Arguments between married couples have always taken place and usually end in the same manner: with the wife going home to mother. That is how my first adventure into the realm of the supernatural began. I was probably four or five years old, my younger brother being three or so, when this occurred.
Mom took Dave and I to our grandmother’s house in Wayne, West Virginia. It was a large, white colonial home, typical for the baby boom era. There were two floors and an attic. Bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs, the rest of the rooms downstairs. It was furnished with odds and ends of all kinds since my grandmother Hazel was a bit of a collector. She didn’t gather any one thing, just lots of things. I always thought of the house as a creepy adventure. I wasn’t allowed to ever be upstairs alone or unsupervised. I had to stay in the living room, dining room, etc on the first floor. That kind of gave an air of mystery and spookiness to the second floor.
This house had some unique features that, at the time, were weird but I was only a child so I didn’t understand them. Such as the one room under the stairwell that was always cold, bitterly cold even on the hottest days. The way that the rocking chair in there would move on its own. How that room also emanated a smell of pipe tobacco and the sound of a violin. The only people to smoke in my family used whatever the cheapest cigarettes were at the time and no one was musically talented. There was also the matter of the stairs. Strange, rust colored spots littered them from top to bottom. When fresh paint was applied, the spots came through. Even when the carpeting was installed, the spots came through.
The night mom, Dave and I spent in the house was in the summer. A sticky, hot night with no breeze. Even the cars passing by on the lazy street in front of the lot did little to create any wind. Mom slept in the bed, a light sheet draped over her. Dave and I each had a sheet and were lying on a mattress at the foot of the bed. The two windows of the room were open but there wasn’t any fan or air conditioning in there. Not able to handle the noise of the sometimes passing traffic, mom slept with a pillow over her head to drown away the noise.
Late into the evening, I lied there awake. I’ve always been somewhat of an insomniac so this wasn’t uncommon for me. While waiting to sleep, I was counting the cars as they drove past, listening intently for the next one to come by. But the sounds that I heard weren’t of an automobile but footsteps!
My uncle Billy occasionally stayed with my grandmother when he was home from his job on the barges on the Ohio River. The footsteps were heavy and thick but they moved quickly and with purpose. They didn’t sound like a tired man slowly dragging himself towards an awaiting pillow for a long sleep. No, the footsteps stopped at the top of the stairs and the door to our room opened, exposing the bright hall light. No one stood in the doorway yet the footsteps came into the room. At this point, I hid under my little sheet and became very cold while the footsteps went past me.
I heard a drawer from a wooden dresser open then the shuffling of cloth items and fingernails scratching the bottom. The drawer closed and the coldness passed by me again. Still under the covers, the hall light went out as the door shut. Total pitch blackness filled the room. I heard the stairs squeaking again, but this time, the steps were slower and lighter. At the top of the landing, the creaking stopped with the abrupt WHACK! of a hard object against something fleshy. Something that sounded like a barrel made of meat rolled down the stairs. The entire room became cold as the light in the hallway returned under the door frame.
A year later, my grandmother died of a heart attack in the upstairs bathroom. I remember thinking that Grandma could play with the cold footsteps.
For years the house was either empty or briefly rented but not many people stayed there for any length of time. Finally, the house burned to ashes, not even leaving the large wrap-around veranda. The cellar was filled in and a trailer now sits on the lot behind a chain link fence. But, as with the house, no renter stays there long.