My Ghost Story
Today I want to try something a little different. I set out to talk about horror writing and why I don't believe it can be scary in the 'keep you up at night, afraid to turn out the light' sense. And while I still want to have that discussion (maybe next month), I really want to tell you my real-life ghost story instead.
I'm going to try my best to tell this like a story, not with embellishments, but not like a boring, old, run-of-the-mill recounting either.
So, let's have fun today. Turn off the lights, pick up your flashlight, shine it straight into your eyes quick, then get back to reading this....
....the dark, twisted tale of when I moved into a house possessed by a DEMON....or the ghost of a dickhead.
dun dun dun…
This tale starts with a marriage taking a nose-dive. Mine, unfortunately. But I wasn't totally convinced of that yet. It was one of those situations where you stayed together out of duty and love's nostalgia but had long since forgotten to actually give a shit about each other. Or take care of each other's needs.
But we took care of our baby girl's. Always.
A funny thing happens when you let the needs of your partner go. You create a breeding ground for hate and resentment. For me, it was because he spent all of his time at the shop we owned. Seven days a week from six in the morning to eleven at night.
We'd moved to the city two years before. All of his friends lived there, and I knew no one. Working from our tiny apartment and taking care of our toddler, I started to feel really alone. I'd show my resentment the way most women do....guys, you know what I'm talking about.
As a man, Adan's tended to come in the form of anger.
Anger was always bubbling just beneath his surface—a seething hatred that would be directed at whoever was unlucky enough to happen upon his path. Slowly, it grew until it got to the point where you would know that he was home before he even came in the door because the air would shift around you.
It was a cycle. The hate would grow until the fleshy vessel could no longer contain it, and it would spill out. Usually onto me, though never violently, just as words. There was a pleading under the rage that I might have heard if I'd cared to listen. I didn't. If I waited long enough in silence, the vessel would empty and revert back into the man it was supposed to be. Things would be fine for a time. He'd play with our daughter, shower her with hugs, kisses, and toys in the small bits of time he'd have out of the shop.
But then the steam would rise again, the pot would begin to simmer, and I would turn away from him in anticipation of the explosion that was going to come in a few days.
It's odd how comfortable you can become with patterns, even fucked up ones. And you don't realize how much you come to rely on them until suddenly they are stolen from you.
The house was my idea. I was so sick of being stuffed in that apartment with the little one. It was too expensive for us, but he didn't say so. Adan never said anything about our finances, and when I asked, he'd tell me not to worry. But to be completely honest, I wouldn't have cared. After putting up with every outburst, I thought he owed me at least some space.
We had such a long list of must-haves, he probably thought we would never actually find a place to meet all our needs. I was shocked, too, when we came across the listing. It was like it had been left just for us. The double garage, the big backyard with a vegetable garden, the basement, the three bedrooms, a large kitchen, parks, and schools within walking distance. It was old, but it would do.
I noticed that his pot was nearly boiling over as he trudged around the moving van with a look on his face that said his family was the biggest inconvenience. He didn't say much the entire time, but every once in a while, when I dared to catch his eye, it would tell me, "I hate you."
And when he left again, I noticed that for the first time, the air didn't clear quite as completely as it had before.
But me and my baby girl danced that first day. The music was turned up loud, and we played and sang while we unpacked. It is still one of the best memories I have, and I'm almost ashamed he was not a part of it. After dinner, I put the girl to bed and finished emptying the last boxes by myself. Moving from a much smaller place, most of the house remained empty, so I sat on the bare dining room floor and took out my computer to write.
The house was loud at night. The old pipes would clang and bang, but there were other sounds too. Little howls and creaks. They sounded like my daughter getting out of bed and walking around. I would go and check on her frequently, never fully convinced that she was actually sleeping. I reasoned with myself that I would get used to the sounds eventually, but I couldn't sleep that night. Even though I knew he was nearing "that time," I still wanted him home so badly. I fell asleep before he came back.
There was a slight creak as I came around the corner into the hall. The house was designed as a big loop, with two doors leading from the master bedroom. One of these doors led out to the hallway, the other to the back entrance. I walked down the hall cautiously, listening for more sounds that should not be there.
The sun had just fallen, and the kid was already in bed. It was quiet except for my rapid breathing. The kitchen ahead of me seemed like a black hole that I would be sucked into if not careful. Did I see movement? Black drifting against the black?
I stopped at the threshold, and I reached my hand into the dark to search for the light switch. Someone shuffled—I could feel their weight shift the old wooden floorboards. I retreated but not quick enough. He grabbed me, and I screamed before a large hand muffled my cry.
I smelled him before I heard his laugh. "Shhhh. You're going to wake, Nisa." He reached over and turned on the light, his hand on my mouth, still laughing.
I hit him again and again, then laughed too. I nestled into his chest and willed my heart to slow. He held me there, stroking my hair and kissing my head.
That was one of the few good moments between us in that house that I remember, though it wasn't long after that he had his next explosion. It was something about the laundry that set him off—the jeans not turned inside out before they went into the wash, I think. We fought about that one a lot; he wanted them turned...and I just think it's dumb.
It seemed the time it took for his rage to boil over got shorter and shorter, and my resentment of him only grew. Eventually, my intervals of reprieve became non-existent. I no longer waited in silence for his rage to subside; I would encourage it, press buttons I knew would tip him over the edge. I would rejoice when he'd have to work longer hours and make sure that I was in bed when he got home. My time alone with the little one was always exhausting, but at least there was happiness and laughter in the house when she was playing.
But then his anger began to linger after him. Like smoke, I would struggle to fan it out of the house after he left for work in the morning. It would hang like a heavy presence over everything, especially in the basement, where he'd spend most of his time. I avoided going down there when I could.
He was always bad at remembering where he put things like his keys or phone. They would frustratingly always be in the same place.
But now it was like the house was fucking with him. Odd things would go missing, and he'd tear off in a rage, convinced it was me or Nisa who'd moved them. His wallet, underwear, shop tools, and even the hot sauce from the fridge were only used. What's worse, I would find them in the strangest places. Top shelves of cupboards that no one could reach, in the storage room, laundry room under the stairs (hint: I didn't find the underwear there), or in the freezer, and I'd found the hot sauce in the downstairs bathroom. I'd laughed at him, thinking of what he could possibly have been doing with hot sauce in the bathroom.
He definitely wasn't eating it in there. You see, Adan is Muslim and doesn't even like to open his mouth in the bathroom because he believes that is where the jinn hide. Dirty places. He is an extreme germaphobe when it comes to what he consumes. He even rinses the clean dishes he takes out of the dishwasher before using them.
He swears he doesn't remember how it got there.
Nisa jumped off the couch and screamed. Working at my desk, I jumped too, but I tried my best to not appear too scared that the bang coming from the kitchen only fifteen feet away was loud enough to shake the house.
My first thought was of an intruder. It was the middle of the afternoon, but we were all alone, and the "bad" neighborhood began only a few blocks down. I rushed a trembling Nisa to my bedroom and locked the doors, then went to investigate. Readying myself for the inevitable fact that I was going to have to kill someone. I believe I have mentioned my love of true crime shows in the past, so naturally, this is where my mind goes.
However, when I got to the kitchen, there was nothing amiss. I checked the doors, both locked. After letting my terrified child out of the room, we spent the next few minutes testing everything in the kitchen to see what could have made the banging noise. It didn't take us long to discover that the sound of a slamming cupboard door was eerily similar to what we heard.
But that was impossible. Even if I had left one open, these are old cupboards, circa 1960, they have tiny latches that keep them closed. They take a good push to shut and a good pull to open. It didn't make sense that one would just fall closed hard enough to catch the latch, let alone shake the walls.
Something else was responsible, I told myself. I just didn't know what it was. But Nisa, now three, wasn't so sure about leaving my side from that point on.
A few days later, there was another incident. We had just brought in groceries and put them all away. Now, I am an avid coffee drinker. Actually, at this time, I was more than that. I had just started my business (yes, this one), and spending a lot of time in front of the computer got me drinking 2-3 pots a day. So I always had plenty of coffee grounds on hand. I didn't bother finding a place for the extra canisters, I'd just push them back against the wall behind the coffee maker.
On this particular shopping trip, I had bought one such canister, and as usual, I'd "put it away" behind the coffee maker. I then put all the plastic bags in the carrier beside the fridge, made lunch for Nisa, and we both went to the living room so I could watch her while she ate.
This time it was not a bang from the kitchen, but the sound of plastic bags being gently rustled...and then came the crash!
I ran to see what had happened, only to find grocery bags strewn around the kitchen and my new tub of coffee on the floor. It had hit the ground hard enough that the lid and foil freshness seal had popped off, and the grounds spewed out all over.
If you do not know what I'm talking about, it was one of these....
Could the coffee bin have exploded on its own, and that is what caused this? I would seriously like to know, but that is not a thing from what I can tell. But it didn't matter once the other stuff started happening, anyway.
The kitchen became a hub of activity. Lights would flicker, the door leading to the back entrance would open and close, and always just as I'd turn my back to it. Things would fall off the counter, mainly fruit from a bowl I left on the kitchen island, and cupboard doors I swear I had shut would find themselves open.
Numerous times, I would be standing at the sink, washing dishes, and suddenly water would come pouring out from underneath. I'd look down, and the...cappy thing would have twisted off the trap letting all the water spill out. Twice the landlord came and fixed it, turning it back on and sealing it. Both times didn't do any good.
I started joking with family and friends that I had a kitchen ghost, and he was always hungry and in serious need of a Snickers.
I'd told Adan too. Constantly. But he never said anything. It was almost as if he couldn't hear me. I thought at the time that he just thought I was crazy, or maybe he really had just stopped caring entirely. I stopped telling him when things happened.
Alex (the Ganon variety) had recently moved to the city as well, and when I told him, he and his wife came over immediately, ready to hunt some ghosts. What he actually did was look for mouse droppings. There were none. Then he checked that my cupboards were level. They were.
I discovered I was pregnant in February 2018, and everything got worse from then on.
My husband and I had stopped talking to each other almost entirely. Our daughter, soon to be four and riddled with nightmares, slept with me every single night. Adan mostly slept on the hard floor beside the bed, the only place comfortable for him after having fractured seven vertebrae shortly after we'd started dating ten years ago. And happenings around the house took on a more sinister feel.
The "ghost" had moved out of the kitchen and into whatever room I happened to be in, it seemed. I'd go to the bathroom, and sounds of bowling balls rolling back and forth would come from the attic. I got the landlord to check it out because I was convinced an animal was living up there. There was not, and it turned out that there was nothing but sawdust and rafters, so how something could be rolling was beyond me.
The worst incident was when I awoke in the middle of the night to my child's whimpers. Upon opening my eyes, I saw the shape of a man standing above her on the side of the bed. First, I thought it was her father, but as my eyes adjusted, there was nothing there. He was sleeping soundly on the floor where the person would have been standing. A trick of the light, I decided. I snuggled into Nisa and asked what was wrong.
She cried harder and said a man was talking to her in a "scary voice." I did not sleep the rest of that night.
"We're coming over, and we are going to find this ghost," Alex said on the phone, laughing almost maniacally. "I've got ghost hunting tools."
I'd soon find out 'ghost hunting tools' meant a small cube-shaped magnet tied to a string and a feather he would place in the door frame. If the door opened, the feather would fall to the floor, and you would know a ghost opened it.
If you read Alex's Reviewing Things, I'm going to tell you right now, he is EXACTLY who you think he is. The man does not have a serious bone in his body, and he made looking for ghosts in my own house the most fun pastime.
It was a rare night when Adan was at home. I told him that Alex and his wife were coming over and what we were planning to do, and he seemed disinterested as usual.
While I waited for the pair to arrive, I went to the basement and cleaned up Nisa's things and the "man den" I tried so hard to avoid being in. But I am my mother's daughter, and if guests are coming, I must rush in to clean everything, so they do not judge the untidy state of my home. Even if I have to put up with the heebie-jeebies for a while.
When they arrived, Alex strung up his magnet in the middle of the large room in the basement and started calling out the ghost like it was the dweeb in the schoolyard. He insulted its mother. He called it a pussy, and dared it to move the stupid little magnet. "But you can't, can you? Cuz yer weak. You're pathetic. The most pathetic excuse for a ghoul I've ever seen. Fuck you!!!"
We laughed and talked, watching the silly cube hanging flaccid from the ceiling with way more amusement than such a thing should provide. But Alex and his wife are smokers, so eventually, we all retreated to the garage so they could get their fix.
After refilling our coffees, we went back downstairs. I went first but stopped dead at the bottom when I saw one of my child's books, one that I had picked up and placed on the shelf on the wall before my guests arrived, lying directly underneath the stupid little cubed magnet in the middle of the room.
It was perfectly aligned toward the stairs. Alex shook his head and reasoned that it was always there and we just hadn't noticed it. Maybe Nisa had woken up and moved it. I ran upstairs to make sure, and she was fast asleep in my bed where I left her.
I went to Adan, hoping that maybe he had played a trick on me. He said no, and when I told him what had happened, he just said, "seriously?" without taking his eyes off the television.
"Yes!" I returned.
He didn't reply after that. Alex and his wife eventually left, and I went to sleep, convinced that I had a real ghost for the first time. And the idea that it had touched one of my child's things kept rest away from me that night.
Early the next morning, instead of making breakfast and heading off to work, Adan crept into the basement and said prayers for exorcism in Arabic. He came back up and said, "Do not go down there," then left for work.
The first trimester of my 2nd pregnancy was even worse than my 1st, which is saying something. The smell of anything, even food-adjacent, made me vomit. And the feeling lasted all day. I lived on water and freeze pops. I was tired all the time, sleeping most of the day, unable to get out of bed, and when I did, I would suffer terrible Braxton Hicks contractions that would eventually put me on bed rest.
And feeling like shit made me a mega-bitch, which did not help my failing relationship.
Lots of couples find that another baby masks their problems for a time, but not us. It magnified them. We were at each other's throats constantly and viciously. He spent even more time away, and we rarely saw each other.
But one night, like a glitch in the matrix, I'm coming out of the bathroom into the dark hallway, and I hear a faint creaking. Deja vu. This time, it is 2am, and only a faint flicker of moonlight illuminates the house. I have already turned off the lights, and I'm on my way to bed.
I sense him coming this time, and I'm ready. I creep down the hallway toward the black abyss that is the kitchen, and I feel the shuffle of feet, the floorboards moan and shift under his weight. I know it's coming, and yet I still yelp when he grabs me by the shoulders. Angry with myself for getting scared as much as I am him for scaring me, I hit him in the chest and yell, "Fucking hell!"
But he doesn't reply to me. I turn on the hallway light, ready to laugh with him, but he is nowhere to be seen.
I listen carefully for the sound of footsteps or breathing. There is nothing. I am alone.
Jumping for the phone, I run into the bedroom and lock the door. My mind is reeling. Someone had to have been there—he touched me. But it all happened so fast; there is no way someone can move that fast and not make a sound on these old floors.
Nisa is sleeping soundly, so I hide in the ensuite bathroom and call my husband.
"Hello?" he answers, the sound of the shop's compressor buzzing through the phone even at this hour. "Tess. What?"
"Are you home?"
"Huh? No. I'll be back soon. Why? You need something?"
"You're sure you're not here?"
"Uh...yes? Look, I'm finishing up. I'll be right there."
Eventually, I found my courage and slithered out of the bedroom, making sure to lock my daughter in behind me, just in case. I walked through the house, checking the windows and doors. Calling 'hello' so quietly that they would never have heard me if there were someone in the house.
I retreated back to the room, and I shook, sitting over Nisa and watching the shadows. I was still up when Adan got home half an hour later, and this time he really listened to my story. Looking angry and concerned the whole time.
That was the last time I had a direct experience with my "ghost" or whatever it was. Shortly after that, I left with my daughter to stay with my mother, having finally come to terms with the fact that my marriage was over.
It's not a sad part of the story, to be honest. My relationship with the father of my children has never been better. I even published one of his stories, The Devil on Your Shoulder, in The Beginning & End of All Things.
And for anyone wondering, he read and approved this post!
But I have to wonder if all the things that happened in that house happened because of the turmoil between us. Did I create a monster in my mind because I was hurting? Did he? Or was there some spirit that attached itself to us because our negativity allowed it?
I know many people would say it was all in my head. My psyche made me see and feel things that were not there. I know because I used to be one of those people.
But then I remember the very real grip on my shoulders, the solid chest that I hit but wasn't there. The child's book on the floor underneath a dumb magnet we asked something to touch. My child weeping in my arms after a 'man with a scary voice' who I thought I'd imagined talked to her.
It would take a lot to convince me that that was all in my head.
If you have any ghost stories, I would love to read them. Join our mailing list and send us your tales, and maybe we can make scary stories a regular thing!
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