My parents were married for 21 years. My mom has always had her demons, but for a long time, she at least tried. Sometime in 2006 or 2007, after I went to college, she went off her meds for depression for an infinite time.
This time was different. I didn’t realize what mania looked like at the time (I was only 18), but years later, I realized she had an adult-onset of Bipolar Disorder. It was unnerving. It was the last straw for my dad, and he left. The divorce was finalized in 2008.
My mom was never the same. The combination of Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder (both diagnosed) meant watching her go up and down on a haunting roller coaster of destruction, meant watching the small part of her that was a mother fade away.
My dad left her the house. The one we had lived in all my life. It’s a beautiful home, cozy and on the corner. There’s a big bay window and natural light. It always felt like home until the divorce.
I hated being in the house after my dad left. Her behavior became more erratic, and the lows became so much lower. And the house began to change.
It was dark and stale. And you couldn’t wait to leave. I’ve always chalked it up to my perception as a young adult weathering a divorce and my mom’s downward spiral. But now, I don’t know.
It got worse and worse over time, and then I got the phone call on November 13, 2011. I was living in another city.
The call was from my father, telling me a neighbor noticed he hadn’t seen my dog in the bay window for several days–and decided to use the spare key my mother had given him. The dog was found dead in the bathroom, and my mother was in bed, weak.
She had laid in the bed for so long that her leg muscles had atrophied. The dog, I’ve never been able to get answers to. But my sister once let it slip that there was blood.
The cleaners my aunt hired to clean the house found my cat three days into the job–crushed to death between the ottoman and chair in the back room. She spent the next few years in a catatonic state, first in the mental hospital, then transferred to a nursing home. In the meantime, I was the one to clean up the house. She was a shopaholic hoarder, and mental illness had only amplified it.
The first time I came home, it felt dark and stale—but it was empty. It didn’t have the panicked pressure I had felt with my mother there. I sorted and cleaned.
The more I did this, the lighter and brighter it became until it felt like home again. Not really, but kind of. There was always a little bit of staleness there. But I attributed (and perhaps still do) it to my subconscious awareness of what had happened there.
One thing I noticed about the house was that the light could become dark in the blink of an eye. And everything was gradual if that makes sense. You never noticed things until the stale darkness consumed you. It was like a cloak coming over the place in one steady sweep. It was odd, but how can you explain it?
I had a boyfriend. Our relationship wasn’t exactly healthy, to begin with. But I will say he noticed the same things I did with the house. There were three specific incidents with that house.
One day, it was me, him, and one of his friends sitting in the middle room when we heard the distinct sound of the front door opening. They went to check, and it was closed, with no sign of being opened.
The fact about the door is that, as it was old like the rest of the house, it had become difficult to open and close. To open it, you had to put your shoulder into it. But to close it, you had to thrust your body weight against it several times before it shut. We heard it open, but we never heard it shut. It was impossible. Three people heard the same thing.
The Second Incident
My ex and I were again sitting in the middle room. We were in our office chairs at our desks talking about something when we distinctly heard several creaks overhead and a sudden SMASH–directly, and I mean directly–over my head in the attic.
It was as if someone took several steps until they were overhead, had a plate or a glass bong (that particular glass-shattering sound), and threw it with great force. The sound was so evident.
My ex and I locked eyes with each other, and he whispered, “there’s someone in the attic.”
I was gone. I bolted out to the garage, backed my car out, and parked in the driveway. My ex came out to meet me and convinced me to stay where I was in the car as he called his best friend (the same one who heard the front door open/not open) and asked him to come with his gun so they could search the attic.
His best friend arrived in less than two minutes with his weapon. They both went inside the house and searched the place from top to bottom as I sat in the driveway.
This home was set up as it was on a corner lot. The side gate faced the street, and a bay window wrapped around the house and stretched almost to the front door. We still had the blinds pulled up.
This meant that from my vantage point, I could see inside half of the house, and if anyone exited through the only two exits in the home (the front door and side gate–I could even see the back fence from where I was–I would see them). I could even see the roof.
It was not a large home. I would be able to see if anyone was escaping. As I waited for the boys to return, I half expected to see a homeless man scramble out of the house. It was the only thing that could explain the sound of something thrown above my head. The boys completed the search of the home. Nothing and Noone was to be found.
I asked if they had checked the attic. ‘Thoroughly,’ they said. I believe them. The thing about the attic of that house is that it wasn’t an accurate attic. The rafters were set up so a person could not freely walk around. If they did, they would fall through the ceiling.
There was a light switch up there, and the boys had examined every square inch of the attic; there was no sign of life to be found.
No glass. nothing.
It would be easy to write it off as a strange sound the old house had made if it wasn’t for one thing my boyfriend was insistent on the footsteps he had heard leading up to the crash.
He was adamant. He heard the footsteps above him as they walked to the spot above me. He had heard the wood slightly creak as if something had lifted its arms to throw something with force. I wear hearing aids, so I miss out on many sounds.
But I had heard creaking before the smash. And I knew by then that my boyfriend was being sincere. I believe him even to this day as to hearing those footsteps.
The Third incident
We were in the house for two or three years. I split my time between there and down south for college. My boyfriend stayed behind in the house. He would mention that sometimes he just knew he wasn’t alone. But no other specific incidents took place.
The house began to get darker. Our fights grew worse and more violent. Something happened to my mind. It all happened gradually until it was horrible. A point of no return. To this day, the depression I felt there is nothing I have ever experienced. It changed me.
After one particularly savage fight, I went for a drive and came back. I was alone; he was not there. I entered through the back door and was greeted by a wall of darkness. It was stale. Cold. Dark. Even though all the lights were on. You could barely breathe.
I snapped. I yelled at the kitchen’s darkness for no reason, “Get the fuck out. GO AWAY. I SEE YOU. GO. I’m SICK OF YOU”
It retreated. I swear to you, I visibly saw the darkness shift backward on my son. I screamed at it some more. And it retreated some more. There was light again. The house was light and beautiful again.
My memory stops there. In the kitchen, screaming at the darkness. Then I woke up in my bed. Fully clothed, on top of the sheets. The house is dark again. The staleness is there again. But when I walk into the kitchen, it is light and bright.
Oddly enough, that was the first time I considered the possibility that there might be something more to the house. That there might be something otherworldly there. But what?
Not too long after the incident in the kitchen, I left the house, and it was put up for sale. I have been through many challenging and trying times since then. Still, I have never experienced the darkness, the sluggishness, the staleness, the pressure, the panic, the hopelessness, the bleakness, and the agony of that home since then.
My gut tells me that there’s something there. My rationalism is willing to concede that it could all be subconsciously rooted in pain associated with the home’s history. But there truly is or was something dark and dangerous within the home.
And I only wonder if it was there when my mother moved in with my father. Or if she created it with her downward spiral.
I had a recurring dream while in that house. I would walk into the middle room and see something that resembled a cross between the creature from Alien and Predator. And it would lock eyes with me, and I would hear “Widow Sullivan” in my mind, and the dream would end. There is no one in my family with the name Sullivan. And I wonder if it’s connected; probably not. But I never had that dream again after leaving home.