This is an unusual entry into the series. I’ve been recounting ghost stories, folklore and urban legends that have been around for a while but tonight’s is a personal one. This is a story that few have heard. Apart from my family and a few friends, I don’t talk about this one much. It may sound silly from an outsider’s perspective but you have to put yourself in my shoes. It was fucking terrifying in the moment and I’ve never been able to shake that feeling of being watched when I’m alone in a room. Yes. Tonight’s entry into 31 Ghost Stories is my own personal tale of haunting.
In the early 90’s my family moved across town into a bigger house. We’d been living comfortably where we were previously, but the new place was actually a very old piece of property. A beautiful old farmhouse located next to some train tracks and it presented an opportunity for my parents to buy low, renovate and sell high when the chance came along. Previously, the home belonged to a widow and during her time there spent with and without her husband, the place fell into a slight state of disrepair. It had a lot of potential, though, and my parents went right to work on tearing it down and rebuilding it to their liking. The moment I set foot in it, however, the place gave me the creeps.
Wood floors were the common surface, everything creeked and seemed very old and rickety. I’d smoke out in the barn during the winter months and could never shake the feeling that I was being watched, so I made my smoke breaks quick before practically running back into the house with a power walk that moved my lower body faster than my upper body. The basement was a horrifying place that filled me with dread every time I went down there, which in the several years that I lived there amounted to no more than three times. It was separated into chambers and the floor was dirt. Each chamber featured a lower ceiling than the previous and the further back you went, the darker it seemed to get until the dark seemed to consume any kind of light you brought with you. In the furthest chamber back we found a small black book whose pages were mostly empty with the exception for the first few which seemed to be nothing more than a list of names. The worst, however, was back in the upper levels of the barn. Bare wood walls faced in and on them written in either chalk or charcoal were phrases such as “Rebecca was 8″ and “Johnathan was 6″. I seemed to find a new entry into the [name] was [number] series every time I went up there and it chilled me to the core. I can only speculate as to what it meant. Sometimes when smoking out there, I would hear what sounded like something moving around on the upper level above me and would wind up finishing my cigarette in the rain or snow in order to get away from it. It didn’t occur to me that something might be up until the night I was leaving the house to meet my girlfriend at the time saw a face staring out at me from the upper level window of the barn. It was there for a second before it faded from view. Vague features defined it but someone watched me from the window before pulling back into the darkness. I said nothing about this to anyone and convinced myself that I hadn’t seen it but as soon as the other phenomena kicked up, I was pretty sure that it actually happened.
My parents went to work on this place quickly and as soon as they began to tear out the ceilings and such, strange shit began to happen around the house. Scratching within the walls began at night as I tried to sleep. I dismissed it as animals between the walls; squirrels, probably, but the sound began to move around the room until it sounded like it was inside the room. Like, in the center of the fucking room. This was not enough to spook me, though. I was hearing things, obviously. There’s no bigger skeptic than me. I’m dying for concrete evidence because I want to believe in this shit so badly. Things got worse.
We were awoken late one night when one of the fire alarms in the house was going off. A quick check revealed no fire and they reset the alarm. A minute later it was going off again. Reset. It came on again. Reset. Another alarm in the house went off. Reset that one. Another alarm in the house went off. We chased these alarms around the house for an hour until they finally stopped. As it became more frantic, my anxiety levels rose. Something about this was wrong. It seemed deliberate and I had begun to have a bad feeling about the place. Every night around 1:30am you’d hear what sounded like someone falling down the stairs. Conveniently, I was the only one to hear this sound in the house when it would happen. You could set your watch to it. This was all just minor phenomena, though. Everything previously could have had a reasonable explanation. The night I found myself home alone with what I thought was an intruder still leaves me baffled.
It was late and I had dropped my girlfriend off at home and channel surfed on my parent’s TV before I decided to crash out for the night. This plan of relaxation was interrupted when I heard the door to the barn at the bottom of the stairs open. Like I said, this place was old, and all the hardware in the house made a distinct noise, as if the doorknob owned that rusty creak. I went rigid and had to chill long enough to shut the TV off so that I could strain to hear more from the lower level and make sure that it wasn’t just my mind playing tricks on me. Sure enough, I heard the footsteps on the wood floor below, crossing what would eventually become the living room on their way to the kitchen. Out of my parent’s room I dashed and into the hallway, looking down over the railing to see if I could see anything. I couldn’t, until I heard the light in the dining room come on. Like the knob, it had its own sound, a loud pop and that pop rang through the downstairs level and in my head with a deafening crack. Someone was in my house. Or so it seemed.I covered my mouth to stifle any sound I might have made and as quietly as I could, made my way into my room, opened the top dresser drawer and took out the punch-knife I’d been given by a friend of mine. Then I did the only natural thing I could think of. I climbed into my closet and closed the door behind me.
I don’t know how long I was in there, but the whole time I seemed to hold my breath or breathe in short, shallow breaths while straining to hear what might have been going on on the other side of my door. For the longest time I heard nothing and convinced myself that my mind was playing tricks on me but then whoever was in my house was now in my room. They walked across the floor, opened dresser drawers, shuffled through the papers on my desk mere feet from where I hid. I readied myself to stab the fuck out of whoever it was in the event that they though to open the closet door. They never did, though. I heard them leave and for the next hour and a half, that was the last I heard from anyone in the house.
Eventually, I found the courage to leave my hiding place and for a good long while I stood at the top of the stairs trying to hear more but nothing came. I then summoned the courage to check the house, knife in hand. Startlingly, the doors were all as I had left them: Locked. I looked around more and found nothing out of order. I couldn’t find any indication that anything had been taken or moved around but the dining room light, which I was absolutely positive was off was, indeed, on as I had heard. Unless they had a key, there was no way someone managed to get into the house, have a look around and then leave without a trace, locking the door behind them.
This wouldn’t be the last significant encounter I would have with whatever occupied the house, either. On a Friday night, everyone out again, my dad away picking up more lumber and I nursing a mean chemical hangover from working in a print shop. I laid down to take a nap and was awoken at some point when a thunderous smashing literally shook me out of bed. It sounded as though the house were being smashed repeatedly with a giant hammer. I looked out the window to see if my dad was back but the only car in the drive way was my own. For a good minute after this, the hammering continued until I briskly made my way out of the house and out the front door lighting a smoke and hearing the smashing from the outside. After this, the ghost went quiet.
My sister reported a couple of spooky encounters: a desk loaded with papers exploded into a flurry of said papers, as though something had thrown them all into the air. She was also awoken in the morning to find an old man standing at the foot of her bed, watching her sleep. She saw him long enough before he disappeared. Oddly, my parents and my brother never reported anything. Whether or not they had any encounters is a mystery to me. The ghost, who I always assumed was the old man who lived there before us, eventually calmed the fuck down and when I left that house for the last time I actually made it a point to say goodbye to him and recommend that he scare the fuck out of the next people to live there. My assumption was that he saw his home changing around him as a new group of people tore it apart and made it into something else but once the work was done and we were living in it, the disturbances stopped. It was as though the ghost had seen what we had done with his home and had turned it into something very nice, restoring it to its former glory. The menacing vibe of the whole place even changed into something pleasant once the work was done. It was a strange time in my life.