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The Lure of the Unknown
(And why I hate cats...)

In my family, the supernatural is what you get when you cross a cat with a mad, old woman. Give me a chance and Iíll explain. I grew up in a house on a curved street that saw one too many car accidents. My grandparents were from the old guard. They believed that heresy got you struck by lightning and frolicking with the opposite sex got you a hundred extra years in purgatory, but nothing, and I mean nothing, got to them worse then superstition. If you crossed a black cat, you had to turn around. If you walked underneath a ladder, you had to make your way back under and find a barrel of salt...quickly. And if you came across an angry old woman and her cat, you never, I repeat, never looked her in the eye.

I realized very early on that American families donít care much for the supernatural, whereas those of us with grandparents and even parents who are not American by birth, have cultivated a natural leaning toward the unseen world.

My grandmother often tells a story of a trip she and my godmother took into the neighboring village, some 40 years ago in Cape Verde. The sun was sinking into the horizon, and my godmother being the oldest of eleven, and at the time, the only child, trudged behind my grandmother in the dwindling light.

No one else walked the path and the only sign of life was a cat perched on the steps of an old church. But something didnít feel right. My grandmother reached for my godmother and began to pick up speed. ďDonít look back, whatever you do,Ē She told her. My godmother, being barely three at the time, didnít understand but she obeyed.

The unmistakeable sound of footfalls echoed from behind them. My grandmother would later recount how she had seen a dark formation sitting on the church steps only inches away from the cat. In her native country, dark forms resting on holy places were not good...infact, they were to be avoided at all costs. They are the American equivalent of shadow people, only these things donít hide and they hang around on remote roads.

As my grandmother grew swift, so did the footfalls. All the while she kept a hand on my godmothers chin so the child was not compelled to look behind her. As they narrowed a bend the footfalls stopped and the oppressive heaviness my grandmother felt, slowly lifted. There was only one house around the bend and it belonged to the family of a young woman who had died only days before. Prior to her death the young woman was often seen sitting on the church steps, petting a stray cat.

My grandmother has many stories and it is these stories that gave way to my fascination with the unknown. When I began to have my own experiences, I learned that no matter how exciting it may seem on the page of a magazine or in the scenes of a movie, facing the paranormal head on is not worth it.

If I had a dollar for every time someone lamented about their lack of exciting stories to tell. ď I wanna see a UFO/be abducted/see a ghost,Ē they say. But do they really? Or do they just want to have something exciting to talk about?

Thereís no denying that the temptation to play with an Ouija board, or buy a spell book, sleep in a haunted house or trek through a UFO hotspot in the dead of night is there. Itís pervasive for some. The idea of touching the unknown has seduced humankind for aeons. Sometimes its as simple as wanting to feel like we are more than our physical shells allow. We want to be deciders of our own fate and far more powerful than our mere mortality will allow.

Iíve been sleeping with the covers over my head for 20-odd years. Iíve heard and seen things that would make a grown man shudder and none of it has made me any wiser. I never woke up after an experience thinking, "Wow, I am beyond human now". In fact, you canít feel any more vulnerable and so insignificantly human than when you are faced with a force so much more powerful and terrifying than you could ever be.

And yet, we still search in vain for these things. Maybe it has something to do with the so-called god code. Are we programmed to seek out the unknown? Is this part of the human condition? Seek and ye shall find. But if we seek too much, will it inevitably find us?

This brings me to cats. Yes they are furry, and yes they were worshiped by the Egyptians and heck, a zillion households have one, but I am telling you now, if your cat starts hanging around your smallest child...open the door and let it out.

I once saw a cat morph into a mean spirited old lady. I was three, my mother was preoccupied and the doors to the unknown were stretched before me. Say what you will, but to this day I can honestly say, mean old ladies and cats are a bad combination...especially when the old lady in question is wearing a muumuu to hide her tail. Donít say I didnít warn you.

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