Do you believe in ghosts? I use to be like many of you. I was a true skeptic. A true disbeliever. That was me until three years ago. Now I do believe. I wish I didn’t. It would be easier for me to sleep at night. Even now, three years later, I am still woke up in the night by the memory of the screaming man, the child in pain, and the dark ghostly image that turned my world upside down and changed my beliefs forever. I do believe in ghosts.
It was in May 2001. I needed desperately to find a place for myself and three children to live. Our lease was up at the apartment where we had lived for two years. I was a single father, and I was about to find myself and my children homeless. Like many, I had answered just about every ad in the newspaper for rentals. One evening I received a call from this woman telling me about this house. She said it was a rather large old house that was in very good shape. She invited me to an open house which was to be held that coming Sunday. Sunday rolled around . You can’t imagine the surprise when my daughter and I rolled up in front of this large old white house. We walked in. The smell of cookies baking hit us immediately upon entering through the front door. To our surprise we were standing in a living room with cherubs surrounding the top of the walls all the way around the room. All of the original wood work was intact and a large wooden pole ran to the ceiling causing a divider which would later find out separated the living room from the family room. The house had two floors. Three bedrooms. A large family kitchen with a mud room that lead to the back door. The upstairs bedrooms had a breezeway that could be accessed from either room. The basement had an old butchers shower and a fruit cellar. It was more house than we ever imagined for the price and immediately made up our minds that we had to have it. Anyone who has lived in an apartment for two years with three children would understand our desperation. We had to have this house. We spoke with the landlady and she gave us an application to fill out. There were many people there looking at the house so we knew we would have to compete to be its tenants. I handed my application to the landlady. “You understand the responsibility that comes with living in an old house such as this?” she asked. “Oh, yes I understand . It’s beautiful.”, I quickly replied not really understanding to what I was agreeing to. “Well then I will get back to you.” she quickly retorted and was off to peddle her wares to another of the visiting house hunters. She was a strange old lady and the way she showed the house wasn’t in a real estate type manner. She showed the house as if she were showing a museum. We had felt like we were on one of the house tours often given each year for charity.
A week went by. The phone rang one evening. It was the strange landlady overly excited to tell me that she had selected myself, my daughter and two sons to live in the old house. I was to meet her that following day at a restaurant not far from my work to settle all of the paperwork and payment. I thought this was a little strange and I was a little disappointed because I couldn’t wait to see the house that would now become our home. The papers were signed just has planned on the following day. And we were all set to move in at the end of that week which was Memorial weekend.
It seemed like years before Friday came that week, but we were finally here. Moving day. The move was your normal move and before we knew it all of our belongings were hidden safely inside the old white house. I was removing the last few items from the moving truck when a car slowed way down almost stopping in front of our new home. The passenger said from the window of the slow moving car, “ Hope you get along okay here,” and then sped up and drove away. “What do you think of that dad,” my daughter slightly puzzled asked. “Friendly neighbors I suppose,” I replied as I shut the sliding door to the truck.
The first night in the house went by without much fanfare. Maybe because we were so tired from the move or maybe because the house wanted to draw us in a little closer before beginning its series of attacks and assaults upon myself and my family. The next morning started like most any other day. Except I did notice one strange thing about the house. Each of the houses interior doors had an old fashioned hook and eye latch, but not on the inside of each rooms doors to keep someone out. The latches were on the outside of the rooms doors as if to keep something in. “What is it dad?” my youngest son asked from behind. “Oh nothing.” I replied and went about the business of unpacking our things.
The first incident happened in the living room. I was hanging a large picture of two angels. My daughter thought that this would compliment the cherubs that surrounded the room. I hung the picture and turned to walk away. Crash. I turned to see that the picture had fallen to the floor. I hung the picture once again. Turned away. Crash. The picture on the floor. I hung it once again. This time when I turned and started walking away I felt a rush of air and something hit the back of my ankles. “What the hell…” I turned to see the picture laying at my feet. More determined than ever I hung the picture again. This stately loudly, “Stay there dammit.” I had to laugh because I was alone. Who did I think I was talking to. The kids were playing on the front porch.
“Dad come and see this,” my daughters voice rang through the front door. I stepped out onto the porch. “Sit down and watch this.” she said excitedly. “Watch what?” No sooner than the words came out of my mouth my daughter pointed to a n old man walking down the sidewalk toward our house. But when he reached our property line he quickly crossed the street and continued his walk on the opposite sidewalk. “They don’t like walking in front of our house dad. Isn’t that weird?” my daughter still breathless with excitement stated. And right she was. I sat on that porch for a good three hours watching our neighbors cross the street away from our house on their walks. A couple of times I motioned as if to say hello and they just dropped their heads and continued on their way, but this time a little faster. “Maybe they are uncomfortable with new neighbors?” I rationalized trying to make sense out of the senseless. We went inside for dinner and the rest of the night went normally without incident.
Sunday. The kids came home from church excited because we had set aside the whole day to work on our yard. This was a big deal for us because the only outside our apartment that we could call ours had been a front balcony. We mowed the grass. Cleaned out the leaves from under the porch and in the front yard. Strangely enough the trees seemed to be shedding their as if it were fall. Strange tree behavior I thought and made a mental note to mention it to the landlady when I talked with her next. I asked my youngest son to go inside and bring out the garden hose that was in the basement so we could clean off the walkways and was down the weathered white of the house. A few moments passed when I heard him screaming from inside the house. I ran in frantically to find him. He was standing in the middle of the kitchen shaking. Standing in a puddle of urine. “What’s wrong? What happened?” Looking at me with the scared eyes of a child, “Something chased me up the basement steps.” “What chased you?” I asked already thinking the over active imagination of a little boy was at play here. “ I don’t know daddy, but it was big.” Me and my other two children checked the basement, but found nothing except for the garden hose that had been dropped on the scared run. “Let’s get you cleaned up.” Of course there was teasing from my other two children about the proverbial basement monster. “Better watch out when you go into the basement because…” The glare of my eye finished my middle boys sentence. The rest of Sunday and Monday went without anymore incident. We were so happy those first few days in the house. My daughter was making plans about gardens, decorating , and my boys thought it would be easy to just walk to their baseball games because the park was just right over there. A normal time which didn’t last for long.
Monday came. The last week of school for my kids and a long week of work for me. Each day we would leave the house. Each night we would come home to find every light in the house turned on. And each night I would blame the children for turning on every light in the house before leaving that morning. On Friday my daughter and I sent the boys to the car while we purposely toured the house looking for any forgotten light. All lights off. That night we returned home to again find every light burning. I walked into the house that night a little shaken. I had no logical reason for all of the lights being on other than that there was someone in our house. I searched the house in a panic, but found nothing or no one. “Daddy, its cold in here.” my daughter stated from the living room. What was she talking about? Sweat was pouring down my back and across my brow. I stepped into the living room. The temperature dropped what seemed a good thirty degrees. And that was the first time I felt its presence. I can’t describe it to anymore than an electrical current running through my body that brought tears to my eyes and bumps to my arms. It passed quickly. I remember thinking, “What the hell was that?” “Daddy its getting warm in here.” And sure enough the temperature was rising as I watched the thermostat climb. That night my children slept with me. What little sleep I got.
Sunday night. We were sitting in the living room talking. The kids had their backs to the living room which I am still thankful for. Because the memory of what was to happen still haunts my dreams to this day. I was getting ready to take a trip the following morning to Indianapolis for work. We were discussing the plans that had been made for the children’s stay at Grandma’s. I noticed it first out of the corner of my eye . A quick glance. Something moving, standing at the kitchen doorway that led into the family room. Not something some one. I looked toward it again. It was a dark figure of a man even though there was full light. He was solid in form except there was a moving, churning of what appeared to be dark gray, black smoke or mist that made up his form. I looked down because I was sure I wasn’t seeing this. My eyes were playing tricks on me. I was sure that when I looked up again that it would be gone. One or two good rationalizations and we could go on with our lives without incident. A few moments passed. I looked up again. He was still there. And he began to move. He moved into the family room pausing in the center of the room his form still a mass of churning turning blackness. He stood there for what seemed an eternity, but in actuality it was only a few moments and then he melted into the air. Gone. I remember the thoughts that were racing through my head. “ I have two choices. We could run out of the house screaming into the night like those crazies you always see in the movies. You know the ones that are always based on fact. Or, the other choice, we cold get up quietly leave the house and figure all of this out.” My hand was shaking uncontrollably. “ That’s what we’ll do. We will go quietly, orderly, as if nothing was wrong. “ I stood up shakily. And in my nicest, calmest daddy voice I said, “Let’s go get a soda and see grandma. “ My youngest instantly excited at the prospect of a soda before bed and the older two looking at me as if I lost my mind. “Come on guys it will be fun.” Thank God my car keys were on the coffee table in front of us. We moved orderly out the front door. I turned to lock the door when a loud painful scream of a man came up from inside the house. A man voice screaming in pain. So loud that it could be heard through out the neighborhood and the neighbors dogs began to bark. To hell with orderly. “Get in the car!” I screamed at my children. We were on a dead run now. The drive to my Mom’s house is still a blur to this day. I was in a panic and I knew that we had to get away from the old white house. I do remember as we were driving away my youngest son very scared now saying, “Daddy the basement monster is standing in the upstairs window.” I looked back and sure enough the black form was there standing in the window watching us leave.
That night we stayed at my parents house. Early the next day, I gathered my things and left for my business trip. I had a whole week of rationalizations by the time I returned home to get my kids. Where else were we to go? I had put everything I had saved and then some into the move. We had to go back to the big old white house. What else were we to do? Besides, after a week of talking myself out of the events of that night I was ready to return. So on Friday night we returned to the house. The weekend went by without incident and very little sleep. I was taking another extended weekend to make up to my kids for my week away. On Saturday we explored the big shed at the back of the yard and in it we found all of these different peoples personal belongings. My parents convinced me that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to call the strange old landlady and ask her some straight forward questions about the house. The most awkward phone call of my life and the strangest. Once I was able to reach her I asked in my most normal of voices and my most careful choice of words if she had known of any of the previous tenants mentioning perhaps a ghost. Well of course she said at first not that she could remember. Then there was this one tenant. A girl. Who claimed that her dead father came to visit her, but the old woman always thought she was crazy. Some of the stuff in the shed that girl had left behind, but she couldn’t get her to come pick it up. The other stuff in the shed belonged to this guy that had lived there and had left in the middle of the night leaving behind his things. But, no she had never heard of anyone talking about the house being haunted. I asked here how long ago did these people live there? And she said, “Not much more than a year honey, why do you ask?” The phone call wasn’t of much help. And it didn’t calm my fears much, but what else could I do?
The rest of the long weekend came and went. I actually had convinced myself that it was just a one time ordeal because nothing was happening now. That was until Monday night. I was on the phone with my mom. The kids were off playing in my bedroom which was also located on the first floor. While talking to my Mom, I heard the doors rattle. Not the outside doors, but the inside doors of the house. I listened. They rattled again. I yelled at the kids to quit playing games. I told my Mom that everything was okay just the kids playing tricks. The rattled again, this time harder. So , I scolded the children this time louder to behave and stop playing tricks. At this time they rattled louder, but before I could scold my daughters scared voice cut me off. “Daddy, I’m in here reading and my brothers are asleep.” Now I will try to recreate what happens next to the best of memory. Some of it I remember clearly. Other parts are still to this day a blur. Just has soon as I heard my daughter the temperature in the house dropped a good thirty degrees. Instantly. With it that electrical charged feeling running through my body. Along with its energy a horrible stench that I can’t goes beyond description. And then the screaming started softly at first, but building in momentum. I screamed through the phone at my mother to come help we were getting out. The whole house at this time began to shake and come alive. From the above I could hear something large coming down the stairs. Boom. Boom! BOOM! The screaming of the man over and over. The screaming of my daughter, “Daddy what is happening!” And the thought that one of my two bedroom doors connected to the stairs. BOOM! BOOM! It was coming down those stairs! I had to get to my children! The whole house was alive with noise. The floor beneath me was shaking as I made my way to opposite bedroom door. I felt something behind me and I knew I didn’t want to turnaround to see it. BOOM! SCREAMING! A new scream mixed into the mans scream this one of a child. BOOM! SCREAMS! BOOM! I make it to my bedroom door. It won’t open. By this time I am screaming myself. Throwing myself against the door. It won’t open. Throwing myself against the door again and again…it finally slams open. My daughter is in shock by this point. I instruct my middle son to grab his brother and run out the front door and head for the car. BOOM! BOOM! SCREAMS! My daughter won’t move. I finally slap her to bring her to life. She responds and I grab her and head for the door as I hear the other bedroom door slam open behind us. I was on our trail and I new I couldn’t let it reach us. The whole house still shaking and alive with noise and something big on our heels. We reach the front door and out onto the porch. I slam the front door behind us. We get to the car noise still coming from the house. I drive away and park at the top of the street where I can look into the house and wait for my parents to arrive. While there my children and I see it searching through the house. Searching! Searching for us! It’s blackness moving from room to room methodically.
That was our last night in the house. My children never returned. I returned to get a few of our things when needed and everyone I brought into that house with me would witness something happen . A scream. Whispers. Pounding from the floor above. It was not selective anymore at who it let hear its fury. About a year ago, someone I know saw a police car race up to that house one night and saw a family running out of its front door in their night clothes. I remember what the old lady said to me as I turned over the key. Standing there, the whole side of my arm and torso still bruised from throwing myself against that bedroom door. “Some people are meant to live in an old house like that. And some people aren’t. I never thought you were the old house type.” And I guess she was right.
About a month after moving out of the old house a friend sent me a web site address that she wanted me desperately to see, “ Put John T. Crowe, Union, Missouri into your search engine.” I did. The face of a man came onto my screen. The same face that showed up in a picture my brother took in the fruit cellar one afternoon while I was packing for the move. The man was famous. The land itself famous, with a history dating back to the civil war. Go there. See for yourself. As for the house. The old lady turned it into a dog kennel this past fall. I guess she ran out of people that could live in a old white house like that one.
You see I do believe in ghosts. I still drive past that house every once in awhile and when I get enough nerve I look up at the upstairs window and it there. Watching. Waiting. Angry. Sometimes its screams still wake me from my sleep. Its infectious scream creeping into my dreams turning them into nightmares. I still don’t sleep very well. In my dreams I see a faceless man standing in that basement washing away blood from his naked blood covered body. Grunting. Panting. Breathing. The breathing you’d hear when you were alone with it in a room. The breathing you would hear when you knew it was there. Heavy. Labored. Breathing. Yes, I do believe in ghosts. I do believe in ghosts. And maybe you should too?