Are you thinking about renovating your house? Don’t! It saved my life, and it could very well save yours.
I forgot I had written this, I wrote it up in a panic after the events transpired but never uploaded it anywhere until now. This happened almost two months ago and I’m still quite on edge about the whole ordeal. Not all of what I wrote here is unchanged from the original, I’ve rewritten and edited it heavily to omit names, places, or any extraneous details that might be used to find my location again.
A week ago, my mother asked me to house-sit for her. I had moved out just a month earlier, but I was dying to see my cat again (apartment doesn’t allow pets) and I had nothing on my plate yet in terms of work, so I agreed. One of the things that I take pride in is my more-than-intimate knowledge of the home I live in. I’ve lived in this house for about nineteen years in total, and I know – quite literally – everything about it.
The house has a fairly long history. It was constructed in the late 1920s, renovated in the mid-1970s, and was redesigned again in the 1990s, just before my parents bought it. The only parts of the house that remained unchanged throughout were the floors. The floors are hardwood, but have gradually worn down over time, and they’ve become extraordinarily squeaky. The volume of the squeaks depends on the temperature in the house and where you step on them, if it’s too hot or cold, the floors become quite noisy. My mother would complain when I’d come home late and go up the stairs because you could hear it throughout the house, even with your headphones on.
We also have a cat, he’s almost eighteen years old now. He’s long since gone deaf and his vision is going too. I was tasked with babysitting him too, which I was more than willing to do for free. His hearing has deteriorated so badly that he can’t hear you if you’re standing right behind him. In my youth, he would be able to hear my dad’s car doors closing and would preemptively run to the back door to yowl at him when he came in. This deafness has meant that he will yowl randomly in random places in the house, almost as if he’s trying to hear himself. During the night, if he gets woken up, he starts howling and doesn’t shut up until you calm him down.
By my description, you can guess that my house is a noisy one. You’d be only partially right, because we live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forests and empty fields that extend in every direction for miles. The nearest neighbors are ten minutes down the road if you walk, five minutes if you run. They own a small barn, with requisite livestock. The last time I spoke to them was more than five years ago, and until recently, had no idea if they still lived here.
Last week, I got off work at 7 in the evening. It was a late finish for my shift, and I ran into traffic, so I finally made it home just before 9. I was exhausted, and it was a Friday, so my intentions were to smoke some weed, drink, watch television and eventually pass out on the couch so I could calm Kitty down when he got anxious. I had been working in the warehouse that day, and my back was killing me. The couch was doing my spine no favors, so I resolved to sleep in my mom’s bedroom because she had the nicest mattress and an air conditioner.
I think back to this night and am thankful I was mindful enough to go upstairs, because my story would almost certainly have a different ending had I stayed on that couch.
By quarter to midnight, I was beginning to nod off. Kitty began yowling almost as soon as my eyelids were shut. Angrily, I got out of bed and accidentally strained my back getting up. Cursing quietly to myself, I stood upright slowly and straightened out my spine to a tremendously satisfying “Crack!”
And suddenly, I heard a creak from downstairs.
Kitty was far too light to cause that kind of noise, and immediately I knew that something was not right. Mom wouldn’t be back for another few days, and I was – presumably – alone. I knew the house didn’t “settle” like most others did, and I also knew that certain parts of the floors created different noises. I stayed dead silent, Kitty was not yowling.
This chilled me further, he would usually keep the yowling up until someone paid attention to him or fed him. Frozen in place, I strained to hear what was going on. The air conditioning was on and obscured a great deal of the ambient noise. Knowing where to step to minimize my own noise, I carefully navigated the bedroom to the AC unit and gingerly turned the knob. The unit clunked and went silent, but in that same exact moment, I swore I could hear another creak.
Now thoroughly concerned, I crouched behind the bed. Every light in the house was turned off when I had gone upstairs, I couldn’t have seen anyone coming down the hall but I’d sure as fuck hear them. As daintily as I could, on my hands and knees to disperse my weight as evenly as possible, I crawled to the bedroom door. The knob didn’t latch on the bedroom door, which meant I didn’t need to turn it. However, the hinges squeaked if you opened it more than a third. I steeled myself, and carefully pulled the door open from the bottom of the frame. I was careful to stop before I made any more noise.
Staring down the hallway, I could see the staircase, the banister, and the doors to the bathroom and office but little more than that. A soft glow emanated from the staircase, a light was on downstairs. My heart seized in my chest momentarily, as I was more than certain I had turned off the lights. The glow was pure white, too. This couldn’t have been a light that I had left on, because we used older incandescent bulbs that gave off a warmer light. This was not a friendly light, it was an austere halogen, which meant it could only come from a bulb that we did not use. It was almost certainly a flashlight.
And almost as if prompted by that realization, the creaking began again, this time with greater volume and rhythm. Someone was walking around downstairs. My entire frame began to shake, I was alone in the house with someone else. With my eyes locked to the staircase, I saw the glowing light move a bit, and then disappear entirely. The creaking subsided for a moment and dissipated. Periodically, I’d hear the creaks move towards one end of the house, pause, then return. Eventually I heard them stop entirely. I was still crouched by the door, staring silently into the hall. My eyes took a while to adjust to the darkness.
It was only when my eyes had finally adjusted that I saw a subtle change to the shadows on the wall behind the staircase. Some moonlight had finally begun to filter in through the window at the top of the stairs, and I was afforded a very modest amount of visibility. In that moment, I was eternally grateful that it was a clear night, because otherwise I would not have had enough light to spot the man silently coming up my staircase. In the span of time between seeing the figure and him reaching the top of the stairs, I had shut the bedroom door entirely. “How the hell did he get up the stairs so quietly?” I thought to myself. “He was making noise earlier, but he made it up the steps without making a noise.”
The creaking was now loud and clear, in the darkness, I could hear him fiddling with knobs on the doors. Every creak, thump, and rattle felt like the ticking of a clock, counting down the precious time I had until he found me. Left with no other options, I shut the door firmly and planted my hands against the bottom of the door. I was tall enough that, when I stretched my legs out, my feet could come flat against the footboard of the bed. Bad back and all, I pushed against the door with all my might. Not a second later, I heard the knob turn above my head. I felt the door wiggle against my hands, whatever was on the opposite side was pressing into the door. Silently, I struggled to force the door shut.
For eight full seconds, I felt my spirit weaken. “Surely” thought I, “surely he knows I am on the other side of this door, and he will ram it down.” But miraculously, the pressure relieved itself. The door didn’t creak or move, and I heard the person turn and walk down the hallway. Several rattled knobs later, the footsteps had traversed down the hall again, and all the sounds in the house ceased at once. There was no light, there was not a single sound in the house.
I have no way to tell how long it was, but I stayed rooted in place. Desperate to end this madness I quietly opened the door and peeked out yet again. The moonlight had intensified, and I could see further into the hall. Kitty was seated at the top of the staircase, cleaning himself quietly. The house was dead silent.
Instinctively, I grabbed my keys and phone from the bedside table and emerged from the room. I scooped Kitty into my arms, and barreled down the stairs, into my car, and peeled out of the driveway without fastening my seatbelt. I drove nearly forty miles over the speed limit to reach my neighbors house, to my immense relief, one of them was working in the garage and the light was on. I pulled hastily into their driveway, and locked Kitty in the car.
My neighbors called the police, and a squad car was dispatched to our location, the police worked over my house and told me to stay somewhere else, a police officer was going to stay the night at my house. My neighbors were gracious enough to let me and Kitty crash on their couch.
That’s the end of the story as I had written it when I got home the next day. I kept every light on in the house for days after that, running up our power bill but illuminating every corner of the house. Mom was furious but calmed down when I told her the story.
In fact, the only reason I’m posting this story was because the police recently contacted me to say that, following their investigation and coupled with my testimony, they were able to discover that the lock on my back door had been broken as early as four o’clock in the evening the night of the break-in.
EDIT: Regarding the timeframe of the lock, I responded to a comment that explained how we estimated the time of the break in, but I figured I could just add it here too.
“I thought i would get questions about this. There’s not much more to the story so I’ll continue here. Can’t divulge much else besides this.
It had rained earlier during the day, our back door was essentially just retrofitted into what used to be a cellar door. When it’s closed, water can’t get in, but when it’s open, it can. When the cop stayed overnight, he noted the broken lock and the water seepage. The storm started around noon and had passed before i got home, by 5 or so.”
I’ve been kept in the dark on the investigation, I don’t think the cops are going to much else besides jerk me around so I have little else to work off. They didn’t get any conclusive footprints or fingerprints, afaik the investigation is dead in the water. We’ve changed our locks, and my mother has started saving up for a security system. Kitty is fine, I’m fine, haven’t had any suspicious activity since.