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The Dangerous Lives of House Hunters

Sara Murphy, AK, USA
May 2005

When I was a child, about eight years old or so (I'm nearly 21 now), our rapidly-expanding Catholic family needed a new and larger home. I remember the house hunt only vaguely, a long string of unfamiliar empty rooms and perky real estate agents. I was a very sensitive kid, easily spooked and very uneasy at the idea of anything supernatural or out-of-the-ordinary. So at the time, my family fell into the habit of hiding information from me. I guess it helped at the time (who knows how neurotic I'd be now if they'd let me in on everything). But still, now that I'm older and have an insatiable appetite for anything weird or bizarre or chilling, I'm glad that I've been enlightened to my family's strange experiences.

There's one house I remember that we all particularly loved. It was downtown, a huge old Victorian-era house with an in ground swimming pool, a little guest house, and magnolia trees lining the porch. My parents were delighted at the spacious rooms, plenty of space for hyperactive little kids. My brothers and I dashed around the enormous empty house while my parents talked business. I remember we all claimed our bedrooms right away. The one I wanted had roses on the wallpaper, big red storybook roses, and the windows looked out onto the garden. For a little dreamy kid like me, it seemed ideal.

To make a long story short, we didn't end up getting the house (I don't know why, I was too young to understand anything practical). We were all very disappointed, but gradually I began to learn a little more about the house. Though I never felt threatened myself, I'm currently very happy that we didn't end up with the magnolia-house (as I call it) ... because honestly, I don't know what kind of experiences may have traumatized me if we'd wound up taking residence there.

First off, in the little sales brochure about the house, there was a passing mention of a "hanger-throwing ghost." My parents brushed it off as a joke, and could never really get the real estate agents to open up about it. I've often wondered about that "hanger-throwing ghost," and imagine the previous owners of the house leaving in a panic, chased out by a barrage of clothes hangers. Maybe it was just a cutsie publicity stunt. Who knows? But my brother saw something that was probably NOT intended to be shown to potential buyers.

My big brother is a trustworthy person. He's always had a serious nature, and doesn't like to frighten me ... often he'd make up scary stories and then become guilty when I got too frightened and admit to making them up. But this is one story he has always insisted on being the honest truth. Over all the years he hasn't altered it in any way, so as far as I know, he DID see this. Whether or not it's truth or a child's overactive mind, I can't say. I'll leave that decision to those who read this.

One day, when my parents were again looking over the house with their friends and the very patient real estate agent, my big brother (probably ten at the time), wondered off alone into the upstairs part of the house. He told me he remembered the dust filtering through the sunlight, the faint water stains on the wallpaper, and the broad empty echoing rooms. As my brother headed towards the bedrooms, he heard quick brisk footsteps coming up behind him. Assuming it was one of my parents, he turned around to make excuses for wandering off alone. He never got to make those excuses.

My brother found himself looking at a man, average height, with sandy-colored hair ... ordinary in that respect only. The man was walking quickly, his hands shoved in his pockets, seemingly unaware or at least undisturbed by my brother's presence. He was dressed in what my brother described as "old fashioned" clothes. Who knows what strikes a kid as "old fashioned," although he did mention a rather formal suit with coat tails. The fact of a strange man walking through the house would have been odd enough, but the clincher is this:

The man had no face.

It wasn't blown off or bloodied away, or even a black hole, as you might imagine. He just simply had no face, as if someone had taken an eraser to his flesh. Where a face should have been was an expanse of bare smooth skin. The man walked rapidly past my brother and out through a wall at the end of the hallway. My brother, who was a strangely stoic kid, didn't start screaming hysterically or faint dead away. He didn't describe any goose bumps or cold chill, the way people typically do. He just went downstairs and told my parents. They brushed him off, and he kept it to himself for a while.

When he told us again, years later, it disturbed me so much I had trouble sleeping. Lying awake in my nice safe ghost-free bedroom, I couldn't help thinking that I'd rather be in a home with no spirits than have all the rose-wallpapered bedrooms in the world.

There's another story connected to that same house hunt. I DO remember this house having a weird vibe to it. Maybe my memory has just been tainted, but I recall a lingering sense of unease and fear. There was a child's bedroom with odd cartoons on the wallpaper, and I can still remember looking at that wallpaper and feeling irrationally disturbed. My parents later admitted to me that the house gave them the creeps too, for no reason they could really put their fingers on. They, however, did have a story connected to the house:

As they looked it over, they kept hearing what they thought was the cry of a baby or small child. Since they had several small children at the time and have always been extremely cautious parents, they kept on dashing away to check on us as we scattered all over the house ... but each time they discovered that we were, of course, perfectly fine. The real estate agent wrote the sound off as neighborhood cats, and who knows, chances are, she was dead right. But my parents were made edgy and uncomfortable by this constant fussing, and were grateful to leave the house.

Back at our own home of the time, however, they found themselves still hearing the noise from time to time ... sometimes at night, sometimes in the day. They told themselves firmly that they were just hearing cats, but they hadn't had a problem with neighborhood cats before. At around this time, my youngest brother developed a very bad case of asthma. He had frequent attacks and was rushed to the emergency room time and time again. We didn't have a history of asthma in the family, so we were all a little baffled by the severity of his case. He was cured at around ten or so, and now has only very infrequent relapses (mainly brought around by his heavy smoking habit).

So who knows? In all probability, my big brother had a strange case of an overactive imagination and later managed to convince even himself that what he saw was real. And my parents were just bothered by some stray cats, at the same time that their youngest kid's asthma kicked in full-force. But personally I liked to imagine, in the dark corners of my mind, that maybe these stories had another edge to them, something a little more ... unexplainable.

Sara Murphy, AK, USA
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