Since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal and creeped out by anything referring to demons. When The Exorcist played on commercial TV when I was a kid, I could not watch it, and had to cover my ears so I couldn’t hear it or I would have had nightmares for several nights. Now, after a plethora of horror movies, I’ve desensitized myself to the point where I have no problem watching any horror movie late at night by myself. Granted, a movie like the Exorcism of Emily Rose would still get my mind wandering to some not so nice places.
I’ve read a lot of books about ghosts and demons. Even though I know many, if not all, of those stories that were declared true were sensationalized, just the thought that something may have happened to someone, such as unseen hands choking you, does not leave me with the warm fuzzies.
I’m not a religious person, but I think my fascination with strange occurrences stems from a hope that there is something else out there after we die. But I’m an I-need-proof kind of guy so one day, years ago, I happened to come upon an article in the newspaper about a local haunted house. The house, a large, three-story, built in the early 1900's, had been converted to apartments. Each renter seemed to have had some experience while living there: faucets turning on by themselves, bed sheets getting pulled off while the occupant watched, a hazy figure of an old woman rocking in a chair. When I read that the house was vacant and to be torn down in a few days, I knew I had to go see it before that happened.
I told a buddy about it while having a coffee at a place near the house. Both of us, intrigued by its history, were left with little doubt that we would at least go take a look, which is exactly what we did that night.
The front door had been boarded up, along with all the windows, so we strolled around the massive house to the back. To our excitement, the back door stood open, awaiting our arrival. A metal fire escape filled the back wall of the house, stairs leading all the way up to the third floor. With no flashlights, and a moon-less night, we decided to check out the main floor only.
I walked in first and my friend after me. The house stood a mess, the demolition already under way, with some of the rooms gutted. Bits and pieces of junk lay strewn about and no furniture remained. The stairwell had been torn out leaving a gaping hole from the main floor up to the top. The basement stairs endured. Since we could not see well, the trip did not last long. As I lead the way out — a beautiful, warm summer night, jacket-less — my friend shivered as a cold wave of air moved through him. The odd thing: He walked two feet behind me and I felt nothing.
The next night we came back, three strong, with two flashlights. We clanged our way up the metal fire escape, to the third floor, with the plan to start at the top and work our way down. Just before we walked through the open doorway, we heard voices down below. You can take that how you want. It sounded like two distinct voices, which I always attributed to other people walking around on the main floor. But as soon as I walked into the house, the voices stopped, and we didn’t hear another peep the whole time we were there.
I borrowed my sister’s 35mm film camera. This was before digital cameras were anywhere near in existence. It used to be my camera so I knew how to use it. I snapped photos as we walked through the house, taking a nice shot on the third floor down to the basement -- the gutted stairwell. At the time I took it, I remember feeling like some unseen thing could easily push me over.
We took turns with the flashlights, which made me feel safe when I had one, and wanting to move closer to someone when I didn’t. It’s strange what your mind does to you. I felt no fear the night before with no flashlights at all, but this night I got goosebumps whenever I didn’t have the light with me.
As we worked our way floor by floor, checking each room, my friends marveled at the craftsmanship of some of the woodwork, which, at the time, I could have cared less about. I wanted to see something, something odd or mysterious. A ghost would have been the ultimate, but I would have settled for an object moving. The night did not go without a couple of unusual occurrences, one that I didn’t find out about until a few days later.
The first unusual thing that happened involved a constant banging sound we noticed soon after we started checking out the top floor. It got louder as we moved down, and when we got to the basement we found the source of that sound. As soon as I walked into the musty smelling boiler room, I could hear the banging at its loudest, but didn’t see the source right away. And then I noticed an old iron coal chute door swinging up and down. At first, it didn’t seem unusual as I associated its movement to the wind outside. When we went outside, and this I swear as fact, there was not even a whisper of air movement, nothing that would explain that coal chute door swinging up and down, banging metal against metal on its downswing.
After taking several more pictures outside, we left, and the house got torn down the following week. Today there are two separate properties on the land this one house had sat for so many years. I have heard no further ghostly events taking place in either property.
All in all I had taken about twenty four pictures on our journey through the house. I gave the camera back to my sister the next day, and I remember it being a thirty six frame roll of film and there were a few left for her. My sister called me a few days later. She told me that she turned the camera on but nothing happened. The batteries were dead. That always struck me as odd, because I know the batteries were brand new the night I used it. And the crappiest part of all: my sister took the film in for development and not one picture turned out. They were all black. I wonder, if the pictures had turned out, what those snapshots in and around the house would have revealed.