The Ishimoto Family
We were a family of six when my parents bought a newly built three-level home in the edge of southern Montgomery County, MD. My dad was a federal civil servant; I was likely to become one, as too my two younger sisters and our youngest brother. Our family needing additional bedrooms pushed us about 10 miles north from our longtime tract cottage at 10424 Huntley Avenue in Silver Spring, the locality known as Wheaton. It was just a few miles north of that point on the map of Washington, DC’s, northernmost quarter.
Our new home was pleasantly country. To reach it from the south the very large, jungle-like Wheaton Regional Park had to be driven through, or we had to drive around its perimeter. We had a quarter acre facing north at 330 Randolph Road. It was then a 2-lane country road, later widened into a county route. Across the road was a seminary that never seemed occupied and had a beautiful pine tree in a large meadow that I admired from my bedroom window.
My father performed translations for government agencies. He was born in the Territory of Hawai’i in 1914. During the course of his life he spoke of seven confrontations he had with death. As a child he said he was killed by the Spanish Flu but was revived the following day. His mother told him he returned to consciousness saying a sea turtle died in order to allow him to live; he was floating above the Island of Oahu when he saw the turtle on the beach. His family returned to Japan, where he grew up; in the 1930s he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army. He discovered near the end of his enlistment that as a Hawai’ian, he was an American Citizen so made the army release him as an alien. He and a sister returned to Hawai’i briefly, then they relocated to Long Beach, CA.
Dad worked in an aunt’s and uncle’s Chinese chop suey restaurant; many Japanese in the 1930s felt insecure having a Japanese restaurant. An arduous work schedule led to catching tuberculosis and he was hospitalized. Told by a doctor he’d die soon, Dad desperately prayed to Jesus and towards sunset he saw Jesus walk on a sunbeam into his hospital room, stand by his bed, touch his chest, and guarantee he would live. Dad quickly recovered but now WWII had broken out. He was sent to a segregated sanitarium created for Japanese: whites with TB did not want to be hospitalized alongside Japanese co-patients.
These near-death experiences of Dad establish some kind of family and personal sensitivity toward other worlds, and to things that are not in this world but try to make contact with us.
I eventually attended college in California, returning in the summers to work at the Department of State where I had a clerical job. That was in Foggy Bottom, in Washington, DC. Dad’s office was across the Potomac River near the Pentagon, so we commuted together. In the long summer days, we’d arrive home around 6:30, as the approaching evening cooled the air and allowed soft breezes. When our car pulled into the driveway, we started noticing that a woodchuck had dug a burrow under the garage. He would sit at the opening of his burrow, sniffing the air, until the noise of our car panicked him and he dove inside for cover.
The family always had dinner together. One dinnertime the conversation turned to the woodchuck. The house had been giving out little creaks and jiggling sounds, no doubt caused by the outside air cooling faster than the house. The cost of electricity was too high to afford us to use the air conditioner very often.
That dinnertime we discussed these noises. There was one set of sounds nobody could identify and we wondered if it was the woodchuck. No, he lived under one far corner of the garage.
Suddenly, one of us popped out with “Do you think that noise is being made by the woodchuck??!” Then each of us instantly realized: it wasn’t the woodchuck, and each of us knew what ‘that noise’ meant!
Each family member realized the thing had been visiting us but waiting until we were alone in the house. Even Dad, who was very hard of hearing, had been “hearing” the strange noises.
That summer of 1969 was chaotic. The Thing visited each of us at least once. In my case, one afternoon everyone was gone, I think the others were driving to rural Maryland or Virginia to search out a psychic minister for advice. They returned without useful help, but with stories, especially of an ante-bellum Virginia mansion said to have a curious lady. Men who sat on a specific sofa might smell the perfume on an invisible woman’s arm that slowly traced her finger up one of his arms, across his shoulders, down the other arm, and leave. As if she had to inspect the men in her former home.
As I sat at our kitchen table reading that afternoon, suddenly it felt as if I had air conditioning behind my head. My chair back was in a corner where two walls met. I perceived someone peering over my shoulder trying to read the same book I was reading. This was impossible! After all, I ran down the roster: Mom was gone, Dad was with her, so were Mary, Janet and Roger. Therefore, nobody was actually behind me cuz I’d know if anyone went there. Him-Her-It would have to traverse the kitchen and I’d have seen Him-Her-It moving around me.
Eventually, H-H-I got bored and left. Took the air conditioning with H-H-I’self, too!
Likewise, Mary or Janet told that they would be preparing food at the kitchen at night and they’d feel the same presence behind them. Spooked, they would run up the stairs to their bedroom, lock the door, turn on the radio, dial it up high, and hope H-H-I would go away. They were always alone in the house when H-H-I visited them.
Having obtained the family’s concentrated attention, the poltergeist stepped it up. Deep in sleep one night, I awoke to hear my mom calling loudly from the kitchen. In her bedroom, she had heard the refrigerator contents rattling around, and when she went downstairs to investigate, the refrigerator door was widely ajar.
Mom was the wardrobe mistress of several major ballet companies on the east coast and had a fairly regular travel schedule, commuting to New York City, or touring with them across the world. She also related that on one of her home stays, she was in her sewing workshop on the first level. It was a basement that Dad finished out with a spare bedroom, office for himself, and other facilities. Mom said that one day she was in her workshop sewing and she heard noise at the front entry more or less directly above her. The door opened, she heard footsteps walk onto the inside entryway tile, then – nothing more. After a while, she began to wonder: was it Dad coming home for lunch? Seemed not, because he normally didn’t, his office was a 70-minute drive away. Then she scurried upstairs to investigate. The inner wooden door was wide open. The door was always securely set into the lock; it could not have blown open (had there been strong winds that day) because we had an outer glass storm door that blocked out wind. Nobody but her was in the house. Mystery.