In my teen years my family and I settled into a home in a small city in the southern end of Illinois, the city itself containing just over 4000 people. Our home, though old, had that pleasant lived in feeling that only a Grandmother’s house can seem to manage. Three bedrooms upstairs, two of which were connected by a plantation styled porch in the front, the third and smallest tucked in the back just past the stairs.
On the first floor the layout was rather simple, the front door lead into a hallway off of which was a sitting room, a family room, the kitchen and the homes only bathroom. The main level had a lovely wrap around porch that had at some point in time been screened in; I would assume to ward off the mosquitoes that this area suffers from.
It took little time for my family and me to settle in, just my Mother, Father, younger brother and myself. My younger brother was the first to notice the odd smell that seemed to hang in the kitchen. At first it was almost impossible to tell where it came from, it never lingered long and when it did it was very light, though unpleasant. My brother described it as milk and fish that had been left in a closed up car in the middle of summer. An odd description, but what he said none the less.
Over the following months the scent began to show up more often and mostly in the evening around dinner time. My mother on several occasions both cleaned the kitchen herself and had people in to try and get rid of the odor. It would go away for a short time only to return all the stronger a week or two later. It wasn’t long before you couldn’t enter the kitchen in the evening without gagging, though pin pointing the smell still proved impossible.
Eight months into living in the house a small fire started in the kitchen blackening the wall behind the stove which was electric at the time. The stove being new, my parents turned to my brother and me with the question of who left the stove on. He still to this day swears it wasn’t him, and I myself can firmly state that it wasn’t me. The insurance company, in order to cover the cost of the repairs, needed to know if it was accidental aka faulty wiring or purposefully done. After an electrician was called in and the wall opened up the wiring was found to be faulty and old to boot, my parents still think it was original to the house. Another thing of interest turned up however when the repairs and rewiring of the kitchen started. Behind an oddly placed wall in what would be under the stairs lea ding up to the second floor, a covered over doorway was found. My brother took an instant dislike to the door and refused to go anywhere near it. Upon close inspection and an attempt to open the door, my father and the contractor found large nails pounded through the door and into the frame as if to seal it firmly in place. They ended up taking an electric saw to the door and just cutting it open, much to my brother’s distress. When the panel came free of the door the first thing noticeable was the ‘stench’ that we had been smelling for months, only in a more concentrated form.
When my parent’s bought the house, no cellar or basement was listed, making this a most unusual find.
Fetching a flashlight in order to see down we found the stairway piled in a heap at the bottom, a few large field rocks that looked like they came from the wall out front sitting atop of them. A ladder was fetched from the contractor’s truck and he and my father made their way down with flashlights to figure out what was down there. Looking around, or so my father later told us, they found what appeared to be a well and the source of the smell, though what caused it we still don’t know. Stacked against the walls were various old belonging ranging from trunks to furniture in fair to horrible condition. Much of this would later be brought out and sold.
With the smell from the well now moving through the entire house, my brother and I were sent off to stay with our grandparents who lived just a couple of miles away in town while the construction and cleaning took place.
While staying at my grandparents I started to notice an odd shadow that would appear for a short while against the northern window in the room my brother and I shared. It would loom large and then shrink time and time again in no set pattern, though the silhouette was markedly that of a person. It reminded me of a completely blacked out figure that was sometimes depicted as a cartoon’s shadow. I took great measure to not alarm my younger brother who was already having trouble sleeping at night, claiming bad dreams about a large black hole and being shoved inside.
It was after a week of staying with my Grandparents that my brother approached me, asking if I noticed anything odd about the window at night. When I asked which one he pointed out the northern window stating that he though he saw shadow of someone approaching and running away multiple times during the night. This to say the least gave us both a fright, and oddly enough me a bit of comfort in knowing that he saw it too, so I wasn’t off my rocker.
This continues throughout our month long stay there, as well as my brother’s nightmares which only seemed to get worse as he started to scream in his sleep and flail about as if warding off an attacker. He claimed that the ‘shadow people’ would wrap him in his blankets and beat him with heavy objects until he was too weak to move, and then they would carry him to the dark hole and fling him in to were the ‘lady’ was waiting for him. He told my parents of this dream and showed them odd bruises that cut across his back in strange flat shapes. They reminded me of the heels of shoes when I first saw them, with the bottom part rounded and a flat line across the top. My parents not knowing what to think of the marks took him to a doctor, to make sure he wasn’t somehow hurting himself in his sleep.
Things settled down for awhile when we finally moved back to our now repaired home complete with a new kitchen, and a fully finished basement. My father had the hole in the floor filled with concrete over the month that the kitchen was being finished and the smell never came back. My brothers dreams stopped and my parents chalked it up to the cellar unsettling him.
The next few month were quiet and we were finally able to enjoy our home though space was about to get tight as my mother was about to have another child. As the time for the unexpected baby grew near my parents decided to make the finished basement into a bedroom for me to give me a bit more space and privacy since my sixteenth birthday was drawing near. Oddly enough my brother put up no fuss about having the room for himself and I was soon to understand why.
It took only a few days for me to settle in, my parents allowing me to have a painting party/slumber party to help get the place decorated. It was on the sixth day, my first night sleeping alone in the room that the nightmares started for me.
I remember sitting up in bed to see shadowy people around me for a brief moment before my blankets were tossed over my head. I recall thinking that it had to be real because I recall vividly seeing my old ‘my little pony’ blanket that usually sat piled up at the foot of the bed, used to cover my head. I remember screaming as things started hitting me and I couldn’t recall ever being in more pain in all my life, evening with breaking my legs jumping out of a tree when I was younger. I woke up to my mother shaking me just as the ‘lady’ was about to get me, only unlike my brothers dream she wasn’t in a hole. She lived under my bed. That marked the first of several nightmares for me that ranged from me waking up with bleeding fingers from clawing at the door to the upstairs trying to get out to my mother and father shaking me awake from where I lay half under my bed.
My parents took me to see the same doctor they took my brother too in an attempt to help end the sleepless nights and the endless nightmares. It eventually got to the point that I would sleep with all the lights on and a flashlight on under my bed just so the ‘lady’ couldn’t get out of the shadows. I still to this day don’t know exactly what she looked like; only that she terrified and tormented me.
I suffered from these nightmares, bruises, and the occasional cut for the better part of two years until finally I went way to collage at the age of eighteen. It got to the point that I could swear I saw things out of the corner of my eyes in the evening down in my room or that the door leading to the upstairs wouldn’t open until I could get someone to tug it open from the other side. I had these dreams right up until the point I moved away to collage, my first night sleeping there was the first night I had a good nights rest with no nightmares in almost two years. I still think to this day that there is something down in the hole that want to be known or simply wants to get out. In talking with my father about it years later he mention that he always thought it odd that I would talk about it being a lady coming out from under my bed when my brother claimed she came out of a hole in the ground. My bed was over the old well.
To this day I have never suffered a nightmare of that degree, that would cause me physical harm. My parents like to call it a symptom of growing up in a new place, I personally think there was something in that well.