Spirits of The West End
I discovered this web site by accident this morning and after reading many of the stories posted here, I decided to submit my own.
To begin, my father worked for a major oil company in west Texas for many years. In 1966 the oil fields had finally played out and the company transferred us to New Orleans during Christmas break.
Being the year after hurricane Betsy, housing was in short supply, so my parents were forced to rent an old house as we could not find one to buy right away. This house is located on West End Blvd. in New Orleans. The house was what is referred to as a "raised cottage". Which is to say, the ground floor is actually a basement above ground. The main floor has the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms and bath. There was also a study and in the back of the house, a sun porch that overlooked the back yard. I don't think my parents even noticed the staircase going to the attic when they looked at the house prior to signing the lease papers. An important note is that there was no air conditioning in the house. Not even ceiling fans.
The staircase was in the kitchen between the wet wall and the fireplace in the dining room, and was behind a door. Weird place for stairs. We discovered the stairs after moving in when Mom asked me to put the canned goods in the "pantry". Anyway, once discovered, Mom and I went upstairs to scope out the attic. It was a huge room that had been beautifully paneled in solid oak boards that had to have been at least 1" thick. The floor was solid oak boards also. There were "doors" on either side of the room that lead to the attic proper for storage. These doors were only two feet high and two feet wide. The other striking feature of the room was that there were windows on the east side of the room and identical windows on the west side. Granted it was cold in the house as it had not been occupied in months, but that attic room was freezing! And we both had real creepy feelings of being watched.
Well, she and I retreated to the main floor and unpacked boxes and settled in. My dad was working offshore and would be gone from home as much as there.
Over the next couple of months we did not have much time to go to the attic and did not think much about it. However, summer was coming and we knew that we would be having house guests over the summer. Mom decided to put bunk beds and cots in the attic room for extra sleeping for the kids when guests arrived. I hated getting the room ready. The longer I was in the room, the creepier it felt, but nothing bad happened yet.
June arrived as did our guests, who were old friends from Texas. Myself, John and Russell were to sleep in the attic. The first night was fun. We sat up talking until the wee hours, however, eventually we all crashed. That's when it started.
I woke up around 3:30 in the morning with the cot I was on shaking. I thought at first one of the kids was playing a joke on me as I hadn't been asleep very long. I looked around to see who the culprit was and there was no one there except John and Russell who were both asleep on the bunk beds. Ok, I thought I dreamed it.
Next morning, as we were all sitting in the dining room having breakfast (the kitchen was too small for 5 people, John asked who had been moaning and talking in their sleep. I just shrugged and said "Nobody.". Russell just complained about how cold it was the night before.
We all went out that day to sight see and came back that evening tired. It was well into the 90's that day and the New Orleans humidity was close to 100%. Needless to say, we were all hot and ready to cool off. Mom and John and Russell's mom prepared dinner while I set the table in the dining room. John and Russell went upstairs to the attic to change clothes. They both came down looking very cool. Almost cold. John asked why the air conditioning was turned down so low. Of course, Mom was surprised by the question. No air conditioning, remember. Nothing happened that night or the next and our guests left to return to Texas.
Mom and I went up a day or two later to strip the beds. It was really cold up there. I made a comment about how weird it was. The room should have been hot being the attic and with windows facing east AND west. Frankly, I decided that when we finished up there, I wouldn't go back to the attic.
A month passed with nothing happening. Then, Mom had gone to the grocery store and to run errands while I was at home cleaning. As I washed dishes, I heard a knocking coming from the attic above the kitchen. I passed it off as pipes in the old house. However, the knocking did not stop when I finished the dishes. I opened the door to the attic and the stairwell was icy! I could hear a voice upstairs, but could not make out any words. I slammed the door real fast.
Several times that month, Mom or I would hear knocking and a voice from the attic when we would be alone. We made sure that door was closed and put a chair under the door knob.
August came very soon and we found a house to buy. I went to the basement to get the moving boxes to pack. The stairs to the basement were at the back of the house. The basement was like any basement, damp and dark. The striking thing was the smell that had not been there before. Not only was it dank, but there was a smell of death and sewage that came from the area just under the kitchen. I checked the pipes, but there was no leakage. I thought that perhaps a rat had died. I searched the entire basement without finding anything. I retrieved the boxes and made a hasty retreat back up the stairs to the main floor. When I got to the the hallway, I could hear the knocking and the voice coming from the attic louder than it had ever been. I was scared half to death. I dropped the boxes and ran all the way through the house to the front door and waited on the steps for mom to come home. The noise did not stop until she got out of the car to come in.
Nothing happened for a couple of days and I calmed down. I guess I was too busy helping pack to be upset by the events that had occured. Moving day arrived at last. As my parents were taking a truck load of furniture and boxes to the new house, I stayed to clean up. I went to the basement and got the large trash can rather than make several trips down with the small trash can. After I filled the can, I was on my way to the basement to put the trash out on the curb. The knocking and voice started from the attic again. This time, I was too busy to care. I opened the door to the basement stairs and started down, holding the trash can in front of me as I went down. All of a sudden, the stairs were icy cold. I felt that someone was behind me, but I knew I was there alone. I turned my head to glance over my shoulder and did not see anyone or anything there. That was when I felt two ice cold hands in the middle of my back, shoving me down the stairs. The only thing that stopped me from being hurt was the trash can. It broke my fall at the bottom of the stairs.
As I shook myself and made sure that I was OK, my mom came running down the stairs. She had come into the house and heard the clatter and clang of me falling, not to mention the knocking and the voice. We finished moving as fast as any professional movers had ever done.
Years later, Mom and I compared notes as to the occurrences of that 8 or 9 months in the old house. We noted that my dad was never there when the strange activities would happen. Also, Mom told me that from the time we moved in to that house, she felt that if we stayed, one of us would die there.
The weird thing is, the weekend that we left that house, my dad became ill. We were to find out within a month that he had cancer and was only given a couple of months to live. Well, he beat the odds and lived 13 more years!
Side note, I found out from neighbors that remained friendly that the owner of the house was an old woman who had been widowed for many years. She had lived in the house with her grown daughter. The daughter fell down the basement stairs and broke her back resulting in partial paralysis. The old woman had the attic remodeled as a room for her daughter so that she could look out to the east in the morning and the west in the evening to see the sun. The daughter would knock on the floor with a cane whenever she needed anything. She died in that room and apparently never left. The old woman moved to another house and rented the big old house to pay the mortgage on the new one. No one ever stayed in the old house the full term of their leases.
The house is still there and no one ever bought it after the old woman died. I guess the estate holds the property and tries to lease it to newcomers to New Orleans.
To this day, I cannot pass that house without getting the chills.