image via james hood
“A Ghost came through the wall and pulled me out of bed by the leg!”
At 9 years old, this is not what you want to hear from your aunt, as you start your weekend stay at her apartment.
This must have been around 1971, in north Philadelphia near the main campus of Temple University, where I wound up going to school in the late eighties. It was an old three-story brick row house. A small candy store was on the 1st floor to the left of the main entrance. My favorite things to buy there were Zero Bars (did anyone else actually eat those?) and candy shoelaces.
The stairway to the 3rd floor was poorly lit, and smelled of old wood and lacquer. Every time we visited, it had the same old smell. It wasn’t a particularly terrible smell, but it made you feel uneasy. I hated going up and down that stairwell alone. Every stair creaked and some even gave a bit, causing you to feel like you could fall through and end up in some dark, dusty basement. Hurt and alone. As I passed the hallway doors, I felt anticipation. No, dread. Would someone or something spring out and drag me into
the abyss one of those rooms? Once the huge and heavy wooden doors closed behind me, no one would even know. So, why did I brave the dark scary hallway and creaking stairs? Remember, the candy store on the 1st floor??? Exactly.
Well, here we go! I was dropped off with my little sister, to spend a weekend with my Aunt Marion. It was to be our first time overnight away from mom and dad. They wanted a couple of days without the kids. I was looking forward to it, because Marion is my favorite aunt. She always made sure we had treats and books to read when we would visit. Aunt Marion is a feisty, loud woman and I mean that in the most endearing way. She always had a distinctive voice and a way of telling stories that had you riveted to the spot. She sported a tooth that was framed in gold. This was way back when adults, and not rappers gilded their teeth. All these things made Aunt Marion my favorite. At least until she told me what happened to her the year before.
“Alfie, all I wanted to do was change my bedroom around. I was tired of the way it looked. I moved my bed to the middle of the floor instead of the corner of the room. Shortly after that, odd things started to happen to me and Johnny (her son). I came home one day from work, and Johnny was in the bathroom, running water for a bath. I said hello, but he didn’t answer. I knocked and still no answer, but the water stopped. After knocking again, I opened the door, to find the bathroom empty. I didn’t tell him then, because I didn’t want to scare him. (She sure didn’t mind scaring the Hell out of me, though). Alfie, I swear this happened, even though your mommy doesn’t believe me.
Johnny started having trouble sleeping. One night after he had gone to bed, I was sitting up watching TV when I heard large crash. I ran to his room and found him on the floor with his mattress and box spring on top of him, and the bed frame on top of that. Everything was upside down! He was very scared, but I told him he must have been sleepwalking.
Then, the worst happened.
I began to have nightmares all the time. I would wake up to see a little skinny man, maybe three feet tall, with glowing yellowed eyes float through the wall near my 3rd floor window. He was wailing and moaning. His skin was jet black and dried and wrinkled, like an old prune. He would reach out for me and then fade away. Each night though, he got closer to my bed.
After several visits, he got so close that he could grab me! One night, he actually grabbed my left leg with both gnarled hands and started to pull me toward the wall he had floated through. I was hanging onto the bed, screaming for Johnny, but he never came to my room. My Bible was on the nightstand, so I grabbed it and held it tight. The little wrinkled man moaned and slowly faded away. I jumped up and turned on the lights. When I ran in to check on Johnny, he was still fast asleep. I was afraid to sleep again in my room, and I couldn’t afford to move, so I decided to try and find out what was going on.
I had Johnny and his cousin Carliss, sleep in my bed one night. I sat up in a chair to watch them. As soon as they were both asleep, they began to toss and turn. I almost screamed when I saw them both sliding toward the side of the bed where the evil man grabbed me before. I was terrified! I could not see him, but I could see where he was pulling them by the arms and legs. Now I did scream and I ran over and woke them up. All they remembered was having bad dreams. I felt bad for doing this to them. What if they got hurt? I still had to find out why this was happening.
I asked some of the neighbors if anything strange had happened there before I moved in. What they told me scared me all over again.
There was a old frail man who lived in the apartment before I did. He rarely spoke and seemed to hate everyone. No one knew where he went during the day or anything else about him. He would walk up the creaky stairs to his door and slam it shut. If you passed him in the hall, you were lucky if you got a grunt from him. Since he was sort of a hermit, no one thought much when he hadn’t been seen for a while. At some point, a terrible smell was noticed on the 3rd floor. While trying to discover where it came from, the old man’s door was knocked on, but there was no answer. After a couple of days of that, the police were called. The door was forced and what they saw shocked them all.
In the main bedroom, in the middle of the floor, the old man was on his knees almost facing the window. The look on his face was one of pain. He was kind of dried up. And he was dead. Had been for a while. I guess he was only three feet tall, because he was on his knees when he died and stayed that way as a spirit!”
So you see, the old man died in agony, alone on his knees in the middle of the bedroom. The exact spot where Aunt Marion moved her bed. The haunting started when she invaded his space. He tried to remove anyone who dared sleep on his “deathbed.” As her story goes, after she moved the bed off of that spot, the terrors stopped.
I’ll give her this. I have asked her again and again over the years, if she was just pulling my leg. Even though she has suffered ridicule and teasing for decades from her family and relatives, she insists that everything happened like she said. My cousins Johnny and Carliss, did remember having the bad dreams that night, but that is all. My aunt did not share these stories with my sister that weekend, and neither did I.
To see the old “haunted” apartment building, click the link below. The middle building is where my aunt lived. I remember sitting on those very steps, afraid to go back inside after hearing that story. My aunt insisted that I come inside after dark. Even my “friend” the candy store had closed. I wanted to go home, but my parents wouldn’t return until the next day. I do not remember if I was ever able to sleep in that apartment, but I doubt it. I never stayed there overnight again. Good times!
Just to the LEFT of the top right window is where the ghostly hermit floated through the wall! Happy Halloween!
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