Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
Hello there, I’m writing this all down to try and warn international students about the dangers of studying abroad, and no, this is not some information piece about how you shouldn’t keep too much money on you or not taking rides from strangers. This is a warning of accepting deals that look too good to be true, and the consequences that can come with it. Now, I don’t mean to frighten any future or current international students, I just believe it is important to be aware so nothing like what happened to me that year abroad will ever happen to anyone again.
It was 10 years ago, in my second year of university. I had managed to pull off exceptional grades and was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of an international study program that was stationed in Geneva, Switzerland. To say the least, I was excited. Before my brain could catch up with itself, I was already packing my trunk and saying goodbyes. The travel and schooling arrangements had all been made but the program called for one job on my part. I had to find a place to stay. It was supposed to be part of the “living abroad” experience to be able to find and choose where you wanted to live, so long as you could afford it.
My family was a run of the mill middle class family, so this is where my friend Matt comes in. Matt and I had been friends since the first day of university and we were both taking most of the same classes. He had also been invited to Switzerland and was in the same financial boat as I was. Realizing we had to find somewhere to stay, it only made sense that we roomed together wherever we decided on so we could get a nicer place and just split rent. This is when we came across the apartment. It was just a 15-minute tram ride from the main train station in Geneva and had more than enough space for the two of us. Interestingly enough, the price of rent was the same as many smaller apartments in the area but we figured since it was listed as an old building, we would maybe just have some small “old building issues” to deal with and thus the lower rent.
Matt and I decided this would be our home for the next year, and with that we signed the contract. It wasn’t long until we were both on the 8-hour flight to Switzerland, the plane was cramped and the food wasn’t great so I was relieved when the plane finally touched down in Geneva. I remember the hot summer weather hitting me like a brick wall when we exited the airport. Matt and I grabbed a cab through the city centre and on to the area our apartment was in. The driver was a bit lost for a while but we managed to get our point across in our broken French to tell him where to go.
We found the apartment building among a long line of residences, this particular one looking more dated than most of the other ones in the row. This made me believe that the “old building issues” I had been thinking about was now coming to life. The landlord had sent us two keys, one for the each of us, in the mail prior to leaving. They were those old fashioned keys, like the ones that prison guards used to keep on a ring attached to their hip. Matt was the first into the building and deduced that there were only three apartments per floor, meaning that our apartment (number 6) was one flight of winding stairs above us. The key fit into the solid oak door of our apartment with a satisfying click and with a strained push, the heavy door opened.
The apartment was nice. There was one bathroom, one large bedroom for us to share, a full kitchen near the front of the space. It was surprisingly big, bigger than Matt and I had been expecting, but for the price we were renting it for, it couldn’t have been better. The bedroom had a bunk bed for us to rest our heads in, it brought me back to the time when I was young and had to share a bunk bed with my older brother. Matt won the coin toss and claimed the bottom bunk for himself since it was easier to get into after a night at the bars. Leaving me no other option, I quickly set up my sheets on the top bunk. About a week later, Matt and I had to start classes at our new school for a year. It wasn’t long until we found our routine and began our lives as temporary Swiss citizens.
It wasn’t long until everything went to hell.
One afternoon after our classes ended, Matt decided he was going to stay and study in the library with a local girl he had met. Not being one to break the bro code, I knew it was my time to leave so they could hangout. I decided to head back to the apartment to get some work done, mid-terms were coming up soon and I needed to get cracking on the homework that had built up. When I entered the apartment, the late afternoon sun had just begun to bathe every room in a warm golden light. I sat down at my work desk in the bedroom and before I knew it, it was time for me to make some dinner. The sun had gone down at this point and the darkness certainly didn’t take its time consuming all the light in the apartment. I turned on some of the lights and decided to make a box of Kraft Dinner for myself. This was a big deal since you couldn’t get it anywhere Europe.
As I stood at the stove stirring, a strange feeling washed over my body like I had just been drenched in ice-cold water. It was the feeling of being watched. It felt different though; this wasn’t the same feeling as when your friend stares daggers at you in class to mess with you. This felt angry, evil. It felt like something did not want me in this apartment. I spun around at the stove and sure enough, there was nothing in the kitchen with me. Being the paranoid man that I am, I checked each room of the apartment, the awful feeling following me everywhere I went. Of course the search yielded no explanation, I was alone in the apartment as far as I could tell. Feeling stressed and a bit silly, I went outside into the corridor of the building for a smoke. I didn’t smoke often but Matt and I would have one to celebrate every once in a while.
Matt came home not more than 15-minutes later to me listening to music in the outside corridor. He asked why I was out there and I just made up some story of needing fresh air and the open-air hallway seemed like the perfect spot. I followed Matt in once he opened the door and oddly enough, the awful feeling was gone. Matt could smell the KD I had cooked and was visibly jealous, that’s when I remembered I hadn’t actually eaten it because I was busy with my apartment investigation. A quick zap in the microwave fixed the KD and we both chowed down. I casually asked Matt if he had been enjoying the apartment, to which he responded with an enthusiastic yes. I then asked him if he had experienced anything strange while in the apartment to which he responded with a thoughtful no. So he hadn’t felt anything like I had tonight, maybe I was just tired from school and freaked myself out. On the other hand though, the experience had genuinely frightened me, and I knew what I felt was real.
Over the next couple of weeks, the feeling came back, more than once. I figured out the only times that I would feel the gaze of something that wanted to hurt me was when I was in the apartment alone, once Matt was in the place with me the feeling would soon vanish. I had stayed late at school one Friday night to study, I had been trying to avoid being in the apartment unless necessary as much as possible, when I received a phone call. Matt called and asked when I would be home; when I asked why he responded saying he was just curious. I told him I’d be home as fast as possible. Matt must have felt it.
When I arrived at the apartment, Matt asked me to step outside for a smoke. While we were out there having our smoke he brought up our conversation from before.
“I think I know why you asked me if anything strange has happened to me. I felt this evil presence following me throughout the apartment, it freaked me out man” he shakily said while taking a drag of his cigarette.
My blood ran cold, so he had felt what I had felt. What could be the source of all this? Ghosts? I was never much of a believer but Matt was shaken up, we decided to not leave each other alone in the apartment for as long as it takes to figure this all out. During the next week, things got worse. Now the malefic gaze would be on us even if we were just in different rooms in the apartment. Just entering the place would send feelings of dread throughout my body. One night as I passed the full-length mirror just outside of our bedroom, something moved out of my peripheral vision and out of view. It looked like a gaunt, black shape slinking in the reflection of the family room, but alas when I did a double take, the figure was gone. I was starting to think the apartment was making me loony.
Things kept up like this for a couple months, Matt and I were frightened of what was happening in our home away from home, yet we were determined to stay as the rent was low and the apartment itself was quite nice. I also had made a discovery in the mean time. The presence was especially strong in the walk-in closet that was attached to Matt and I’s bedroom. Matt even swore he heard a quiet growling within the closet. We shrugged that off however, because the building was so old it probably had a rational explanation such as old pipes.
We were so naïve. Stupid really, we should have left after that discovery. Yet we stayed, torturing ourselves, and ended up putting ourselves through the worst kind of hellish experience one could ever imagined.
One night, around 2am, I awoke in my bunk feeling very groggy. The air in the bedroom felt heavy and ominous, like some impending doom was on the horizon. Suddenly, I felt uneasy and became aware that the presence was there. Even with Matt in the room, who was just underneath me in the bottom bunk. I worked up the courage to lift and turn my head toward the room, looking for the source of this presence who I felt would love nothing more than to kill Matt and me. My eyes felt drawn toward the walk-in closet on the opposite side of the room. My instincts were telling me I was starting to home in on our unwanted guest. I took a long hard stare at the closet door, which was slightly ajar.
What I didn’t expect was for the closet to be staring back at me.
Between the door and the wall was a single eye, devoid of any iris or pupil, making eye contact with me. It was like a white void piercing the dark abyss. A lump rose in my throat as I tried to scream but just as I found my voice the door closed. The door closed. As in some outward force had shut it. Matt awoke with a startle when he heard me scream.
The closet was the home of the evil and whatever I had seen was the evil presence that Matt and I had been afraid of all these months. During a Sunday afternoon, we entered the closet with armed with crowbars and paint-scrapers; we were going to tear this room apart until we found some answers. The walls revealed nothing but old wooden walls that were a bit rotten in places.
The floor was the final straw for that cursed apartment.
We tore up the floorboards and exposed a small hole in the floor, one big enough that we could fit down it one at a time, assuming we actually wanted to go down there. By this point the sun had set and the apartment was starting to get dark. I couldn’t help but feel sick when I looked at that hole, my body and mind were screaming at me to leave now but I needed to see this to the end. Matt and I psyched ourselves up and entered the hole. The drop was probably 7 feet, but a rickety wooden ladder we found in the laundry room fixed that problem. Matt went first and I followed after as soon as his feet touched the dirt floor below.
The smell was the first thing to hit me. It hit me like a truck full of bricks as soon as I took the first ladder rung down. I knew what rotten flesh smelled like, and this was intense even for that horrible of a scent. It was nothing short of a miracle that it never penetrated the apartment. Matt was already retching on the floor as I managed to bring my shirt over my nose. The hole turned out to be a small room. We needed a source of light to properly see our surroundings and thankfully Matt had brought a flashlight. After turning it on we could finally see what we were dealing with. Truth be told I didn’t want to know what we were dealing with.
The flashlight flickered to life. My eyes were instantly assaulted by images of rotting animal corpses, strewn about the room as if a predator had made its home here. Ancient runes adorned the walls, I couldn’t tell what they meant or what they were supposed to do. In the centre of the room however, was an etched pentagram on the floor. I knew enough about the occult because of the supernatural research I had been doing on the side for the past few months to know that this was a demonic symbol. As Matt approached the middle of the room I got the feeling that something was very, very wrong. We were never supposed to see this. The evil presence was here and so strong it felt like a physical being inside the room. I told Matt we were leaving this room now and we started to ascend the ladder. I knew why something felt so wrong, even more wrong than the disturbing scene we discovered beneath our apartment.
Our apartment is on the second floor.
Matt and I reached the top of the hole and opened the closet door into our bedroom.
Where it was waiting for us.
The creature I had seen in the mirror, the one staring at me from the closet, the thing that was scaring Matt and I with its presence for months, was now right in the middle of our room. It stood at about 6 feet tall; its gaunt, black body had arms of the same length that twisted into menacing claws. Its shapeless face had two, unblinking white eyes that seemed to stare daggers through your very soul. The demon had two slits instead of a nose and below it there was a massive mouth; filled with razor sharp teeth and contorted into a hideous smile.
We were both frozen in fear; I felt tears well up in my eyes as I heard Matt whimper a single, helpless word.
We slowly backed toward the door and the creature got down on all fours and began to move with immense speed. Its joints cracked sickeningly as they moved. Matt and I took this as a cue to get the lead out and we bolted out the bedroom door, slamming it behind us. I could hear the thing slashing at the wood as we both clambered out of the apartment. I locked the heavy oak door at the entrance to keep it trapped inside. As I threw the key off the edge of the building, I could hear its raspy breathing from inside the apartment followed by a quiet cackle as it slinked back into the confines of its cage. As we waited for a cab to pick us up outside, I took one last look at our apartment. Sure enough, the creature was sitting in the window staring down at us with its disgusting smile. Matt and I got in the cab and never looked back.
We got a moving crew to collect our things for us, there was no way we were going back in that place. Of course they never found a hole in the closet, the only thing that was out of the ordinary was our bedroom door, one worker said it was if one of us had taken a scythe to it. We moved to a house that was up for rent across town, and I did my research on the place before moving there. All was fine for the rest of the year and Matt and I completed our year abroad. We are still good friends to this day except we made a pact. To never talk about what we saw that day. Even thinking about it now could give me nightmares.
I had half a mind to go back and torch the place after. I never do though because getting near that place on its own is asking for trouble. I can’t imagine that any poor bastard that moved in after us made it any longer than we did. Whatever was in that apartment was pure evil, summoned from god knows who or what.
I believe it’s my duty to tell people who plan to study abroad to DO THEIR RESEARCH. If something feels like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If something feels off with your new home, it’s probably not just your imagination. There are evil things in this world, things that want to frighten, maim or kill any mortal within their grasp.
And sometimes all it takes is a really good deal to put you in grave danger.
Credit To – Spencer Slaney