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The Darkness

February 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is a story from my childhood, one which I have not told anyone except for my wife; just thinking about it still sends shivers down my spine. I grew up in a small house with just my mother. It was a nice little house with two bedrooms upstairs, a small living room and kitchen on the main floor, and a basement where I kept all of my toys. The basement had a small storage room in the back, lit by a single light bulb. It wasn’t until I was seven years old that I started to get scared to go down there.

It was a dark, rainy night as I played with my Lego’s in the basement. Rain water slowly dripped through the window and down the cement wall. It was cold down there that night, more so than usual; I was wrapped up in my hoodie and a blanket as I played. While attempting to build an airplane out of my Lego’s, I suddenly got a chill down my spine followed by the overwhelming feeling of being watched. I turned and looked behind me toward the dark storage room. Something drew my attention to the room, but I couldn’t see what it was. It seemed darker than usual; I didn’t think a room could get that dark, especially with the lights on in the room adjacent to it. It almost seemed like there was something in there drawing away all of the light, sucking it in like a black hole. I stared into the darkness at seemingly nothing, until I saw something move. I didn’t know what it was, but it seemed even darker than the room. I saw it for just a second before it disappeared; as it did, I could see light slowly start to trickle into the room. This terrified me, so I ran upstairs to the living room to seek comfort from my mother. When I told her what I had seen, she just told me that it was my mind playing tricks on me because of the heavy rain outside.

I went to bed that night not thinking much about what had happened in the basement. I lay back in my bed and closed my eyes just like on any other night, and I fell asleep rather quickly. Although I fell asleep like it was a normal night, the night was less than normal; I woke up that night with the feeling of being watched. I opened my eyes to see nothing but darkness; I couldn’t even see the light from the street light outside of my window. Thinking that maybe my blinds were closed, I looked across my room for the soft, green glow of my alarm clock, but it wasn’t there. At that moment, I realized that this was a lot like the darkness I had seen in the basement and that scared me. My fear doubled in an instant when I thought I saw movement in the darkness. In my terror from seeing that there was something in my room, I pulled my blankets over my head and screamed. In the midst of my screams I heard my door open, and the soft call from my mother. As she sat down on my bed, I slowly pulled my blankets off from over my head and looked around my room. The light had returned to my room and I could now see the soft glow of my clock blinking at 2:17am, and the light from the street light outside my window with my blinds fully open. My mother asked me what was wrong, and I told her what had happened; reassuringly, she told me that it was just a nightmare and to go back to sleep. She gently kissed my forehead and left my room, closing the door behind her. It was hard for me to fall asleep after that, so I just watched my clock slowly tick away the minutes.

This went on for about two or three months, staying at this level of activity; nothing more than the feeling of being watched in the darkness, however, that all changed on Halloween night. It was a typical Ontario Halloween night; cold, windy and rainy. I had returned home that night from trick-or-treating with my mom at about eight o’clock and went down to the basement to play with my toys for a bit before bed. I could hear the rain tap against the basement window, and the wind whistling as it blew between my house and my neighbour’s house. Something was unsettling in the basement that night, more so than usual. As I played I thought I heard sounds coming from the storage room, but every time I looked there was nothing; this was nothing strange to me as it’s been happening for the last few months, so I continued to play. I played for about ten minutes when the power suddenly went out, and that’s when everything changed. As soon as the power went out, I heard more movement from the storage room behind me. I immediately looked behind me to see a quick flash of red light, and then darkness. As I stared, I could hear footsteps from the dark room, but I could see nothing. The footsteps slowly made their way toward me, the darkness somehow getting darker as they approached, until they suddenly stopped. I moved my eyes around the room, careful not to move any other part of my body in fear that whatever this was would see me. I looked around the room, trying to see what this thing was, but I could see nothing; it was so dark I couldn’t even see my feet. I wanted to run upstairs to the safety of my mother, but I was frozen in fear so I didn’t move a muscle or even breathe.

I sat in silence, listening for whatever was in the room with me. I couldn’t hear a sound, not even the rain on the window or the wind between the houses. As I listened, the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up on edge, and I got chills down my spine, and that’s when I heard it; a deep voice whispered into my right ear “You will be mine, Robert.” I instantly screamed and ran to the stairs, tripping on toys along the way. I made my way up the stairs and through the door to the living room, slamming the door behind me. I ran to my mother, crying and she held me not knowing what was going on. I told her what had happened, but she just told me that my mind was just playing tricks on me again; what I had heard was just the wind, but my mind exaggerated it because of the darkness. From that moment in the basement, no matter what my mother said, I knew that whatever this thing was, it was real.

From then on, I refused to go into the basement alone; in fact I didn’t like going into the basement at all! The activity in the basement itself settled down a little bit because I was never alone down there after that incident, but I still had trouble sleeping. I would wake up at night with the feeling of being watched to see nothing in my room but darkness. I would lay there staring into the darkness with my blankets pulled up to my neck, hoping there was nothing there, but after a few minutes I would hear that same voice again; “You’re mine, Robert.” The second I would hear that voice, I would pull my blankets over my head and scream, causing my mother to run into my room and every time she would say it was just a bad dream. This sequence would go on at least twice per week until August of 1998 when the activity escalated yet again.

My mother had been dating her now husband for a while now and we were preparing to move into his house. I was going to be on vacation for two weeks in Quebec with my grandparents as my mom moved our things into the new house, but what happened my last night in that house still terrifies me to this day. I had fallen asleep easily that night, excited to be leaving on vacation the next morning, but the rest of the night would not be so easy. I woke up again that night, this time to the sound of breathing; I opened my eyes to see nothing but darkness yet again. Thinking that my mother was in my room with me, I called out to her: “Mom?” but what answered was definitely not my mother. It was that deep voice yet again; “Your mother is not here, she can’t help you Robert. You’re finally mine!” I continued to stare into the darkness thinking that it was my imagination, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see the silhouette of that dark figure standing at the end of my bed. I immediately pulled my blankets over my head and screamed, but my mother didn’t come. I felt pressure on the end of my bed, as if someone was sitting on it; I screamed again. Suddenly, I felt something grab onto my ankle under the blankets and pull. I somehow managed to turn onto my stomach and grab the end of my mattress, but it only gave me a few seconds before it shifted and I was pulled right out of my bed. I continued to scream, louder than I had ever screamed before. Finally I could hear my mother get out of bed and make her way to the door, only this time when she reached it, the door did not open. The entity continued to drag me toward the door as I continued to scream; I could hear my mother pushing against the door trying to get it open without success. As it dragged me across the carpet, I tried to grab onto anything that I could, but the only thing that seemed to work was the foot of my bed. I stopped as I took hold and I finally stopped moving toward the door. I could feel the entity begin to pull harder, hard enough to lift my body off of the carpet, but I managed to hold on. As I fought the entity, I could here my mother struggle with the door. It took my mother a good two or three minutes to finally get the door open.

As the door finally opened, light returned to my room and I no longer felt the grip on my ankles and I fell back to the carpet. I looked around the room, terrified. My room was a disaster; the sheets were in a ball on the floor, by mattress was half off of my bed frame, and my bed was no longer sitting flush with the wall but pulled off about three feet. I looked around for the entity, but it was no longer there. My mother held me tight as I cried on the floor, not knowing what happened only thinking that it was a really intense nightmare.

I spent the rest of that night in my mother’s bed, but did not sleep. The next morning, I could see the rug burn on my arms and elbows from being dragged across the carpet. I looked at my ankles to see they were red and swollen, but harder to see were the little scratches along the top of my feet. That was my last night in that house, and I’m glad that it was.

To this day, I do not know what this thing was or what it wanted of me, but thinking of it still scares me. In my adolescent years, and even now that I’m in my mid twenties, I have what my doctor has only described as night terrors; I wake up in the middle of the night to see nothing but darkness and as I stare into the darkness I see a figure, even darker than the darkness around it. I still scream when I see the silhouette the darkness. Now that I’m older though, I have more control over my actions; I take a flashlight and shine it through my room, or I’ll turn on the light switch. Many times I’ll just wake up screaming, sometimes even running out of my room, with no idea why. I do not know if what I see is the same entity that stalked me as a child or if it’s just my imagination digging deep into my subconscious, but the entity still haunts me to this day. I just pray that whatever this is does not start going after my wife or our future kids.

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Outside the Window

January 31, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was 19 years old and still living at home. My dog Cooper, a pit bull, always slept with me. He would never wake up at night, let alone bark or whine. This is one of the reasons I was so unnerved when I was awoken around 3 am one dark night. When I was awake enough to know what was happening, I noticed that Cooper was standing over me. All the fur on his back was standing on end and he was making a noise that I had never heard him make before. It sounded like a mix between a growl and a cry. I was more worried about him than about what had frightened him at that point. That is, until I noticed what he was looking at.

Cooper was staring straight at the window right next to my bed. He had such anger and fear in his eyes. I didn’t even know such emotion could be displayed by a dog’s eyes. As soon as I looked at the window, Cooper turned around and sprinted out of my room. I sat completely still for a minute before I gained the courage to look at the window again. I slowly turned my head towards the window. The dread began to gather but I knew I had to. I finally turned my head the last couple inches and forced my eyes to look, but I didn’t see anything. But I definitely heard something.

I sat completely still in my bed, suppressing the childish urge to cover my face with blankets and hope whatever was out there went away. But my curiosity held me in my place. I had to know. Suddenly I heard heavy and slow footsteps outside my window. The rocks outside made them sound too loud and too close. The footsteps were too heavy to belong to any animal that might be innocently scurrying past my window. They were most definitely human, or humanlike.

Completely still, I sat and waited. The footsteps stopped for a few seconds and then they seemed to go back the way they came from. That just happened to be towards the back door of my house. A sound from outside my room in the hall drew my attention away from the window. It sounded like Cooper running down the hall. Before I could react, the back door opened and closed. Someone had let Cooper out.

My legs seemed to know what to do before I did. I was in the hall and at the back door in seconds. I just stood there with my hand hovering above the doorknob for what seemed like minutes. Paralyzing fear was preventing me from actually turning the knob, but I knew Cooper was out there and I needed to save him from whatever was there. With that thought, I turned the knob and threw the door open.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but complete and utter silence was not it. The countryside is usually much more lively at night with crickets and all. As for lighting, there wasn’t any. I took one hesitant step out of the doorway. That was when I heard it. It was the same noise I had heard Cooper make earlier. I felt a hand on my shoulder and whipped around. It was my father wondering what on earth I was doing and telling me to get inside. I frantically tried to explain that Cooper was out there with something that walked past my window a few minutes before. My father looked at me like I was insane. Apparently Cooper was sleeping on his bed. He had been there all night.

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Lighthouse

January 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Forgive me, as I am never sure where to begin telling a story. I never was a storyteller. I tend to include useless information and jump around. So I will do my best to do this story justice, considering it happened to me and the ones I love, changing us forever.

I never really gave it much thought. I was under the impression everyone had the…abilities that I do. I would be reading an article in some teenybopper magazine about a beloved pop star and suddenly an image would enter my mind of a frazzled young woman with wild dark hair, panicking about the article being completed in time for publishing. I of course have no way to verify that this flash was at all what she was thinking as she wrote it or if that even described her appearance but it was eerie nonetheless. There is also my knowing the next song that would come on the radio. Right down to humming any particular song, flipping on the radio and have it playing, sometimes right where my humming of the tune left off. Even now, as a habitual skeptic, I am willing to argue radio stations only play about 10 different songs all day. But again, still eerie.

Part of the reason I always thought this was ordinary was because I would often come across people like me. My old band’s lead guitarist who claimed to be able to hear people’s thoughts. His daughter who said she could see auras. Sean, my friend who sold me my house, who can sense the dead and help them pass on to the afterlife. My friend of over 10 years, Charles, who always knows someone is about to call him before the phone even rings and other things similar to my own experiences. There’s also my lifelong friend Sarah who sees black shadows surrounding people who wish to do harm to others. A former coworker named Tasha who, on a regular basis, had to burn sage in her home to stop something from throwing dishes around her kitchen at night. And last but not least, my husband. As a small child he climbed to the top of the stairs in his childhood home to find a man dressed in military fatigues and “a bloody dot on his forehead” who simply told him ‘Don’t do it.’ He was terrified but eventually forgot about it. Until one day when he was 18 he looked up in the mirror while brushing his teeth and realized the guy on the stairs was himself. That year, he dropped out of ROTC.

But as I grew older and got out in the world more I found out I am actually weird. Sean said he rarely meets people like us. A staunch atheist, I don’t even believe in this crap yet it was all around me and being told by people I respect and trust more than anyone.

I fear I am once more adding too much information. Perhaps I feel a need to defend my experience as I can almost hear the skeptics now. I AM a skeptic, I tried to explain all this away. Hell, I WANTED to. Since I can’t speak for others, I might as well assume all those friends of mine are completely making all that stuff up. Fine with me. But I know what happened last year. I’ll go ahead and tell it now.

These abilities of mine waned as I got older. Or I learned to ignore them. But after I had my son, things escalated quite quickly. He was (ha, still is!) a rather horrible sleeper. So I’ll be the very first to say I was exhausted his first 6 months of life. Sleep-deprivation can do some crazy things to you. But that doesn’t explain everything.

One night around midnight I woke up and in the faint glow of the nightlight I could see the bathrobes hanging on the back of my bedroom door. Which meant the door was shut. We never shut our bedroom door at night. Ever. At the time we didn’t have a baby monitor so it was a strict rule: leave the door open. The bathrobes even helped it naturally swing open. So I was confused, but when I heard my child’s screams I instantly woke up completely. I bounded out of bed and growled to my husband, “Why would you shut the door?” He groggily insisted he hadn’t. Annoyed, I ripped the door open and went across the hall to the baby’s room.

I bent over his crib and searched for his pacifier, all the while shushing softly and trying to soothe him. That’s when I heard it. Next to my ear his heartbeat bear was going “woosha-woosha-woosha”.

I had turned that m—-r f—-r off at 8 pm. It wasn’t helping my son sleep and it was getting annoying having to constantly reset the touchy timer. If you didn’t click it back into the Off position and wait long enough before turning it back on, no sound would come out. If you twisted the dial too fast no sound would come out. So I had said eff it and turned the damn thing off and left it off.

Now let me be clear. At 4 months of age, my son was not pulling to standing. He did not have the fine motor skills to hardly pick up his own pacifier yet. The idea of him standing up, reaching through the crib slats to the back of the bear, and blindly, but perfectly, turning the bear on and making sound come out is downright laughable. It’s like something out of that stupid Baby Geniuses movie. I couldn’t explain it. A brand new bear, with practically new batteries, that had never turned itself on before and couldn’t have possibly clicked itself into the On position, was beating next to my ear.

Our son slept in our bed for the rest of that night.

I contacted Sean the next morning. I had spent all night trying to understand how my door had shut itself. How a bear could turn itself back on. I kept reluctantly coming to the same conclusion. I was desperate for an answer. Sean said he could come over in a few days, just in the meantime tell it, whoever “it” was, to leave us alone.

The next few days were excruciating. Sleepless nights and long days of feeling followed in my own home. Of feeling like an idiot when telling an empty room to leave me alone. As Sean’s visit drew near activity in the house ramped up. Shower curtain rings would make sliding sounds on the curtain rod. Knocking on the living room walls. My baby crying and looking at something just past me.

Sean performed a ritual using a crystal to communicate with the spirit. Sean claimed the spirit, a sad old man, had seen me and my baby out somewhere and attached himself to me. He hung out in the baby’s room. But he liked my room the best. Sean asked if he meant us any harm, if he meant to wake the baby, both were answered by swinging the crystal to say “no”. But we got a “yes” when asked about my closed door and the bear. Sean helped him pass on and I watched as the crystal went from circling to a stop.

Sean had to come out one more time. We had invested in a video monitor at this point and on one particularly hard evening, we sat in our son’s pitch black room and watched on the monitor to see if he stirred after we set him down. I don’t entirely remember why or what we were hoping to accomplish through this. I just know we were tired. Then in an instant things went from calm (he let us set him down!) to upsetting. Flying over his crib, 2 feet from where we stood, something appeared on the monitor for only a second. We had been in there for about 45 minutes at this point and knew there was no bug or fly. And besides, it didn’t have wings. There was nothing physically there to explain what the hell had just appeared on the screen. Just a ball of white on the night vision monitor, flying over my son’s bed. I angrily left the room in tears. Why? Why was this happening again? Sean agreed to come over the very next night.

I don’t remember this visit as well. I mostly remember being angry and confused. Sean said this time it was a young woman who had passed away before she could have a baby. She loved babies and was sad she could never have them. I should have felt bad for her. I should have had sympathy. But I was PISSED. Not only were these events negatively affecting our lives but… they were also making me question everything I had held as true about the world. So Sean had to sit me down and explain a few things.

He told me I was what he called a lighthouse. Just as lighthouses guide sailors to land, I was a beacon of light to the spirits who are lost in between worlds. I’m someone who will notice them and lend some legitimacy to their confused state of existence. I will hear them knock on my walls and know it is them. They are not attaching themselves to me out of malice. They just want my help. I insisted I wanted nothing to do with them. Sean understood but said I could only ignore it so much, as there will always be at least a little light emanating from me.

I don’t tell anyone this story and I am even submitting it anonymously in the hopes that no one will ever attribute it to me. But I tell it because something has recently occurred to me and I’ve decided the story must be told.

These kinds of experiences did not happen to me before motherhood. I had funny things happen, like correctly guessing the song that was about to play, or unwittingly surrounding myself with people who hold unique abilities. But as far as I can tell I never got visits from spirits. I never had to tell invisible entities to leave me alone before. It wasn’t until my son arrived on this earth that these things started happening in our home. And it finally hit me.

As his mother, I must protect him. Because I am not the lighthouse. He is.

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13th and Elm

January 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I always get a little uncomfortable when the topic of the paranormal comes up, particularly when some people seem to be so adamant that ghosts simply can’t exist. I don’t attempt to convince them otherwise. As a matter of fact, I don’t share my experiences with them at all. This is actually the first time I’ve attempted to chronicle everything my family went through. It was only for a brief window in time, just a few months. But it burned a scar into my consciousness that will never go away.

I remember my mother and father being so excited at the prospect of all of us moving into our first house. They had been raising four young children in an apartment; just the idea of finally having our own bedrooms (and more than one bathroom) had us all elated. When we first glimpsed the house at the corner of 13th and Elm, my siblings and I almost couldn’t believe it. The place seemed enormous. It was an old colonial-style house with wide-open rooms on the first floor, and all of the bedrooms on the second floor, connected by a grand old wooden staircase.

My brother and sisters and I raced through the place, exploring each room with a sense of excitement and wonder. It was my brother Tommy who first noticed the door in the corner of the kitchen that led to the basement. He swung it open and he and I stood at the top of the stairs, peering down for a few moments. We carefully descended down into the basement, unsure of what we would find. Once we got to the bottom of the stairs, we were a little disappointed with how benign it seemed to be. It was a bare room with a concrete floor, a utility sink in one corner and a single window that would have been peering out into the garden in the front yard. We gazed around at this rather boring space for a minute before Tommy noticed it. “Hey, what’s with the floor over there?” He pointed to a patch in the concrete, about four feet long and three feet wide. It was a different color and texture than the rest of the concrete. It was obviously been torn up at some point and then patched up. I didn’t think much of it, until Tommy spoke up.

“You know the lady that lived here died, right?” I didn’t know that. I recall my mom and dad mentioning something briefly about the family that owned the house having to move out in a hurry; the circumstances behind it were never discussed, as far as I can remember.

Tommy continued. “Yeah, she died in a really bad car accident. Dad said so.”

“So?” I countered, growing a little uneasy.

“Well, I bet that’s where they buried her, right there,” Tommy said, pointing to the odd patch in the concrete. For some reason, this ridiculous theory seemed to make sense in our child minds.

I distinctly remember right at that moment, the atmosphere in the room…changed. The air felt electric; I could feel all the hairs on my arms stand up. I was suddenly claustrophobic and felt a wave of panic and unease wash over me. I didn’t even respond to Tommy; I dashed up the stairs as fast as I could. Tommy was right on my heels, chuckling at how easy it was to freak out his little brother. Once I was back in the kitchen with the thrum of activity going on, the feeling passed instantly, like flipping a lightswitch off.

The next few days were a blur of unpacking and getting settled. Tommy got his own room at the top of the stairs, and I got the one next to him. Our older sisters Cheryl and Cindy share the bigger bedroom across the hall. My dad was a long-haul trucker who would be gone for days, sometimes a week at a time, so we had barely gotten moved into the house when he reluctantly had to go on the road for a few days. The first inkling that something wasn’t quite right with the house happened the next morning after he had left. My siblings and I were walking out the front door to get on the bus to school and we noticed a cigarette butt lying on the wooden front porch. Not exactly strange, but…we knew it wasn’t there before. We had cleaned the house top to bottom after moving in, including the porch. A rather obvious cigarette butt lying directly in front of the door would have been noticed. But there it was. We call kind of caught each other’s glances as we looked at it. We shrugged and got on the school bus and went on with our day.

A few days later, my brother Tommy and I were playing outside in the yard, when we noticed a second cigarette butt, this time on the lawn, directly under Cindy and Cheryl’s bedroom window. Once again, Tommy was there with a brilliant theory to scare the pants off of me. “I bet it’s the family that used to live here. They keep coming back and hanging around outside, because they know their mom is buried in the basement.” The mention of the “grave” in the basement made my eyes wander over to the single window in the basement that was barely visible at ground level. It was at that moment that I was certain someone was looking back at me through that window. Tommy read the expression on my face and followed my gaze to the window. “We should go check it out down there,” he said. I reluctantly followed him. As uncomfortable as I was going down there, I was more sensitive to looking like a wuss in front of my older brother.

As we got to the door to the basement, even Tommy paused. “We should take the Patches with us,” he said, referring to our family mutt. “Patches will protect us.” Patches was an easygoing, agreeable fellow. I guess he would have to be, with four rambunctious children constantly terrorizing him. We found him dozing next to the couch in the living room. Tommy grabbed him by the collar and led him over to the basement door. When Tommy swung the door open, Patches immediately resisted. He plopped his butt down on the kitchen floor and refused to move an inch. Tommy yanked on his collar, but Patches pulled back. Eventually Tommy decided to just pick the dog up and carry him down the stairs, with Patches struggling mightily the whole way. Halfway down the stairs, Patches went berserk. He yelped and growled and snapped his teeth at Tommy, who let go of him in surprise. Patches raced up the stairs and scampered under the couch. Without the dog’s protection, Tommy and I abandoned our mission.

That night, we were all around the kitchen table having dinner. Patches had been in a sour mood ever since the incident on the basement stairs. As we were eating dinner, Patches rested on the kitchen floor, his eyes never leaving the basement door. His ears were perked up and his attention was focused on the door. At one point, his hackles raised and he rose to his feet, snarling and growling at the door. We all stopped our dinner chatter and turned to look at the dog. Patches was in full-on protection mode. He was snarling like someone was coming up the stairs. This lasted for a moment before he calmed down and went back to lying down on the kitchen floor.

It was maybe a night or two later when I first heard the footsteps. I was lying in bed in the middle of the night when I distinctly heard footsteps coming up the basement steps. They were heavy, very deliberate steps, slow and steady. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. I strained my ears as much as I could in the darkness. When the steps reached the top of the basement stairs, there was a pause. I didn’t hear the basement door open, but the steps then started through the kitchen. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. When they reached the bottom of the staircase, again there was a pause. Then just as slowly and deliberately, the footsteps started up the stairs. By this point, I was wild-eyed in terror, but I honestly couldn’t think of what to do next. I was frozen in place in my bed, pulling the covers up to my chin.

The footsteps reached the top of the staircase, at the end of the hallway leading to our bedrooms. Again, a pause. Then the lumbering steps started down the hallway. They slowly advanced past Tommy’s room. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. God forgive me, but I prayed that they continued down the hall towards my mother’s room.

But they did not.

The steps stopped right outside of my bedroom door. There was a long, painfully drawn-out moment when everything seemed to stop. I wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t moving. My pulse was thundering in my ears and every nerve in my body was howling. After what seemed like an eternity, then the next noise jangled my senses. It was a tapping noise, almost maddeningly quiet at first. Something was tapping on my bedroom door, about once every three seconds or so. As I strained to listen to it, I felt that I sounded rather metallic, like a key. It sounded like someone was tapping a key on by bedroom door. TAP. TAP. TAP. Just as I was beginning to think of an escape route (perhaps going out my bedroom window?), suddenly it stopped.

My eyes must have been the size of hubcaps as I stared at the door. I figured next whatever was on the other side of the door would turn the doorknob. Seconds went by. The air was thick and suffocating. I was plotting my route to my bedroom window should the door fly open. However, I was taken by surprise with the next sound. The footsteps started again, but again they started from the bottom of the basement steps. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. What the hell? How on earth did this…thing get back down to the basement without me hearing it? It was at this point that I had enough. I jumped out of my bed, threw open my door and raced to my mother’s bedroom. When I entered her room and flipped on the light, I saw that she was sitting up in bed, completely awake and aware, her eyes wide and panicked. She had heard it too. When she saw me, she immediately tried to downplay the situation. She smoothed my hair and rubbed my back and tried to convince me I had a nightmare. But I knew better. I could see in her eyes she was as unnerved as I was. It was then that I realized that whatever in this house was terrifying my mother as much as it was terrifying me. And that made my blood run cold.

My dad came home from his road trip and for a few days, things returned to normal. My mother and I exchanged nervous glances across the table as we had dinner with my father. He was completely oblivious to the situation, and we obviously didn’t know how to bring it up with him. How do you tell a burly trucker that you heard a ghost coming up the basement steps? Eventually he had to go out on the road again. I could sense the tension in my mother as she helped him pack up for his next road trip. She tried to play it off with us kids, but I knew better. I was dreading what was coming next as much as she was.

The first night home without my father seemed to be uneventful. I was uneasy and slept fitfully that whole night, but nothing of importance happened. At least not for me. The next morning at the breakfast table, I noticed my sister Cheryl seemed to be a little unkempt. She was normally annoyingly bubbly and vibrant in the morning, but this morning, she seemed a little disheveled. Eventually she turned to my mother. “Thanks for closing my window last night, mom. The rain would have ruined everything.” My mother blinked for a moment while holding the coffee pot. “What are you talking about, Cheryl?”

Cheryl seemed a little confused. “Mom…you came into my room last night and shut my window. Remember?”

My mother was now more than a little disturbed. “No, Cheryl. I didn’t come into your room. What do you mean?”

Cheryl was now frustrated. She started using that tone that pre-teen girls use when condescending to their mothers. “Mom. I woke up last night because it was thundering and raining outside. You were standing next to my window, and you closed it and then walked out. I remember because your white nightgown was flapping in the breeze coming through the window.”

The color drained out of my mother’s face, and the lines around her mouth suddenly became very pronounced. I had never seen her looking so old. “Dear, I don’t have a white nightgown. You know my nightgown is red. You know that. You…know that, Cheryl.”

After a very uncomfortable few moments, my mother regained her composure and suddenly switched gears. “You had a dream, honey, it was just a dream.”

Confused and frustrated, Cheryl was now defiant. “No, that wasn’t a dream, mom. My window was open when I went to bed, and it was closed in the morning. You closed it. Why don’t you remember?”

My mother was flustered. Her cheeks burned red and she stared at the kitchen table. Her head jerked up and she looked at the clock on the kitchen wall. “Oh, you’re running late, dear. Get ready for school.”

A few days later, Tommy and I were raising hell outside in the yard again. We came around the corner of the house and stopped in our tracks. An old tricycle that had been out in our back yard was sitting there, directly underneath Cindy and Cheryl’s bedroom window. On closer inspection, we noticed that the seat of the tricycle was bent slightly, as if someone very big and heavy had been standing on top of the seat. There were also not one, but two cigarette butts lying on the ground next to the trike.

Eventually Tommy stated the obvious. “Was a guy standing on this to look in Cheryl’s window?”

I didn’t answer. I picked up the tricycle and whipped it as far as my little frame would allow back into our back yard. Tommy looked at me for a moment with a puzzled look on his face, but he let the moment pass and we went back to playing.

A couple of days passed with relatively little happening but one morning, it was Tommy who came to the breakfast table looking haggard. I questioned him about what was going on, but he waved me off. His eyes kept darting around the kitchen table, as if he was looking for someone who was missing. Eventually our mother joined us at the table and Tommy spoke up. “Mom, did Dad get back last night?”

Our mother looked dazed for a second. “No…no, honey, Daddy didn’t come home yet. Why did you ask?”

Tommy furrowed his brow and looked down into his cereal bowl for a long moment. He leveled his eyes at our mother and said, “But…but he came in my room last night.”

I was getting all too familiar with the unnerved look that swept across my mother’s face. She pursed her lips for a moment before croaking, “Did you have a dream last night, Tommy?”

Tommy sighed and shook his head. He seemed to be far too world-weary for a boy his age. “Mom, you know I sleep with a radio on next to my bed, right?”

My mother nodded her head very slowly and deliberately, her eyes never leaving Tommy’s. The lines around her mouth became very pronounced again.

Tommy continued. “Well, last night I woke up because the radio dial was spinning up and down, like someone was looking for a radio station. I sat up and looked, and Dad was standing next to my bed, fiddling with the radio dial.”

There was a long moment of silence as my mother stared at Tommy. Her lips were pursed tight as if she had tasted something sour. Eventually she broke the silence. “Was that it? Was there anything else, Tommy?”

Tommy looked more befuddled than ever. He gave the room another scan, as if he couldn’t believe that our father would come around the corner at any moment. “Well, I talked to him,” Tommy said. Mom’s eyebrows went up. “Oh?” She said. “Did he say anything back?”

“No,” Tommy responded. “I said ‘Hi, Daddy,’ but he didn’t say anything back. He just turned around and walked out of the room, and I went back to sleep.”

Our mother stared a Tommy for an uncomfortably long moment. This was the first time I noticed gray streaks hanging down in her brunette hair. In a moment she suddenly snapped back to her normal self. Her face brightened and she said, “It was just a dream, baby. You were dreaming. Don’t worry about it.”

Tommy wasn’t as convinced. He frowned deeply as he turned back to his cereal. The rest of us were mostly silent as we finished our breakfast and went off to school.

The footsteps hadn’t stopped in the meantime. The pattern would always repeat. The footsteps would lumber up the basement steps, then up the stairwell, and then stop outside of my bedroom door (why was it always MY bedroom door?), and then it would start tapping on the door. It would tap for a while, and then the pattern would repeat, back from the bottom of the basement steps. As routine as it became, I couldn’t get used to it. I was as terrified on the tenth night as I was on the first. I was convinced that whatever was tapping on the door would burst in eventually. It was almost more maddening to me that it never did. It just kept repeating on that same damned loop, over and over again. For how long? Was it doing it even when I wasn’t home?

One afternoon I had dozed off on the couch in the living room while watching my afterschool cartoons. I started to groggily come to a bit when I became aware of a…presence within the room with me. I kept my eyes closed tightly, but my brain snapped back to awareness as my ears went on high alert. Someone was standing at the entrance to the living room, shifting uneasily from one foot to another. I could hear the wooden floorboards squeaking underneath the person’s feet. The person started slowly advancing towards me on the couch. Each floorboard squeaked distinctly as the footsteps grew closer. The footsteps stopped at the edge of the couch, near my feet. Whoever this might be was now clearly standing at the end of the couch, staring at me. I sensed the presence as it started to lean over the couch, lean over me. I heard its clothes rustle slightly as it loomed over me. Its face had to be inches from mine. But I never heard nor felt its breath. It was there, but it was not breathing. It was not alive. In my panic I started to make a high-pitched whimpering sound that I couldn’t control. It was at that moment that a sharp blast of cold air washed over me, sending up goose pimples over my entire body. And then…nothing. The presence was gone. I knew it immediately; it wasn’t there anymore. I leapt off that couch and out of the living room, probably without even touching the ground.

I started noticing my mother growing more and more uncomfortable and restless. She didn’t have to say it; I knew she was experiencing things, too. At first I noticed she used to stay up later and later at night when my father wasn’t home. Whether it was watching late night television or busying herself with household chores like staying up to sew patches on our clothes, it was obvious that she didn’t want to go to bed. She installed glow-in-the-dark lightswitch covers in her bedroom and in the second floor hallway. At first it seemed like a benign safety measure until it occurred to me what those glow-in-the-dark covers actually were for: she wanted to see the shadows moving around in the dark. They couldn’t be real to her unless she saw them moving through her room.

Things came to a head one night, which ended up being our last night alone in the house. My father was again gone on a road trip. We were all huddled in the living room watching television with my mother. It was late, but not terribly late, maybe ten o’clock or so. Suddenly a very heavy…mood enveloped the room. We all sensed it immediately. I looked over at Tommy and Cheryl on the couch with me. The unease was evident on their faces. Cindy was sprawled on the floor in front of us. She whipped her head around and looked at the rest of us as if to say, “Do you feel that, too?” We did. Our mother was in the recliner beside us. Her response was to gather up Cindy off of the floor and join us on the couch, all of us huddle together. She stretched her arms around all of us. The air in the room became thick and heavy. We all kept our eyes focused on the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. It seemed whatever was causing this feeling was going to be materializing there. It was Cindy who first started to whimper and cry. She was quickly followed by the rest of us children. We were all grasping each other as tight as we could, now openly crying and blubbering. Eventually even my mother started to moan with tears in her eyes.

Patches went on full alert; he stood in the middle of the living room floor, staring at the doorway with every muscle in his body taut. His hackles raised and he started a low rumbling in his throat. The footsteps started as they always did at the bottom of the basement steps. THUMP. THUMP. Patches started barking in a frenzy, flashing his teeth and throwing spittle.

That was enough for my mother. She threw open the front door and ushered as all out of the house as if it were a fire drill. We ran to the neighbor’s house and my mother made up some excuse for needing shelter for the night (I think she said she thought we had a gas leak, or something like that). We slept fitfully on a pallet on the neighbor’s living room floor. At the first sign of light the next day, we started loading up all of our earthly possessions and taking them to my grandparents’ house.

The house on Elm Street was the elephant in the room for my family for decades afterwards. All of us kids grew up and had families of our own, and even then, we wouldn’t say much about what happened in that house. Only now do I dare to document all of it here. I don’t even know why, really. I guess I just needed to convince myself that it was all in the past, and it’s all over now.

So again, if you don’t believe in spirits or ghosts or the paranormal or whatever, I won’t try to convince you. But I know for a fact there are things shuffling around in the darkness.

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The Shadow in the Doorway

December 22, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I love myths, urban legends, paranormal stories and chronicles of unexplainable mysteries and phenomena. As a kid, I actively sought books and articles on the topic, no matter how vaguely related. 20 years on, I still enjoy delving into the stories of the unknown. The difference being, 20 years ago I didn’t have access to the wonderful world wide web. These days, I literally have a world full of myths, legends and stories at my fingertips and so, I often indulge in long Googling sessions, dedicated to absorbing as much information as i can. I am intrigued by the unknown; it means that there are things yet to be discovered and mysteries to be solved.

It was during one of my many mystery binges, i came across the story of the Hat Man – a form of Shadow Person. I stumbled across the legend of the Shadow People completely by accident, clicking through random links on Wikipedia. But it was the related article about the Hat Man which piqued my interest greatly. It roused a long dormant memory from within the depths of my mind. The following is an account of my encounter with what I now believe to be the Hat Man.

I don’t recall how old I was – around 4 or 5 – but it must’ve been quite late at night. My parents had retired for the night and the house was completely dark. The only source of light was the gentle wash of moonlight filtering through the thin curtains into my room. I was lying on the top bunk of the bunk bed my dad had made for us; the bottom bunk was occupied by my younger sister, who had been sleeping soundly for hours. It was nearly Christmas and I was laying awake, pondering the complexities of the world – something that has become a bit of a habit over the years. Although, it was likely the huge intricacies I was trying to figure out in my mind had something to do with how long it was until Christmas, on that particular night.

As I was staring at the ceiling, completely emerged in my own thoughts, I suddenly became aware of a feeling spreading through my body. A chill went up the back of my neck, making my hairs stand on end. If I had been close to falling asleep, I was wide awake now. I held my breath and laid stone still, straining to hear something which would give me a clue as to what it was that had put me on edge so suddenly. I heard nothing, other than my sister’s rhythmic deep breathing from the bed below. When I could hold my breath no longer, I let it go as quietly as I possibly could. I couldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary, so, after a few more minutes of laying as still as possible, I decided to roll onto my side, so I could see out of the bedroom door, into the hallway. I did this in such a way that it would seem, to anybody looking in on me, as though I was rolling over in my sleep; just in case one of my parents came in and gave me an earful for not being asleep, as I was supposed to be.

As I completed my expert manoeuvre, I heard a noise in the hallway. It sounded like footsteps, which was a relief – it was just my dad, checking on something in the house. But, as the footsteps drew nearer to my bedroom door, a wave of unease washed over me again. My dad was always very careful about being as quiet as possible, when walking around after lights out, so as not to wake anyone. Listening to this particular set of footsteps, I wondered if perhaps this was my mum, as the perpetrator seemed to be making no attempts to mask their sounds.

I pondered this curiosity, as a figure emerged from the hallway and came to a stop in the doorway of my bedroom. Once again, I found myself holding my breath, trying to be as still as possible. The figure stood in the doorway, breathing quite loudly. It was definitely a man, judging by the sound of the breathing. For a few moments, I relaxed, thinking that it was my dad after all. I started breathing again and closed my eyes, pretending to be asleep. But the sound of the breathing stayed in the doorway. I opened my eyes again and took in the image before me. My blood ran cold. My dad did not habitually linger in doorways. Also, my dad was nowhere near as tall as the door frame, nor did he wear – or even own – a wide brimmed hat. I stayed as still as I could, hoping that the figure could not see that I was awake. With that monologue running through my mind, I was reminded of the line from the Christmas carol, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.” I smiled to myself – the figure in the doorway was Santa Claus and he was waiting for me to fall asleep! Of course! It made sense, being so close to Christmas.

I closed my eyes once more, ready to fall asleep. Once more, I got that feeling of unease. The hairs on my neck stood on end, once again. Something was not quite fitting about that conclusion. Santa doesn’t wear a wide brimmed hat. Also, I was fairly certain that he is never depicted as tall and broad shouldered. The figure in the doorway definitely did not look – or feel – very Santa-ish at all. My eyes shot open again. I needed to figure out who was standing in the doorway. Even with the light filtering in through the curtains, I could not make out any details of the figure. My eyes had adjusted fairly well to the darkness by now and i could make out just about everything around this figure. But whoever was standing in the doorway may as well have been a shadow. The only thing that told me that this was not a shadow, was the heavy breathing accompanying the figure. Just as I felt that I could not lay still any longer, the shadowy figure took one last deep breath and receded from the doorway, seeming to melt away into nothingness.

By this stage, a lot of kids would probably have cried out for their parents or, at the very least, thrown their covers over their heads. I did neither of those things. Instead, I laid there, pondering my new mystery of the night, Christmas forgotten, until I fell asleep. I remember asking both of my parents, the next day, whether they’d spent any time looking in on my sister and me the night before. They assured me, every time that I probed them about it, that they had not been anywhere near my bedroom the previous night. I guess, after a while, I just sort of shrugged it off. It didn’t happen again at all. Every now and then, the memory would spring to mind, especially during my night time ponderings. However, I thought about it less and less as time went on and, until I saw the picture accompanying the Wikipedia article on the Hat Man, I’d almost forgotten it completely. To this day, I have no idea what it was – whether it was one of my parents sleepwalking, somebody who wasn’t meant to be in the house, a supernatural being or otherwise – but the picture of the Hat Man is almost exactly what I remember in my doorway.

The Shadow in the Doorway

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Night In A Tree Stand

December 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I am not a person who is scared easily. I don’t let fear control me. I have had bullets wiz by my head. I have had rocket-propelled grenades explode less than ten yards from me. I know what it is like to jump from an airplane under gunfire. I know what it’s like to live as if this was my last day on earth, yet I was never afraid.

I can only remember one time in my life where I could not control fear. One time where I truly felt uncontrollable fear. The fear that makes you cry and tremble. The fear that makes you lose control. No one but my best friend ever believed what I had experienced was true. My family didn’t believe me. My now wife didn’t believe me. I don’t know if you would even believe me. I don’t care. I’m past the point of not telling my story for fear that I won’t be believed.

Please understand that I grew up in the middle of nowhere. The closest people to me where my grand parents who lived just down the road from us and my best friend John’s family who lived right next door. There were several other homes in the area within walking distance, but far enough apart that you really couldn’t call them next-door neighbors. I learned to hunt, fish, shoot, and survived in the woods at an early age. My father had grown up in the country, moved to attend college, and met my mother. My mother was the opposite of my father. She grew up in the city. She taught me art, science, and how to cook. I had the best of both worlds growing up.

I played multiple sports in high school but decided to join the Army Reserve after I graduated. I graduated with honors from basic training and AIT and enrolled in a local college afterwards with plans to study computer engineering. At college I entered ROTC. I graduated from college and completed BOLC (basic officer leaders’ course) for the army. I returned home only to be deployed to Iraq where I served for a year.

As a second lieutenant in Iraq, I was in charge of a platoon of soldiers. We were good at what we did and command took notice, putting us on missions and patrols that were most likely to see action. I loved it but after a year the adrenaline had worn off and the being shot at and seeing things explode feet from you began to fatigue my men and me. In the end, because we were good at what we did, we all went home, bruised, battered, and tired but alive to our loved ones.

I had managed to keep up on my computer engineering skills while in Iraq and had landed a job with a company two hours from where I grew up. I came home in August and the job wasn’t going to start till mid January of the following year so I had some time to relax and unwind. I was still living with my parents until the job started and fall meant one thing. Hunting season. Specifically bow season, which was something I missed the last two years because of my training and deployment.

I eagerly unpacked my hunting clothes and gear from the attic where my mother had stored them and woke up early one September morning to head into the woods to scout for a hunting spot for that upcoming season. As I walked out the front door with my backpack full of gear on, I noticed John and his father standing in their backyard around the pen in which they kept chickens. John was bigger than me. He wasn’t college educated, but he was good with his hands and worked in construction. He was living with his parents while he was building his own house in his free time on some land he bought a few miles away.

“Morning,” I said as I lumbered with my gear to where they were standing.
“What’s up, brother,” John replied with a half smile?

“Just heading out to do some scouting for bow season.”

I could see the pen door was open and they were both looking at it inquisitively. John’s dad was slowing moving it back and forth and playing with the latch as if to test the door itself.

“I don’t know,” John’s dad said puzzled. “The latch is too high for a raccoon unless they climbed the wire fence and opened it.”

“I’ve seen them do some crafty things and they are smart,” replied John to his dad before turning to me. “It’s the second time in two weeks someone or something has gotten into the coupe. Took a chicken last week and two last night. It might the damn town kids who ride their ATVs on the paths back in the woods all the time or it might be raccoons. Either way we’re going to have to lock the pen with a pad lock
now.”

“Town kids must be getting bored if they’re stealing chickens,” I stated with a sarcastic smirk.

The local kids from the nearest town always played pranks or committed some minor act of vandalism or theft. Usually the result was broken mailboxes or some type of penis shaped graffiti on a house or garage door. Nothing was so serious that it couldn’t be fixed or cleaned up.

Before I left to head into the woods John had told me to scout out crow hill. He mentioned there had been a lot of deer activity up in that area and that he would have put his tree stand there except he got an offer from his girlfriend’s dad to hunt their family farm. Crow hill was a densely wooded hill about three quarters of a mile from our houses. One half of the hill was covered in a thick pine forest where murders of crows would occasionally hang out in noisy groups. The pines abruptly came to an end and opened up into a hardwood forest with fairly thick underbrush on the other half of the hill.

The leaves had just started to fall and the smell of the woods and crisp air excited me. The dust and sand of Iraq paled in comparison to the crunch of leaves under my boots and cool air of my home. I had already seen several deer and deer signs by the time I reached the top of crow hill. As I came over the crest of the hill a loud snort like a blast of air rang out. My senses heightened as I quickly scanned the area. Over the top of the underbrush I saw it. There it goes! There it goes! I thought to myself excitedly as I watched two pair of very large deer antlers glide over the top of the underbrush and disappear into the pine forest.

I walked to the border of the pine forest where the deer had run. It was a meeting of two worlds. The hard wood forest had leaves but the sun shine was bright and lit up the forest floor while the pine forest’s trees blocked out almost all light leaving the forest floor dark and mysterious. It was a little creepy to me but I didn’t care. There were deer tracks, antler rubs, droppings, and deer beds on the ground all around me. This was the spot.

I turned in circles as I scanned for the perfect tree to attach my ladder stand to. Something to my left caught my eye as I spun. 10 yards away was a section of ground that looked like it had been purposely cleared of leaves in a circular fashion. Something was lying in the middle of the circle. With curiosity peaked, I walked over. What the hell? I was thinking out loud as my eyes tried to recognize what I was looking at. It was a house cat’s body. But it had been dismembered. The limbs were strewn around in no organized fashion and it was missing its head. Only skin and bones were left. The cat had been there a while by the looks of it, but what confused me more than the position and condition of the cat were the odd markings around the body. Lines and circles surrounded the cat in an odd fashion. Damn kids, I thought to myself. The town kids had probably come across a cat that was probably killed by a coyote or bobcat and decided to make its corpse look spooky by drawing weird incoherent symbols in the dirt around its body. The empty beer bottle just outside the circle confirmed my theory. As much as the sight bothered me the thought of deer hunting pushed any concern for the dead cat out of my mind. I brushed off the find and began looking for a tree again.

I picked a large tree that was centered perfectly between the pine forest and the hill’s edge I had just walked up. There was a bit of a clearing that ran from the tree to the hill’s edge. I pulled my large bowie knife out of my backpack and began to clean out the clearing and around the base of the tree. I cut away as many small shrubs and branches as I could to make a clear path for me to walk. As I was almost finished the flapping of the wings and the familiar squawking of a murder of crows flying overhead into the pine forest could be heard. Something had kicked them up. The hum and hiss of an ATV engine soon followed. It grew louder and passed. That’s probably what scared them. I’m probably close to one of the paths that run behind the house. I made my way through the underbrush in the direction of where I heard the ATV. Only 20 yards from the tree I chose, I ran into a dirt ATV path. I cleared out a walkway from the tree to the path, marked it and my chosen tree with a ribbon, and followed the path back until I began to recognize the woods behind my house. It was the perfect set up. There was an easy path to follow and I wouldn’t have to worry about scaring any deer on my way to and from the tree stand.

The next day John and I took his four-wheeler up to the tree I had marked off and we setup my ladder stand. I had since forgotten about the cat I had found the previous day. The seat and platform were about 25 feet off the ground, which was the perfect height. I could see everything from the ATV path behind me to the edge of the hill in front of me. I felt good about this spot and I was ready to start hunting the beginning of bow season in the coming weeks.

When bow season finally arrived a few weeks after I had everything set up and I spent my days and evenings in the woods. I saw plenty of deer and even a few bucks that I considered shooters. I was holding out for those two bucks I had seen when I crossed over the hill that first day when scouting though. One of those two monsters is what I was after. I always took my cell phone with me. It was kept on silent incase of an emergency. Strangely enough, because we lived near radio towers, I got good reception from my tree stand and would take pictures of the beautiful scenery around me or send texts to John mocking him about the size of the deer I was going to shoot compared to anything he was going to get on his girlfriend’s farm. Angry Birds also help to pass the time when all the animals in the forest wanted to be still.

The day, or night rather, that I felt real fear for the first time ever was on October 23rd. It was a cool day and overcast. It was perfect for hunting. I had some errands to run in the morning and had promised to help my father with some housework in the afternoon, which left only the evening for hunting. I was fine with that. It meant I got to hunt the twilight hour, or as hunters know it, the magic hour. It’s that last hour before sunset where everything seems to get brighter before it becomes pitch black and all the animals are on the move.

I was on my way back from running my errands when I pulled into the driveway and saw my father talking to one of our neighbors from down the road Mr. Dawson.

“How are you, Mr. Dawson?” I asked as I stepped out of my car.

“Oh just fine. You’re looking good and healthy and I’m glad to see you home from that hell hole across the pond,” he said with a smile. His black lab was with him obviously out for an evening walk.

“Jake was talking about someone taking his rabbits out of their pen,” my dad started “and I mentioned that John’s family recently had some chickens taken.”

Dawson chimed in immediately. “I know it was them damn town kids because my lab went nuts last night barking up a storm. I threw on the floodlight and the rabbit pen was wide open. I opened my back door and could hear those shits running up through the woods.”

“What the hell is wrong with kids in the town these days,” I stated with disapproval.
“I guess you’ll have to pad lock you pens and cages like John and his dad did.”

“Well that’s the thing,” Mr. Dawson started, “The rabbit pen is chained and locked. Whoever did this broke it clean off probably with a bolt cutter. Now I have to run into the hardware store and get a new chain and lock.”
That evening with my backpack strapped to my back and my bow and arrows in hand I headed out into the cool crisp woods. As I was stepping into the woods I could hear John’s familiar voice call out to me.

“Hey,” he shouted in a proud tone from his back porch. “Got my deer this morning! When you get back from dicking around in the woods you want to come over and have a beer?”

“Yea, I’ll be over. Right after I bag that monster that’s up by my tree stand,” I taunted back!

It was a good 25-30 min walk to my tree stand. I was tired when I got to the stand but my adrenaline kept me going. Like a ninja I made my way through the brush to the tree, ascended the ladder and pulled my backpack and bow up after me with a rope without making a sound. With my butt planted in the seat of my stand and my bow on its hook, I felt completely at peace. Beautiful nature surrounded me even on this overcast day. It was unimaginably better than the war torn streets of Iraq. I pulled my phone from my backpack to check the time. 5:03pm. Perfect timing. The magic hour was going to start early because of the overcast day and excitement was flowing through my veins.

Everything was perfect. The wind was in my face so deer coming over the hill or out of the pine forest wouldn’t be able to smell me. Smaller animals were scampering across the ground headed to their burrows or nests for the night and the faint hooting of an owl that had just awoken could be heard in the distance.

5:55pm. I put my phone away and let my eyes adjust to the dimming light. My adrenaline had kicked in harder as the thought of one of those two large bucks coming into shooting range raced through my mind like wild fire. I knew I would be walking home in the dark so I brought a flashlight to guide my way. I double-checked to make sure I had packed it when I heard the crunching of leaves.

My eyes opened wide and my ears perked up as I tried to quickly find the direction of the sound source. It wasn’t a small animal. It was the distinct rhythmic sound of something heavier walking among the leaves.

There! There it is! The noise is coming from over the hill’s edge. I slowly pulled a pair of small binoculars from my backpack to see if I could get a better glimpse of what was coming over the hill. I can see it! It’s a deer. My mind was racing. I couldn’t tell if it was a buck or a doe but I could definitely see the grayish brown coloring of the fur of the distorted figure through the brush’s branches. 10 more yards and I would have a clear view and a long shot at whatever it was. I strung the binoculars around my neck and got ready to stand up.

It stopped. As if it didn’t want to come into the clearing at the edge of the hill. The light was dimming fast and I as afraid I would not get a shot at a trophy buck if that is what it was. The deer moved left into the brush. My heart sank to my feet. I began to relax and accept the fact that it wasn’t going to come close enough for me to get a shot until I realized it was moving closer but through he brush on the left side of the clearing. I stood up and put my left hand on my bow. I only had about 20 minutes of light left and I wanted to make sure I made a clean shot. I could hear the deer 30 yards in front of me in the brush on the left side of the clearing. It was definitely in range of a clean shot. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was going to step out in the clearing.

My heart was pounding. I could feel my body begin to sweat in excited anticipation. The excitement racing through my body stopped my senses from realizing the forest had fallen silent. I began to remove my bow from the hook when the deer began to move out into the clearing.

What the fuck is that? From behind the bush appeared an arm. Long, black, leathery, and with less than five fingers. It stretched out and planted its palm on the ground. A shock went up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. My body began to shake. My left hand fell to my side and my legs gave out underneath the weight of my body causing me to silently thump back into my seat. I grab my binoculars and slowly lifted them back up to my face. I didn’t want to make any jerk movements. I didn’t want whatever it was to know where I was. Was this a person?

I watched through my binoculars as the rest of the body of this thing emerged from behind the bushes. Its skin was leathery and its legs were very long. It looked human like but it wasn’t human. It moved in a crouching fashion. I could see something in its left hand. It was holding something brown. The light was fading and I struggled to make my eyes adjust. It was a rabbit. Not a wild rabbit. One like Mr. Dawson kept and raised. I could feel fear gripping me no matter how hard I fought it. I trained to fight and to hunt. I didn’t know what this thing was or how I would be able to confront it. I sure as hell couldn’t leave my tree stand now. That’s when I smelled it. I had smelled it once before in Iraq. Burning flesh. The smell nauseated me. The air reeked with this creature’s presence.

My binoculars were fixated to my face. What is it doing? The creature meticulously cleared out the leaves around its feet in a circle. I watched in horror as it raised the rabbit above its head. Its eyes… Its eyes were yellow with no clear center or pupil. Its mouth contorted into a half smile bearing a mouth full of deformed teeth. Its lower jaw unhinged and sank loosely below as it placed the rabbit’s head in its mouth. Faster than a mousetrap, its bottom jaw shut and it jerked its head violently backwards ripping the rabbit’s head from its body. The snapping of bone sent a shiver up my spine. It grabbed the rabbit’s back legs and held the lifeless body upside down. I watched in horror as blood flowed from the animal’s corpse and splashed on the cleared ground. It shook the body up and down as if trying to empty it of every last bit of blood. Like a smoker with bad lungs it seemed to giggle in a wheezing airy fashion.

My eyes welled with water. I couldn’t fight it anymore. I was gripped with fear. I was crying. The military officer who had been shot at, almost blown up, jumped out of airplanes was crying. It was almost dark and I could just make out what this thing was doing. I slowly put the binoculars down and concentrated on not breathing hard or crying out loud in fear.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

I looked back at the creature. Each snap threw another shock of fear up my spine. It was dismembering the rabbit.

SNAP.

The cracking of the bones made my body shiver. I watched as it purposefully placed each of the rabbit’s body parts within the circle and drew random forms in the dirt around the dead body with its long boney fingers. It lifted its hand and extended one of its fingers. I bit my lip almost to the point of bleeding to keep from making any sound as it scooped the entrails from the rabbit’s chest cavity and placed them in its mouth.

As the last bit of light left the sky I realized I would be stuck in the tree stand unless this thing left. I should text John to come get me. No… What if it sees the glow from my phone’s screen? What if he gets here and it kills him? My mind was racing faster than ever. I didn’t once notice the wind change. To my horror, in the last bit of light the creature suddenly stopped what it was doing and became still. Tears were rolling down my cheek. My hair was on end. My hands were shaking and I could feel my body sweat. I didn’t want to move.

Suddenly, like a dog it raised its head and began jerking it up and down. Shit! The wind has changed. It can smell me. It sniffed the air in three different directions with mighty snorts. All of a sudden it dropped low to the ground as if it were about to pounce. The wind was at my back. It knew I was there. Maybe not my exact location, but this thing knew I was there. The light completely faded as I watch it sneak back into the brush on the left side of the clearing.

My heart pounded hard enough to cause a sharp pain in my chest. I wanted to cry aloud. I wanted to get my phone and call my friend, my parents, anyone who might be able to save me. There was no noise. The air was like a vacuum around me. I sat shaking in my stand.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

Shit. It’s coming toward me from the left. My ladder is on the left. God, what if it finds the ladder? I need to cut it down.

The crunching was getting louder. The creature was close enough I could hear its incoherent rambling. It sounded like an old man struggling to breath, fighting for his last breath. I reached into my backpack as fast and as quiet as I could and pulled out my knife. I stood up and turned to face the tree. It was dark. I couldn’t see anything. I felt the bark of the tree above me desperately trying to find the cord that was holding the ladder to the tree.

*Ting*

It’s on the ladder. It’s coming up the fucking ladder. Where is the cord? God, please!! Here!

I pulled hard. The knife cut through the chord with a snap of breaking bones. I pushed the ladder away from the tree. I could feel its weight on the ladder. With a boom that echoed throughout the forest the ladder crashed to the ground with the weight of the creature.

It let out a scream that pierced my ears and echoed everywhere. I covered my ears to shield myself from the horrific sound. I had never heard anything so horrible. The squeal of a hundred pigs mixed with a low roar pierced the night sky. I couldn’t see it. I knew I pissed it off. I heard it scramble to its feet.

I grabbed the tree to keep my balance. It’s shaking the tree. It’s trying to climb the tree. I could hear its fingers grasp the bark sinking its nails into the tree’s flesh. There was only 20ft between this thing and me. I grabbed my bow, pulled back, aimed straight down, and released on of my arrows directly below my stand. The arrow smacked the ground and the creature let out a scream louder than the previous. Pig’s screams… Thousands of pigs screaming pierced the air.

At this point I couldn’t hold back my fear. My breathing was audible and I was pouting like a small child. My pounding heart was about to break my sternum. My eyes were full of tears. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t see through the darkness anyway.

I somehow fumbled another arrow from my quiver on to my bow. God, save me please! “FUCK OFF,” I shouted and released the arrow in the same exact spot as the previous. Again the arrow smacked into the ground followed by a bellowing squeal. The tree stopped shaking. I could hear it on the ground. Its fingers digging into the leaves and dirt as it tore up the ground beneath it. The tearing came from beneath me. I struggled to put another arrow on my bowstring. The noise began to surround me as I fumbled along. It was to my right. Now to my left. Now below me. Now behind me. The tearing was everywhere. No… are there more of these things?! I’m going to die. Did it call others?

I pulled back my bow with my third arrow. The noise was everywhere. It sounded to my left. I guessed and shot in the dark. The ear shattering noise and screams continued. I had one arrow left. I struggled to prep my last arrow. The noise surrounded me as if thousands of these things had encircled me. The squealing had intensified to the point where my ears were ringing. I drew back my bow and fired the last of my arrows directly beneath my stand.

The squealing roar became unbearable as if I had hit it. I was out of arrows. I dropped my bow and slumped back in my seat. The noise was so intense I didn’t even hear the bow hit the ground. I picked up my knife and held it tight to my chest. I could feel my body crashing from the immense adrenaline rush.

Silence. I didn’t notice the silence. My ears stopped ringing. Was it gone? The woods were still. All I could hear was the beating of my heart as it slowly came down from its frantic pace. The woods were silent and motionless. Whatever it was disappeared or was standing perfectly still. I could feel the last of my tears roll down my cheek. I couldn’t smell it anymore. I couldn’t smell anything. My nose was stuffed from my crying. I was still shaking and my body was exhausted. I should text or call someone to get me. No… If I pull out my phone the screen light will give me away if that thing is still here.

I had no idea what time it was. Absolute darkness engulfed me. The only thing that kept me from falling asleep from exhaustion was the thought of that thing being out there somewhere, watching me in the dark. Minutes passed. Hours passed. I was so tired but I dare not fall asleep. A crunch of leaves every now and then caused me to grip my knife tightly. The woods remained silent otherwise. No creatures moving about. No owls hooting. No bats screeching among the treetops.

Light… The first light peering over the horizon broke an eternity of darkness. I was able to start making out shapes and images. I looked down and saw my bow lying on the ground next to the ladder. The hair on my neck stood up again. My heart began to pound. My breathing became quick. All around the bottom of the tree I was in were symbols drawn in the dirt. The leaves were cleared for 10 feet in a circle around the tree. All these weird symbols were drawn in the dirt where the leaves once laid.

It was now or never. I grabbed my phone and texted John. He was the only one close enough that had a four-wheeler. It was day and I didn’t see the creature, but there was no way I was going to stay in the woods another second and I wasn’t going to get down incase it was lying in wait under the brush.

Me – John… I’m still at my tree stand. I need help.

I waited. It was 7am. Please God let him be up.

John – Dude it’s 7am. What the fuck you still doing in your tree stand?

He’s up! Tears of joy began to well in my eyes as I fumbled quickly to reply.

Me- Come get me. Please hurry!!

John- Ok. Ok. I’m OMW.

I put my phone down. I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept all night. The familiar rumble of John’s ATV began to fill the air a few minutes later. What adrenaline I had left coursed through my veins. When John was close enough I could see him coming from the stand, I grabbed my backpack and jumped. 20 feet straight down I descended. I hit the ground hard with a very audible thump. My left leg gave out from beneath me and I could feel the pain stream through my body as my ankle twisted. I spent no time lying on the ground. I fought through the pain, picked myself up, grabbed my bow, and hobbled as fast as I could towards the ATV trail. The fear from the night before returned as I was running towards the trail. Now was the time I was most vulnerable. Now was the time the creature would strike. It was the perfect opportunity. The smell… The smell returned. The scent of burning flesh filled the air.

John pulled up to the clear cut that lead to my stand as I reached the ATV trail and jumped quickly on the back of his four-wheeler.

“Did you just jump from the stand,” he said with a shocked voice? “And what smells like hell up here?”

“Fucking drive! NOW!”

“Ok! Ok!”

John spun the four-wheeler around and headed off towards our house. The feeling of fear wouldn’t leave me. I slumped forward onto John’s back out of exhaustion. I didn’t have the strength to hold myself up. I only had enough strength to hang onto his jacket to keep from falling off. The motor of the four-wheeler covered my sobs of relief.

“Are you ok,” John asked loudly as he navigated the trail.

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. I was too exhausted from the fear that had gripped me the entire night prior. The motor cut off and I looked up. We were outside my house. I hadn’t stopped sobbing. I rolled off the back of the four-wheeler and laid in my yard sobbing. It’s all I could do. Everything went black.

I sat up rapidly and scanned my surroundings in a panic. My mother and father were there along with John telling me to calm down. The familiar softness of our couch on my body and smell of my mother’s cooking filled the air. I was home. My ankle was wrapped with a bag of ice resting upon it. They gave me water to drink and questioned me about what had happened that night. I told them everything. As my story ended I could see the disbelief in their eyes. My parents apologized to me for not checking up on where I was. They though I had come home and gone out with friends or over to John’s for a drink. John apologized the same and said he assumed I had come home tired and went to sleep. They tired to rationalize what I saw. They said it must have been an emaciated bear with mange. I knew better. I knew what I saw. What I went through.

I didn’t hunt the rest of the season and refused to enter the woods. John a few days later had kindly gone to my stand to retrieve it for me without prompt. He brought it over to my garage and met me with a puzzled look in his eye.

“So I found your stand,” he started with an unbelieving tone in his voice, “and it was on the ground. It’s been beat up and the safety cables are busted off like someone had ripped it from the tree. Found your ladder too.” He pointed to the white marks on bottom rungs of the ladder. “Those look like claw marks to me. Found three of your arrows. You hit something because they are covered in some type of blood. Don’t know what kind but it smells like hell.” He handed me my arrows covered in a reddish black gooey crust. “Also, the tree your stand was in… Bottom half of it has been stripped of bark and is smeared in what looks and smells like animal blood. All of those markings in the ground you talked about. Yea, those are there too.” He slumped down on the edge of his four-wheeler as if in complete disbelief. “I believe you

We didn’t talk about it for a long time. We felt as if it were best to forget, never revisit, or pursue. I eventually moved out of my parent’s house to an apartment when my job started. The following summer John called me with some interesting news. The missing animals continued infrequently through out the spring. Mr. Dawson had become overly frustrated with whoever was stealing his rabbits. He setup a security cam to watch the pen and had purchased an industrial chain and lock to keep them out. One night his lab went nuts barking at something outside in the direction of the rabbit pen. Figuring he had them on camera, and to teach them a lesson, he let his lab out to possibly scare them away. The dog ran out the open door and in the darkness seemed to be struggling with something. When Mr. Dawson turned on the floodlight the chains on the rabbit pen were busted off and his dog was gone. Someone also destroyed his camera before it could capture the perpetrator on video.

While I felt for Mr. Dawson, the strange part of our phone conversation had yet to come. The construction company John had worked for had secured a contract to build a new housing development on the side of crow hill, namely the side with the pines on it, as it was closest to the nearest road. It was to be an upper-middle class housing development. John was part of the clearing crew who would go up and clear out the trees and underbrush of the designated area where the housing development would be built.

John mentioned that he was clearing a small bottom where they were going to build a retention pond for irrigation when they came across something disturbing. The bottom was nestled at the base of crow hill and a neighboring hill. It was devoid of large trees but rampant with small shrubs and heavy underbrush. As he and his crew cleared the bottom they found what appeared to be pathways of bent grass and branches. They didn’t look natural and were littered in small animal bones. As they cleared more and more they came across what looked like a nest in the middle of the thicket. The grass and branches were bent over top of a bed of long grass like a make shift dome. The outer part of the nest was void of grass and contained strange markings in the dirt. In the middle on the supposed bed of grass they found several strange items like broken locks, broken chains, blood covered shreds of clothing, and a dog collar strapped through the top of what looked like a canine skull.

John told me the tags had Mr. Dawson’s name and address on them. He had returned them to Mr. Dawson but didn’t have the heart to tell him where he found them or in what condition. I could hear the slight trembling in John’s throat. I knew he now believed me for sure.

I went home several months later to see my parents. Our neighbor’s animals had stopped disappearing. The housing development was about half way finished. I was watching the news late that first night home. One of the headlines was “Police on lookout for animal kidnapper.” Apparently several family pets had disappeared over the last few months in the next county over.

Credit: Tom

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