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Ghosts in the Sidewalk

While I was "out and about" the other day, I came across handprints in the sidewalk. Not unusual, really, but it took me back to a time when I was very young, when I imagined all sorts of macabre things.

There was a house on the corner, a big, old house with an apron under the porch that had a hatch for access. Heck, our house had a hatch, too, but I never imagined what my parents might keep under there, although it made for excellent storage (my parents didn't use it for anything other than access to the addition on the back of the house). I probably only saw the hatch on our house open once or twice in my entire life. But that house on the corner...

The family had two sons, both older than me and my sisters (or maybe as old as at least one of my sisters, although I don't remember for sure. I only remember they were much older than me). The one son, Doug, had long hair, and for whatever reason, I can remember watching him dry it in front of a fan. Keep in mind, this is back in the days of the song from Hair about "long-haired, freaky people," so he was a bit of an anomaly. Nice enough guy, as much as I remember. What does all this have to do with handprints in the sidewalk?



In the sidewalk that ran beside their house, their older son had carved his name in the wet cement. Because we're talking so many years ago, I can't recall if there was also a handprint, but I remember seeing the name and asking the people who lived there, as an inquisitive young child might do, whose name it was. Turns out Doug had an older brother, one who'd died, forever memorialized by his name in the cement of the sidewalk. Other than that small piece of information, no one ever told me anything more. I don't suppose there was more to the tragic story. I remember tracing the letters he'd left in the wet cement and trying to conjure him. In my vivid imagination, I imagined all sorts of things, starting with the hatch under the porch. Was he buried in there? This idea probably came from watching the old Peter Cushing / Christopher Lee Dracula movies. I can't imagine why else I would have dreamed up such a thing, and yet the idea stuck with me. For years.


That family moved out, and another family moved in. I grew up and became the babysitter for the new owners' tribe of children. Few things made my uneasy growing up - I wasn't easily spooked - but once I'd decided the older son was buried under the porch, I never moved past wondering who was buried behind the hatch under the front porch. Even when I knew better. I'm quite sure I even saw that hatch opened a time or two, but guess who stayed far away from it?


This author.

"Normal" people see handprints in the sidewalk, or other markings people leave in wet cement and see them for what they are. Vandalism. Hah. Well, maybe, but most people see them as remembrances. Or ways to mark their territory. Like taking chalk to create hopscotch, only more permanent. *Sigh* I suppose I was never normal.

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