This episode, occurring in October of 1974, was probably my first ghostly encounter. Although the experience includes only one day of overt paranormal activity, it was enough to force me and my boyfriend, Sean * to move out as soon as we could.
Over the course of a few months from 1974 to 1975, Sean and I were hired as managers of a six-unit brick apartment building, built at the turn of the 19th Century, just old enough to see a lot of people come and go. It was located on Milwaukee Street in a big mid-western city. We had been hired to oversee the needs of the tenants occupying the other 5 units, most of whom were elderly, long-term tenants. And most of these people were just plain lonely and sought the company or attention of anyone who would listen. We collected the rents and listened to many personal concerns while changing a lot of light bulbs!
The building consisted of 3 units on either side of a central entryway, the two lowest being garden apartments. (And anyone who has ever lived in a ‘garden apartment’ knows that the term is a euphemism for ‘basement abode’ which really means they’re not quite as quaint as they sound!) We had been allocated to the lower left unit. The windows were few; they were small and narrow, positioned high on the wall like any typical basement window would be. Truly, it was tantamount to living like a mole. The rooms offered little light and were cold and damp, but the price was right so we took the job.
At this time in our lives, we had little furniture: a mattress, a small black and white TV and a TV stand. The kitchen came with a refrigerator, a stove and a sweet little breakfast nook that took the place of table and chairs. (Tongue in cheek - it was austere living at its best!)
We lived in only two of the three rooms: the kitchen and the bedroom. Although there was a spacious living room with an unclaimed sofa, it sat on a cold linoleum floor. We only passed through this room to get to the other two because there was something very uninviting about that room. In addition to being the managers, I held a waitressing job and Sean worked on cars. One day, we had a discussion and decided that I would quit my waitressing job and go back to school. It was during this period in October, that I experienced the visitation.
One Saturday morning, I was home alone doing housework. It was a sunny day, and some of that sunshine found its way into the kitchen, undoubtedly the cheeriest room of all. I set to vacuuming the bedroom which was the only room with carpeting. The night before, I had been sewing and placed my tin sewing box containing spools of thread, on the floor at the head of the bed. When I arrived at my side of the bed with the vacuum cleaner, I saw a spool of thread jumping up and down on the carpet. I didn’t find this startling because I logically thought, “Oh, the thread must be caught up in the roller brush of the vacuum.” So I turned the machine off and bent over to disengage the thread from the roller, but found that there was no thread caught anywhere in the machine, and yet the spool continued to jump! I took two more steps toward the spool, intending to grab it to find out how it was being jerked about. But when I bent over to touch it – it stopped. That’s when I got spooked. I thought to myself, “The vacuum is off and the thread isn’t tangled, so why is it jumping?” As I resumed vacuuming, I tried to reason this away, wondering how on earth this could logically happen.
The layout of the rooms gave a direct line of sight from the bedroom to the kitchen. Once I finished vacuuming, I stood near the doorway of the bedroom, wrapping the cord around the machine to put it away, when I happened to look up and see a shadow cut the sunlight streaming into the kitchen! The shadow was the size of an adult and moved from left to right, from the breakfast nook to the kitchen sink over a distance of about 3 feet. I looked up to the window that faced the backyard but there was nothing in the yard to have created the shadow. I just stood there not wanting to believe that the place was haunted.
The third event came in rapid succession and definitely became the climax of my day! After storing the vacuum cleaner, I sat on the bed folding some laundry that had been done earlier that morning. As I quietly folded towels and facecloths, a shattering of glass came from the kitchen! Although frozen with fear, I nearly jumped out of my skin! The last thing I wanted to do was go and investigate. Being somewhat edgy by now I tried to allay this fear by thinking to myself, “Really, how bad can it be?” I braced myself for another possible scare and cautiously approached the kitchen. It was a really small kitchen. There wasn’t too much territory to investigate and there was no where for someone to hide. Still, no one likes to get startled. The only area under suspicion seemed to be the sink, so I approached the sink. In it was a small green drinking glass that had been left on the counter of the green porcelain sink. It had slipped in and shattered. That’s all there was on the counter – just the green drinking glass on a dry countertop. So how does a glass slip on a dry, flat surface? I knew that if the counter were wet, the glass might have slipped in by capillary action, a kind of sucking force that would draw the glass into the sink IF it were sitting on a slanted surface. But, the surface was both flat and dry. I could find no logical explanation, just a paranormal one. And I wasn’t comfortable with that. In fact, freaked out was more like it. So I grabbed my jacket and ran out of the house, walking around the neighborhood for a few hours until Sean came home.
Once Sean arrived from work that afternoon, I related the day’s activities and he finally admitted to me that he had been creeped out by the apartment from the beginning. He told me that if he arrived home before I did in the late afternoon, even though he was covered in grease and grime, he couldn’t bring himself to jump in the shower, especially around 5 p.m. He had the feeling that someone else was in there watching; it reminded him of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’! It was comforting knowing I wasn’t the one with these feelings, but I didn’t want to stay there by myself either. There were 5 months left until I finished school, so we couldn’t afford the move until then. We were just going to have to bide our time.
Our neighbor across the hall in the other garden apartment was a lovely elderly lady in her eighties. Sometimes I would go to her apartment to use the phone and we would chat for a few minutes. It was during one of these conversations, soon after the events of October, that she told me how she and her husband had lived in our apartment for many years and then he passed away. It was at that point she decided to move across the hall to her present location. With that said, the events of October began to make sense. It could very well have been that it was her husband who was still in our apartment and didn’t want to leave; being from the ‘old school’, he probably wasn’t too happy with the young, unmarried interlopers living in his home.
There was also an earlier episode at the onset of our tenancy which I had dismissed, attributing it to Sean’s dreaming. He nudged me one night, pointed to the floor on his side of the bed and told me to look at the cat! I couldn’t see any cat. I told him so and went back to sleep. In fact, it was outside of my belief system at the time that animals could appear as ghosts. But now I think that just maybe, it was the cat that wanted to play with the spool of thread. Makes sense… In retrospect, it was the first sign that things weren’t ‘quite right’ with the apartment.
As soon as I finished school, we moved to a newer building that offered a balcony and a working fireplace. We found our new home bright and cheery which was a pleasant departure from the murky energy that left us tense and nervous. Making that move truly came as a relief. Even though it was hard to leave such a financially-friendly arrangement, we were much happier in our new surroundings.
In looking back at our stay on Milwaukee Street, it became clear to me that there really are detectable differences in atmosphere from one place to another, and that no amount of sunshine could have ever brightened up that place.
* Name has been changed to protect privacy.