It's Thalen's Turn column: Home alone; or was I?

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Jack-o-lantern trail the Minnesota Zoo. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

In honor of the spooky season, this is a story about the first time I stayed home alone, I was 12. Inspired by true events.

I peered out the window as my parent's car cast dead leaves into the cool evening air. Their taillights disappeared as they rounded the corner at the end of the block. Finally, I am home alone. The moment I have been dreaming of since I was probably like 10. Visions of junk food and horror movies danced in my head.

I cranked the music to 11, starting my party of one.

After extensively raiding the kitchen of the junkiest food I could find, I planted myself on my stepdad's La-Z-Boy recliner. With my snacks easily within arm's reach, I am ready for the night. The only thing missing, a good movie.

I got up from the inviting recliner and made my way to the DVD collection across the room. We only had DVDs, no cable or internet. And because we didn't have a remote for either the TV or the DVD player, I had to do everything manually. My plan was to watch something I shouldn't, but I decided on a family comedy. The sun was now below the horizon, and the thought of a scary movie started to get to me.


About a half-hour into the movie, I heard it. It didn't sound like anything at first. Maybe some static from the TV speakers or a strong breeze causing the 100-year-old house to release what, to me, really sounded like a whisper from a person.

I quickly dismissed the noise and put my focus back into the movie. Then, it happened again, but louder, a distant whisper muffled enough for me not to make out the words. But this time, there were two, and they didn't stop. The hair on my neck and arms stood at attention, and a paralyzing chill ran down my spine as the whispers became even louder. Then I realized the whispers were coming from above me.

Above my stepdad's chair was a vent that went directly into the upstairs bathroom, a glorified hole in the ceiling with a fancy cover. When I was younger, my siblings and I waved at each other through the vent or dropped coins and things on top of my stepdad's head during Sunday football games.

Gripping the chair for dear life, I slowly raised my head toward the vent. My breathing was shallow and quick, my stomach twisted in knots. Just as my head tilted back enough to face the vent, I let out a scream that would have moved me into the soprano section. Staring back at me was a face. Expressionless, beady eyes with alabaster skin. My sister's doll laid facedown across the vent. I released a slight chuckle followed by a sigh of relief.

However, the relief didn't last long because the whispers never left, they only got louder, like a hushed argument growing heat. Shadows lurched across the doll. Something was moving up there.

I tried shutting it out. I was too scared to run, to think.

Eventually, I gathered enough courage to run to the TV and abuse the volume button. I figured I could drown the noises. The voices got even louder, I turned the TV up more, and the voices still grew. I was at max volume, and the voices overpowered the movie with their screaming whispers. How was this possible?

I jumped from the TV to one of the couches and buried my face into the cushion. Covering my head with a pillow. Maybe I can just fall asleep, and this will all be over in the morning. The voices and the blaring TV mixed in with the chilling fear running through my body made it impossible. My stomach ached with fear; I could feel my eyes well up with tears.


I contemplated my next move; I needed to get out of the house, but my spurts of courage were only enough to get me from recliner to TV to couch.

My grandma lived right across the street. Safety isn't far. I just need to put myself together enough to get out of this house.

Fighting all my instincts, I jumped off the couch and stood tall and still in the middle of the room. I did a slow 360-degree spin, wide-eyed, surveying my surroundings. Suddenly a loud crash came from the front room of the house. The main door slammed shut by something or someone, prompting me to beeline for the back door.

I ran through the yard, across the street and into grandma's house. Finally, safe.

We moved not long after. It was a while before I stayed home alone again.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTY
Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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