Yuputka (n.): the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
Today’s story is from Jezebel’s 2013 Annual Scary Story Contest. I’m counting down the days until the next one! We have 87 days until Halloween, so we are slowly getting there…
I have quite a few ghost stories to tell. Some of them are mine; some of them were told to me by others. My favorite is the one that happened in the Most Wonderful House in the Universe. It’s my story.
I moved into the Most Wonderful House in the Universe while I was in grad school. The house had been built in 1911. It was/is a beautiful house. Two stories. Wooden floors. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms. A huge kitchen. A screened-in back porch with a washer and dryer. The backyard had room for a garden, one orange tree, one lemon tree, one lime tree, and a plum tree. The was a lovely wooden deck. The front porch had, of course, a swing. The upstairs was one large bedroom with a balcony and stained glass windows. I dream of living in a house like this again one day, when I win the lottery.
I moved in, away from a house that was a former meth house, one that had made me sick. The meth had seeped into the ground water, and I suffered for months from stomach issues and generally weakness and illness before it became clear that it was the chemicals from the meth-making of the former meth-makers that was probably the cause. I moved out immediately. I hoped to recover from my physical problems in this beautiful, perfect house. It had one flaw. A downstairs bedroom was dark, even during the height of the day, because of placement. But, I was the only renter, so I closed that room off and stored my extra boxes there.
The first few months were great. The front porch was my favorite place to be, sitting on the porch swing. I did notice some odd cold areas in the house, but I put it off to what I liked to think of as “old house syndrome.” That is, some old houses just have drafty areas during winter months. I discounted the sound of footsteps as house-settling as well. The house was so nice, and I had been sick for so long. I just refused to have any problems there.
Spring arrived early that year and was really warm, so I started leaving the front door open, in the hopes of catching cool breezes through the living room. The front door was huge, heavy thing, with a large lock that I only turned at night because it was so hard to open with the key. But, there was a screen door as well, and I loved it. It meant I could leave the door open, because I could latch the screen, while I was at home.
It started with the door. I would open the door, and then, after I walked into the kitchen in the morning for coffee, it would slam shut. I thought this was, you know, odd, but a draft. Obviously. So, I put a book in front of the door. The largest version of Chaucer is good for this sort of thing, and that seemed to work at first. Then, one day, I got up, came downstairs, opened the front door, slid Chaucer in as a doorstop, and went into the kitchen to start the coffee.
The door slammed shut.
I thought, “Huh. Must have not gotten the book in front of the door.”
I went back in the room, opened the door, slid the Chaucer book in front of it, and left the room.
The door slammed shut. Really hard.
I paused. I put down my coffee and reentered the living room. The enormous Chaucer book was in front of the television, nowhere near the door. The door was shut. And locked. The difficult bolt had been turned. I froze.
I looked around the room nervously, picked up the Chaucer book as a weapon, and then, I reopened the door. I was in the process of convincing myself that it was a friend, playing a joke. I had friends like these. I unlocked and opened the door, looking out on the front porch. No one. Then, I realized that I had just unlatched the screen door to look outside.
In moments, I found myself outside on the front lawn in my pajamas, clutching the giant Chaucer book, looking, I’m certain, like a lunatic.
My first thought was not ghosts. My first thought was crazed maniac intruder. I mean, seriously, the living are far more dangerous than the dead.
Finally, I gathered up enough courage to go back inside. I couldn’t quite get past the embarrassment of showing up at neighbor’s house in my pajamas, to call the police, who might find an empty house. So, I went back inside. I’m embarrassed to say I was holding Chaucer over my head as a weapon. I can only imagine how it looked to an observer, and this is the first time I’ve told this story and admitted to the Chaucer part.
When I got inside, I went from room-to-room, including closets, clutching my phone, which I grabbed as well, and a giant textbook. Nothing. I even looked into the basement under the screened porch. Nothing. Everything else was locked. I calmed and decided that it had been the wind. Somehow. So, I tested it. I slammed the door, over and over, attempting to get the lock to slip. No go. So, I decided it was a fluke, a weird thing that had happened. I opened the door, latched the screen door, and put Chaucer back in place. I went into the kitchen for breakfast.
The front door slammed. Hard.
I walked back into the room. The book was near the staircase this time. The door was closed. And locked. I stood there in the silence for a minute. Then, I had what can only be described as a crazed moment. I unlocked the front door and opened it. I yelled, “This is my house! I am the living person! Knock it off. The door stays open!!” As I stood there, after saying this crazy thing, the closet door in the dark, spare room downstairs slammed behind me. I walked over to the spare room, yanked open the door to the room, and yelled, “Fine! Open and close that door!!! Whatever!! But, the front stays open!” I closed the door to the spare room.
It was quiet after that. Sometimes, I swore I heard footsteps. Sometimes, I swore someone was standing right behind me, but there was no one there. Sometimes, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. But, I ignored that so that I could live in the beautiful house. The front door never needed a doorstop again.