Witness: Joe Ely
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Date of Encounter: November 1966
This incident occurred when I was about 10 years old while my dad was training race horses at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona. We had arrived about a month before and moved into a brand-new apartment complex in Phoenix. The layout of the complex was simple — two one-story buildings on each side of an open area with two apartments in each building. The place was so new that we were the first family to move in, and one other family moved in while we were there. To my knowledge, there hadn't been anything on that site before, and the open area between the apartments was basically sand and rock with rock berms on all sides where a bulldozer had pushed them while clearing the area for construction. The rocks were mainly river cobbles of metamorphic rock, as I recall, so the area must have been an ancient, large creek-bed or river.
Anyway, the apartments were pretty nice, with a kitchen at the front just off of the living room and a short hallway that led to two bedrooms and a bathroom. I shared a bedroom with my 8-year-old sister. The bathroom was the focus of this event, so I'll describe it briefly. The door to the bathroom was directly across the hall from the door to the bedroom I shared with my sister. The door opened inward to the right where a wall was; the vanity was straight ahead as you entered. To the left along the wall facing you as you entered was first the commode and then the enclosed bath/shower. The light switch was on the wall just to the left of the door as you entered. I've lived in many other places, and I don't think I could describe the bathroom in any of them. This one was burned into my memory. At this point I should add that my aunt had come out for a short visit and was sleeping on a cot in our bedroom. My sister and I slept on bunk-beds, and, since I was oldest, I had the top bunk.
My whole family usually turned in about 9 at night because my dad's day started around 4:30 or 5 A.M. at the track, and I usually went out to help until it was time to go to school. Of course, on weekends I spent the whole day with my dad being worked like a rented mule. Life on the racetrack may sound glamorous to a few, but it's really just a lot of hard work and the occasional saddle-sore from being on horse-back for 4 or 5 hours straight leading horses. One night, I would guess sometime around 2 A.M., I woke up and went to the restroom. The door was standing open as usual, so I reached up to my left to switch on the light. Before I could hit the switch, I was kind of jolted awake by the site of a glowing cigarette ember in the darkness right above where the toilet was (my mom and aunt both smoked at the time). I quickly apologized, thinking my aunt had gone in there and hadn't bothered to turn on the light. There was no response at all, but I saw the cigarette ember rise about to where head-level would be for someone sitting on the toilet, brighten as if someone took a drag on it, and then it slowly lower back to its original point. There was no mistaking this as a light from outside (no window in the bathroom, and all windows in the place were heavily curtained) or an orb (which I think is just dust, anyway). The casualness of the whole process set off alarm bells in my head because both my mom and aunt were very modest people and would not have reacted to my entry by simply taking a toke off of their cigarette. I had caught hell a few times before when I had accidentally blundered in, and the yelling had started instantaneously.
At this point I was pretty darn scared, but I had been raised to think things through and not think "ghost" every time I encountered something odd. We moved around the country two or three times a year, and I had lived or worked in some pretty creepy old places (we were stabled next to an old cemetery at the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans twice), and my dad had no patience for anything connected with ghosts. Anyhow, since I still had my hand on the light switch, I quickly slapped it upward to see what the heck was going on. Nothing. No light came on. I worked the switch up and down several times, but nothing happened. Then I called out my aunt's name and got no response. I called for my mom — same result. Now I'm scared half to death. I turned and ran back to my room, slapping for the switch on the wall to turn on the bedroom lights regardless that my aunt was asleep in there (I could make her out in the cot) — again, nothing. Now nothing was making sense, and I was almost petrified with fear. I looked back in the bathroom and could still see the ember by the toilet. I knew it wasn't my aunt; I knew that my mom would have somehow responded to me knowing that I had to be scared, and my dad never smoked in his life. I also knew that what I was looking at was absolutely a lit cigarette. No mistake. Then I noticed for the first time that there was no odor from the cigarette. My mom and my aunt used to smoke Viceroys, and they reeked badly (the cigarettes, not the people). I guess I froze, because I didn't start yelling like a lunatic that someone was in the house. It just didn't make any sense that an intruder would come in and have a leisurely smoke on the john in the dark. I scrambled back toward my bed grabbing a Louisville Slugger as I went, and I climbed up in my bunk, stepping on my sister in the process. It was then that I realized no one else had stirred. I knew I had made a good deal of noise calling out in the hallway and climbing back into my bunk while banging a ball bat against everything on the way up. And remember that I stepped on my sister — and she was singularly intolerant of such treatment (one time, she waited all day long after some such slight to get a shot at me with a Coke bottle when I went to bed). Once I had gotten back in bed, I just huddled there watching the bathroom door in the dark and listening to see if anyone moved. Nothing else ever happened, no one ever came out of the bathroom, and I guess I fell asleep somewhere around 30 minutes after it all started. It sounds like an odd thing to do after what had happened, but I guess I decided there was nothing else to do but go back to sleep. The next morning, my mom woke me up and chewed me out for having a dirty old ball bat in my bed. The lights worked fine, and no one mentioned anything about the incident. I asked if anyone else had noticed that the lights had been out during the night, but no one had. I thought about asking around whether anyone had died there, but I knew the whole place was new and nothing had been there before, so I kept it all to myself. I guess the whole thing was pretty light-weight for a paranormal encounter, but it was the first time I had ever been through such a thing, and it made a big impression on me.