A True Haunted House Story
As a child, I always dreaded going to visit my maternal grandmother. She was a foul woman, a stale cigarette always hanging from her frowning lips and the scent of mothballs heavy around her. I am not sure that she ever spared a kind word for me. I firmly disliked her, with all of the fervor that a child could muster. Perhaps I would have tolerated her presence more, had her home not been so severely haunted. She lived in a real life haunted house!
I do not say “haunted” lightly. Rather, that title seems like an understatement. “Evil” fits it much better. It was unassuming enough in appearance, a small, two-story townhouse nestled into the corner of a quaint suburban street. Beside it was a small yard, framed with a chain-link fence and dotted with overgrown plants and mismatched lawn ornaments. It was here that I found sanctuary on our bi-monthly visits to my grandmother’s house. Inside, the atmosphere was much different.
The aforementioned haunted house had been in our family for several generations, and most of the decor had not been changed since its original ownership. Most of the furniture was homemade, carved by hand of oak or maple. Even the kitchen appliances were original, old, finicky contraptions that hardly worked anymore but, for some reason, were never replaced. The only remotely modern addition to the home was a small, black and white television in the living room.
Perhaps the most interesting of all of the strange decor was a collection of antique teapots, shelved neatly against the dining room wall. My favorite was shaped like a little house, with the lid formed as its roof, the spout a little brick chimney. My grandmother insisted that I never touch any of them. I asked her once why we couldn’t use them to serve tea, and she replied matter-of-factly, “She doesn’t like that much.” When I pried further, the story she told me sent shivers down my spine.
The teapots were my great-grandmother’s prized possessions. They were antiques even in her time, and very valuable. She, too, left them shelved and never tainted them with tea. Sadly, she passed away only a few weeks before my mother was born. A short while later, as my then two-month-old mother lay in a cradle by the kitchen table, my grandmother decided that she would treat herself and my grandfather to some home-brewed tea. She selected a pot off of her deceased mother’s shelf and set to work. As she filled it with water, with my grandfather as a witness, my infant mother sat bolt upright in her cradle and snapped, “I didn’t let you do that while I was alive. What the hell makes you think you can do it now?” The pot was emptied and replaced on the shelf, and never touched again.
For a short while, I regarded this tale as a cruel prank of sorts, meant to mess with my childlike mind. Then, as time went on, I began to experience paranormal phenomena there myself. The first incident I remember happened when I was still young enough to require a daytime nap, at maybe four or five years old. My mother had drawn the drapes in the living room, covered me with a hand-knitted afghan, and switched on the little television in the hopes that it would lull me to sleep.
A few moments after she left the room, the picture on the television set turned to static. I got up and crossed the room to the TV, but as soon as my little hand touched the knob, things started happening around me. All of the little knick-knacks that adorned the tables and shelves in the room started moving, sliding back and forth, slowly at first, then faster and faster until they were only a blur. I ran back to the sofa and hid under the blanket, listening to the swish, swish of the moving objects around me until my mother came to fetch me an hour later.
For the next few visits, I remained outside with my younger brother, happily playing in the yard. I had no desire to enter the house again, but soon, I had no choice. Winter had arrived, and it was insisted that we stay inside where it was warm. I begged to not have to visit my grandmother. I didn’t like her or her weird haunted house, but my mother stood firm. “Grandma is old,” she’d remind me every time I asked not to go. “Who knows how much time she has left? Let’s enjoy her while we still can.” And so I agreed to go. And when the cold weather came and we were stuck inside this haunted house, the paranormal activity only got worse.
One afternoon, my brother and I were at the kitchen table coloring. My grandmother kept an old Christmas popcorn tin full of crayons under the kitchen sink for us, and we spent our afternoon with her digging our little hands in as far as they would go, in search of the perfect color. She interrupted the fun and asked me to go upstairs to the back bedroom to fetch something for her. I don’t remember what it was that she wanted. I only remember what happened next.
I trudged up the stairs on my little legs. At the top of the staircase was a small landing, where I had to turn the corner and walk down a long hallway, lined with bedroom doors, to the last door at the end. Whatever she had requested was in that back bedroom. As I approached it, the air felt colder, but I only assumed that the heat wasn’t up high enough. I wrapped my hand around the doorknob and opened the door, but I never made it farther than that.
The room inside was ordinary enough, with a large queen-sized bed, neatly made, and a small dresser and desk against the opposite wall. Sunlight was streaming in through the window, and all seemed peaceful. But, for some reason, I couldn’t cross the threshold into the room. It felt as if there was something dark in there, something angry. I suddenly had the intense feeling that if I entered the room, something would hurt me. I turned around and shut the door behind me.
As I walked back towards the stairs, I noticed something odd. There was a small hall closet on the landing at the top of the stairs, and now, the door to it was wide open. I was certain that it hadn’t been when I walked past, but my brother had been prone to playing “explorer” so I thought that he might have just found a new place to explore. I peeked my head in the closet, and as I did so, what felt like a large hand shoved me inside. The door closed behind me with a sharp and sudden click, and I couldn’t open it again. I banged on it a few times, but nobody heard me. I sat inside, huddled and crying in the darkness, until I was discovered a while later. When I explained to my grandmother what had happened and why I couldn’t complete my task, she only shook her head and said, “It seems you’ve met my Uncle Joseph.”
I learned when I was much older that Joseph had died in that back bedroom. Something tells me he never really left.
We had a few more smaller incidents here and there in this haunted house, and sometimes an entire visit would pass without any event at all. Sometimes, if things started getting odd, my brother or I would yell, “Stop it!” and it would cease. Still, whenever we could, we stayed outside. Nothing creepy ever seemed to happen out there. It was our safety zone.
The next winter, around Christmas time, would be our last visit to my grandmother’s house. I was maybe seven at this point, and my brother was almost six. We had planned to stay for the entire weekend, from Friday night until Sunday morning. Upon our arrival, we exchanged gifts with my grandmother in the kitchen, with Christmas carols playing on the small, antique radio in the corner.
I remember that I received a little doll, with blonde ringlets and blue, marble eyes. That evening was one of the few happy memories I have in that house, as my brother and I played with our new toys on the kitchen floor.
Finally, it had gotten late, and we were tucked in to bed. Upstairs, the front bedroom had two twin-sized beds beside each other. It had been my mother’s bedroom when she was a child, and she had shared it with her older sister, hence the two beds. I took the one by the window, and my brother the other one. We fell asleep with little resistance and dreamt peacefully of Christmas joy.
Suddenly, we were roughly shaken awake. It was still dark outside the window, only the middle of the night. My mother was in a panic, tossing our belongings into our suitcases in a frenzy. “We need to go,” she kept saying, more to herself than us. “We need to go.” As I watched her, still stunned from exhaustion, I noticed four long, deep scratches on the side of my mother’s neck, ranging from her jaw to her collarbone. They were still fresh. I didn’t ask her about them. I simply got up and helped her pack, wondering the whole time if she had maybe been sleeping in Joseph’s room. I never did find out.
We left that night at two in the morning, piling into the car in our pajamas. My grandmother did not protest our departure, but I remember seeing her standing in the living room window, watching us as we drove away. I remember thinking that, from the panes in the window, she looked almost like she was in a cage. We spent the rest of that night in a motel room, the three of us huddled together on the dusty queen-sized bed, wide awake. At some point, I realized that I had forgotten my doll, but I never bothered to ask to go back for it. I knew immediately that we would never go there again.
A Real Life Haunted House:
A few years passed with little communication between us and my grandmother. We talked to her on the phone occasionally, but she always seemed distant, as if she couldn’t wait to hang up. Eventually, we stopped calling. Around the time that I was struggling with the horrors of puberty, we received another phone call. My grandmother had been arrested.
Apparently, one sunny summer afternoon, she drove to my grandfather’s workplace, asked to see him outside for a moment, and shot him. The first shot went through his cheek, the second through his neck. He survived, but barely. She was admitted to a psychiatric facility, which I suppose was some sort of mercy due to her old age. I visited her there once, alone. I hadn’t laid eyes on my grandmother in years, and she looked much different then. She still had her signature stale cigarette and sneer, but she was smaller, withered and weak. As I sat across from her, observing the shell of the feisty woman I had known, she started to explain.
She told me that a voice inside that horrible haunted house had told her to do it. It had said that her husband was a bad man, that he had committed awful acts and that she needed to stop him. It had consumed her with its evil suggestions for weeks until she finally broke down and appeased that voice. She shot her husband. She tried to kill him. Through tears, she told me that she wished she had pulled the gun on herself instead, to make it all stop. Maybe then, that house would finally leave her alone.
A short time after my visit, my grandmother put the family haunted house up for sale. It sat on the market for three years, with no luck. Every single client that viewed the house reported some sort of unexplained phenomena and refused to buy it. The most striking was a woman who left the house with a large scratch on her forearm, screaming about an unholy presence. The realtor assured us that it must have only been a rusty nail sticking out somewhere, but my mother and I knew differently.
Finally, after three years, the realtor told us that he wasn’t going to show the haunted house anymore. It was impossible to sell, he told us. It was going to be ours forever. Shortly after we received this news, on Thanksgiving day, there was another bomb dropped: my grandmother was dead.
Her doctor told us that there had been a misunderstanding about her medicine. She took too much of it, eight times the dosage she required, and suffered a cardiac arrest. He wrote it off as an accident, but we didn’t. It was clear that she did it intentionally. She killed herself. And we knew why, too.
Her last kind deed was to rewrite her will, making it so that none of her three children or any of us grandchildren would inherit the haunted house. It was seized by the bank, but was never torn down or resold. It still sits there, worn down and decrepit, on the corner of that quaint little street. There is some graffiti on the siding, but to the best of our knowledge, nobody ever tried to enter it. I’m sure that if they did, the paranormal beings in there took care of that problem real quick.
Sometimes I find myself searching for a rational explanation in all of the nonsense, wondering if it was all a figment of my grandmother’s sick mind. But then there’s things I can’t explain, like witnessing the knick-knacks all moving by themselves when nobody else was in the room, and I know that there was an evil presence in that house. Maybe more than one, to be sure. Purely and truly, that house must have been haunted. It still gives me the creeps to think about it, even today. Maybe things would have been different for my grandparents, and the entire rest of my family, if we had just never been forced to set foot in that haunted house at all.