I am not what you would call a brave man. Oh sure, I would protect my family from home invaders, axe murderers, and Jehovah's Witnesses who knock on our door on Saturday mornings ("sorry, no, we're Zoroastrians").
But there are two things that if I am faced with, you will find me shrieking like a 6-year-old girl and racing off in the other direction: snakes and ghosts.
I had to face one of these terrors a couple weeks ago, when my wife and I had a chance to stay at the Story Inn in, well, Story, IN.
Story, Indiana is so small, it's more of an intersection than a town. It has a village green, and one restaurant inside the Inn. If you go to the restaurant, you have to park across town, 50 feet away. And there are anywhere from seven to 15 people who live in Story.
Plus, at least one ghost.
The Blue Lady has haunted the Story Inn for as long as anyone can remember. And for the most part, she confines her activities to only one room, appropriately named "The Blue Lady Room."
Ali, as she's sometimes called — short for Alison, the founder's wife — is sometimes seen wearing a white robe, combing her hair in front of the vanity in her room. Other times, people have reported smelling perfume in the Blue Lady Room, seeing framed photographs knocked off the wall, and seeing wine glasses and cutlery go flying.
"Maybe you'll get to stay in the haunted room," they said at the Visitors Center. I was in Brown County as a travel writer, and I had stopped in to get some information.
"We'd better not!" said my wife, who is more afraid of ghosts than I am, if such a thing is possible.
"I'll make sure they don't stick us in the haunted room," I told my wife, more for my benefit than for hers. I was going to sleep in the car before I stayed in a haunted room.
When we arrived at the Story Inn, they confirmed that we were, in fact, not able to stay in the room, even if we wanted.
"There's already somebody in it," said the lady at the front desk.
"An alive somebody?" I asked.
"Absolutely," said the lady. "I don't believe it's really haunted anyway."
That actually made me feel a little better, especially when she said no one had ever reported any ghostly activity in our room, the Hedrick Room. After a wonderful dinner in the restaurant downstairs, and a quick trip back to Nashville for an after dinner coffee, we returned to our room, where I took a shower before bed.
Afterward, as I stared at the steamed up mirror, I had an idea for a great practical joke to play on the room's next guest: I wrote "BOO" on the mirror with my finger. When the next guest showered, the word would reappear in the steam, and they would think the ghost had been in the bathroom.
I just didn't consider that the next guest to take a shower would be my wife.
"Erik! ERIK!" she half-shouted the next morning, shaking me awake. She was wrapped in a towel, dripping wet, and half-crying. "Did you do anything in the bathroom?"
"No, I've been asleep," I said, thinking that was a rather personal question.
"Did you write anything on the mirror?" she said, more insistently, and more crying-ly.
I realized what she was talking about, and I snickered. "Oh crap! Yes, I did that. I'm sorry."
"That's not funny! I thought the ghost did that!" She nearly cried, so I knew better than to laugh while I was in such a vulnerable position. "Did you do it on purpose to scare me?"
"No, I didn't even think about you being the next one in the shower."
I apologized again, and she called me a bad name and stormed back to the bathroom.
I laughed quietly after she had shut the door, and congratulated myself on what was a rather awesome-if-immature prank. I was a little happy that I got to see the direct results of my practical joke, even if I was going to pay for it later.
Later, after we had packed, and were getting ready to leave, my wife walked in on me carefully wiping off the mirror with a towel.
"Oh sure, NOW you clean it off," she said. "Now that your little joke is over."
"I'm not cleaning it off," I said. "I'm doing it again for the next person in here."
My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.
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