Crawford Street Creepiness

Photo by matthewthecoolguy.

Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d tell you about the creepiest thing(s) that’s ever happened to me. You would think I’d have lots of creepy stories, having grown up in a house that was built in the 1880’s, in a very small, historic town. Perhaps surprisingly, nothing much spooky ever really happened in that house. A couple weird things, but nothing that actually scared me. Maybe that’s a topic for another post.

During the summer of 2013, I moved out of an apartment and into a house, so Birdy could once again have her own back yard. The house was tiny — not much more than 700 sqft — but it had a nice-sized, fenced back yard with good trees, a second bedroom I could use as a craft/sewing room, a storage room plus attic space, and I figured, “How much space does one person really need?” It was built in the 1940’s — a post-war, cookie cutter, white box of a thing. I liked the vintage character and the hardwood floors.

There was trouble from the start.

A month or so after moving in, I got very sick. Sicker than I had been since I could even remember. High fever, chills, body aches, vomiting, sore throat. I was so weak, I could barely walk. My whole body just hurt. I laid in bed for days, thinking periodically, “I am going to have to get up and at least get something to drink so I don’t get dehydrated.” Then I piled my bedside table with bottles of water and Gatorade so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed. I was too weak to drive myself to the doctor’s office, and I kept thinking I would feel better the next day. My friend Camille* came over to check on me a couple times and made me take some essential oil capsules she’d made for me. When I finally made it to the doctor, he said it was flu, strep throat and walking pneumonia. Okay, no wonder I felt so bad. You’re probably thinking, “What does that have to do with the house?” Maybe nothing. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Or, maybe not.

About a month later, the same friend who had brought me the essential oil capsules went through a bitter divorce and needed a place to stay temporarily. So Camille and her cat, Squirt, moved into my second bedroom for a few months while she made preparations for moving to Australia. Camille is a small-statured person, but she is no glass flower. She grew up on hundreds of acres and knows how to hunt and shoot. She’s fiercely independent, strongly principled, and she can run in high heels.

A few weeks after Camille and Squirt moved in, I was at Robbie’s apartment one night. Around 10:00 pm, my cell phone rang. It was Camille. She said, “I think someone just tried to break into the house.”

“What?!” I said. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“I was in my bedroom, and all of a sudden, I heard this noise, like someone was holding the front door knob and violently shaking it in the frame. Birdy went into straight attack-mode, barking and growling, snarling, teeth bared, scratching at the door. I’ve never, ever seen her act like that. I grabbed my pistol and went to look out the peep hole, but I didn’t see anything. So I looked out the front window, and I didn’t see anyone in the yard, or walking down the street, or running away.”

I said, “That’s really strange. Maybe someone was going to break in and decided to see if the door was unlocked first?”

“Yeah, maybe,” she said. “But then why didn’t I see anyone outside? And why would they shake the door like that if they were just trying the lock?”

“I don’t know. Did you call the police?”

“Nah, they wouldn’t be able to do anything. No one actually broke in, and I didn’t even see a person to be able to give a description.”

I said, “Do you want me to come home? Are you scared to be there by yourself?”

“No, it’s okay,” she said. “The door’s locked, I’ve got my gun, and I’ve got Birdy Bodyguard on high alert. I’ll call you if something else happens.”

The next day, I filed a police report, thinking if someone was running around the neighborhood trying doors or breaking in, they might want to know about it and do some additional patroling or something. The officer’s response was, “Why didn’t y’all call the police when it happened? Why’d you wait until the next day?” I said, “Well, I wasn’t home, and my roommate didn’t see anyone, so she didn’t feel she was in any immediate danger.”

The officer said, “And you don’t think maybe it was just the wind?”

“It’s an old house, it has its creaks and cracks. But my roommate is a pretty tough cookie — she knows how to shoot, and she doesn’t scare easily. She definitely believed the noise was caused by a person shaking the door.”

“Okay,” he said. “We’ll assign some additional patrol in that neighborhood. It’s good to know in case anyone else over there starts having problems.”

The door shaking never happened again, but Camille did mention hearing things while she was home alone, like the back door opening and closing, when she knew I was at work, and the door was always locked. Or footsteps overhead in the attic.

A few months later, just before Camille moved to Australia, Robbie moved out of his apartment and into my house. Only a few weeks after moving in, Robbie got very sick. He laid on the couch with a high fever, his hair damp with sweat. It was possibly the only time he has ever missed watching an Alabama football game. It was the sickest he had been at least since I had known him, which at that time was over two years. And it was the sickest he could remember being for longer than that. Once he finally went to the doctor, they diagnosed him with the flu, strep throat, and walking pneumonia — the exact same diagnosis I had received just a few months earlier, when I was the house’s newest resident.

After that, we started hearing things regularly. Tapping on walls. Movement in the storage room. The lamp in the living room would go off by itself, and when someone reached over to turn the switch, it would come back on. One Saturday morning, we had slept late and were laying in bed, fully awake and about to get up, when we heard something sprint across the attic. Loud, heavy steps, like a person on two legs running hard. The house was drafty and poorly insulated, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if a squirrel had gotten into the attic through some small hole. But that was definitely not a noise a creature that small would produce.

One night, Robbie’s friend Roger stopped by to say hello and catch up. Robbie walked Roger to his car as he was about to leave. They stood in the driveway chatting for a little while longer. Roger told Robbie, “I better let you get back inside before Maegan gets mad at you for being out here so long! She’s looking for you.” He pointed at the living room window, where they could clearly see the shadow of a figure pulling a couple blinds apart to peep out.

A little while later, Robbie came back inside and said, “Sorry I was out there so long. You’re not mad are you? We saw you looking out the window.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “I’ve been in bed since you walked outside.”

A short time later, strange things also began to happen around the neighborhood.

Our next-door neighbor, who was middle-aged and in fine health, died very suddenly after a bout with — you guessed it — pneumonia. Others around us seemed affected by something negative in the air. We witnessed an angry boyfriend-girlfriend argument happening across the street. A family had moved in on the other side of us, into the house on the corner — mom, dad, son, son’s girlfriend, and their infant son/grandson. They had frequent loud arguments and physical altercations that were usually drug-and-alcohol related. Once, Robbie went over to retrieve a tool he had loaned to them, and found the baby in its stroller, alone on the front porch. They police got to know our street very well in a few short months.

That family had constant dark, supernatural experiences in the house. Robbie is the never-met-a-stranger type of guy, and he had spent some time talking to them all and had heard their stories about feeling a negative presence, doors opening and closing, seeing a shadowy figure darting around. Something wasn’t right there. He went over there one night at the grandmother’s request, and he felt it and saw the shadow figure. He left quickly and said he felt like something was chasing him out of there and kept chasing until he got to our property line, then dropped back.

We started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t our house that had the problems, but that something on the corner was affecting not only the house, but also the general physical area. At the corner was a dried-up creek that came from across the other street and wound around behind our house as well, in some very overgrown and spooky woods.

One night I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of children laughing, flute music, and what sounded like someone tapping sticks together. It sounded like it was coming from the space in between our house and the corner house. One of our bedroom windows faced that area. I got out of bed and looked out the window. Nothing.

The next-door neighbor who died from pneumonia left behind a wife and a teenage son with a developmental disability named Ryan. Ryan was beloved by the whole neighborhood. He loved to garden and do yard work for everyone and preferred to get paid with twenty one-dollar bills instead of one twenty because it made him feel like he had more money if there were more pieces of paper. He played the drums in the band at their church and loved playing (and talking about) music. He was a huge Beatles fan, and we gave him a t-shirt for his birthday of the famous Abbey Road album cover photo. He was more excited about that t-shirt than the chocolate cake his mom bought. And he loooooooved chocolate.

When Ryan graduated from high school, our neighbor on the other side of them hosted a graduation party for him, and the whole neighborhood was invited. The whole neighborhood, with the exception of the new family on the corner with all the problems. They had a live band, which Ryan was super excited about, and lots of barbecue. I was sitting in the beautiful back yard garden (the host was a Japanese maple farmer), talking to Ryan about music and what he wanted to do now that he was a big fancy high school grad, when Robbie came barreling out the back door and said, “You need to get in here. It’s the baby.”

I ran inside and saw a group of people in the living room standing around the host, who was performing CPR on the baby from the corner house. The baby was gray. The host’s roommate was on the phone with 911. The baby’s father, Jason, had found the baby not breathing and ran with him up the street to the party because no one was at home — the whole street was there. Jason paced around, frantic, wailing, sobbing. The rest of the famiy arrived around the same time as the ambulance.

Realizing there was nothing we could do, and not wanting to be in the way, we walked back over to our house. The police came around questioning everyone who had been at the party. We told them what Jason had told us. He said the baby was sleeping on the couch, and his mother was in the room. He was in the bedroom, and his girlfriend was taking a shower. His mother called out to him that the baby didn’t look like it was breathing. He tried CPR and then ran with the baby up the street to get help. A few days later we learned that the baby had died. They determined that it was SIDS.

We did a lot of research trying to determine if there was possibly an Indian burial ground in the area but found nothing conclusive. We learned that Creek Indians (the tribe native to this area) established their communities on the banks of creeks, traditionally buried their dead underneath their dwellings, and held a Green Corn celebration around that time of year that might explain the strange noises I heard outside in the middle of the night.

We consulted a couple different people with knowledge and experience in the supernatural. We were given a concoction of herbs to put around the house that was supposed to ward off certain negative influences. We had readings in which we were told there was a dark spirit attached to the corner and to the creek that was affecting the entire area and that we should try to limit our interaction with the family who lived there, especially that we should not go into that house or allow any of them into ours, to stay away from the creek. We were told that there was also a protective spirit with us who would manifest physically if needed, and that we would understand when or if that happened.

One day, no one was at home at the house on the corner. I was at work. Robbie texted me a photo.

IMG_1809

This dog that no one had seen before had appeared on the corner. It laid down in the grass across the street from the house, across from the creek. It crossed the street into the yard of the house (shown in the photo). It laid in that yard for a while. It investigated the yard and the woods behind and beside it. It walked up and down the street around the house, crossed over and went down into the wooded ravine where a portion of the creek bed ran (that’s the dark area in the photo).

Later, we saw Jason from next door at the gas station, and he said a big dog he’d never seen before had chased him on his bicycle. That he couldn’t get home for a while because the dog was in between him and the house.

None of us ever saw that dog before or since.

So, by this point, we had decided to sublease the house and move out. We found a great place on the other side of town, found a subleaser very quickly, and were happy to be getting away from all the negative vibes and bad juju. The day we moved to the new house, we had to make several trips back and forth across town because we didn’t want to rent a moving truck. It was an all-day affair, even with the three friends who volunteered to help, and by the time we had moved all the boxes over and were finishing up cleaning the empty house, it was dark out.

As Robbie was loading up the cleaning supplies, and we were ready to leave for the last time, it occured to me that my box of camping supplies was in the attic. It was the only thing I ever stored up there, because it wouldn’t be affected by temperature or moisture. Robbie said he would go up and get it, even though he hated going up there, and the attic ladder was a little rickety, and he was always afraid it would break on him. “It’s right at the top of the stairs,” I said. “You’ll be fine.” I went to the car and waited for him.

A few minutes later, Robbie came flying out the front door with the box, threw it in the car, jumped in, and said, “We have to get out of here right now. Go! Go!” I sped off towards the new house with Robbie practically hyperventilating beside me. I kept saying, “What’s wrong? What is it?” He couldn’t even speak. He was just like, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!”

Once we were safely at the new house, and everyone was a little calmer, I said, “Okay, what freaked you out?”

He said, “I went up to get that box, and I walked to the back part of the attic just to check and make sure we weren’t leaving anything else up there. There were pieces of carpet remnants on the floor, pieces of cardboard with stuff written on it that was not in any language I’m familiar with, and above that was an old-ass, dirty babydoll hanging upside down from a cord. I am not setting foot in that place, ever, ever again.”

The only time I’ve been back there was to clean after the subleasers moved out last month. The landlord’s son was there doing some repairs and yard work, but he left soon after I arrived. I was alone, cleaning in the kitchen. I heard tapping on the ceiling. And I left without finishing.

*Not her real name.

Halloween 2010

I’m never usually much one for Halloween, but this year I’m really not. I’m sick, and I’m stuck inside without much to do. I’m missing the annual Halloween party thrown by my best friend since forever, and I’m even missing the Auburn football game because Time Warner is a bitch and won’t let me watch it online because I don’t get cable TV. Hello, the internet is why I don’t have cable. Maybe they have figured that out. Nooooooooooo!!!

When I was little I used to get strep throat all the time, and I had it one year on Halloween and was very disappointed when I couldn’t go trick-or-treating with my friends from the neighborhood. What I remembered today as a result of being sick on Halloween again was how that year when I was five or so, my friend Kerri and her little sister stopped by my house on their way home to divvy up their candy haul with me since I couldn’t go. It’s funny how one seemingly small act of kindness will stick with a person for their entire life, huh? Makes me wonder what I’ve done that has stuck with someone without me even realizing it. When I mentioned it to Kerri tonight, she said, “Hmm, we must have been really little because I’m usually very selfish with my candy.” LOL!

I’ve never been very big on dressing up or costumes. I think it’s because they’re usually really uncomfortable, and I am hard pressed to wear anything ever that feels uncomfortable. I guess that’s why they are called costumes. They are not within your personal comfort zone manner of dress. My favorite Halloween costume I ever had was in college when I went as Cruella DeVille. Basically I just wore a black slip dress with a black feather boa and a lot of eye makeup, and I put a white streak in my hair, and I even had the long cigarette holder. It was my favorite because it wasn’t that uncomfortable, didn’t require many props, and everyone got it. In fact, that was probably the last time I actually wore a Halloween costume. I don’t get out much now that I’m old.

Speaking of costumes, my hairdresser is a closet hippie and loves all my clothes. She complimented the patchwork pants I wore to my last appointment, and we had a whole conversation about how she looks for cool hippie clothes whenever she goes to Asheville but everything there is so expensive. (The pants I was wearing that day I got on sale in Asheville for like $40. ON SALE!) Today I saw her randomly in public (wearing a hoodie and hemp pants), and she was loving on Birdy and telling her how her mama has cool clothes. It made me laugh, because it’s very possible no one has EVER said that to or about me. Particularly since I’ve lived here, in a town where hippies are an anomaly.

In Asheville, I used to get compliments on my random vintage t-shirts. Most of them were stolen from my dad and were from his college days, which made them even cooler because they were actually old. I had a vintage White Sox shirt he stole from his sister, who stole it from one of her college boyfriends, and I used to get hit on so much in college due to that shirt. One of my old college roommates was even inspired to start a vintage-look baby clothing line because of it. It was because of a vintage guitar shop shirt from a particular town that I met my college boyfriend, who had family there and had been to the place. I had a more common one that said, “I Climbed the Great Wall” with a graphic of the Great Wall of China, and it always shocked me that guys would hit on me because I was wearing a shirt they themselves owned. Conversation starter, I guess. But weird that now no one hits on me unless I’m wearing socially acceptable trendy female clothing. Which makes me just hate the people who do it because at that point they’re not even hitting on me, they’re hitting on my clothes. Which tells me they are way too superficial for my taste, and they’re gonna be WAY disappointed to learn that I’m wearing a costume essentially, once I get home and put on my hemp drawstrings.

Here, I get looks of bafflement that I’m not wearing Ann Taylor or skinny-leg jeans or whatever it is that is “in style” nowadays. I never know. Obviously, as I’m still wearing the same t-shirts and boot-leg jeans I wore in college and parading around a conservative Southern town in hippie garb like hemp pants for God’s sake at the REGULAR grocery store and not at Whole Foods. But when a guy flirts with me when I’m wearing hemp or patchworks, he’s going to have a much better chance at getting the number than when I’m in “drag.”

I’m a rebel, I tell you. Maybe I just figured out my next Halloween costume. And I don’t even have to dress up! Perfect. “Oh, look! She’s a hippie!” “Oh, no, that’s just Maegan.”