I’ve always been interested in ghost stories, spending my early child reading every version of "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" and every "Time Life: The Paranormal" I could get my grubby little fingers on. But my own experiences with the supernatural were both unexpected, and unsettling.
I had just started living my girlfriend at the time, whom had, in turn, just recently moved into a converted duplex in the historical section of town, only a few weeks before.
The place had been built as a full home over a hundred years previously, but had been remodeled into a duplex at some point in the early 40’s. The layout of the apartment was strange; The living room, bath room, a bedroom (that was used by my ex’s son) all ran in succession along the lefthand-side of the property, with one long hallway running straight down on the right. At the end of the hallway was a large kitchen. At the very back of the house, beyond the kitchen was a coverted bedroom, which had been originally built as a sun porch. This was the bedrom that my girlfriend and I used
The apartment been been one of those places that had been handed down from one friend to another for years. One person would be moving out, and he would reccoment the place to someone he knew, and so on. It therefore became a place with a longstanding history amongst people I knew.
And so I began living with Anne (as I’ll call her here), and her two-year-old son. And right away, things started getting strange.
Her two-year-old son began having terrible night terrors – he woke wake up screaming, still in a dream state. Too young to be able to articualte his nightmares adequately, he would nonetheless talk about scary faces and the window scaring him. This went on for nearly two months straight before the dreams subsided.
It was a couple of months after moving in that my girlfriend and I were in bed, ready for sleep. Suddenly my girlfriend turns to me and says, "you forgot to turn off the facuet in the sink." I don’t remember leaving it running, but sure enough upon investgating, the bathroom sink was running full-bore. I twisted it off, and ran back to bed.
40 minutes later, Anne (a light-sleeper of epic proportions) woke me up. "I thought you turned the faucet off!" she complained. Now, I was annoyed. Of course I had shut it off! But then I heard it; the sound of rushing water. Shocked, I ran to the bathroom. The sink was not dripping. It was again running at full-flow, the knob turned all the way to left. I couldn’t understand it. I twisted it until my palm was red, and ran once more for the sanctuary of sleep.
In the morning, the faucet was still running.
We started to become aware that things weren’t quite kosher in the house. In the dead of summer (with no air-conditioning), we would suddenly both be struck with a deep chill, that would vanish as quickly and mysteriously as it had appeared. Anne’s son began conversing in gibberish to no one, eyes intently foward as though it was really conversing with another person. He would even go so far as to wave goodbye to a corner of the living room as we would leave the house. The night terrors continued, although less frequently than in the beginning. In the kitchen, sounds of scraping would be quickly attributed to unseen pests, but the sounds would often appear to be coming from different directions, and sounded a bit too loud and close for it to be any rat under the floorboards.
But the most intense expereince was still to come, for me.
It was early winter, and Anne’s son had gotten ill. She decided to have him sleep n the bed. I had decided to sleep on the couhc in the living room, since I was new to having children around, asnd was scared I would roll over the poor child and smother him in my sleep (in perfect contrast to Anne, I’m as heavy a sleeper as a person can be). But this decision was not made without a sense of trepidation. Because of all the house, no room gave a person the willies quite like the living room.
But to the living room couh I went. And by 10 o’clock at night, with Anne and her son soundly alseep on the opposite end of the house, I started to get…well, spooked. I began to feel as though I was being watched, so much so that I kept glancing around behind me, to peer down the hallway. Finally, I decided to watch a movie, and chose "What Dreams May Come"(i had never seen it, but it was abouth Heaven, so I thought it couldn’t hurt). And slowly I drifted to sleep.
And the nightmares started.
Each started the same, and simlpy enough. I was watching myself from the darkness, my reclining body asleep on the couch as it had actually been in the waking world. And then, slowly, the dream would change, to something more sinister. The first time, a hand reached up from the darkiness un the couch, the arm impossibly long, until it was ready to grab me. And then I woke up, in a sweat. The movie was still playing, and exhaustion still held me, so I calmed myself back down,and after a while, found sleep again.
It seemed like no time at all when the second dream started. Again – watching myself sleep, like some self-abusing voyuer. And then, the shadows of the room began to move, and change shape. Then the shadows began to break apart, and the pieces crawled like liquid insects. They squirmed all around me, up my neck and head. They made theirway towards my eyes -and that’s when I woke up again, with a yelp.
The VHS tape had stopped playing. The tv was nothing but a blue screen, and it shones it’s glow across the room. I couldn’t decide wether this made things better or worse, but I decided to keep it on. I had a cigarette, and tried once more to find some rest.
I’m not sure how long it took me to fall back to sleep, but again the dream seemed to start instantly. This time though, things changed slightly. I was still watching myself, but it was as though I was looking through the eyes of someone else. I could see a body, hands and feet beneath me as I moved. Like in the earlier dreams, I intially sat in the darkness of the room’s corner, watching myself. But then, I began to move about the room, never taking my borrowed eyes my own sleeping form on the couch. Slowly, I walked closer and closer, until I was standing directly over the edge of the couch. Then, I began to lean on. I could see my rumpled hair, and one closed eye..
The eye stirred. It blinked, then opened. Groggily I looked up, and the expression on my face twisted in what I could only translate and terror. My mouth opened, ready to scream.
"Ah!" I did scream, as I woke up with a jolt. Although the was 50 degrees outside, my shirt was pasted to my chest with sweat. I sat up, and rubbed my eyes with the palms of my hands. .
As I sat up, that familiar scraping sound from the kitchen. And then, a shuffle, and creaking. And then, a fraction of a second later , a voice:
"Joseph," it seemed to call to me, but there was not emotion to it. The voice was soft, slightly androgynous, breathy. It was clear in my ear. It came from right beyond the threshold of the hallways, right over my head.
I didn’t need a single second to consider it. Obviously, I had woken up Anne with my scream, and she was calling me to bed. Child or no, I was sleeping in the bed room. Shemust have opened a window somehwere, becausea blast of cold hit my as I stood, stinging my chest as it chilled the sweat. I bolted up, and with blanket in hand turned the corner to the hallway.
But Anne was not there. Though it was dark, I should have been able to see the outline of her in the hallway. But there was no outline. I listened for the sound of footsteps, but again nothing but the quiet darkness.
It was impossible, I thought. She couldn’t have gotten down the hallway so fast! I walked slowly down the hallway, through the kitchen. I got to the bedroom door, which was closed. I turned it as quiet as I could.
There on the bed was Anne and her son, both fast asleep, both snoring and nestled under the warmth of heavy blankets.
I stood in that doorway for a considerably long time, not sure what to do with myself. I knew I had heard that voice! And I knew I had been awake, and not in some half-dream state when I did. I tried to convince myself that I had simply imagined it. But the sound, the cadence of the words stuck with me. So what was it, if I wasn’t crazy?
The scraping sound began again, and then stopped again almost immediately, as if in repsonse to my thoughts.
With no other option left that sounded comforting, I got dressed in the dark, wrapped the blanket around my shoulders, and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours on the porch, smoking and drinking, until the sun began to show itself. Finally, I went inside and lay on the couch, in my clothes. I slept and thankfully, no dreams came to me.
Other things happened in the house afterwards, but this experience has stuck with me. It was the first time since I was a child that a palpable sense of fear arose from the seemingly innocent darkness of an unlit room. Although I had terrible nightmare as a child, never before (or since) have I had a series of related nihtmares such as the ones I had that night. And there was a sense of realism to each dream, and a sense of reald anger that did not aleviate with the saftery of consciousness. The fear stayed with me.
And then, that presence in the hallway. To this day, I cannot adeqautely express to those I relate this story to, how utterly real, how distinct, the voice that spoke to me was. Later on, I realized that the creaking sound I heard was very much the sound of someone shifting their weight on a hardwood floor.
So; was it really a ghost that had called to me? I’m not sure.
But whatever it was – I’d rather not experience it again.