEVER happens to me.)

    1. I can't believe I was able to muster up the courage to open the door either! I had no idea what to expect, but the calmness of the animals indicated that at least nothing physical was there. Nothing physical for the time being, at any rate. Let's hope it never transmutes! (Your description of Phoebe was spot on, Claire. ;-))

  2. Wow! I immediately thought of the balrog in LoTR with the booming and how much scarier it was to read than to see the movie because in reading (like with an auditory hallucination) it is so much less concrete and that leaves more room for terror to fill in the gaps left by sight. I've enjoyed reading these two posts--thank you for sharing your experiences with us! And may that bit of malevolence stay far, far away!

  3. Holy smokes! Holy guacamole, Susan! Can't believe I'm reading this at night! .. i would have been terrified. Was terrified when a guy banged on the glass windowed front door when I was in high school, alone in the house, and it wasn't dark yet!... Still get spooked when people knock on the door vs ringing the doorbell... Anyways, you do have a fertile, multi-dimension mind... i'm surprised Lucy and Phoebe did not pick up on your fear, discomfort, turmoil!?!... wishing you only the sounds and sights you wanna have 😁 love your storues😊

    1. Thank you, Claire! I was definitely terrified and I'll never forget the experience. I'm with you; I don't like to be surprised by people coming to the door, whether they announce their arrival by knocking OR by doorbell. No, Lucy and Phoebe had no idea anything was wrong. I was apparently the only target. Which is even more disconcerting . . .

  4. I have had milder experiences like that, and I can remember being too terrified to move. I remember how my senses seemed to expand in order to better assess what was happening. I hate being afraid like that. I have to wonder though if perhaps having an overabundance of imagination might make some of us (like you and me) more susceptible to that kind of auditory hallucination. All the same, I enjoyed the recounting of it, only because I love your writing so much. : ) I just hope I don't have nightmares tonight ; )

    1. Thank you, Cynthia! It was truly a creepy experience that made me quite afraid. The way the animals sensed nothing, despite my obvious distress and concern, still strikes me as weird. Luckily we moved from that house almost 5 years ago. I don’t EVER want to encounter that thing—whatever it was— again. I hope, too, that you don’t have nightmares tonight!

  5. The manner in which you have gripped so many people with the way you have described your audible encounters convinces me that Claire has made a valid suggestion. Can you possibly ignore the theory that a good story was the culprit of the 'booming' on your door. Your fertile imagination would surely take flight using the following three words as an opener to your next novel ...


    The floor, my friend, is yours. Get writing.

    1. I like that idea, Maureen, I might get some mileage out of that weird event yet. (But first I have to finish the book I'm writing now! ;-))

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