The BasicsIt's not the darkness in my room that frightens me. The unidentified sound floating up from somewhere deep in my house doesn't set my poor heart panicking. I'm not terrified as I try not to notice my barely open closet door. It's the potential that gets me. It's what could be there. The more you think about it, the more likely every possibility becomes as the shadows thicken and every stray noise or movement forces you deeper into your fear. The scariest part, to me at least, is that you'll never know what is or isn't there until you go have a look for yourself. Unless it comes looking for you, of course. The rumors about my good friend Liz's house took their dear sweet time reaching me. They were just whispers of things, ominous hints, and I brushed them aside fairly easily. Liz and I were close, so close that people even mistook us for sisters, and were there any dark secrets about her house, I would have known. Like me, she was a storyteller, and storytellers just don't hide that kind of thing.
That is, unless it's serious.
As luck would have it, I ended up spending an afternoon at Liz's house to work on some project for Biology class. I had only been over to her place once or twice before, which even at the time I considered strange for best friends like us, but to a kid like me who had spent a good part of her life in apartments and military housing, the place was a dream. At just under 50 years old with 2 stories, 4 bedrooms, a massive basement area, and an equally huge backyard, the house was phenomenally beautiful. Sure it was a little too dark, but the weather was appropriately stormy, and that'll make any place more than a little spooky. Liz's sixteenth birthday was a few weeks away, and we got onto the topic of what the party would be like. She and I had a reputation of being little party animals, and therefore we had to make this party as awesome as possible. I suggested using her massive basement, what with its pinball tables, TV, and stereo system.
"No parties in the house."
Ah yes, the parents. They could be pretty troublesome for us wild teens, but I told her not to worry. If we could conjure up a few promises of no drinking, no smooching, and the like, we would get our party. Heck, I was already figuring out what food to bring. "It's not my parents." And that was how I got her talking.
Tick-TockFour years ago, Liz and her family had moved from their smaller, older house across town to the current one. At first no one sensed anything out of the ordinary. There were no creepy feelings, no moving shadows down the hallways, no nothing. Strangely, it was Liz's baby brother, Sam, who picked up on whatever was in the house long before anyone else did.
Liz and her parents started noticing that as soon as they left Sam in his playroom he would start talking to someone. Sam had made a friend. His friend's name was Tick-Tock. Why Tick-Tock was never really clear, but apparently he was a little shy. It took a few weeks for Tick-Tock to feel comfortable "talking" to Sam in other rooms of the house with other people present. They chocked it up to Sam playing with his first imaginary friend.
One afternoon, Liz was studying in their living room while Sam played with some of his toys. He was chattering away to no one in particular, and Liz wasn't paying much attention to him. It was when he suddenly went silent that she looked up. Sam was standing in front of her, transfixed by something on the wall behind her. As she watched, his eyes followed the thing as it moved up the wall and along the ceiling. Of course, when she looked there was nothing there, but he was so still and so amazed by whatever the hell it was that she felt shivers scurry down her spine.
"Sammy, what're you looking at?"
Indeed. From that point on Tick-Tock was no longer a friend. Sam couldn't be left alone for five minutes without him screaming bloody murder. He stopped sleeping through the night, and her parents had to move him back into their room for a bit. His toys would turn on and off by themselves or go missing and turn up in the weirdest places. Sam and their cat, Jabberwocky, continued to watch things move along the walls, sometimes in unison.
Ok, so that was creepy, I'd admit to that, but it could also be explained. Sam was a little kid, and who knew what made them do the things they do? Some of the toys were hand-me-downs and could have been screwing up like old toys tend to after awhile. Jabberwocky might have been watching dust or whatever it is that fascinates cats. "I guess so, but Jaber had other things to worry about."
Jabberwocky and the Bandersnatch"Bandersnatch" was the name affectionately given to the critter that lurked around the little shed in their backyard. Tools would go missing, wood piles would be scattered every which way, friends and family alike would see a small shadow curled beneath the old elm tree or darting around a corner. Liz spoke of the Bandersnatch like a pesky family pet rather than a possibly undead being, and it never sent out threatening vibes to any of her family members, with the exception of poor Jabber. Jabberwocky hated the Bandersnatch and the Bandersnatch hated Jabberwocky. They loved to torture each other. Liz's father was forever rushing out to break up extremely vocal catfights only to find Jabber hissing and spitting into the darkness. Jabber's new pastime was chasing some unseen thing around the shed, darting this way and that before retreating to the safety of the porch. If Jabber ever chased anything with flesh and blood, it had some kind of camouflage, because no one ever laid eyes on it.
The only time the Bandersnatch ever really frightened Liz's family was after Jabber ended up on the receiving end of a minivan and had to spend some time at the vet for surgery. Right around sunset, a long howl/growl/moan could be heard coming from the shed. Now, I forgot to mention something: Liz's father always kept the shed locked, just in case, I don't know, tool-snatching aliens invaded. Nothing could have snuck into it because not ever Jabber could find any suitable holes. In addition to that little fact, there was also the issue of the howl going on for a good 3-4 minutes straight and sounding, if anything, like a large wildcat or possibly a crazy person. The pitch and volume varied, shifting erratically unlike the call of a frog or most animals in distress. This was just low and angry and feral. After it finished, Liz's father, armed with his hunting rifle, ventured out to unlock the shed and found it absolutely empty. To this day, they claim that the Bandersnatch was calling for Jabberwocky, angry that he wouldn't come out and play.
So these stories were nice and all, but I still failed to see what the big deal was. So her brother freaked out, so something had made a nest in the shed, so what? I demanded a real reason as to why the party of the century could not be held in the perfect spot! I pressed her for more information on the house, and reluctantly, she continued. I would get my answer alright. This was only the beginning.
The rain had stopped by this time, and I knew that if I was going to get more out of Liz, I'd have to get her out of the house. I proposed a stroll around the block to stretch our legs and give me a chance to view the shed. She happily agreed. For the record, I was expecting some sort of ancient wooden monster, but the shed was actually very well kept, padlocked, and sealed tight. No sightings of the Bandersnatch for me, unfortunately. As we strolled along, Liz became more emotional. It was as if she had been keeping all these stories bottled up inside of her for the longest time and now they were bursting out. Up next were the upstairs bathroom and the mirror.
Cue Theme from Psycho
The master bedroom had its own master bath, but the other two bedrooms upstairs had a bathroom situated between them. The bathroom was terrible. Liz always felt like she was being watched in the shower, handprints had a strange habit of appearing on the mirror for no reason ( "No, I will not show you."), and she and her mother had both been physically tripped while bathing her brother. Could they have slipped on the wet floor? No, apparently this was a hand shoving them face first into the tile. The lights also had a habit of turning off on their own during inopportune times, leaving whoever was unlucky enough to be in there in complete darkness. At one point Liz was home alone, lounging in her room. She distinctly heard the sounds of water running, complete with pipes clunking and such. After a bit, the water turned off, and someone or something started splashing and messing around in the bathtub. Liz slowly got up and stepped out into the hallway.
If only. The only response was more splashing, still audible in the hall. The bathroom door was cracked open and the light was on. With a display of more guts than I could ever have mustered, Liz crept up, reached out, and pushed the door open with her finger tips. As the door swung up, Liz got ready to bolt at any moment. The bathtub was completely empty.
Mirror, MirrorI don't mean to take any glory away from the famous TacoCriminal's blood mirror, but this bad boy could very well have duked it out for supremacy, were they ever given the chance. The monster hung in the hallway. It was old and had evidently been left by one of the former tenants (though no one would claim it). The damn thing actually had a few gauges in it (or if you used your imagination they could almost be scratch marks), but what would be powerful enough to beat that thing up like that is beyond the realm of my imagination. Still, mirrors have a habit of being spooky, right? No big deal.
"Have you ever actually looked at the glass?"
What? Well... No, now that I thought about it, I had never really looked into it. In fact, I found myself walking as far away from it as possible, my shoulder always brushing against the opposite wall. Apparently no one looked directly at the mirror, and it took them years to figure this out. When the bright idea of confronting the mirror ever popped into their heads, they suffered a full blown panic attack, hyperventilation and everything. Everyone in her family had nightmares about shit coming out of that thing, stuff I won't even go into because it'll give me nightmares. In fact, I'm blasting loud, up-beat, obnoxious music as I type this.
The thing was evil. I apologize for my vagueness, but that's the only word I can think of to describe it. No one had the courage to take it down, and for all I know, when Judgment Day rolls around, it'll still be hanging there. Really, who knows what slinks around on the other side of mirrors? Sure, it's just a little reflecting light, but tell that to all the stories and legends and whatnot. No, I never looked directly into that mirror, and you better believe I'm damn glad I didn't. I firmly believe I would have stared straight into hell.
If memory has blurred or will blur anything about these events, it won't be this. The memory of the two of us standing there with the house looming before us like some kind of sleeping giant is burned into my mind. It was as if the house were challenging us, and I was about to make a witty comment when I realized that Liz wasn't paying any attention to me. She looked smaller, you know? Sort of sunk into herself. She was staring up at the highest window of her house, the one that reminded me of an angry, black eye.
"It's the worst part. I don't know why, but it is."
The AtticI guess you'll have to take my word for it, but Liz's family was a rational bunch of people. They decided early on that they were going to stay in the house, both out of stubbornness and lack of money. They had filed the ghostly activity into two groups: "Creepy but Generally Harmless" (Tick-Tock and the Bandersnatch) and "There's Nothing We Can Do about It So Why Worry" (the upstairs bathroom and the mirror). As time passed, they got used to it, as most people do in such situations, and even started to joke about the oddities of the house.
Then the attic started up.
It began with pacing. Liz especially would hear something shuffling around at night, the ambling, wandering footsteps of something big. It usually traveled along a set path, but occasionally it would stop just above her head. On these occasions, she swore she could almost hear mumbling, though that could have been all in her head. After about a week of these sounds, Liz and her father gathered up the courage to go up and investigate. Their family only used the area closest to the trap door for storage, so the rest of the attic was bare except for the few remains that the other tenants had shoved near the little window. Incidentally, this was also the area where the shuffling took place. The closer they got to the window the colder it got (strange when everything else was baking during a pretty vicious heatwave), and they became more and more uneasy.
Next to the window they found piles of old junk, the most notable of which were a heavy, locked trunk and an old rocking chair. They found absolutely no evidence of vermin, and the thick layer of dust hadn't been disturbed in the least. After one more quick look at their surroundings, they quickly escaped down the stairs and securely shut the trap door behind them. For the sake of brevity, I'll sum up the attic like this: It started with shuffling, then scratching on the trap door, then wailing, and finally someone on the other side of the door would call out people's names and whisper. Her mother was so upset about the whole thing that she called their church to ask for help. I'm not sure that their preacher really believed them as they weren't exactly regulars at the church, and all he could suggest was to put up crosses in the house and read a few verses from the Bible. The crosses slowed down the activity, but apparently they had a habit of disappearing after awhile. The spirits, whoever or whatever they were, were there to stay.
You know that voice in the back of your mind that says, "This is not a good idea"? Well, I don't have that voice. I live to put myself in situations like this, and when I was younger I was five times worse. I was going to live forever, right? Nothing could do me any serious harm!
Now, you know that one scene in horror movies, the one where you're in the audiences thinking, "Walk away! Just walk away right now!" Yeah, this was that scene. It took me awhile, but I finally got her to agree on a small sleepover to find proof that these ghosts existed. There was a story just begging to be told here, and I was going to grab it. I was stupid. Oh man was I stupid.
The SleepoverSo now we come to the part you've all be waiting for: the sleepover. It took place after Liz's party (movie and dinner party, totally not as cool) and included Liz, myself, Katie, and Jessica. We were like the generic name squad. Here's what our amateur ghost hunting team brought to the house:
1) Flashlights - You'll see what happens to those.
2) Tape recorder - Batteries died and we had no more AAA
3) Junk food - Consumed to give us strength against the spirits
4) Caffeine - Did more harm than good. Keep reading and you'll understand.
5) Ouija Board - Because the Parker Brothers are obviously the masters of the occult
Oh yeah, we were set. We chose Liz's room as our base camp, and spent a little time getting a tour of the place and playing in the basement. Liz's parents and brother were in the house as well, but they stayed out of our way, allowing us chill and do girly things. Obviously, they had no idea we were here solely for the ghosts. If they had, we never would have been allowed to have the sleepover. Now, you have to give me some credit. I said, "No frikin' way!" to the Ouija idea. I don't like those things, I never have, and even I could see that busting one out in that house was bad news. Still, my friends pointed out that we were there to find ghosts, and I was stupid if I didn't go all the way. Even Liz was calling me a chicken, so I finally gave up and joined in.
We sat on the basement floor between the entertainment area and the foosball table (see the map I drew up). We brought out the tape recorder and pushed play but promptly found out that the batteries were dead. We pointed fingers and blamed stupidity, but after reading incarna's thread, maybe it wasn't our fault. At any rate, we didn't have a spare set of AAAs, and asking Liz's parents would have been too risky. We decided to proceed without it.
There was plenty of giggling and horsing around. We had "Elvis" make a guest appearance, along with "Ur Mom." Nothing much came of it, but I can't help but feel like our insults and mockery stirred something up. We soon abandoned our divining for video games and Mountain Dew. The real fireworks weren't going to happen until much later that night.
* * * * *
"CJ, are you awake?"
No, go away.
"C'mon, I have to pee, and I don't want to go alone!"
I shot Katie a pretty evil look, but the truth was that I hadn't been sleeping too well (bad dreams), and I really didn't care about escorting her. I grabbed my trusty flashlight, as we crawled out of our sleeping bags and made our way as silently as possible into the hall.
I don't really know how to say this, but the house had changed. The shadows seemed unnaturally thick, and things were almost too silent, as if all sound were being muffled by some invisible barrier, I my pitiful flashlight just didn't seem to want to penetrate the shadows. Katie was so spooked that I had to argue against standing in the bathroom with her. In the end, she left the door cracked, and I stood on the side farthest away from the mirror and the trap door. Things were going fine until my flashlight died. I started to shiver as the temperature dropped, and that's when I heard it.
Footsteps, but not coming from the hallway. These were shuffling steps moving from directly over my head to the trap door. The shadows at that end of the hallway seemed to deepen, and I decided to keep my eyes locked on the space directly in front of me. Next came the scratching. When animals scratch, the sound is usually lighter and fast. This was heavy and slow, obviously the sound of nails on wood. It repeated a few times before I told Katie to hurry the hell up and get out.
"I'm coming! Will you chill out already?"
Easy for her it say. She wasn't the one out here with the demon in the attic. It was at this point that time seemed to slow down, and I heard the sound that still haunts my dreams from time to time.
Oh no. No, no, no, that was not coming from the attic.
"Pssst! Hey! Come here!"
This was a sick joke. It had to be. Ghosts did not talk to people, especially not me!
"Look, just open the door. C'mon, please, please, please..."
Fat chance, buddy. I started singing a song in my head, hoping to make the voice go away.
"I know you're there! OPENTHISDOORRIGHTNOWBEFOREICOMEDOWNTHEREANDTEARYOURFUCKINGHEADOFF!"
I don't know what the voice was. It could have been a joke, I guess, but it was a really, really sick one. I don't know if any of you have ever had the pleasure of being near someone who is truly unstable, but there is a certain twinge their voices get when they are really off their rockers. This voice had that feral twinge, and something like that is really hard to fake well. Hell, I was fooled.
I heard the blessed sound of the toilet flushing, and Katie came walking out of the bathroom. She saw my face and asked me what was wrong, and I told her to listen, that something was in the attic. We waiting a few seconds, but before she could call me a liar, we heard a muffled bumping noise. In all my paranoia, I was sure it was the attic door being pounded in. "That's not the attic. That's the mirror!"
She was right. From where we were, we could just barely make out the mirror bumping against the wall. To say that we ran out of there is the understatement of the century. We shot down those stairs so fast, I swear we were flying. We only had a few moments to stand in the foyer and wonder what to do next before we heard the growling and moaning coming from down the hall. The playroom. The sounds were coming from the playroom. Determined to face whatever was tormenting us, I made my way to the end of the hall with Katie close behind me. We clutched each other's hands and opened the door, preparing to come face to face with the yowling demons infesting our friend's home.
It was Jabberwocky, pacing in front of the door. I'm completely against the harming of animals, but I swear I wanted to kill that stupid cat. I told Katie that he probably wanted to be let out as I nearly dragged her into the room. I think I was a little too optimistic. Jabber's fur was standing on end, and his ears were flat against his head. He was pretty worked up, and I was deciding whether or not I should get any closer to him when the door shut behind us. I asked Katie why she shut it, and, of course, she hadn't. Jabber made himself as small as possible as he crouched against the door, his pupils nearly engulfing the rest of his eyes. Everything went completely still, and I think I actually held my breath.
Then things went batshit.
Every single toy in that playroom turned on by itself. Teddy Whatshisface, Tickle Me Elmo, the robot dude who does math, all of them were yammering away.The little TV used to play kiddie videos turned on full blast and started to (hell, I really don't know how to say it exactly) manual fast forward through whatever tape was in it (I think 101 Dalmatians). Katie and I did what any red-blooded American girl would do in a situation like this: We screamed bloody murder and sprang for the door. I swear I almost had a heart attack when it refused to open, but thankfully Katie had the sense to turn the lock and set us free. We sort of collapsed in the back yard and started bawling for no reason. We just sat their clutching each other as the dew soaked our PJs, trembling and sobbing. I like to imagine that even back then I was not that big a baby. It's always taken a lot to make me shed a tear, and even something like that was not going to send me into hysterics. I felt like I was suddenly overcome with anger and terror and immense sorrow.
Let me put it this way: The next time I would cry like that in front of my friend would be a few years later in Katie's hospital room after she lost the fight to viral meningitis. (Right after she was accepted in LSU on an athletic scholarship too. Life's a bitch, know what I mean?) Still, even in our pitiful state, we faired much better than the other members of our ghost hunting team.
Now, at that time I thought that our screams had just been incredibly loud. She was a swimmer and I had been taking voice lessons for about two years, so we had some lungs on us. This, however, was not the case. Our screams sounded loud to me because at that point Liz, Jess, and Sam all woke up screaming in unison. Jess was so upset that she bolted for the bathroom and vomited, and I'm not talking about a little dry-heaving either. Apparently this was the kind of soul-purging puking that makes you wonder when you last had that Chinese food. Also (and I can attest to this) she was covered in scratches.
Jabber was downstairs with us. The family had no other pets. If she inflicted those wounds on herself, what would make her do such a thing? Jess never told us. The most Liz's parents and later her own family could get out of her was something about a nightmare and not feeling very well. It was Liz, during on of our last conversations together, who finally told me. I can't explain it, but this part is always hard for me to tell, and what with that whole rule against drunk posting, the going is going to be rough from here on out. You'll have to forgive me if the writing goes to shit.
Liz had been through nightmares about the mirror before, but nothing like this. In her dream, she saw the mirror. She said it began to jump, much like it had before were made a run for it. Apparently a man had "spider-walked" out of the mirror. She said his arms and legs were bent at all the wrong angles, and he moved fast and jerky like in the movies when they mess with the film speed. He came into her room, got onto her bed, pinned her down, and started laughing like a maniac. As he laughed, he transformed into something that she refused to describe, but I suspect was pretty damn disturbing. Whatever it was, it had a mouth full of sharp teeth, and she woke up just before it could use them.
She was shaking as she told me this. She actually said, "I don't know what it did to Jess." As she wiped the tears from her eyes (and if I'm making this up, someone better refund me about a month's worth of sleepless nights) I thought I saw bruises on her wrists. It was at the point I decided, if you'll pardon my French, to never go back to that fucking house ever again.
So that's the story. What happened to us afterward? Well, rumors say that Jess became an insomniac and started taking medication after her sleep deprivation pushed her to a nervous breakdown. I can neither confirm nor deny this as she never looked any of us in the face again. Katie and I stayed friends long after this happened, but I told you about her earlier. Like I said, Liz and I had a falling out after this, I think because she and her parents blamed me for what happened that night, with good reason, I guess. I honestly hope they moved out of that house because whatever was in there was not going to stop. As for me, I moved (for the last time) at the end of the summer.
After all this time, you'd think curiosity might get the better of me. You'd think while visiting friends and relatives in that area, I might go look up that house, drive by a few times, maybe even ring the doorbell and ask if the current family happens to possess a certain antique mirror. However, there are some things even the wildest internet cowgirl won't do. Sometimes, it's just better to let things rest in peace.
Cellar DoorAdd me to the list people with strange, creepy basement stories.
Even today, just hearing the word "basement" still sends a slight shiver down my spine, even though it's been about 35 years since the events in my childhood memories occurred. The word "cellar" provokes a similar response in me, although to a slightly lesser degree.
In the movie "Donnie Darko", Drew Barrymore's character claims that a famous linguist (it was actually J.R.R. Tolkien) once said that the phrase "Cellar Door" is the most beautiful combination of words in the English language.
Well, he was wrong for saying it in the first place, and she was wrong for repeating it and perpetuating the idea that the phrase is somehow beautiful. It's not. It's downright disturbing.
FUCK THAT, and FUCK HER, and FUCK THAT MOVIE and FUCK TOLKIEN (even though I really did actually like the movie, and Tolkien). Fuck ALL of them right up the ass for using that phrase.
"Cellar Door" is, to me, one of the scariest possible combination of words.
Another goon, (stinkles1112) posted a 'basement' description earlier, which seems very apt - I'd like to quote an excerpt from that post:
Also, there was a basement which had the whole "evil presence" thing going on. My mother flat out refused to go in there after the first time she did, and that was during broad daylight. My father only did with the door open and every light in the vicinity on. I remember vividly the feeling of abject terror I felt the one time, to my memory, that I went in there, not the kind of scared you feel when you're a kid and your mom turns the light out and shuts your room door, but the kind of scared you feel when every horror movie you've ever seen comes to life and coagulates in the form of suffocating, total darkness punctuated by a hundred eyes all staring at you with a deep burning hatred.
This is a very good (if understated) description of the feelings invoked. There are some differences; stinkles' basement was cold and seemed to affect everyone, while mine was warm and only affected children. Still, there are enough similarities to make me wonder if our basements may have been siblings born from the very same hell, or perhaps they were even connected at a deeper level; some twisted "dionaea basement" in which each of them was only a small part of a larger entity.
OK, That's enough of that particular rant - Here we go, to the much longer ranting....
It's going to be a long story, filled with many irrelevant details that serve no real purpose other than to demonstrate how clearly I remember it; how it has burned itself into my mind.
I don't know how many of you are prepared to read the rambling, incoherent ravings of a madman recounting events from the lunacy of his childhood memories, so at this point you have two choices:
(a) Skip my post and proceed to the next one; there is no "tl;dr"
(b) Sit back, relax, settle in, and prepare yourself for the ride.
Introduction & back-story
As I mentioned before, my basement story is along the same lines as the "evil presence" mentioned in the post I quoted above. It's quite a bit more complicated than the other basement story back on page 3, where Crotch Apples reported hearing strange noises only to discover that the noises were the result of a brother making out with girls.
I'm not saying that there weren't strange noises - there absolutely were, although just how strange is debatable. In retrospect, they may have been (and probably were) perfectly mundane "basement noises", but they did add an element of extra creepiness.
Noises like the occasional erratic metallic 'clink' or 'thunk' sound of pipes being tapped on. A steady 'bloop' at about 10-second intervals, suggesting a drip from some unseen leak. The sound of rushing water. All of those were likely just plumbing issues. Less frequently, I would hear a low 'moaning' sound, which quite probably was just wind somehow entering from outside, or circulating in some plumbing vents.
Looking back, there are many completely rational explanations for such noises, and it's likely that every old basement in every old house makes noises like these. At the time though, in my young mind, they were unfathomably ominous warning sounds. The erratic 'clink' and 'thunk' tapping noises were intentional, and were designed to stimulate my curiosity; drawing me down into the basement to investigate. The dripping 'bloop' noises were maddeningly loud - much louder than they had any right to be - and were similarly intended to lure me down in the hopes of shutting off whatever infernal faucet was open. The rushing water noises only served to confuse me, but the moaning....
Oh, the moaning - Thankfully, it wasn't as constant as the tapping or the drip, but nevertheless it was horrific. It both drew me and repelled me at the same time. I didn't know if it was the call of someone who needed my help (perhaps the last victim who had made the unwise decision to enter that pit), or if it was a chorus of all the voices of previous victims, warning me to stay away.
To make it worse, none of the noises sounded entirely real - They all had an artificial quality, like sound-effects from a movie - Like shaking a piece of sheet-metal to re-create the sound of thunder, or clapping coconut-halves together for the sound of a horse galloping. I could never (and still can't) quite place my finger on it, but something about the noises was always very 'off'. The 'not-quite-right' feeling inherent in the sound may have been due to the shape/acoustics of the room. All sounds coming through the door from below the staircase seemed to be amplified, and a short echo/delay ambiance was applied before the sound waves reached my ears.
I didn't understand concepts like 'acoustics' at the time. Maybe the alteration of the sounds were simply due to acoustics of the room, causing the sound waves to resonate in such an unusual fashion....
But then again, maybe the sounds were altered intentionally to disguise their artificiality. Hearing the noises through the open door at the top of the staircase created the feeling that the noises just somehow didn't belong. As if they had actually originated from some other source, elsewhere in the universe, but had been transported into the basement through some rift in space-time. When the door was shut, the noises could (mercifully) no longer be heard at all. The door didn't muffle the noises, but canceled them out altogether.
The story begins...
During my childhood, my family moved around a lot. My father worked for a government agency that would transfer him to different locations on a fairly regular basis. Every year or two, we'd be in a different city or state, moving into a new home.
I was probably about 7 years old when we moved into the house with "the haunted basement". Perhaps "haunted" isn't even the right word to use - It was never really clear to me whether the basement itself was alive, or if something else, something very evil, was residing within the basement. I suppose the distinction is meaningless, because whatever it might have been, it's energy was always focused in that one particular part of the house.
I'm not certain exactly when, how or why I came to the conclusion that it was haunted. Only that it terrified me to my very core.
At some point within the first week of moving into this new house (before I had become aware of IT), my natural inclinations toward exploring led me toward the basement, just to play around, as children are often wont to do. At the time, the basement was new to me - it was (in my mind) 'unexplored territory', and I was a discoverer.
I was a young child, and I didn't know any better - It wasn't until much later that I realized it's a bad idea to intrude into areas where something might prefer to be left alone - a sleeping beast is best left undisturbed - once awoken, the beast will behave in a manner consistent with it's beastly nature.
Whatever force it was, it had decided I was unwelcome, and I somehow, instinctively knew it didn't want me around. I got the impression that it didn't like me very much at all - or perhaps it did. Maybe it liked me a little too much.
The door to the basement was just outside of the kitchen, in a small utility room/entryway around the corner from the pantry closet. The door's handle was on the left, and hinges on the right. It opened inward toward the stairs, where there was about a 4-foot long platform before the staircase descended along the left wall. Thinking back on it, this was a pretty poor design and potentially dangerous to someone who might have been coming up the stairs. The door opening at the wrong moment could easily knock someone down the staircase, or plummeting over the railing. Of course, I never thought about such things at the time. There was a light-switch on the left wall just inside the door.
From the doorway at the top of the staircase I couldn't actually see much of the basement, even if I flipped on the light-switch. The light illuminated the stairs well enough, but not much of the basement itself. That godforsaken room seemed to be shrouded in perpetual darkness. I could just barely make out the shape of the washing machine at the far right of my field of view.
The basement stank, as well. Standing atop the stairs, I could smell a very unpleasant musty odor and feel hot, dank air emanating up from within those murky depths. I could also feel a presence, like it was both sentient and secretive. It knew something I didn't, and it wouldn't reveal it's dark secrets unless I went down and succumbed to it's clutches. At times, it seemed only to be playfully mischievous, trying to coax me in. At other times there was no mistaking that it basement had wicked, malevolent intentions.
I never actually even set foot inside it; I was too frightened. Just looking down into it, I could feel the small hairs all over my body standing on end, as if even my very skin could sense the danger that lurked within that subterranean crypt, awaiting my arrival. I distinctly remember standing in the doorway at the top of the stairs, staring down into the emptiness, the dark abyss of the unknown and unknowable, desperately trying to muster up enough courage to descend into what I was convinced must be a magical portal to some other world; simultaneously wondrous and terrifying.
I could never do it. Fear would paralyze me before I could take even the first step down that foreboding staircase. I would stand there in complete and utter horror, sweating, on the verge of tears, until eventually something would snap and I'd regain just enough control of myself to run away. And run, I did. Every single time.
Eventually, my fear of the basement (and whatever unimaginable evils lurked within) extended to even the doorway which lead to that monstrous room. I began to avoid even the door to the basement, as if getting to close to the door would cause me to be sucked in, where I would surely suffer unspeakable atrocities. I would do my best to keep at least five feet away from that malignant, venomous doorway.
Much like any other child, I had friends who would come to visit, play, or have the occasional sleepover. On a few occasions (when my parents weren't around, or weren't paying attention) I would dare my friends to enter the basement. None of them ever did. I never told them exactly why the basement was a scary place (and to be honest, I really didn't understand it myself - I still don't).
They all seemed very willing to take the dare, but as they approached the door they always faltered. One of them (Paul) came closer than most; and (admittedly) closer than I ever had - He walked down the stairway to almost the halfway point, where he froze. Solid. After a moment, he turned and bolted back up the the stairs. He didn't stop once he reached the kitchen, either. He kept running straight through, and locked himself in the bathroom for 10 or 15 minutes. When he finally came out he was sweating, shaking all over, and unable to maintain eye-contact - with anyone - for the rest of the night. He refused to talk about it.
My parents seemed to think that he might be ill, and they called his parents to express their concerns. I don't know exactly what transpired in that phone call, but I guess it was decided that everything was OK, because Paul's parent's didn't come pick him up. At least, not right then.
In the middle of the night, Paul woke me up and said that he had to go home. I told him to shut up. I wanted to go back to sleep. He started crying and babbling about wanting to go home. After a little while, the noise woke my parents up. It was tremendously embarrassing to me - I was sure they'd never allow another sleepover after this kid woke them up in the middle of the night with his blubbering. After all, he was my friend, I was the one who invited him here, and now he's causing problems, interrupting their sleep. They told me it was OK, sometimes kids get scared for no reason. They said the best thing to do would be to let him call home, and maybe it would help him to feel better.
My father made the phone call. He woke Paul's mother, and explained (as best he could) the situation to her. Then he gave the phone to Paul. Paul immediately started crying, the moment the phone was put into his hand. He begged his mother to come pick him up, that he needed to go home... I can still hear the tone in his voice, and the way he stretched out the vowel "e" in the word "need" and the "o" in "home". He told us all that was feeling sick, but he couldn't look any of us in the eye, and I could see the look of abject terror on his face. I knew it was the basement that had frightened him away from my house. I felt bad for daring him to go down there. He wound up gathering the few belongings he had brought with him, and my father drove him home.
Paul and I never spoke much after that - It was almost like we weren't friends anymore, for some reason. Over the short course of time that I lived there, I'd see him at school and he'd usually avert his gaze, as though there was some unspoken thing which he didn't want to acknowledge. In any case, we were never really friends again after that, he seemed to get very uncomfortable around me and distanced himself - In fact, I don't think I ever saw him have any friends at all for the rest of the time I went to school there.
It's not really pertinent to the story, but a few years ago, my mother sent me an email containing a web-link to a news story about Paul - She'd stayed in contact with his parents throughout the years. As it turned out, Paul had grown up (as we all do), married a very nice woman, and had 2 children. He also got a job as a schoolteacher in the same town and school district where I first met him.
Apparently at some point while he was teaching third-grade students, Paul developed an unhealthy liking of 9-yr-old girls. One of his students had come forward with allegations of molestation, and she was quickly followed by several other girls he had taught. While he was awaiting trial on multiple charges, he died from a self-administered rapid overdose of lead poisoning delivered directly to his brain via the barrel of a shotgun.
Grown-ups didn't know
Judging from the reactions of every single one of my childhood friends who ever came into close contact with the basement, we children seemed to be (in some fashion) attuned to the presence of whatever was lurking within it. We could sense it, even though adults were entirely unaware of it, and thus unaffected.
My parents never showed any signs of being frightened by the basement at all. I never mentioned my fear to them for a variety of (completely illogical and nonsensical) reasons that I'll attempt to explain later.
Occasionally, I'd see my mother coming up from the basement; usually carrying a hamper full of clean laundry. I was in complete awe of how courageous she was, to have willingly gone into (and surprisingly, returned safely from) that abomination beneath the house. I don't recall ever seeing her enter the basement, only seeing her return. I may have just 'blacked-out' any memory of seeing her enter, as the thought would have been too traumatic for my young mind to cope with.
I'd like to think that if I'd seen her entering that dreadful tomb, I would have warned her not to go, even pleaded with her if necessary. Truth is, I probably wouldn't have. I would probably have been too afraid to voice my objections, knowing that the basement might hear me. I knew that it was evil, and I knew that it was dangerous, yet I had the suspicion that just maybe, it didn't know that I knew. Somehow, my intuition told me that I'd be safer if I didn't let it find out that I knew about it. As long as it didn't know I was aware of it, I could avoid it - but if it found out that I knew, it would have to get rid of me.
For the rest of the time that we lived in that house, I avoided that door like some demonic infectious disease that was absolutely, without-any-doubt, determined to destroy me (or worse). As I said before, I didn't mention my fear to my parents or anyone else. Using my childhood logic, saying it out-loud might awaken "the bad thing" and bring it directly to me, like some unearthly spectral dog-whistle. It seemed to be confined to the basement (for now), perhaps it was even trapped there and unable to come out. Speaking of it aloud might be like "calling it's name", which could free it from it's underground prison and allow it to come for me. I tried my best to hide my fear, because I somehow knew that if my parents found out about that fiendishly diabolical and loathsome entity, then the basement would be forced to deal with them, as well. As old superstitions go, saying something out loud calls it to you, and telling someone else brings it to them.
Looking back on it, I suppose they had to know how frightened I was even though I never told them. I don't think they could have possibly not noticed how consciously I avoided that door, and how quickly I moved when I did have to walk by it.
Relief at last
After about a year, we moved out of that house and to a different state. I still remember that basement (well, what little of it I ever actually saw) in great detail, and I'll never forget how I would become consumed by sheer terror whenever I came into close proximity to it.
Update - More recent times
A couple of years ago while I was visiting my mother, we were talking and something reminded me of all this. I don't remember what, exactly. I don't even remember what the topic of conversation was at the time, most likely something inconsequential, but something she said, or something I said, or perhaps something on TV reminded me (all it usually takes is hearing the word "basement").
In an off-handed sort of way, I mentioned it to her. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I remember being shocked by the way she reacted to it. What I said was probably something mostly innocuous, like "remember when I was little, how scared I was of the basement".
She just stared at me blankly, with a very strange look on her face, and didn't say anything all. After a few seconds (not your usual 'few seconds' - these were seconds that felt like days, or perhaps weeks - timeless, infinite seconds during which I became increasingly uncomfortable), when the silence had reached a deafening crescendo and my discomfort level had peaked, I tried to change the subject. She wouldn't allow that. To my horror, she only stared at me quizzically and asked me to repeat myself. The remainder of the conversation proceeded something like this:
"What did you just say?"
"Ah - mmm, nevermind, it's nothing - just thinking out loud."
"No, you weren't - What did you just say?"
"I'm going to get another cup of coffee - do you want one?"
"Stop avoiding my question - I want to know what you meant - Something about the basement?"
"It's not important, really"
"I was just saying how much it scared me when I was little."
- [blank stare from mom] -
"I was really glad when we moved out of that house."
- [blank stare from mom] -
"It's silly, I know."
"We've never had a basement."
Of course, I didn't believe her. I even argued with her a little. I described the door, the stairway, the noises... All to no avail.
I tried reminding her of the night that Paul came for a sleepover, and how he had awoken so frightened that he refused to stay - she remembered the night, but she insisted that Paul had just gotten sick.
I mentioned that the laundry machines were in the basement - She simply had to remember it; she'd been down there many times. She refused to hear any part of it - She remembered the small utility room outside the kitchen, but according to her, the laundry machines had been located in that room, and there was no door leading to a downward staircase. After a very frustrating conversation, it seemed that there was simply no way I would ever be able to make her remember, and she seemed to give up on trying to convince me.
Later that evening, she brought out an old photo album. She sat down with me and went through photos of every house we had lived in while I was growing up. Photos of every location we had ever moved to, every city and state. She could tell me what years we lived in each home and how old I was at the time. She wanted me to point out which house I was talking about. I couldn't identify which particular house it had been. Although I could narrow it down to two possible houses based simply on my age at the time, neither one of them looked like the right house from my memory. The pictures were all familiar to me, I remembered the houses, but I couldn't place precisely which one of them it had been since none of them looked quite right. She could narrow it down to one particular house; being that it was the town where we had met Paul's family. She swore that it didn't have a basement, nor did ANY home we'd EVER lived in.
I sometimes wonder if perhaps the basement managed to somehow erase itself from her memory - Of course that would mean that it had altered my memory as well, rendering me unable to identify the house in which it dwelt, and thus preventing me from ever disclosing it's whereabouts.
I try not to think about it too much, or too often, and I've once again decided that I probably shouldn't ever tell this story out loud.
Rationally, I realize that there's no real danger in vocalizing any of this, but a part of me still thinks that there just might be. I have nothing to gain by saying it out loud, but I also stand to lose nothing by remaining silent about it just in case it can still hear me.
Drain LadyMy father was a military man. Retired back in '95 from the Navy after 20 years of proud service to our country. But before that, we moved often... every 3-4 years or thereabouts we'd pack up and get shipped somewhere new. Early 1989, a wonderful opportunity arose and dad took it. A 16 hour flight later, and we were stationed at N.A.S Sigonella, Sicily. I guess I was about, ohhh 10 or 11 at the time. Those years were blurred save those pinpricks of memory that still haunt me. That still plague my dreams from time to time.
Our first home there was an apartment in a complex called "Bellavista" far from the Naval base. There was a waiting list to move into Base Housing that generally ran for about a year and a half's wait. Until your time to move, you had to live amongst the locals wherever you could. Bellavista was a beautiful place... we lived on the upper floor of the complex and had a wonderful view of the countryside off our back balcony. At night, one could look up at the night sky and see a thin trail of fiery red lava slowly ebbing from still active Mt. Etna. And in the morning, everything left out in the open was often found to be blanketed ever so slightly in volcanic ash, almost like a light dusting of snow.
But naturally, as perfectly nice as Bellavista was, it wasn't meant for us for long. The lnadlord's daughter was pregnant, engaged... and homeless. Guess who got the boot? So we moved, with the landlord's assistance, into another home. Motta S. Anastasia, a little cobblestone-streeted town near Catania, and much closer to the Navy base. The day we drove up to the new place, I felt ill. Of course, nothing was thought of this at the time, but I'd swear in retrospect I was being told something. The place was a 3 story house with an apartment on each floor. I really don't remember the neighbors, but both were similarly Navy families. And I can imagine I pissed them off a lot with the screaming.
Dad unlocked the door and proceeded into the small entryway. The cobblestone street gave way to a marbled floor entrance and a matching set of marble stairs up to the second floor, which was our new home. The place was stunningly beautiful. Marble floors... glass french doors into the living room area... balconies attached to nearly every room, save the one that was to be mine. Claw foot bathtub...bidet... all the modern conveniences expected of a home in Europe.
I walked into the room that was going to be mine. Small, simple, square and quite cold. To the left, at the end of the wall was a door covered with a "persiana." Basically, a form of window blinds made from heavy horizontal flaps that was operated via a cloth strap attached to the wall. I pulled it up to see that the door was mostly glass and beyond it was a very small "room" lined with brick along the floor and walls. I opened the door and stepped into the room and looked up to discover the room extended all the way up through the third floor and up to a hole in the roof. There was no covering on the hole either... it went straight into open air. The shaft allowed a fair amount of light to shine into the only room in the house without a window in it, which I thought was pretty damn cool initially.
The chill seemed to come from the room, despite the glaring sun nearly directly overhead. It was then I heard the first whispers. Like... if you were to take a wire brush and softly rub the stiff bristles against your jeans. At the time, I attributed it to echoes off the brick... but I couldn't help but feel weird about it. It wasn't coming from any discernable direction or source... but it surrounded me like a blanket, as if sound could be tangible and touchable. It pressed in gently on my ears like pressure on an aircraft ascending or descending. I turned to leave and I noticed a glinting drain in the middle of the floor. It was obviously for rainwater to drain away but my nausea increased when I saw it. My stomach gnawed at itself as I ran out of there and I swear I saw the drain cover jiggle a bit on my way out. I lowered the persiana quickly and rejoined the family in the living room, shaking and sick as a dog.
Now granted... a little brick room was far from the norm for paranormal ghosty stuff. But try telling that to whatever was in there. Christ. For weeks and weeks, I'd get up the nerve to open the persiana in broad daylight and risk a peek... only to stumble back from the door sick as all hell to my stomach and trembling. I tried telling my parents of course... but an 11 year old's ramblings about a scary brick room generally get chalked up to too many "Freddy" and "Jason" movies. The whisperings rarely stopped at night. They were persistent from the time I laid down until I finally forced myself into slumber. Often, I'd wake up in the middle of the night to silence, and then the whisperings would start up again, as if it was waiting to make sure I was awake.
There was never any real words to the whispering... just a hollow "ksssh sshhhaww hissssshhhhh haaahhh ooooshhhh aaashhhhh" that seemed to repeat, but never in the same cadence. There was no emotion behind it either that I can remember. It wasn't angry, it wasn't sad nor happy. Just there. Always fucking there.
One night, after about 2 months of this, I was awoken by a particularly horrifying dream. I seemed to start having those dreams after we moved in... I had never had constant nightmares prior. But I awoke from the dream with the feeling that something was terribly, terribly wrong. Immediately my eyes darted to the door... and saw that the persiana was up. Now, European goons with experience, back me up... Persianas are about the noisiest damn things to have in a house. They're generally metal slats hooked in with metal hooks that grind and squeak loudly in protest as they're pulled open. There was no way in hell that the persiana, which was always closed, could have been opened without waking up everyone in the house. But sure enough, it was open about 3/4 of the way up the damned door. A bit of moonlight reflected off the bricks in the shaft and into my room with a dull bluish tone. I lay there for hours, paralyzed in my bed, but unable to look away from the door, lest there be something there when I looked back. Eventually, I just conked out...
The next morning crept up finally and I was freed from my paralysis. I ran to the door amidst a wave of nausea and pulled the persiana shut as fast as I could. There was a light dusting of volcanic ash on the brick floor and I'd swear I could make out footprints or scuffing in it. Mom, still asleep at the time, yelled at me from across the hall after hearing the noise, but I couldn't care less.
Over the course of the next 3 months, it was the same routine. The whisperings never faltered. The persiana would be found at least 2 to 3 times a week opened, and the blackness of the room would stare out at me in my bed. Then one night, it was different. I still have nightmares of this incident and it makes me cringe and want to curl up in a ball still whenever I conjure it up. I had awoken again in the midst of a terrible nightmare. And sure enough, the persiana was up, but this time it was all the way up. The moonlight was barely filtering in that night, but I'd swear I could make out something there in the room. It felt like I was at just the right angle for me to see whatever it was, and if I were to move the slightest bit, I'd lose sight of it. It was a small sphere that shimmered like a soap bubble does. But it was so faint I could barely make it out. I watched as it hovered there for the longest time. It began to shrink like some TVs used to do when you turned them off... shrink into a tiny dot of light.
But before it winked out, it flashed and expanded. It did so at an alarmingly fast rate and solidified into the form of a woman. She looked to be in her early to mid thirties, dark curly hair... definitely a local Sicilian. When she became "whole" and a solid image, she began shrieking and pounding on the glass doors with both fists. Her head swiveled wrong on her neck, shaking back and forth like if you put a teakettle on a stick and shook the stick around. Her eyes were completely black and full of anger and hatred... The skin around her mouth flapped loosely, giving me glimpses of her teeth and tongue and her hair was tossing around violently. Some sort of liquid oozed in small spurts from the corners of her mouth and flecks of whatever it was flew as she shrieked. Her screaming was horrific and nonsensical, and all I could do was scream back. My dad charged into the room to my bed, thinking I was having a nightmare. She shrank back from the door and... ugh. She slithered down the drain somehow. She twisted and distorted and I'd swear I could hear her bones splintering and cracking as she wound herself down into it. It was awful and to this day, dad says he's never heard anyone scream so inhumanly before. I often ask him jokingly if he meant from me or her.
The PatchFrankly, I do not expect this to be believed. But I'm going to tell it anyway, simply because its been weighing upon my mind lately. I ran into Flash last weekend, who was back in town, and he spoke to me about it.
Knowledge of the physical environment is essential to an LEO in Patrol. It is one reason why seniority counts for a great deal in this line of work-the longer you work a given juridiction, the better you know it. And locals who become police officers quickly learn that growing up in an area does not mean you truely know it.
Part of it, is that an LEO, unlike most people, has no perception of private or personal space. We can go anywhere, given correct circumstances. And because of that, a great deal of 'idle time' or 'routine patrol' is spent exploring. Can you get a patrol car through the gap in this fence? Where does that track lead? Is there a way to get from this parking lot to another? If you walk this easement or power-line access, what will you see?
This is essential, because at some point this knowledge can mean shaving thirty seconds off a response time, or catching a fleeing subject.
In every police jurisdiction of any size, in my experience, there is always at least one strange place. Not the spots you take rookies and play Find the Mud Hole, or the crime scenes you use to scare Explorers, but the real thing. The places that nobody talks about much. The places you don't find out about until you have to go there. The places you go to only if you have to.
We have a place that is sometimes called the Patch. Its about thirty-five acres of very broken ground covered in scrub oak on the edge of town, completely isolated from everywhere else, out beyond an old brick plant that now makes clay pots. Nothing, as far as I can tell, have ever been built there, nor is it really good for anything. Its at the base of the tall ridge that currently marks the west boundry of our burg, cut by numerous gullies, and whose red-clay soil is about useless from growng anything.
The City seized it for taxes back in 1932 from a land company; it was listed as 'waste land' (no commercial use) back then.
Its really a strange place. I've been on search teams across it six times in eleven years, and every time I've been on it, it creeps me out. It gave me the willies when I first explored it shortly after being cut loose on my own; you can't get a car very deep into it, and frankly, a short walk on foot into it gave me such a bad feeling I never went back without a reason. It wasn't until about eighteen months later that I learned that I was not alone in my reaction to the place.
One factual thing that bothers me about the place, is that I get lost in it. I have, since I was old enough to think about such things, an unerring instinct about the direction north. I can always find it. Night time, snowstorms, forest, whatever; give me a few seconds to concentrate, and I know which direction north is. Even the desert, which screws many people up, never bothered me. And the Army taught me land nav to a fine degree; I've run compass courses with multiple dog-legs and hit my target location every time, even on featureless terrtain such at Fort Hood, where one bit of scrub is identical to every other bit.
But every time I've been in the Patch, I've gotten turned around. In broad daylight, with a ridgeline a quarter-mile away that is only a couple degrees off a true north-south axis. After the first search, I started taking a compass with me.
Near the center of the Patch is a structure we call the Playhouse. Its a building made out of sheets of old galvanized tin nailed to thick posts and four-by fours, with a dirt floor. We call it the Playhouse because there is absolutely no rationale for its positioning or design; firstly, you can't get a vehicle larger than an ATV or dirt bike to it due to washouts and gullies; maybe a jacked-up 4x4 if it was dry and you really did not care about your paint job.
Secondly, because the place is big (about 3000 square feet, as near as we can tell), but has no purpose. There's no animal pens near it, nothing; just a wood framework with tin nailed to it, no tar on the roof-seams, no doors (but several door-way sized openings), no windows at all. Inside its split into at least a dozen 'rooms' by either more tin sheets, or partitions made out of old packing crates from the railroad. Some of the rooms are completely isolated from the exterior walls.
There is no logic or reason to how the rooms are laid out; several have openings that are barely 3' high. It reminds you of how kids put together a fort or treehouse.
Except that this one has cut-down telephone poles for roof supports set several feet into the ground. Whatever else you can say about it, someone built it to last.
There no junk or litter about the PH, and no grafftti; while its not very obvious, its been there since before the City seized the place, and with all the generations of kids, you would expect some beer-drinking, ghost-hunting, or general spray-can antics.
Nor is there any sign of animals taking advantage of the shelter, nor have I seen any bird's nests, although hornet's nests and mud daubers are present.
And it smells odd. That's all I can say about it: it smells different than what I think it should. This has been commented on by others, as well. No specific odor. Just odd.
And flashlights fail in it. Yes, flashlights fail everywhere, but flashlights seem to fail a lot more in it than anywhere else. $70 Streamlight Stingers that are City-issue and have reliable rechargeable batteries go abruptly dead in there. And not in the usual fashion, the light going yellow for twenty minutes, getting dimmer and dimmer until they just fade away; rather, going from hard white light to dead in a minute's span. When you carry the same light every day for years, you know its battery in detail. Yet many of us have been caught by an unexpected dead battery in the Playhouse.
Some time in the past, we were searching for a missing girl. It was likely that she had been carried off by a recent high water after massive cloud burst (10" in ten hours), but foul play was also a possibility, for reasons best unrelated. A search was mounted. I was tasked with taking two officers and checking the area around the old brick plant and the Patch.
I had two veteran officers, both entry team members and well-known to me; call them MD and Flash. They readily accepted my suggestion that we change into tactical gear in order to protect our uniforms from the brush; to be frank, I was less concerned with the brush, than for having an excuse to bring my MP-5 along. I wasn't alone in that, as unbidden, both Flash & MD got their shotguns out of the arms room. Flash had a 14" pump, and MD a Benneli semi-auto.
We searched the Patch first; and although all three of us were carefully keeping track of where we were in a place we had all been in before, we managed to get well and truely turned around twice in the space of ninety minutes.
It took us a lot longer than it should have to search the area, because frankly, we weren't splitting up. At all. Anywhere else, we would have been twenty to thirty feet apart walking on line. Here, we stuck together. We had been on other search teams which had gotten got hopelessly jumbled and separated in the Patch before.
It was late afternoon when we went to the Playhouse. The sky was completely overcast, the color of lead. The ground was muddy, everything was wet, and there was a cold breeze out of the north. To say it was a miserable day was an understatement.
We circled the Playhouse, looking for footprints, and found nothing. However, drainage was such that it was possible that they could have been washed away, so a search was nessessary.
Inside, there were no gaps in the ceiling to speak of, and very few in the walls; the gray daylight hardly made its presence known through what gaps there were, although the dull light through nail holes made you think (unpleasently) of animal eyes in the night.
I led the way in. Twenty feet in a portable metal detector (a wand type used to check for weapons) that Flash was carrying suddenly started beeping, and did not stop until he pulled the battery pack; he swore it had been turned off the whole time he had been out. Later, at the PD, it worked perfectly.
We were clearing the place like a hostile building, rather than a seach; we had not talked about it, but all three of us were on edge. Very much so. The place smelled very wrong; not a smell of anything in particular, just not the way such a place should smell. I can't explain it any way better than that.
I was on one knee checking out a closet sized-'room' when abruptly the light on my MP-5 died, going from white & bright to dead in a couple seconds. Flash took point and MD center while I tagged along and switched batteries (I had a couple full-charged spares on me, as well as two more flashlights and some cylumes).
A minute or so later Flash's light died the same way, and he dropped to the rear to change out, while MD and I moved up a place. We stopped at that point, and we heard something. Flash muttered 'What was that?' and we all listened carefully.
It was coming from ahead and to our right; we did not speak at the time, of course, but later, we never agreed on what it sounded like. To me, it had sounded like a sick cat might sound as it whimpers.
We moved forward towards the noise, and came to a largeish room which had the exterior wall on one side. MD made entry, and at that exact moment his flashlight died. He immedately side-stepped and dropped to one knee; I moved in and past him along the wall as Flash slid along the wall on the opposite side of the 'doorway'.
Flash was to the left of the 'doorway', MD was right, kneeling, and I was about two feet to MD's right . The room was about twenty by eleven, with us at the narrow side.
And something moved in the far right corner. Flash hit it with his light a second before I did; I remember MD yelling, and then both fired.
To this day, I swear I saw a big dark dog, I mean large, 150+lbs, bull mastiff-sized, in Flash's light, moving fast.
I fired, three-round burst, and then kept firing as MD and Flash pounded away. Both went empty and yelled that they were withdrawing (team procedure), and I fired to cover them as I backed out last.
After the first burst, I couldn't see much for the muzzle flash, so I just ripped up the corner with three-round bursts. I fired off the full thirty-round mag.
In retrospect, I can not explain why I fired thirty rounds at a dog. There was no valid reason to simply hose it down; nor for Flash and MD to blaze away like we had. Nerves, is the only explanation I can offer. All I can say is that that encounter was quite simply the most stressful incident I have ever had, bar none.
In the second room, we reloaded, and MD switched out batteries. Then we re-entered the long room.
There was no dog. No body. No blood. Zip.
None of us decribed what we saw the same way. Flash was extremely reluctant to describe what he saw at all.
But there are a couple facts: all three saw a target 'in motion'. Despite the fact that we all perceived it as being in motion, we all saw it in a corner, and never shifted our point of aim, despite the fact that we all trained regularly on moving targets, MD & Flash were hunters (I shoot lots of moving varmits), I served in military actions, and both Flash and I had been in fatal police shootings.
And we had twelve 12 gauge 3" magnum hulls and 30 expended 9mm brass. Thirty bullets and 108 000 pellets were fired at a specific area, in this case an area consisting of a dirt floor and tin walls. All three of us were classified as expert shots.
No matter how closely we, nor the two investigators who came out later, looked, we could find no hits on the floor, and only 23 projectile penetrations in the tin walls. Out of 138 projectiles fired (000 pellets are 0.36" in diameter steel balls; 9mm bullets are roughly 0.38), 105 remain unaccounted for. The 23 holes we found were concentrated in the target corner; 9 to the left, 14 to the right of the corner, with the two groups 22" apart at the closest.
As if something solid between the two groups had soaked up the missing rounds.
The dept wrote the incident off as an 'accidental discharge'.
The girl was eventually found elsewhere.
Flash, MD, and I never realy talked about the indicent except indirectly. All three admitted having felt more stress than before or since.
None of the three of us have been to the Patch since. Both MD and Flash have moved on to other agencies for unrelated reasons.
One of the creepier things from later on: when we tried to explain the whole matter (and a firefight is not a joking matter to the police, no matter that no one got hurt), the administration members we were dealing with, who have been LEOs here for 40+ and 30+ years respectively, nodded, asked few questions, and let the matter drop.
Thats all there is to it.
Rotten MeatThe following events occured during a two week vacation stay at a rented house in Cape Cod. I was not particularly old; I believe I was 9 and my sister was 4. My mother, however, was in her 30s, so I can't chalk up her experiences to an overactive imagination.
For the first few days, things were fine. We learned the layout pretty quickly; there was a basement with a washer, dryer and a tv in a seperate room. On the main floor was the kitchen, a proper living room and bathroom. And on the second floor were the bedrooms - three in total.
One day it was particularly stormy, so there would be no trips to the beach or nature walks. My parents, really eager for as much private time as they could get, sent my sister down to the basement to watch what little tv we could recieve. My sister and I managed to get a decent version of PBS, which meant the static wasn't too bad at all (antennae only at this place). We continued to watch, I absentmindedly playing my Gameboy, my sister more enthralled by some show.
And then it all stopped. My gameboy shut off. The lightbulb popped. The tv did not go off; instead it showed nothing but static.
And then the smell.
From the other room, the one with the washer and dryer, there was a smell that is not even partially described by the word rank. Imagine a bag of rotting meat kept in the summer sun for days at end, and you can begin to imagine it. "Let's go, please" my sister whimpered. I took her hand and we walked back up.
My parents were not terribly pleased. They listened to our story, sighing as we spoke. Finally Mom smiled and said "Alright, if I go down and check, and it's all ok, will you go back down?" We agreed, knowing if anyone could make it all better, she could.
She disappeared into the black basement, flashlight in hand, replacement lightbulb box held in the other. We expected her to return quickly. She didn't. After ten minutes that stretched into eternity, she finally came back up. "Ok kids, you can can stay up here. In fact, I don't want you going down there again."
We didn't know what that meant, but accepted it gladly. Mom never went down in the room either; she insisted on doing laundry at laundromats in town. I would not ask her what happened for years.
Another night I was woken by a horrid scream from my sisters room. My Dad burst from his room and slammed her door open, picked her up and took her downstairs. It took over an hour to calm her down and a couple smores, but she finally agreed to tell us what was wrong.
She had seen the entire room soaked in blood. Top to bottom. Handprints in blood, streaks, dripping splatters. We wrote it off as a dream, but she refused to go back up for the rest of the night. Mom took a look in the room, and I caught her whisper to Dad: "That smell is there."
Finally, my encounter with whatever it was. My parents had taken my sister into town, planning on doing some shopping with her. I voiced my dismay and they said I could stay at the rented home if I wished. I whiled away some time watching Disney videos, and eventually started to read a book.
Eventually I had had enough reading. I put down the book - and my eyes shot open in surprise. Near the ceiling, slowly circling about as if it were some ethereal shark, cruised an orb, fire red and yet translucent. I didn't move as I watched it, hoping not to scare it away. Part of me was fascinated by it, as if it were as ordinary as a bird on the porch.
Then I heard the car door slam. My parents had arrived, and the orb, a trailing tail following, raced towards the wall, vanishing. "Hi Scott!" called Dad as he walked in, cooler in hand. "Anything good on TV?"
As for what happened to my Mom in the basement - when I finally did ask her years and years later, she suddenly became very still, and quietly spoke. She had intended to simply change the lightbulb downstairs, figuring the bulb had simply died and I had turned off my Gameboy in surprise and that one of us had nudged the antenna out of clear reception. So, she had taken out the old bulb and put a new one in. It didn't work. She tried a new one. It also didn't work. As she tried the remaining two bulbs, she began to smell something too, but this time it had an oily stench to it.
She figured that one of the machines in the washing room had broken, or perhaps a breaker went off or something. She put down the bulbs, and walked into the room. She shone her flashlight on the machines - nothing. Then she looked at the other end of the room - only to see it.
"It" was a short man, crouched over, a piece of maggot covered meat held in its hand. It looked at my Mom, smiled with sharp teeth and black eyes, and whispered "Hello, Laurie".
Then it sank into the floor.
Mom left in a god damn hurry after that.
My family seems to have had a history with ghosts/the unexplained, some good and some bad, but none as extreme as that. If anyone wants, I could post more.
This post will be somewhat lighter in nature, but first I do have an addition to the story. Let me explain: my sister lurks, and upon discovering I had posted the story, told me there was a part of her dream I had not remember - apparently she also saw a person in her dream, but this was a tall man, with a lanky, emaciated body, long tongue and a knife in one hand. He pointed at her, and that was when she screamed.
Army ManDuring my senior year of high school I got a job working at a large department store that I will not name (but if you think for even half a second about ‘large American discount department stores' you can probably guess what it was). I ended up working in the deli. You know how things go when you first get plopped down into a group of people who've known each other for a long time: it's pretty uncomfortable because they have lots of in-jokes or catchphrases that you have no hope in hell of understanding. That's what I thought the Army Man was, an in-joke.
You see, whenever there was some sort of accident -- like, say, a woman working in bakery knocking over a stack of boxes, or one of my coworkers in deli dropping an entire eight-piece chicken on the floor on the way to the fryer, it was customary to jokingly grumble "The Army Man did it" and then restack the boxes or throw away the chicken or whatever. I never bothered asking for an explanation since the only thing that makes you feel like more of a loser than not getting an in-joke is asking everyone what an in-joke is all about.
After a while, though, I began to understand a little of what the crack meant. Sometimes whenever anyone blamed something on the Army Man, they would put their arms out in front of them and do a sort of pantomime of an on-your-belly-under-barbed-wire boot camp crawl. I took this to mean that that there was an imaginary solider crawling around on the floor of the store, causing all sorts of elfish mishaps, and some past joke to this effect had spawned whatever meme my coworkers were perpetuating.
I'd been working for a few months when I finally decided to ask what the Army Man was all about. I was in the break room when one of my coworkers, let's call her Betty, happened to go on lunch. She was about my mom's age and took a motherly interest in my current affairs, so she asked me about how my grades were and if I'd been accepted to any colleges and all that jazz. I humored her while she ate and then, about five minutes before my break ended, asked her about the Army Man.
Betty froze up completely, holding her lips really tight, and just shook her head. She refused to say anything about the subject, not even trying to be subtle about it, but Betty was always one for melodrama. I mean, Betty had made the joke along with everyone else; I didn't understand why she wouldn't talk about it now, unless she was being intentionally childish. I dropped the subject and went back to work.
A few days later I was in the break room again when Ruth, one of the women working in bakery, happened by. This time she brought up the subject with me, asking if I'd spoken to Betty about the Army Man. I figured it wouldn't make any sense to say otherwise so I said that I had, and that Betty had refused to say anything about it.
Ruth just nodded and said, "Well, you know how Betty is." When I said that I didn't Ruth held her hands in front of her like she was praying and began to flap her lips in a silent imitation of prayer. Betty was an ardent Pentecostal, I knew, and instead of swearing had a habit of yelling out "Help me, Jesus!" when she got hot grease on her hand, but why this meant she didn't talk about the Army Man, I had no clue.
So Ruth explained:
Sometime the year before one of the unloaders working third shift had been moving pallets into the large freezer where we kept all frozen goods that weren't on the shelves; it was common practice to keep the freezer door open for most of the night while the unloaders took stuff from the truck and moved it in. This particular unloader had surprised his coworkers when they found him outside the freezer with the door slammed shut. When they tried to open it he begged them not to and, when they ignored him, he tried to fight them away.
At first they thought it was a joke, but soon it became obvious that this guy was desperate for them not to open the freezer door. He refused to tell them exactly what had happened; from the way he talked it sounded like he'd seen an animal sneak into the freezer, though why this would freak him out they couldn't guess. They got the managers on duty that night, explained the situation, and against the unloader's protests, ventured into the freezer.
There was nothing in there but boxes, though a few of them had been pulled down from their shelves and smashed, ruining quite a bit of merchandise. The unloader was fired, since it was assumed he'd done something wrong and was trying to shift the blame onto someone else. But before he'd left for good he'd worked a few more days, Ruth told me, and it was during this time he mentioned to some coworkers exactly what he had seen: a shape like a man on his stomach, naked and pale, just disappearing between the plastic flaps that hung down over the freezer door.
Of course the unloader could have mistaken a reflection in those same plastic sheets for whatever it was he claimed to have seen, so he was generally laughed at even after he was fired. It became harder to joke when other people began to see and hear it, though.
It was just snatches of conversation you might pick up, Ruth told me. The women working the returns desk, for instance, would mention that they thought they heard someone on the floor on the other side of their counter, but since they couldn't see anything it must have been something on the floor -- but they didn't bother looking, because of course it was nothing. Cashiers had similar stories of hearing something move through their checkout lane even though there were no customers, something too low to the ground to be glimpsed over the edge of a counter. Coupled with the description the unloader had given, this was when people began to think of the thing as a person trying to be covert, pulling himself around on his stomach by use of his forearms. This was why they started calling it the Army Man.
Betty saw it in the deli. We had a hot case, a metal plexiglass display where we put warm food such as chicken and what-have-you under heatlamps; the top half of the case was filled with pans of food, French fries and so forth, that we served to customers, while the bottom half was filled with boxed eight pieces and rotisseries that the customers could grab on their own. One night while closing, Betty had bent down to clean the glass windows on this section of the hot case. She screamed her all-purpose curse -- "Help me, Jesus!" -- before promptly tumbling back on her ass and twisting her ankle.
At first the people working with her thought she'd just slipped, since the deli floor was covered in grease pretty much all the time. Betty was having trouble standing up again so they called in management, who quickly arranged a way to transport Betty to the hospital. While they waited, Betty explained to them what she saw: on the other side of the glass, out on the floor of the store, had been a thing looking back at her. That was what she called it, Ruth told me, not a man but a thing. Betty was out of commission while her leg healed up -- it wasn't broken, just twisted monstrously bad.
After a few weeks of general annoyances, a guy working in electronics insisted he'd seen someone crawling around on the merchandise shelves at the back of the department. Thinking it was a customer's kid, he ran over to straighten them out, just as a few plasma TVs were knocked over and shattered. When he told management his story they of course didn't believe him; there was barely enough room on the shelves for the TVs themselves, let alone a person, child or not. He was fired.
Four months or so before I started working, one of the mechanics in automotive refused to let a customer take their car back. The customer was naturally pissed and had called the department manager, a man named Rick. As the mechanic later told anyone who would listen, he'd been working on the customer's car when he had to take a leak. Upon returning he'd seen things like fingers poking out from the vehicle's undercarriage, curled around the bumper, but they withdrew before he could do anything about it.
He searched the car and found nothing, but when the customer came back he still had his doubts about letting the automobile leave the garage. He laid out the situation privately for Rick, who volunteered to test drive the car first and explained it away to the customer as some new quality control policy.
Rick drove fifteen feet into the parking lot before one of the front wheels of the car let out a groan and fell off completely. Needless to say Rick was very much embarrassed and there was a tangle of the usual insurance issues, with the customer blaming the store for tampering with his car. Somehow this was all settled out of court.
Rick killed himself two months after the car incident, though no one could say why. He hadn't seemed particularly depressed and he'd been working as hard as ever, but one night he went home and (from what Ruth heard) overdosed on sleeping pills. Ruth had her own ideas, of course: the Army Man had gotten into the car with the intention of leaving the store, but Rick had foiled its plans and so, instead of following the customer home, it had chosen to follow him home instead. This naturally raised more questions than it answered: what the hell was the Army Man, then, and how had it gotten to the store to begin with? Ruth just shook her head and said something like, "Don't ask me. I just bake French bread." And that was that.
I quit the deli a few months later to head off to college. In the intervening time I had begun to wonder why people continued to joke about the Army Man, if it had ever existed in the first place and if it was half as serious as Ruth made it out to be. Was it just some way of relieving stress, trying to make it seem less important than it really was, or were they fucking with me? In time it occurred to me that if Ruth was right, if this Army Man could somehow pass between people and places, then there was a chance, however small, that it might come back to the store, or worse, that Rick had brought it back before he killed himself, and if either of those had happened, it could leave again with someone else.
Perhaps it was done out of fear, as a superstition. I'd been doing it too, I realized. It was just part of the atmosphere of the deli, part of working with people for an extended period of time: you adopt their references, their in-jokes, their memes.
I work in the campus library currently. It's quiet, but I've never heard anything whispering across the carpeted floor. However, when I'm not paying attention while stacking books on a cart, a practice that inevitably leads to a bunch of them falling over, or when the network goes on the fritz and we can't figure out why, I often find myself muttering, "The Army Man did it."
I think a few of my coworkers have overheard me, because they've started to say it, too.