I begin my story where a part of my life has been left off. Now as unusual as this may seem, I have but a select few true memories from my childhood. Notice how I use the word "true"; I consider all the others to be just horrible illusions of my past. To me, they never happened. But I do remember my home.
One may be confused that of all things, I remember a house rather than a family picnic at the beach, flying kites on a breezy, clear day, or going to the park and playing tag with my friends. And it is sad to know that for some odd reason I do not remember my mother, either. From the time I was small all I knew were the yells and shouts that came from my parents’ room as they argued over our many family issues. I became confused and disoriented on this constant roller coaster of emotions; with all the hurt and anger my parents produced for me that moved along with the love and happiness I received from them.
Maybe that is why I have long ago chosen to block happy memories from my young mind. What does that leave? Bad memories. Simply all that is there are bad memories of my childhood home and nothing else. But because of this house being a very unique one, it would have been just as memorable to someone even without all of the negative family life. I will never forget it. If you promise not to laugh, I will tell you why. So as I travel through my thoughts I will try to recover as much memories as possible, though they may be pessimistic, they are still my past. My name is Julianne, I am 14 years of age, and this is my story.
Clarence Avenue was a simple street in a simple town with simple people, to put it simply. During the day it was sunny and lively; people were always taking walks, watering their lawns, or out in their backyards. Our neighbors were friendly and talkative. The houses themselves were beautiful: most were older and larger homes that had been built during the early 20th century, with porches and unique structures. But of all the dwellings, one stood out the most.
This residence was the one situated directly across from the church, maybe a little to the right. It was made of brick, while most of the other houses appeared to be wood or some other form of cheap material and this one was red at that, while most other homes were a dull blue or gray. It looked grand and mysterious, defiantly spacious; but there was just something that stuck out about this particular house from the others. It gave off some kind of special feeling. Maybe it was the large, stone staircase that led to the door, or the magnificent detailing in the outer limestone filled with curves, lines, and shapes. Or maybe this feeling emerged from the gorgeous stain-glass windows that extend along the sides of the home. The interior itself was just as beautiful and unique as the exterior, with oak woodwork and the early-twenties look it produced. As soon as you step in the front door it feels as though you’ve stepped back in time. This was 3323 South Clarence Avenue, my home.
My family lived here for eleven years. From the time I was one to when I was 12 years old, I grew up in this magnificent house with my father and sister, Teresa, who is two years younger than me. I loved this house and yet hated it, as messed up as that may sound. Actually, sadly enough, I can prove it is possible. Let me take you back in time, maybe four or so years…
I am once again 10 years old. It’s a warm and dark summer night as I lay in bed. My father and sister are already asleep and the whole house is eerily still and quiet. My room is hot, pitch black and I sigh with nervousness as I routinely sit still under the covers. I am just waiting for that familiar sound that comes every midnight to constantly haunt me and awake me from my slumber. I begin to dose and my eyes start to close when suddenly I hear it.
I instantly open my eyes again with terror. It’s creeping and creaking up the stairs, one step at a time. Creak, Crick Crick. Creeeaak. It slowly reaches the top of the stairs and proceeds down the hallway. Beads of sweat trickle down my stiffening, frightened face. My fear grows. Creeak, Creeak. It moves its way past the master bedroom and towards mine until I hear it stop abruptly at my doorway. There is a minute of pause and my whole body becomes as stiff as a board. I clench the blankets while praying it goes away. But it doesn’t end. Creak, Crick. Creak, Crick. It continues in a circular motion around my bedroom then stops at my bed. Silence. I close my eyes tight and hold my breath, waiting under the hot and humid covers. I am unbelievably petrified. What is it going to do now? "Just stay still; don’t move. Don’t breathe. Wait for it to leave. Oh god, just don’t move," I think to myself. The thing stays by me for a few more horrid minutes, and then leaves, creaking down the hallway towards my sister’s room, until I can no longer hear it. Creak, crick, creak crick.
I am so hot and still afraid. My breathing slows and I begin to relax again but still worry whether or not it was going to come back, until I eventually fall into a deep and uneasy sleep.
This occurred every night at the exact time, for about fifteen minutes at a time, and never stopped. Not once. Whatever it was, I felt that it either was aware of me, or just going about business. I still question though, why would it stand right next to my bed, right next to me? The question haunts me today as much as the thing itself did then.
About the troubled background of the house: not many good things happened then either. It was built in 1921 by a man who owned a stone company, which would probably clarify the stone all about my distinctive abode. He was well off and created this marvelous four-story home.
All I know is that it had at least twenty rooms in it, and among these rooms, one terrified me the most. It was in our basement, which was to begin with scarier than the rest of the home. Of the four small basement rooms that came off the hallway and two larger rooms, this one had a thin, red door. I always thought of it as a barn door, because it resembled those on the red farm houses I’d seen, due to the fact that it was made of wood boards, with a small latch on the side.
Within, the room had peeling "sailor" wallpaper with pictures of boats and anchors, and revealed underneath, the aged brick walls. Sitting there against the wall was an old bed with a wooden, black frame and worn-down red mattress. Supposedly, this is where the African-American maid’s younger brother had slept. This room had an odd, creepy atmosphere. It was peculiarly mysterious; to me, it was somewhat of a treasure room. I found an antique toy airplane, wood golf clubs from the 1920’s, and a small metal treasure chest-bank with a pirate and skull painted on it, all in that single room. The space still always terrifies me and caused me to form the most unexplainable, horrific feeling I have ever felt. I refused to ever step foot in the haunted room alone in fear that something may happen to me.
The original owner died in that house, his coffin was dragged in through the porch window, and his wake was held in the front living room. Till this day, there are two small chunks of stone missing outside the window ledge where it was chipped off because of the coffin.
The previous owners who sold my parents the house were an elderly couple. They had painted the rooms black and red and placed pictures of fighting bulls on the walls. The woman was half-way insane, going out on the balcony and cursing loudly at bystanders walking to church. She had written notes on paper about Satan and stapled them into the wood surrounding the doorways amongst every room of the dwelling. There was always a red socket plate behind the couch and a single rusted staple in my doorway.
My younger sister and I would hear the occasional whispers. Teresa once confessed recently that she heard a woman speaking or having a conversation with another person, while she was going about her bedroom. She has also seen a single eye suspended in mid air. Teresa has always had a wild imagination and was young at the time, but now I believe her story. After all the things I saw, naturally I would believe such a wild account.
Teresa had been around three or four at the time, moving around uneasily in her bed that night for she couldn’t find a restful sleep. She turned to and from facing the pink wall of her bedroom and to the other side again, when she unexpectedly noticed something. It was an eye floating in the air, staring straight at her. She claimed that it was glaring, if you will; an eye hovering in her face, and all she did was gaze right back at the object. After staying for minutes, it plainly blinked and disappeared. Ever since that night, she never dared come up from under the covers after the lights were turned out, and refused to be exposed or look about her bedroom. The eye was green… a bright green eye that stares and disappears would honestly scare a three year old to death. Till this day, Teresa sleeps under the covers because it became habit while living in that home.
I heard the murmurs. I would hear a voice saying my name, "Juli", in my ear. Not next to me, but directly in my ear. It occurred rarely but I remember the happenings vividly. I was constantly horrified. But I learned to deal with it.
I never could comprehend the gloomy, creepy atmosphere the whole house cast upon me. As I continued to grow older and more mature in my home, I learned that these haunting presences were not really harmful, but were rather just there. That’s all it became: another charisma of my beautiful residence. I got used to the odd incidences and came to live more comfortably with them, until it came time to move.
I was not happy at all by the move because I felt that this was my home, and the horrible family buying it from us was stealing it. I did not like them at all. I was mad that I had lived here for 11 whole years; this is where my memories are, and here I was getting my childhood home taken away from me. These people were meddlesome, unkind, and rude for forcing my family and me to leave. I had grown up with the house, learned so much, and experienced an even more intense level of feelings and happenings than ever before in my life. But maybe it was time for me to learn something for the last time, for it was then when I first experienced my true encounter with one of the spirits.
Let me take you back once more…
I am twelve years old. It is a cool and dark July evening, a little less than a month before the move, as I sit on my bed going through my belongings and placing them in boxes. I have been organizing and packing my room for the majority of the day, so I was growing tiresome. My father and Teresa were downstairs watching T.V. therefore I was alone on the third floor. Lately, I have grown up; not many creepy things have happened for a while for I have now been wandering the basement and different levels of the home by myself, which I would never have done a year ago. I was sorting through old toys when I was struck by the most distinct feeling that someone was watching me. It came from the doorway, I felt, so I slowly turned my head upwards to see whom or what was there. It most certainly was not a member of my family, and was not a "whom"…it was what I have feared seeing all my life up until now. The spirit was see-through, as most people would imagine them to be, and blurry. All I could make out was a hazy outline of what looked like its body. A man, I believe. A man that was wearing old clothing, had brown hair, and…green eyes. A sudden burst of light actually came from the center of the figure right at me…I could not ever explain it. I was stricken with panic as it stood there in my doorway. I was still sitting, silent and rigid, staring directly at the form, my mouth open, hands still holding the single toy I was about to place in the brown box. So, I followed my instincts; I ran.
You see, it is rather hard when you need to run away from something terrifying and possibly harmful, and you can’t. It was standing right in my doorway! I had no choice. Honestly, that was the fastest I have ever run to this day. I was as fast as those professional Olympic runners. As I ran through it, I could not breathe. It wasn’t until after I dashed down the stairs as fast as lightening and was sprinting into the living room I could gasp for air, for the spirit took my ability to exhale completely. When I went through, I breathed in, but couldn’t. It was the most unusual sensation.
My father and sister suddenly exclaimed, "What happened, why are you running," for I had made so much noise while booming down the stairway. I told them why. I told them exactly what happened, and as I did, I was still shaking from fear. I never went anywhere in that house alone again for the remainder of time we stayed.
My father didn’t believe me. He made up an excuse like, "Oh, that light was probably reflecting through the window off the cars outside and you couldn’t breathe because you were so scared." No. I knew what I saw and felt, and he could never understand. Teresa, on the other hand, believed me. With every word of my story, she believed me.
Today, two years after seeing the ghost, I still believe. I think a part of me stayed with the house. Don’t take my tale wrong though, because 3323 S. Clarence was just as marvelous as it was horrible. I can now recall playing dolls with my sister in the middle of the hallway, eating pizza and watching movies in the living room with my family, washing our car in the backyard and playing with the soap suds, and those beautiful Sunday mornings when I could hear the church bells ringing and the sun’s warm rays always gleamed in through the windows. That house kept my family safe, kept us warm, and for the majority of the time, happy. My parents fought and divorced in that home. My younger sister was born in that home, and we all grew up together in that home. Since then, I think my sister has matured more than me. She no longer believes in what happened…she lost faith. I still and always will believe. I loved that house.
And so, I will leave my memories where they are and belong; 3323 S. Clarence Ave. I will let the house take care of them as it took care of me. I can finally let go off the bad ones for I have completed what I needed to for so long. That part of my childhood has now been filled. And I now can make room for new and better things; I finally have the ability to keep the good experiences and fun times permanently glued in my mind to be treasured and recollected upon. As I continue on in this journey of life, I will gather new memories and thoughts, will discover new homes, and learn so much more. I can now remember what I want to, without reminiscences haunting and torturing me. And, above all things, I have finally realized that….I have not grown apart from my home; I have grown with it.
-"A house is not a home, until it has love."