This is a short ghost story I wrote for a Halloween ghost story contest I entered. While it is a fictional story, it is based on a true story my cousin told me along with a dream I once had.
I’ve always hated going to my aunt’s house and staying overnight. Not that I don’t like my aunt or her family; they’re quite pleasant people, actually. I just hate the house. There’s something… not quite right about it.
Aunt Sue inherited the house from her parents – my grandparents, who moved to a condominium in Florida. It was the house she grew up in and she loved it so much she couldn’t bear to move away from it, apparently. I’m surprised that Uncle Frank agreed to stay, all things considered.
Mom told me stories about growing up in this house with Aunt Sue. She said it was really cool because this house was built for them on property they had bought, so in all sense of the word, this was their house. Everything was perfect, she said. Well, that’s what she thought, but then things started feeling… off.
It was just small things at first, really. Things that seemed mostly normal and that you wouldn’t really chalk up to being anything strange. Like things going missing only to turn up in strange places – or not at all. She said that was the start of it and she only really suspected it of being strange after everything else happened.
“In retrospect,” she told me, “it really was more unnerving than I first believed. It just happened all the time. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that it could have been a coincidence that it would keep happening every single day.”
It wasn’t just disappearing objects, though. Sometimes things… changed. She told me they were usually subtle changes, so subtle that it was difficult to notice them. Maybe the pattern on the wallpaper would alter ever so slightly. Maybe the bathroom floor tiles would turn to an off-white instead of normal white. Just things that any casual observer would never take notice of, but looking closely you could tell that something was wrong.
All of these little things were nothing but distractions, though. They weren’t anything compared to what my mom and aunt saw one night when they were going to sleep. They had apparently shared a room when they were growing up.
One night, after they had gotten into bed and were trying to sleep, Mom heard Aunt Sue screaming from her bed on the other side of the room. Mom called out to her through the darkness and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Aunt Sue was nearly crying at this point and she whispered, “L-look right there, there’s someone-”
Mom peered around the room and saw nothing but darkness for a few moments, but as her eyes adjusted, she saw what her sister was scared of. There appeared to be a man standing in their room; a tall, tall man wearing a top hat. He only stood there. He didn’t move a muscle or make a sound. And the longer Mom stared at him, the less human he seemed to be. Her eyes adjusted to the dark of the room, but he didn’t become any clearer. In fact, as the dark of the room became less dark, the man started to look like the blackest shadow she had ever seen.
She screamed for Grandpa, and he came running. When he turned on the light, though, nothing was there. No man, no figure, no shadow. Everything looked normal. They told him what they had seen and he said they were probably imagining it or dreaming it, so he turned out the lights again.
And the figure was standing there once more.
Mom and Aunt Sue decided not to sleep in their room that night, and instead went downstairs and slept on the pull-out couch. While they didn’t see anything else for the rest of that night, they couldn’t get to sleep, either. Grandpa said he would move them into a different room since they were too scared to be in that room, now.
They never had problems with that shadow man again after that single night. Aunt Sue apparently started to forget all about it and think it was nothing but a bad nightmare. Mom didn’t believe that, though. She doesn’t think it’s possible that they both could have seen the same thing if it were only a dream. Even Grandpa admits he thought he may have seen something after he turned off the light, but it wasn’t as clear to him as it was for them.
Strange things kept happening around the house, and Mom said that sometimes, when she went near the third floor, she got this really awful feeling that she couldn’t explain any other way than it felt like her soul was slowly being ripped from her body. Eventually they had a priest come to the house and perform an exorcism in hopes that these things would stop. And they did, apparently. Well, at least they weren’t as bad or noticeable as they once were.
So despite all these traumatizing events, Aunt Sue still wanted to keep the house when Grandma and Grandpa moved out. She and her family took possession of it. I’ve talked to Uncle Frank and my cousin Ronnie about it before. They say that for the most part it’s a normal house, but they still don’t like going up to the third floor. They say they get a weird feeling whenever they’re up there. Not like the soul-sucking feeling Mom talked about, but just that something was… off.
“I went up there, once,” Ronnie told me. “Dad told me I shouldn’t go, but that just made me want to go more. He’d keep the door to the stairway locked, but I found the key and went up. It was really weird because everything was dark and dusty and kinda cold. None of the lights worked and I think that’s because no one ever went up there. Bulbs probably went out and no one changed them.
“So I was just wandering around up there, looking through all the rooms. I found an old bedroom that looked like it hadn’t been used for years. There’s a bed in there and it was covered in dust and it even felt a bit damp. Anyway, I didn’t see anything wrong up there. But I did hear something.”
Ronnie told me he heard people whispering all around him. He said they were dead people, and they were talking to him. He said when it first happened he just thought maybe it was some imaginary friend he had conjured up, because this happened when he was pretty young, but when he got older he said it was far too real for it to have been his imagination.
Aunt Sue seems to be in denial that this stuff is real. Anytime anyone brings it up with her, she just laughs it off as us being superstitious. Mom says it’s odd because Aunt Sue, before she ever got married, used to be the type to be superstitious about everything; you know, the whole Friday the Thirteenth, black cats are bad luck shtick. But at some point she just started saying how utterly ridiculous that all was.
While no one else in the family is superstitious like that, we still aren’t convinced there’s nothing wrong with the house. That’s why Uncle Frank keeps the door to the third floor closed and locked. They say that’s where all the weird stuff happens, so as long as they don’t go up there, things will be okay.
It didn’t used to be like that, though. The first few times I used to come over, Aunt Sue insisted I stay in the guest room upstairs rather than having to be put on the pull-out couch. Uncle Frank didn’t like that idea, but he obeyed her wishes. They hadn’t gone up there for so long, so he reasoned maybe there wasn’t anything wrong. They put me in the guest room after cleaning it up a bit.
My first few visits went without a hitch. I didn’t even know any of these stories about the haunting on the third floor at the time. Not until I was older and an incident happened.
I was fast asleep in the guest room, which I had stayed in several times before this point, and sometime during the night I felt something touch me. Just a small brush on my shoulder. I almost didn’t notice it, but it kept happening. Eventually it woke me enough to make me open my eyes and glance up.
I saw a shadow man standing over me.
It was only for a split-second and it was just out of the corner of my eye, but I clearly saw a figure looming there. It fit the description of the tall man in the top hat that Mom told me about from when she was a kid – except at that point she hadn’t told me about it, yet.
Needless to say, after that happened, and after I told Mom about it, they never let me go up there again, and that’s when they explained the whole thing to me.
So now whenever I come to stay the night at their house, I will graciously sleep on the couch without any complaints. I thought maybe I could just forget about the whole thing as long as I never went near the stairs to the third floor. But you don’t just forget things like that.
I have this memory. I don’t know if it was real or a dream, but any time I think back on it, it sends me into a shaking fit. Uncle Frank told me not to go near that door that led to the stairs to the third floor.
He pointed to the door when he said this. As I looked at this door, the world started to grow smaller and the door seemed to inch closer. There was this dark haze surrounding the door and it seemed to be swallowing up everything around it so there was nothing left but that door.
There was this nagging voice in my head that started screaming louder and louder and it only sent me into a worse panic and I could hardly find my breath. Nothing existed but the door, and yet the voice screamed and pleaded for me to stay away.
Don’t open that door, don’t go up those stairs! Don’t open the door, don’t go near it, don’t even look at it! Get away, get as far away from it as you can!
And finally I understood what that soul-sucking feeling Mom talked about felt like. I knew there was something up there. That shadow man was waiting for someone to approach. I don’t know if he wants anything from us. Maybe he doesn’t want anything, or maybe he craves to take our life away.
Maybe he doesn’t even exist at all. But he is real.