By Mark A. Larks
I was five years old when I learned that my house was haunted.
I woke up one night to what I can only describe as a noise coming from my parents’ bedroom down the hall from my bedroom. I staggered, half-asleep, down the corridor and into their bedroom. I could make out the silhouette of my dad as he sat on the edge of the bed in the dark. My mom was sitting up in bed, sobbing hysterically. I approached and she lunged at me, pulling me up on the bed where she squeezed me tight. I responded with tears of my own, even though I didn’t know yet why I was crying.
Click-click…creeeeeaaaaak came the noise from the next room. The sound of the closet door handle turning and the door itself opening was unmistakable; the squeak of the hinges had always been creepy and wouldn’t go away, no matter how much oil we put on the hinges. I now knew why my mom was crying: someone—or something—was in the house.
My dad got up from his perch on the edge of the bed and went into the other room. He closed the closet door. Apparently, the vague commotion I’d sensed from my room was the opening of the closet door—by itself—and my dad closing it. I realized this was why he sat on the edge of the bed; he’d been up and down a few times already.
No sooner had my dad returned to the bedroom did we hear the click-click, creeeeeaaaaak again. My mom started to breathe heavier, and her fear rubbed off on me. My breathing became shallow, and my heart pounded hard through my chest. My dad let out a tired sigh as he walked back into the adjacent room to shut the closet door, yet again.
“We’d like to go to bed now,” he said with frustration welling up in his voice. It didn’t immediately dawn on me that he was actually attempting to communicate with a spirit, but then, right in front of my eyes, the door of the closet in my parents’ bedroom swung open violently. My mom and I screamed.
“Thanks for visiting us,” my dad said. “But can you please stop so we can get some sleep?” There was a momentary silence—maybe ten seconds—before the corkboard full of pictures that hung over the dresser mirror flew off the wall and landed on the floor with a loud crash, a response that marked the end of the night’s paranormal activity.
For the next several years, strange occurrences were not uncommon at the house. Lights turned on by themselves, the toilet flushed on its own, smells of perfume and cigarette smoke (even though nobody in the house smoked) would come and go, and things often disappeared from where we left them. There also was a strange sense that someone was always watching us. A feeling shared by others who came over to the house.
When I was twelve, the remarkable happened: my parents saw an apparition.
That night, I’d fallen asleep on the couch, and my parents simply threw a blanket over me before they went to bed. Around midnight, I woke up to their screams.
By the time I ran into their bedroom, they were sitting up in bed, both wide-eyed and repeating, “You saw that, too, right?”
I kept asking them what happened, but it took at least a minute for either of them to slow their breathing enough to even acknowledge me.
“We were lying here in bed,” my dad said, “and we were just talking, and we saw a silhouette move across the hallway.”
“We thought it was you walking to the bathroom,” my mom said.
“Right. We thought it was you,” my dad said. “But then it just stood there in the hall. I asked, ‘What’s the matter, Mark?’, but you didn’t answer. It just turned and started walking into the bedroom. Then your mom asked, ‘Mark, are you okay?’, but it just kept walking toward the bed.”
“Then it got to the bed, and…” My mom started to hyperventilate again.
“It got right up to the bed,” my dad said, “and reached out its arms over us and started to lean over. That’s when we screamed. We thought someone had broken in and was about to do something to us, but as soon as we yelled, it disappeared!”
I’ve never heard—or seen—my dad so upset. The fact that he seemed so scared made me frightened as well.
My parents didn’t go back to bed that night. They didn’t go to bed for about two weeks, preferring instead to sleep in their recliners during the day and early evening. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to sleep in my bedroom, either, choosing instead to sleep on the couch with the television and the lights on. We all tried to make jokes about our sleeping habits, but that was just a coping mechanism. In reality, we all wanted to go back to a regular sleep schedule in our own beds.
Eventually, things escalated. What was once quirky and odd became violent. On more than one occasion, one of us would be watching television and feel an intense burning on our skin. When we looked down, we’d see scratches develop on our arm or leg or stomach before our eyes.
A family friend who slept over once told us she saw someone standing in the guest bedroom during the night. She was disturbed—rightfully so—to find bruises on her arm the next morning. Bruises that looked as if somebody had grabbed her. It was difficult to come to grips with the possibility that some unseen entity could leave physical marks and harm people in our home.
The cats—Chet, Mickey, and Brownie—routinely stared at empty corners of the room and hissed. One night, right after a hiss-fest, we heard an indescribable noise come from the kitchen, followed by a loud bang. My dad ran into the kitchen to investigate and found one of the kitchen cabinet doors ripped off its hinges, lying on the floor.
“What the hell?” my dad yelled.
“What did the cats get into this time?” asked my mom from the other room.
“Um…I don’t think the cats did this,” responded my dad, looking at me with his eyes as big as saucers.
Things finally got to the point where I bought a digital tape recorder, the kind used on the “ghost-hunting” television shows. One night, after a particularly busy week of strange occurrences—things being moved around the house or disappearing and then reappearing later—I decided to put it to use.
“Is there somebody here?” I asked, holding the tape recorder out in front of me. My dad was sitting in his chair, watching me as the cats huddled in the corner of the living room looking scared. “Are you the one moving things around the house?”
I thought for a moment about that time when I was five and my dad was trying to talk to a ghost. Now, here I was some thirty years later doing the same thing! The hair stood straight up on my arms despite the fact there was no draft coming through the room. The cats began running around the room while staring at the ceiling. I looked at my dad. He was following the cats’ gazes with a look of concern.
We took a seat on the couch, and I played the recording back. In response to my second question, we both heard a breathy but clear and somewhat taunting “Yesss!”
We called my mom in and played the recording for her, not telling her what to listen for. Her eyes widened as she heard the disembodied male voice respond to me.
“Did that thing say ‘yes’?” she asked, backing away from the tape recorder.
“Uh…yeah. Pretty sure it did,” I answered, and threw the recorder down, too freaked out to ask any more questions. I hadn’t expected to receive a response from someone (or something) and was unprepared as to what to do next. To this day, I haven’t attempted to communicate with the spirit using the tape recorder again. Neither have my parents, though whatever is in their house continued to communicate with them.
Shortly after the tape recorder incident, my parents started to hear voices coming through the speakers of the stereo in the living room. Most of it sounded like whispers, and it was hard to decipher what was being said. They assumed it was a malfunction of some sort, so they unplugged it. The voices continued, and my parents wound up throwing the stereo out. While that took care of the voices, it didn’t stop them from periodically getting scratched.
One afternoon, I came home to find my father sitting on the front porch, sobbing.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“This,” he said, pointing to his arm. Blood dripped down his arm, oozing from three long, deep scratches.
“What the hell happened?”
“I was in the back bedroom and I heard a loud hiss, then my arm started burning,” he responded, shaking. “I just don’t know why whatever is here hates me so much to keep scratching me!” I’ve never heard that level of fear in my dad’s voice, even when he saw that apparition years earlier. Back then, I had felt frightened, but now, I just felt helpless.
After that incident, my parents started “talking to” whatever entity was there. They asserted that this was their house, and that if the entity wanted to stay, it was welcome to, but it didn’t have the authority to attack them or anybody else who came through the door. Now, when things go missing around the house, my parents ask aloud for the item or items to be returned and—POOF!—within hours they’re found, usually in their normal place. When an anomalous cold spot occurs or the smell of perfume or cigarette smoke passes through the room, they offer a greeting to whatever is causing them, and the chills and aromas disappear. The house may still be haunted, but despite the uneasiness and that feeling of always being watched, what once instilled fear is now accepted as just part of living in their home, as if they have unseen roommates.
Mark A. Larks is an award-winning news writer who also writes fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. From 2018 to 2020, Mark was a research assistant and responsible for all media content for “The Mike Harvey Show,” a nationally syndicated all-request live radio program. He was a contributor to and a copy editor for The Collegian, at San Joaquin Delta College. He hosted his own radio show on KWDC 93.5 FM in Stockton, where he still contributes on the station’s weekly “Movie Talk” program. He has an associate degree in radio and television production and is currently a media studies major at Arizona State University. He lives in Northern California with his wife and dog.