Thursday, October 29, 2009

The House Next Door

Wanna hear (read) a scary story? Well, maybe not scary, but definitely creepy. And absolutely true.

We moved around a lot when I was growing up. My mom always said we were part gypsy. The summer before I turned 11, we moved to a small town in Northern Utah. It was a very picturesque little town, built at the base of the mountains, with an actual Main Street and everything. It was very Stephen King.

When we first moved to the town, we lived in a small house on a quiet, tree lined street. It was a cozy little house, but my mother was in love with the house next door.

The house next door was right on the corner. It was an old white farm house with a black roof, a wrap around porch, and a white picket fence outlining the back yard. When we drove down the street, my mom would sigh as we passed it. To her, it was the perfect house. A dream house that needed a little love, but could be fabulous with the right person to love it. Unfortunately, a large family was renting it at the time, so she was forced to admire it from afar. Or at least, from next door.

One night, late in the summer, I woke up to the sound of the wind chimes clanking in the breeze. My bed was pushed up against the wall next to my open window, which faced the east side of the old house next door. The full moon was shining down, illuminating an open second story window facing mine. I lay there in my bed, watching the sheer white curtains float back and forth in the breeze, dancing in and out of the that open window, to the soft tune of the wind chimes. And as I rolled over, my back to the moon light so I could go back to sleep, I wondered why that was the only window on that house that didn't have a screen.

Just about a month later, we found out the family who lived in the house next door had moved out. No one had seen them leave. One day, they were just gone. And of course my mother jumped at the opportunity. The owners agreed to let us rent the house with the option to buy in about a year. The owners lived out of town, I can't remember if it was a different state or what, but they sent someone to give us a walk through of the house before we moved in.

The inside of the house was even better than my mother imagined. It was built in the early 1880's and was the oldest house on the street. According to the lady who did the walk through, the family who originally built the house owned all the land surrounding it, eventually selling pieces of the land here and there for others to build on.

"Despite what you may have heard," she said, "This house has a good history."

My mom and I looked at each other, our eyebrows furrowed in unison. But we shrugged it off and followed her around the first floor of the house, oohing and aahhing over the claw footed bath tub and mahogany stair rail. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, one of which was padlocked shut. It just so happened, this was the room with the east facing window overlooking the house we were moving out of, the window that I had just looked up at a month ago and watched the curtains breeze in and out.

My mom asked why this room was locked. Our tour guide informed us the owners of the home were using that room for storage and it would not be available to us. My mother agreed that would be fine. With the master bedroom downstairs and two open bedrooms upstairs, there was more than enough room for the two of us and our two mangy dogs, Misty and Magnum.

Excited about the new house and our fresh start, we moved in. The old house had so much character - the decorative moulding around the wide door frames, the quaint kitchen with 1950's era appliances, and the big old apple tree in the back yard. One afternoon a few days after we moved in, I was in the back yard with the dogs, picking apples from the tree. I noticed a gate in the back corner of the yard. I thought it was odd that there was a gate leading to the yard of the house behind us. I walked over to get a closer look.

It was a rickety gate attached to the picket fence that lined the yard, badly in need of fresh paint. But it didn't lead to the neighbor's yard like I thought, I could see a chain link fence marking the perimeter of their property. The gate opened to a dirt path leading to that chain link fence and then turned to the left to reveal a small clearing. A meadow, if you will, covered in tall yellow grass and wildflowers. The chain link fences of the bordering properties revealed this to be an extra back yard belonging to our house. It was maybe a little less than a quarter of an acre in size. And my own secret garden.

I turned to my canine companions and smiled. "Let's go," I said, running ahead a little. Neither of them moved. Magnum actually took two steps backwards, turned, and walked back towards the house. I stopped in the middle of the clearing and yelled after him, but he kept going. I called Misty, but she didn't budge. She sat at the edge of the path with her ears perked and her teeth bared.

"What is your problem?" I asked. "Come on!" She stood up on all fours and began barking at me. I shrugged my shoulders and turned my back to her, walking through the tall grass and picking a few flowers for my mom. As I turned to walk back to the stubborn dog who would not stop barking, my feet stumbled over something and I fell forward, dropping the flowers as I put my hands out to catch myself. The stupid dog still didn't come to my rescue. She started jumping and barking more aggressively, but wouldn't come into the clearing.

I had tripped over a row of crumbling cement curbing half covered by the tall grass. I sat up and looked around the ground. The curbing was about three inches wide and formed a rectangle of about 6 feet by three feet. A few feet over, there was another rectangle. And then another. And two smaller ones a little further way. All five rectangles were in various sizes, none of them the same. I assumed the farmers who built the house originally had kept this area as a garden and the rectangles were used for different herbs and vegetables. I brushed myself off and walked back to the house, my psychotic dog whimpering at my feet. As I closed the creaky gate, a quick breeze blew from behind me and the hair on my neck stood up. I looked back towards the path and shivered, then quickly followed my dog back to the house.

Later that day as my mom and I peeled the apples to make a pie, I told her about the creepy little garden I had found and how crazy the dogs had acted.

"That's weird," she said. "Magnum was barking at a corner in the dining room yesterday." We laughed at how the moving was probably confusing them and how they were never going to survive the gypsy life. But obviously the dogs were not amused. As the months went on, they acted more and more strange. Barking at that corner in the dining room, refusing to go with me into the cellar, and laying in front of the "storage" room upstairs and whimpering at the door.

And then the strange things started happening. The dining room lights flickered a lot. We thought maybe it was because the electricity had been added several years after the house was built, it seemed there were several outlets and switches that didn't work. And then the toilet always flushed by itself. We blamed that on faulty plumbing. And then the back door would open and close by itself. We blamed that on rusty hinges. We blamed the creaky noises on the house settling. We blamed our misplaced personal items on each other. And that time I got locked in the master bedroom closet when I was home alone, we blamed the old door knobs that had to be unlocked with a skeleton key.

And we blamed the faint sounds of a child giggling on the kid next door.

By the time spring had rolled around, we had lived in the house for several months and experienced many odd moments, but all could be explained as one reason or another.

And then the owners came to clean out the storage room. The padlock was so old and rusted, they had to cut it off with bolt cutters. The small room was dark and musty, almost dank. It contained several boxes and an old baby crib in the corner. The original wood floor had been painted over many times, and in several spots the paint was peeling. In the middle of the room there was a large stain on the floor. I assumed that was why they had painted it, trying to cover that stain. At the end of the long room was the window overlooking the house we had lived in first. The sheer white curtains were dingy and frayed. I reached out to touch them, thinking of the night I had looked up from my window next door and watched the curtains floating in and out of the window with the breeze. I pushed the curtains aside, looking at the dirty sill. And my heart briefly stopped beating when I realized the window was painted shut.

"Didn't the family who lived here before us use this room?" I asked.

"No," the owner replied. "It's always been used for storage. We haven't been in this room in probably five or six years."

I stared at my mom, holding my breath. When the owner walked out of the room I told her about the night I saw the window open. She thought I might have been dreaming. Maybe I was, but I really don't think so. We moved out of the house not long after. And it wasn't until then that we heard stories from friends and former neighbors. Stories about other families who had lived there and the things they had heard or seen. No one had lived in that house longer than a year.

Many years later, I was taking a college history class. We were studying photographs dated from the late 1800's. I came across a group of photos of cemeteries and family burial plots. As I leafed through the photos I came across one that literally knocked the wind out of me. It was a piece of land with five plots in various sizes outlined by cement curbing. Other than the curbing, there were no other markings indicating what the rectangles represented. All this time I had ignorantly thought they were different little gardens. But I realized now, looking at this old photo, they were indeed graves.

For years I had dreams about the house. Some dreams, some nightmares. But basically they were all the same. I would be walking through the neighborhood, trying to find the house. Sometimes I couldn't find it. But when I did, I would knock on the door and explain to the person who lived there that I had once lived there, too. Sometimes I would hear voices coming from within the house, telling the new owner not to let me in because I knew too much. Always, I would wake up in a cold sweat, my heart and mind racing.

A few years ago my mom and I paid a visit to that spooky little town. Not much had changed. We found the house easily and parked outside for a few minutes to take pictures. It still looked like a quaint little house that was loved by it's new owners. It did not look like a house full of secrets. We stared at it in silence for a while and then drove away. We did not knock on the door.

I haven't had a dream about that house since.

Do I know for sure what happened in that house? No. But do I know it was something unusual? Something that can't be explained? Something that not many people, even some of you reading, will believe? Yes.

Am I okay with the unknown?

I guess I have to be.


kristen s said...

Holy CRAP, April... that's so freaking creepy!!! I don't *want* to believe in any of that stuff, but sometimes things like that happen that just can't be explained.

The house I grew up in had some really weird things go on in it too... but they didn't start until we had lived there for about 10 years. Once, my mom woke up sort of freaked out because she had a dream about a little girl in a long white nightgown who was just standing in her doorway with her arms outstretched saying "mom" over and over again. She said in her dream she thought it was me, but I wouldn't come to her and then she realized I didn't own a nightgown like that. My dad was listening and got the strangest look on his face. He was NOT a man to believe in anything supernatural (he was a scientist with a PhD... EVERYTHING had an explanation in his opinion) but he could NOT explain how he had the exact same "dream" the night before. He hadn't told anyone about it, but he said every detail was the same. CREEPY. Other things happened every now and again too... doors would slam shut and lights would dog would sit at the top of the stairs and tilt its head and perk its ears and bark for no reason... weird. When I graduated from college, I lived in that house by myself for a few months because my parents had moved to a new house, but hadn't put the old one on the market yet. I used to FREAK the hell out some nights, because the microwave would beep like the keys were being pressed down in the kitchen. Let's just say I was NOT sad when they put a 'For Sale by Owner' sign in the yard and it sold in literally 10 minutes to a couple who said they had been driving by our house for YEARS and always loved it. They happened to be driving by when my mom was putting the sign in the yard, so they came to the door and agreed to buy it on the spot. I wonder if they still live there, and if they had any weird crap happen to them?

Sarah said...

Hello, I randomly found your blog and this spooky little post. I was googling 'how to build a house in Northern Utah.' Anyway...I live in northern utah and was wondering what little town your old house was in. My husband and I love going for drives and it would be fun to just drive by. Thanks, and have a great day.

April said...

Hi Sarah, please send me an email at aprilsreignblog at g mail dot com and I will tell you exactly where the house is. According to your blogger profile you are in the general area. Thank you so much for leaving a comment!

"Intentionally Katie" said...

I felt like I just read the teaser to a horror novel. That story will probably give me nightmares tonight, thankyouverymuch! And there's no ENDING to it. The mystery lives on. What's up with that? It makes it that much worse...

Karen R said...

The radio station that I listen to asked people to call in with ghost stories. One normal sounding guy called in and said he's a house inspector. Once he was doing an inspection under a house built in the 1800's. The potential new owner was with him. He heard the man's family drive up and run into the house. Heard the kids laughing and running around on the floor above him. After he was finished with the inspection, he and the guy and the real estate lady were talking. He asked about the history of the house and the real estate lady told him a child died in the house, but other than that, she didn't know much about it. That reminded him of the man's kids and he turned to him and asked where they were. The man looked at him and said "I'm single. I don't have any kids." The inspector stared at him and the real estate lady. She asked if he heard the children and asked what they were doing. He said giggling. She said she's heard stories that sometimes they're not happy. He said the hair on his arms stood on end and he couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Julie said...

You should write a book. Seriously. Amazing.

The Maid said...

I went to visit my parents up in Northern Idaho this summer. They had purchased a great home in a beautiful picturesque neighborhood. I fell in love with a photo of a house down the street from them and if we had been in a position to, we would have bought it sight unseen and moved up there in a heartbeat.

So, I'm up there visiting and driving by the house and talked to my uncle. He dropped by and spoke with the owner of the house who can't seem to unload this "PERFECT" house.

We heard from my moms neighbors a couple of days later that the mayor of the city used to live there and his daughter HUNG herself in the garage.

Guess who is NOT moving to that perfect little house in matter how much money we make!



Oh...and I have lots of ghosts in my house...whenever I ask who did one ever knows. (Sounds paranormal to me.)

The creeped out maid

Mom Taxi Julie said...

So freaky!! I lived in an old victorian that had been changed into apartments. People said that sometimes people saw some "ghost" there but I never saw them.

I swear I have someone that rides in the car with me sometimes. I can feel them kicking my seat but there is no one there.

Sue said...

The hair is up on the back of my neck.

Creepy, super interesting stuff. I'm a total believer.

Shorty after my Grandma passed away, I was feeling horrible for not having spent enough time with her in the years before she died. (She lived in Germany) A few weeks later, she came to me in a dream, clear as day and spoke to me - telling me it was ok, and that now she could see my children grow, and spend time with us everyday. It was incredibly comforting. Every once in a while I will wake up with her phone number in my head. It's a 14 digit number, and it just pops in my head. I think thats her way of telling me she is "visiting".

Anonymous said...

an ooooooold victorian-era house i used to live in was said to be haunted. aparrantly, there were odd rituals and killings, and satanic worship going on while the house was being nuilt, plus it was built upon an indial burial ground. i would always her odd noises in the middle of the night, and lights would flicker, and doors, and im talking large 40 pound oak doors with rusty hard-to-budge hinges, would suddenly slam shut with a mighty force. it would scare the crap out of me. my roommate, who was helping me at the time with a financial crisis, was sleeping in the room with me, in 2 seperate queen sixed beds, and we awoke suddenly, to hear this loud, high-pitched screeching noise, as if somebody had taken a razorblade and scratched it across a blackboard, for about 5 minutes. thats too long to be just side effects of waking up suddenly and still seeing your dream play out in reality in your mind. this sound, it sounded alive, like it was a rythmic pattern, and then afterwards, there was a single loud, bellowing breath. then silence. an eerie silence, like the kind before the storm. suddenly, a semi-translucent man, ungodly disfigured with holes through his body, leaking odd blood across the floor from his woulds, and odd white things coming from the holes that used to be is eyes, i assumed, and bound with shackles and chains, materialized through the wall, and he seemed to jump at us violently, and was foaming like rabid dog. it seemed the chains, which were attached to his arms, but seemed to end at the wall, or go through them even, were holding him back. and then, just as quick as it happened, it was over. we ran out, and left everything. and the oddest thing, when we came back to retrieve our items we left in the haste, there were holes in the wall were the chains had been, and blood acros the wooded floor. then we did some research on the home, and it turns out a satanic group had sacrificed a man. they bound him to chains that were in a pot of maggots, and they cut his body, and let the maggots inside of him, where they ate him from the inside. i threw up right there in the library, thwn wherln the librarian read it, she did, also. truly the most horrifying thing i have ever witnessed.