Saturday, October 30, 2010

My haunted apartment

I moved into my first apartment back when I was in college.  It was the summer after my sophomore year, and a really good friend of mine and I decided we'd had enough of the dorms and found an apartment together near campus for the following year.  It was the first apartment for both of us, and I will admit I felt quite grown-up, signing a lease and paying rent and all.  (I was all of 19 at the time.)  We'd looked at several apartments, but with our budgetary constraints, most of the nice ones were well out of our reach.  We settled on a two bedroom, one bath on the outskirts of what was considered the "University" neighborhood - more grad students than undergrads were found living that far away.  The neighborhood was, how shall I put it?  BohemianArtsySketchy.  The building was right off a street that was known for its shops, bars and theaters - all of the decidedly alternative variety.  In short, had my parents driven up from Jersey to check out our proposed abode before we signed the lease, I don't think I would've signed the lease.  I probably would've found myself living in a dorm for another year.

That's not to say that the apartment was a total dive, mind you.  At least, I've seen worse.  It was on the second floor of a three story building - an actual apartment building, not a converted house, as so many of the student rentals were in that town.  The apartment's best feature was its HUGE living room with large windows and an interesting (albeit dingy with age) black-and-white tiled floor.  We envisioned turning the apartment into a 20s Art Deco style showplace, though that didn't get any farther than buying some black and white sheets with which to cover the hideous couches and black and white plates and mugs for the kitchen.

Annnnnyhow, it was not a bad place, despite the .........colorful neighborhood, and we happily moved in and went about our lives.  Thanks to Google Maps and my ridiculously good longterm memory, I can show you a picture of the building:

Now, this was an older building (as evidenced by the picture above).  Having grown up in a very old farmhouse (as in: 1740s vintage), I was used to the quirks an old building can have.  You know, the occasional creak or squeak or dripping faucet... None of that sort of thing fazed me in the least.  After a few years of living with roommates, I was used to those sorts of quirks, as well - a light left on here, a door left ajar there, things taken out and not put back exactly where they had been before.  No big whoop.  So, a few weeks into the semester, my roommate and I attended a party at a home occupied by a bunch of grad students (friends of her boyfriend's) that was in the same neighborhood.  In the course of chatting with some of these people, it came up that we lived just up the road.  Someone asked us where, specifically, and when we told him, he said to us "Oh, the haunted building on the corner?"

Haunted building?  Did he just say haunted building?

Yep, that's what he said.  We tried to inquire further, but the noise level and his alcohol level made getting solid details mostly impossible.  He and the group of people we were standing with all nodded vigorously in agreement that our building was most definitely said to be haunted, that much was clear.  My roommate went off in search of her boyfriend at that point, and it wasn't until later when he was walking us home that I realized how upset she was over the news.  I shrugged it off for the most part, chalking it up to a local urban legend at best.

Except all of a sudden, those creaks and squeaks and things that went bump in the night seemed a bit more.....ominous.  The faucet that would start running in the bathroom or kitchen sinks wasn't as easily dismissed as "Oh, she must've left the water running."  Ditto for the lights that we could've sworn we turned off at night before retiring to our respective bedrooms and then find on the next day.  Neither of us were prone to sleepwalking, much less sleep-dishwashing or sleep-toothbrushing, so finding the tap running or a light on in the morning began becoming more and more disconcerting.

Then, it happened.  I was home at the apartment alone one evening, my roommate having gone over to her boyfriend's place for dinner.  Around 10pm, she called me to say that she was staying over there, so I could put the chain on the door, which I went and did as soon as I got off the phone.  I decided to go to bed shortly thereafter, checking the lock and chain on the door, making sure all lights and taps and everything were off, and closing my bedroom door behind me.

Now, I am a sound sleeper.  One might say I sleep like the dead, even.  But that night, something woke me up around 3 am.  I sat up in bed, trying to figure out what it had been.  (Our upstairs neighbors favored loud, heavy metal music and seemed to have footwear solely composed of cement blocks.)  As I came fully awake, I realized I could hear noise coming from the living room.  I got up, turned on my bedroom light, opened the door and found the stereo was on.  The stereo that I had not been listening to before going to bed - I'd had the TV on - was on and set to the radio (I'd been listening to a cassette earlier in the day, so the knob had not been set to "tuner" when I'd shut it off hours before.)

I chose not to think about how and why it was on and instead rushed across the room and shut it off, then ran back into my bedroom, shutting the door behind me, and got back in bed.  Eventually, I fell asleep again.  When I next woke up, it was a little after 7 in the morning.  I got up, opened my door and............. the radio was on again.  On and turned to a station that played jazz way down at the other end of the dial, far from any of the rock stations my roommate and I preferred.  Also, the chairs that had been pushed in under the dining room table against the opposite wall were pulled out, away from the table, and set together a few feet into the living room, facing the windows.  As though someone had wanted to sit and admire the view while listening to some jazz.

In the light of day, I didn't feel nearly as freaked out, so I bravely marched across the room, switched the radio back to our preferred station and then shut it off and moved the chairs back to where they belonged.  I checked once again - all the windows were shut and locked (and besides, we were on a second floor apartment with no fire escapes or other easy means of reaching them), and the door was locked with the chain still on.  At first I was convinced my roommate had come home, somehow gotten in to the apartment despite the chain and had been messing with me.  This wasn't at all her style, but still.  Just to be on the safe side, I called her up over at her boyfriend's apartment.  Nope, she hadn't been home - in fact, I woke them up by calling.  I explained to her what I'd discovered overnight and that morning, thoroughly freaking her out in the process.  She never spent another night in our apartment the rest of the lease without her boyfriend sleeping over, and more nights than not she wound up spending at his place or going home to her parents' house, as they lived nearby.  I, on the other hand, continued to live in the apartment with whatever (whomever?) else had been there before our lease.  I'd even occasionally chastise them aloud for leaving a light on or the tap running, since the utility bills were only being split two ways.  Other than trying to avoid the laundry facilities in the basement unless it was daylight (the basement was spooky in and of itself, haunted or otherwise), I had no major issues with our building's other tenants, human or ......?  Throughout the remainder of the lease, lights would be turned on - usually in the bathroom or kitchen, and taps would be turned on in the sinks and occasionally the tub.  Every now and again, a drawer or cabinet in the kitchen would be open.  Things didn't always turn up where we thought we'd left them.  A few times, small things went missing - loose change, pens, that sort of thing.  

Did we have ghosts sharing the apartment with us?  I couldn't say for sure.  I will say that whatever dwelled there (beyond the death metal Neanderthals upstairs) was fairly benign.  Nothing malicious or harmful ever transpired in the apartment, beyond the slightly higher utility bills.  I never did find out the story behind the building's supposed haunting.  I'm still curious, though...  So, what about you?  Do you believe in ghosts and hauntings?  Have you ever shared a home with a poltergeist?  Can you come up with a more rational explanation for the goings-on in our apartment that year?

And on that note, Happy Halloween to you and yours from me and mine!  I'll leave you with our jack o'lantern for this year, carved by Hubby and Kiddo (I do NOT do pumpkin guts) earlier this afternoon:



Pearl said...

Once you've experienced something you can't properly explain, things look different, don't they?!

Happy Halloween!


Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

EEK! That is a very scary story. Perfect for Halloween!

Heather, you are such a good writer. So descriptive and you just really kept my interest through the whole post. Excellent job, as always!!

Givinya De Elba said...

And WOW that Jack-o-lantern is amazing! Well done H & K!!

My name is Andy. said...

mwahahaaa!! Happy Halloween!

Ash said...

Oh my WORD! Girl, you are a brave soul.

I totally believe a soul was there, but I always wonder what makes them stay? Surely they have good jazz in Heaven?

I imagine even better in Hell.

And dude, every time you said you "shut the down behind you" I wanted to sceam at the screen - "it doesn't matter!!!!"

Thanks for sufficiently freaking me out.

(totally laughing - W.V. is "nessi" Blogger getting in spirit of things?)

annabelle said...

Wow. Great post. Love these kinds of stories told first hand. It's always better when its not a "friend of a friend" type telling.

We live in the house my husbands grandparents lived in for 40+ years. The very same house that his great aunt died in.
We hear folks walking the hall all the time. It's a very easily recognized sound, as we have hardwood floors.
Over the years we've come to accept the random noises and shadows. Lots of shadows in a hallway with no windows.

Thanks for sharing your spooky tale.

Andrea @ The Creative Junkie said...

That story still freaks me out! FREAKS ME OUT. I don't know how you could have continued to live there.


I have the heebie jeebies now.

Joanna Jenkins said...

That would have totally freaked me out. I'd have had to sleep with the lights on for the rest of the lease :-)
Happy halloween, jj

tulpen said...

Glad I finally made it back to finish reading this!!

Creepy as Hell!!

I lived in an attic apartment in a 300 year old house, which was haunted as all get out. Lights going on and off all the time. I could have chalked it up to wonky electricity.


The locks. As a single woman living alone, I should have locked the place up tight every night. I didn't.

Someone did though. I'd wake up in the morning and the door would be locked... the CHAIN pulled across.

Whoever it was wanted me safe.