I know this for three reasons.
Reason #1: My sister’s boyfriend’s psychic told me so.
Reason #2: The television doesn’t even need to be plugged in to work.
Reason #3: There’s a ghostly person trapped inside of it, and he appears when I’m watching movies.
I guess I should’ve led with that third thing. Seems the most convincing. Anyway, like I said, my TV is haunted.
Actually, it used to be Grandpa’s TV. I know what you’re thinking, but Grandpa isn’t the one haunting my television. He passed away recently, and he left me all the stuff from his Los Angeles storage locker. Grandpa had lived in LA for in the late 80s and early 90s, shortly after divorcing Grandma but before marrying Phil.
The way Grandma talks about LA, you’d think he was lured into some heathen den of debauchery, wrenched from his doting wife.
The way Grandpa talked about LA, it was the best time of his life. He worked on movie sets in Hollywood. To hear him reminisce, you’d think he was a sound engineer and best friends with a young Tom Hanks at the peak of his 1990s glory.
In reality, he was a boom mic operator, and Tom Hanks congratulated his work and shook his hand one time. It was a good job, though. Union pay, back when that was closer to a livable wage.
Grandpa had auditioned for a lot of roles hoping for that big break. He was only ever in one movie. A bit part. One scene. I saw the movie when I was a kid. Grandpa had set out a platter of candy and a bowl of popcorn for me and my sister. I didn’t know Grandpa could smile so big.
I’m sure a copy of the movie exists in these boxes of VHS tapes from the storage locker. I’ve been going through the boxes every night after work, watching movies.
Anyway, that’s how I discovered that my TV is haunted. It’s one of those old clunky televisions with the coaxial cable in the back. And like I said, this ghost is definitely not Grandpa. It’s some other dude. I found a few polaroids of him among some of Grandpa’s other things. He was alive when these photos were taken, of course.
In the polaroids, the man is balding and has lots of loose skin. His ghost is the same, but he’s translucent, and his eyes are missing, replaced with black vortexes.
Last week, I showed the photos to my sister’s boyfriend’s psychic, and he said, “I’m sensing a troubled aura. For a modest fee, I can tell you more about this man. I can even commune with your TV.” I declined after learning his definition of modest.
When Grandma saw the photos, she recognized the guy right away. “Oh, that’s Tim or Jim or something like that. I met him a few times. He was your Grandfather’s fuckboy in LA,” she said.
So yeah, it’s this guy, Tim/Jim or whatever. Here’s how it usually goes. The ghost pops up in the middle of a movie. And the ghost’s vortex eyeballs suck color out of the frame. Tom Hanks or whoever is on-screen turns into a back-and-white husk of himself for a moment, and once the ghost has drained enough color, Tim/Jim screeches and wails. Then he disappears. The movie proceeds as usual.
None of the tapes are labeled. Grandpa probably bootlegged these from the editing room whenever he worked on a set. Every night after work, I watch another tape. The cycle repeats. The ghost appears. Color drains. Loud wailing. A few times, the ghost pounds on the TV glass, like he’s trying to escape.
Here’s the thing, when you have a haunted TV, it loses its novelty. It’s almost a game now, trying to figure out when the unexpected jump-scare will happen. I look for subtle changes in color, a slight sepia preceding Tim/Jim’s arrival, before it goes full grayscale with that ghostly ruckus. I almost forget why I’m watching the tapes in the first place.
Then it happens. I pop in one of the countless blank VHS tapes. The title card appears: Hotel of Melancholy. I doubt many people outside the principal cast even remember this movie existed. But I remember that plate of candy, that big smile. It feels like I’m entering a diary entry, written just for me, a window into Grandpa’s happiest moment.
Grandpa is in the third scene, behind the counter at the titular hotel. The main character is checking in.
“And how many nights will you be staying with us?” Grandpa asks. It’s good. I believed that he was a real hotel clerk. Bravo!
“Three nights,” says the main character. That guy is a hack. Totally wooden.
“Alright, we can put you in room thirty-eight,” Grandpa says. The scene fades. The main character is in his room, unpacking his things.
Tim/Jim appears, and I shout at the screen. “Not now! This movie is special.”
The ghost fills the frame with his looming presence, but he doesn’t screech at me. His vortex eyes barely spin this time. The color doesn’t drain from the screen. I think Tim/Jim might be crying. Some black goop pools near the bottom of the haunted TV.
The tape rewinds. I didn’t push rewind. I guess Tim/Jim can do that. Must be a ghost thing.
So yeah, Tim/Jim backs the tape to the moment Grandpa comes onscreen. The ghost hovers next to Grandpa this time, almost like he’s part of the scene, barely translucent or ghostlike at all. He’s practically corporeal. The bottom of the screen puddles with those black, viscous tears. Tim/Jim reaches out and tries to hug Grandpa, but it doesn’t work. They pass through each other in a burst of static and fuzz.
“And how many nights will you be staying with us?” Grandpa asks again.