Monday, October 22, 2012
It was 1969, in
, in a house I will never
It was a simple house, white inside and out, small and rather old. There was a large living room with a bathroom, kitchen and two bedrooms off the main living area. We were so thankful for it, a real house. My mother took one bedroom and we three girls took the other. It seemed fine in the beginning, we were so glad not to have to live in a car or barn. We had no immediate neighbors, just empty lots on either side. Nice and private. In the following days we would come to understand why.
The first thing was the odd smell. It was unpleasant but not necessarily intolerable, something like dead, rotting flowers. Wet and moldy smelling. It was always in the living room outside the bathroom door. With the bathroom being right there we thought maybe it was a sewer problem. It wasn't.
The continuous odor was soon followed by what sounded like hundreds of tiny people marching around in army boots up in the attic. But only above the living room, in front of the bathroom door.
My mother checked out the attic standing on a small ladder just outside the bathroom where the crawl space was but she saw nothing at all, even as the marching continued. Rats maybe?
The stench and noise alone would have probably driven most people out, but we couldn't leave. My mother made very little money and we had spent what we had on getting the house, so we just put up with it.
Then, one night, about a week after the sounds of marching had begun, we were awakened by the toilet flushing, again and again and again. We girls gathered on the old couch in the living room, crying and afraid, while my mother investigated. She was scared too, but I think, also excited. We were just scared.
After some minutes she called us over and we could clearly see the handle moving, as if an invisible hand were flushing. It didn't stop. Then, as if to say, "you think that's something?", the faucet handles on the sink turned on full force and water began pouring out. My mother said not to be afraid, she was sure it was a nice ghost! We all slept in her room that night.
The next morning we begged my mother to stay home from work but she said we couldn't afford it, so we girls stayed outside all day. When she pulled in that evening we went inside together. Everything had stopped. The smell, the marching, the flushing, the sink, all quiet. As if none of it had ever happened.
We ate supper that night in the kitchen instead of the living room where we usually ate. My mother was telling us about her day when suddenly, a few feet away, from the broom closet, a radio began blasting rock n roll music. We owned one radio only and it sat quietly on the kitchen counter beside us.
My mother jumped up and flung open the closet door only to find silence and a broom. Then it was at the window blasting away like a live band there under our sill. She rushed outside after it, shouting for us to stay where we were. The backdoor slammed shut after her making us scream, but worse, the music was back in the closet.
My mother came back into the kitchen and started to say something when she heard it again too. She moved to be between us and it, looked at us strangely, then turned back and screamed at the music to leave her house now and not return. the sound of her voice scared me more than the music had but not as much as what was to come.
As if in response to my mothers words, the music just stopped. Nothing but the sound of our crying remained. my mother gathered us into the living room and onto the old couch, where we talked quietly about trying to find another house soon. Maybe in a month or so. But, as we talked, dust began to fall from the crawl space cover to the attic.
We shut up at once and my mother got up and began to walk slowly toward it. She hadn't taken three steps when tiny holes started appearing all over the crawl space cover, as if someone were up there punching through it with an ice pick over and over again. We all froze, as much out of amazement as fear. Hundreds of holes appeared in seconds and then just stopped. We watched as the last bit of dust floated to the floor as if in slow motion. There is a silence of space and time that occurs only rarely throughout our lives, an instant when everything in the universe ceases. This was one of those times.
Then, like a cold hard slap in the face, everything started again. The odor, the marching, the flushing, the sink, the music and the hole punching. All at once, all together, and this time it didn't stop.
We were screaming and crying hysterically as my mother ushered us out into the damp night and into the car. We slept in the car that night and in the morning, with a police officer and the landlord present, we moved out.
The house was empty and still when we left. Certainly no sign that anything unusual had ever happened there. Well, except for the hundreds of tiny holes in the crawl space cover, which the landlord asked my mother to pay for.
My mother laughed at him, she laughed so hard I thought she was having a breakdown. But then suddenly she stopped, got us all into the car and drove away.
I have never forgotten that house. I'm not an easily frightened person but sometimes, when I'm alone at night and I hear an odd sound, a remembered fear comes over me and I turn on all the lights.
Think what you will, I was there.