I was born in Huntington, West Virginia and grew up in an old wooden two-story house on Auburn road, located in the Westmoreland district. My family bought that house back in 1928. They had moved there from another house on Auburn road, one that was located less than a mile away from the other one. Even at a young age I thought that seemed odd. I remember that the family was always reluctant to even speak about the other house. They would not even look at the old house when we drove past it. And nobody would ever tell me what happened there or the particulars of what actually prompted the family to relocate. All they would say was that the old house was “haunted,” and that was all I really needed to know.
There were five of us living in our house in the early 1960s. My grandmother was the family matriarch. She shared the house with her three grown children, one of whom was my divorced mother. The other two were my Aunt, who had lost her husband in WWII, and my uncle, who was paralyzed with polio from childhood and had never married or moved away.
We were a very close family, and for the most part, not unlike other families living in the neighborhood. There were unspoken secrets in my family; secrets that they all took to their graves. And now, as the sole survivor of the family linage, I wonder if there was any connection between those secrets and the strange events that I have witnessed in that house over the years. I can’t help but believe that when my family left their old house, whatever they were attempting to get away from, had followed them. And to this day, whatever it was, it is still there.
My earliest recollection of strange experiences in our house begins when I was 13 years old. My Aunt was helping me clean my room, which was situated on the second floor at the top of an enclosed stair well. I had gone downstairs to get a broom and dust pan. Before I could return upstairs my Aunt came down. She appeared shaken and white as a sheet. At the time, she would not say what was wrong, except that she was finished with that room. “It was my room and I should be the one that cleaned it,” she informed me. It was not until many years later that I learned the full truth. She had been bending over to pick up some clutter. And when she looked up she saw a woman in white, with black hair, in the reflection of the mirror.
To be honest, in my entire childhood I never felt comfortable going up and down those stairs. On one occasion, about 11pm one night, I was preparing to go up the stairs. I always kept my eyes down when climbing those steps. It was very dim, because the only light in the stairwell was that coming from the upstairs bathroom. I was on the landing, about to start the climb, when I looked up and saw a thick white mist at the top of the stairs. I took off out of there as fast as I could. My Grandmother said it was a reflection or something that I did not see really anything. Regardless, I never slept in that upstairs room again. In fact, for most of my teenage years I did not sleep much at all. Most of the night I would just lay in bed listening to noises inside the walls.
In the late 60s I married and moved out of the old house, although from time to time we would visit and spend the night there. My two sons spent a great deal of time at that house, especially on weekends visiting with their grandmother. Even my sons had creepy experiences in the house. Although they kept this between themselves in their younger years, it seems that both of them were in agreement that a certain back room in the house was “spooky” and they stayed away from it. In fact, no matter how much the room was changed or rearranged over the years, nobody wanted to go there after dark. My husband even refused to sleep in that bedroom on numerous occasions, opting instead to sleep on a couch in the front room. He said he just did not like the “feel” of the room. That particular room was adjacent to the kitchen. And it seems that when anyone was in the kitchen, they insisted on keeping the connecting door shut. In later years, even as grown men, my sons have seen strange black shadows in the hallway near the bedroom door. My husband has seen them, as well.
In the mid 80s my husband took a job with the Voice of America and was recruited into the U.S. Foreign Service. Over the past 20 plus years we have mostly lived overseas in places like Central America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. But we always try to come home for Christmas and spend the holidays at my old home.
On most occasions the sleeping arraignments on these return visits have been less than desirable, depending on who was still living in the house and how things had been rearranged. One year, the double bed that had normally been in the front guest bedroom had been replaced by a smaller single bed that could not accommodate two people. So, I gave my husband the guest room bed and I took the living room sofa.
That big green sofa had been a fixture in the house since my childhood and was very familiar and comfortable. I remember snuggling down under the cover of a warm comforter, ready for a good nights sleep. We had just flown into town and had spent most of that day running around visiting. After 20 hours of traveling on planes, and a full day of visiting the children and their families, I would have thought that sleep would come easy. But it didn’t. I found myself having a very difficult time getting to sleep. And then I heard it. I heard the distinct sound of footsteps descending the staircase on the other side of the wall behind the sofa. My first thought was that my Aunt could not sleep either, and that she was coming back down stairs. So I waited for her to open the door and come into the living room, but no one came in. The very next night I once again heard footsteps descending the staircase. And, once again, no one came into the living room.
On the third night when this happened again, I got up and decided to check it out. I opened the door, expecting to see my Aunt, but no one was there. I walked back and looked up those old familiar stairs. There were no lights on, so I climbed the stairs and found my Aunt sound asleep in her bed. I went back downstairs rather confused, and more than a bit unnerved.
The following night I once again I heard the same heavy footed person descending the steps one by one. I lay there and listened. Then, unlike the previous nights, I heard the creak of the door opening. I was scared, and laid there just waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. There was no sound of the door closing again, or of anyone walking. Just an eerie silence. When I finally summoned up enough courage to take my head out from under the comforter I looked around. There was nobody. Then I got up, and noticed immediately that the door was open.
I quickly shut the door and returned to the safety of my comfortable nest on the old sofa. I covered my head and wished for sleep.
In the nights that followed, every single night, the same pattern of behavior repeated; the heavy footsteps, the creaking door, and then the deafening sound of total silence. And each night I was becoming more and more unnerved by these nightly visits. Now every night I found myself laying awake in the dark, waiting for the now familiar foot falls as my invisible visitor approached and opened the living room door opening. And it was not until this nightly one-act play concluded that I could finally relax and go to sleep. I will never forget the last night of this performance, because on that night, to my horror and astonishment, there was an Act 2.
As on the many previous nights, I lay on the couch waiting for things to begin. Soon I heard the all too familiar sounds of the heavy footsteps descending the wooden stairs. Then, as I listened for the door to creak open, I was suddenly aware that something was different this night. As I huddled under the covers I sensed a strange presence standing over me. Then I felt the pressure of a hand on my shoulder. My heart was pounding. I’m not sure that I was even breathing, and I was too scared to pull down the covers and look. I laid there terrified for what seemed like an eternity. And then, my fear turned to anger. And, without moving, I summoned up my determination and said, “Go away and leave me alone!” And the weight of the hand suddenly vanished. What or whoever it was was gone. The next thing I remember, it was the next morning.
I told my husband about it, and he said that I should have asked it what it wanted. I told him I really wasn’t interested in what it wanted, but I would consider doing so, it if it came back. I would like to say that was the end of things, but it wasn’t. That night, and every night for the rest of our visit, it came down the stairs again. But it no longer opened the door and no hand reached out. It was keeping its distance.
In later years there were some other strange things that have happened in that old house. Some may write it off as an over-active imagination, but I do not. There were two occasions when I was the only one in the house. I heard my mother call me, then the second time I heard my Aunt calling my name. Both of them were long deceased when this happened, and it happened in the middle of the day.
A few years ago my Aunt passed away. She was the last surviving sibling of my grandmother’s family. In her last days she opened up to me and told me more detailed accounts of her experiences. She told me about three ghosts she had seen upstairs. The lady in white (when I was a kid), a man dressed in 40’s clothing with a black mustache, and a little girl that wore a green plaid skirt that she saw sitting on her bed. But neither of us could link these apparitions with the footsteps in the stairwell. And the footsteps were not always confined to the staircase.
One Christmas, when my three year-old granddaughter was spending the night with me, there was another incident. Every one else in the house was asleep. We were in the bed in the front guest room and my husband was asleep in the living room on the old sofa. We heard the front door open and someone very heavy footed walk through the room. I thought I was the only one that heard it, but then my granddaughter rolled over and said, “Tell Grandpa to quit being so noisy.” Well, I bolted up out of the bed and opened the door. Grandpa was sound asleep. That was the last night my granddaughter ever stayed all night.
I always told myself that, when my family passed away and I inherited that old house, that I would sell it and never look back. But when my Aunt passed away, I found I could just not bring myself to sell the house. I was raised in that house, and my sons practically grew up in. So, with the full agreement of my sons and husband we decided to keep it and embarked on a 10-year plan to completely remodel the house. And since my husband still works overseas, we continue to come back every Christmas while our sons work on the renovations. The sleeping arrangements are still somewhat difficult, because we are now sleeping in an ongoing construction zone, but a sense of peace now rests on the house that has never been there before. Or so we thought.
The first few years into the work there were no other strange occurrences. Naturally, we felt that, with all the remodeling work and tearing out things, that whoever was there had finally left. The creepy back bedroom room wall was removed and combined with another room to make a large dining room. The downstairs floor plan has been completely changed and a new staircase to upstairs has been built in the front living room. And, with the exception of my sons reporting the strong smell of my late Aunts perfume wafting through the air, from time to time, things have been very quiet, until recently.
After the new staircase was built towards the front of the house, the old stairwell was slated to be removed and the space turned into a storage closet. And with the start of that work it seems that the apparitions may have returned. Very recently my 40+ age oldest son told me that he is beginning to sense “something” upstairs. A friend, who has been helping him, recently was startled when he saw a dark shadow move across the old hallway.
So, I guess that whatever was there is still there; it has only been dormant. And it was not until work began to close off the old stairwell that they decided to make their presence known.
To my knowledge, nothing ever happened to anyone who had lived in this house before my family bought it in 1928. It was built in 1922 and was relatively new when my family bought it. The family that sold the house to my family just moved on. There is nothing known about them.
So what is the presence that remains in the house? And why does it seem to be inextricably tied to that old staircase. Perhaps the next time I feel that hand, I will ask.