That which doesn’t kill us – makes us stronger.
So they say. Now that I’m on this new journey, it’s time to revisit that which terrified me – so I can conquer it.
Fourth Street – I was so scared of it, that after I wrote this series, I deleted all after having nightmares about it!
I thought I had destroyed all the copies – but with the wonder of the internet – I ran across it…
Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.
One of the most haunted houses I’ve ever lived in was – scratch that. THE most haunted house I’ve ever lived in was on 4th street in Bremerton, Washington. We lived there for almost three years, but I couldn’t find any pictures but this one of the stairs leading up to it. Fortunately, it’s creepy enough to set the stage for my story.
Every house I’ve lived in has been haunted to some degree, but the house on 4th street is where I received most of my inspiration for the hauntings in my books. If I need a particularly spooky scene, I just remember what it was like to live there.
Every neighborhood has that house. You know, it’s the one the kids won’t play in front of, the one people cross the street to avoid. This was one of those. Set up and way back from the street hidden by trees, bushes, and tall grass. A yard that held secrets and not one of them would be anything you’d want to know.
Now, I’d driven by this particular house for years and never noticed it. It was that invisible. Almost as if it was shrouded and it gave off the energy to stay the hell away.
We were looking for a house and had very limited funds. More like zero funds. There was a gentleman I had worked for in the past that owned several rentals and he just happened to have one come available. He liked me enough that he wouldn’t require any deposits or additional money. There was just one hitch. The previous renters had left in a hurry; and without most of their belongings.
Sounded like a good trade – no first month’s rent, and no deposits in exchange for a good cleaning. What a deal, right? I made this deal sight unseen because we needed a place to live yesterday.
We were to meet him at the house. We parked on the street and I remember getting chills as we pulled up and saw the house for the first time. After we climbed the creepy stairs it was a hike to the front door on a steep cracked cement walkway. The house was painted deep purple. Yes, egg-plant purple. The windows were so dirty, you couldn’t see inside. My new landlord stood at the open door. The light didn’t seem to penetrate into the house – it looked like a black hole.
I looked at Sandy and said, “Somebody died here.”
Her eyebrows went up. “Really?”
I nodded. I was sure as I’ve ever felt before. Even if at that time in my life, I wasn’t as confident in my gifts – I knew I was right and I so didn’t want to go in. But really, we didn’t have a choice. It was either move here or be homeless. Sandy went in first while I hung on to her back belt loop.
Oh. My. God.
The air was stale, almost suffocating. Words can’t describe the mixture of urine, cat, dog, and wet wood. Revolting is the best I can come up with. Somewhere underneath all of those scents was a lingering coppery smell. Death. I was urgently hoping that was a just a psychic impression of blood, and that I wouldn’t really find any.
It was freezing cold. The smell was horrific. The dirt was worse. Even with windows and the open door, I had to let my eyes adjust to see. I began to shiver and feel sick to my stomach but I smiled weakly and nodded for Sandy’s sake. Remember – I wasn’t at all sure of my abilities – I had too many doctors in the past tell me I was I was crazy.
I could put on my big girl panties and deal with it. I was almost sure I could. Sandy didn’t seem too affected and I didn’t want to freak her out – yet.
It was only a one bedroom house with two more finished rooms in the basement (which was completely underground mind you – no windows). Very small – like garage small. Well, I’d lived in worse and made it pretty. So I began to plan in my head what I could do with it to make cozy. I’m really good at putting lipstick on a pig, been doing it all my life.
The bedroom was also full of stuff. I kept getting the feeling of being watched from the small closet area but continued to try and ignore it. I pulled out some paper from my purse and began making a list. Garbage bags, 4 boxes. Bleach, Pinesol. Then I walked into the kitchen. It was so tiny, it could have been a closet. But it did have a nice window looking over the side yard. Yellow, I could paint it yellow. See? I could do this!
Nice sized linen closet – who doesn’t love extra storage right?
On to the bathroom. The first thing I see is the window is painted over. What? John explained it’s because they enclosed the back stairs to the basement. Okay, I wrote down, make curtains for bathroom. Then I turned and saw the mirror was painted black.
That’s downright scary.
I did not want to be in this room. I felt incredibly scared, sad, and I really wanted to throw up. But not in that commode, I’m not. I don’t think it had been cleaned in five years or more, and neither had the old claw foot bathtub. No shower attachment. Still making the best of the situation, I wrote mirror on my list.
Onto the basement – only cellar would be a better description, the kind with cold and damp cinder-block walls. The feeling only got worse as I descended the very narrow and steep concrete stairs. The spider webs were atrocious.
I’m not kidding when I say this was a creepy, scary, place.
I resist the urge to run right back upstairs. Barely. I was nearly paralyzed physically by my fear. But we had two kids living with us at that time; my adult daughter, Dezi, and Sandy’s daughter, Ashley, who was a still a young teenager. They were going to have to sleep down here, (after I painted and scrubbed) and if I showed one iota of fright, they would never come down. The finished rooms were behind a dividing wall that had a wood stove in front of it and workbench/tool area for Sandy in the front. She was pretty pleased about that, so I kept quiet. I rationalized that once it was cleaned up, it could be cute.
I’m pretty good at lying to myself.
I added: Brillo pads and bug bombs.
I finished my list, shook hands with my new landlord, and walked as fast I as I could to our truck. Which was difficult to do on a 35 degree walkway! I had to lean back to not fall on my face. Later that night, we were packing and an old friend of mine came over. I told him where we were moving to.
“Wow,” he said. “The purple house on the hill, right? The one they call the witch house?”
“What’s wrong with it?” I really didn’t want to know, I really didn’t want to.
“You know my buddy, John?”
I shook my head.
“His son died in that house.”
Let’s recap. The purple house on the steep, overgrown hill, nick-named the “witch house,” gave me psychic impressions of death at first sight, had black painted mirrors, was full of garbage, smells, hadn’t been cleaned in years, was spider infested, AND – oh yeah, my buddy just told me a child died there.
Caught up? Good, that was just the first walk-through.
When my friend told me John’s toddler son passed (drowned in the tub seven years prior), I’m not going to lie, there was a teensy part of me that felt vindicated because I knew someone passed away before I even stepped inside. Another part of me, the terrified little girl, wanted to change my mind about moving, but again, we had no choice. I wasn’t brave, just desperate!
I was completely heartbroken for the parents because of their child’s untimely death. I tried to rationalize that all babies went straight to heaven, right? How dangerous could a young spirit be? I forced myself to hold an image of flying cherubs in my mind even as I knew, deep down, there was much, much, more in that house.
Angels don’t make your skin crawl.
I wish I had “before” pictures, but I don’t. We didn’t own a digital camera. We bought the disposable ones, you know – the ones you use, send back in a special envelope, and they send you a new one? I also have kids that like to take my pictures and put them in their own collections.
Anyway, back to the story. Sandy and I marched up the steep walkway the next morning, leaving the kids to pack at the old place. We were armed with a ton of cleaning supplies, buckets, and towels. I remember it being a very pretty day. The house set on a double lot, and the empty side looked like a fairy garden, weeping trees, a giant hydrangea, and an overgrown wooded area, surrounded by thickets of blackberry bushes. Here is a recent picture of the renovated lot today – it’s not the same house, (that was a purple garage-sized box) the yard has been graded and leveled somewhat from its super-steep incline – but it IS on the same foundation. The cement on the right side is a spooky garage cut into the hill. More on all this later.
The first thing we did was open all the windows and doors, then we set up a fan to try and draw some of the smell out. We couldn’t paint until we cleaned the walls and removed the garbage. We owned a little extended Ford truck at the time. Sandy began working on clearing some of the blackberry bushes so we could pull the truck in behind the house from a small alley driveway.
First up for me – the bathroom. I pulled the painted mirror off the wall and began cleaning the commode. If we were going to be working – we needed a clean bathroom. Oh, joy. After I finished that hour long (not exaggerating) chore, I was scrubbing the wall that separated the bathroom from the closet in the bedroom and began hearing knocking. Three, then two, then one really loud bang that had me jumping off the chair I was standing on in the bathtub. I thought (prayed) maybe Sandy was putting some boxes in it. I called out for her.
You know that feeling that creeps up from the base of your spine, travels up your back, and lifts all the hair on your entire body?
I’m pretty sure petrified is a good word for it.
This time I scream for Sandy, and she comes running in – from the freaking back-yard. God, I love her. She stalked on into the bedroom and checked out the closet with no hesitation. If she was scared, she didn’t show it, not one iota. She’s awesome that way.
“Honey, there’s nothing here.”
My inside voice was screaming – Oh, YES there is! I also remember thinking if I had to throw up, at least the sparkling commode was handy. My scalp was tingling like crazy. I’m already freaked out because of the death in the room I was cleaning – now I had to act brave and follow her into the bedroom. There was a distinct temperature difference from one room to the other. Freaking awesome. Not.
Out of the corner of my eye, near the closet, I see an old woman shaking a fist at me. But the harder I tried to concentrate, the faster she slipped away – until I was wondering if I saw her at all. It could have been my “over-active” imagination. At least that’s what I used to call it back then. I told Sandy I was fine, she could leave the room. I waited until she was out of it before I yelled into the closet. Sandy’s very accepting and all, but still –we’d only been together a year at that time – and I wanted the relationship to last many more. The last thing I wanted for her to do was have her run screaming out the door – from me.
“I’m cleaning the place damn it! Leave me alone.” I waited for an answer, but nothing happened. Thank God. I had just gone back into the tiny hallway when the front door slammed shut. (Good thing I used the bathroom, huh?) Keeping my pants dry didn’t stop the scream from tearing out of my throat though. The door opened immediately and I about had a heart attack where I stood. My youngest daughter, Kerri, walked through it. She had her own place but came over to help us clean. All three of my kids are/were sensitive, I didn’t tell her anything about the place, because I wanted her first impression.
She stood in the middle of the ransacked living room and snapped her gum a few times while she looked around. “Oh, wow.” Then she turned back to me. “You know someone died here, right?”
I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out while I nodded.
“Nice place mom. You didn’t tell me we were gonna need a dumpster and a fumigator.”
I could tell she wanted to change her mind about helping and I didn’t blame her one bit. Let’s be honest, I really didn’t want my kids there. It was that bad.
“You also didn’t mention the old lady that just ran out of the bedroom.” She cheerily waved to a spot behind me.
Oh. My. God.
I chose to ignore her and instead forced a weak smile. “Did you bring supplies?”
She held up some paper towels and bottle of Windex. “I kind of feel like I brought a knife to a gun fight.” But she was made of pretty stern stuff then. She put her purse down and asked where she should start.
I still had to finish the bathroom so I told her to go ahead and start bagging things up in the living room. Picture the previous tenant being a hoarder and that should help with the visual quite well.
She snapped her gum again. “Okay, got any gloves? Because, I’m not touching this sh*t with my bare hands.”
“Go ask other Mom.”
I really didn’t want to be there any longer that day. But I had to get it clean before Sandy could paint. We had only two days before we had to be out of our other house. So, I finished the bathroom as quick as I could. I’m not even going to go into the nasty stuff in the cupboards in that room – but I will tell you that the chore involved two paint scrapers (I broke the first one), some nail polish remover, and bug spray.
Kerri found a radio and plugged it in. Hey, the hoarder left something useful.
Three HOURS later, I completed the bathroom, and then joined my daughter in the living room. She had made good progress – there was a clear path to one of the walls that needed to be cleaned. I brought a bucket of bleach, a long handled mop, and scrubbies over to it. Cleaning progressed. The smell of bleach (I was on my third gallon by this time) chased both Kerri and Sandy out of the house. I was left alone – again.
Writing this blog has turned out to be a bit cathartic for me. I’m going into much more detail than I originally thought I would and we just walked in the door on 4th Street.
I finished the one wall, grabbed the fourth (and last) gallon of bleach I’d brought, and went to move an old garbage bag out of my way before starting on the second wall. Actually, I kicked at it – and several books went flying out and across the dirty floor.
I saw a couple of the covers and filled with a cold dread. My stomach twisted painfully, and I fought back bile while I yelled (screamed) for Sandy. She came running upstairs holding a full garbage bag from the basement. I pointed to the visible titles.
The Art of Black Magic.
Summoning Shadows and Lesser Demons.
The History of Dark Witches and Demons.
I watched Sandy turn white as a sheet before she opened the bag from the basement – and pulled out several black hooded robes.
I ran straight out of the front door and collapsed on the dead lawn.
We’re still only on the FIRST day here folks!
Next month – More Fear on 4th Street.
For some reason, the blog won’t let me put the pictures on today….
Welcome to my world 🙂
Have a great day!