To broadly quote Phil Dunphy, this lady knew what she was getting herself into when she hitched her wagon to a real estate man. We’ve lived in eleven different homes and though moving is always a little bit stressful and disorienting, thankfully I love a fresh start. There is nothing more intoxicating than walking through an open house and imagining it’s potential.
Having said that, I’ll be damned if they won’t have to drag my cold dead body out of our most recent of homes. Regardless of the fact that I’m getting old and set in my ways, I simply can’t handle the stress of another move. But I do enjoy living vicariously through others and am enthralled by tales of home renovations with bumpy middle parts and happy endings. And I just loves me a real estate agent, with their talk of profitable improvements, contingencies and irrational sellers.
I recently attended the fortieth birthday party of an acquaintance where I met one of the most interesting real estate agents ever. I didn’t know many other people at the backyard event and found myself stuck talking to two women I had only a passing ‘hello’ relationship with in the neighborhood. They were regaling me with an amusing yet predictable tale of a recent girl’s night out in Boston.
“It was so much fucking fun, we ended up out until two o’clock in the morning.”
“Our first uber driver kicked us out of the car before we’d even left the city! Oh my God!”
“Then Ashley – do you know Ashley Grant? No? She is a riot, and oh my God! She barely made it into her driveway before throwing up everywhere.”
“You should come next time.”
“So what do you do? Or are you just at home?”
“I write,” I replied simply, I’ve learned to be a little vague when talking about the blog and besides that I wanted out of the conversation. While the taller and thinner of the two woman was talking I heard a voice say, “She’s right about her husband,” and you’d have to be from another planet if you thought I was going to deliver that insight to the Pretty Pony.
“What have you written?” The Pretty Pony asked, unfortunately showing interest.
“I have a blog, it’s sort of about Wellesley.”
“Oh, a blog. That’s nice. Doesn’t Rebecca do something like that?” She asked her sidekick.
Sidekick looked confused.
“So what’s it about? Fitness?” Then giving me a quick once over, Pretty Pony added, “Cooking?”
“Ghosts,” I said simply.
“Stop. Right. There! You’re that woman?” The sidekick exclaimed.
I smiled at her but shook my head as though I didn’t know what she was referring to. I did not want to talk about ghosts with these people.
“You write about ghosts,” she insisted loudly. “In this town, right?”
I fought the urge to shush her. “Yes.”
“Ghosts?” Pretty Pony laughed. ”Oh, so it’s a blog for children.”
I kept a smile on my face and slow blinked her.
Her friend jumped in, “No, I can’t believe you haven’t heard about this! She, wait what’s your name again?” I told her. “Yeah, it’s you! She writes a blog about people who have haunted houses in Wellesley.”
I just kept smiling dumbly and gulped my wine.
“Really,” Pretty Pony said slowly, and I could tell she was reevaluating me though I had no idea whether my rank went up or down in her estimation.
I nodded. “It’s not for everyone,” I said simply.
Just then one of their friends sidled over to us. “Hi, girls,” she said in a distinctly annoyed tone. “Ugh, I never thought I’d never wrap up my last showing.” She held out her hand to me. “Hi. I’m Emily Patel.”
I introduced myself.
“Liz writes a ghost blog about town,” Pretty Pony informed her, a touch of mocking in her voice.
“Wait, that’s you,” Emily stage whispered.
“Oh my God! I can’t believe this. I’ve been trying to get up the nerve to email you. There was this awful house, this listing I had a couple months ago-”
“What listing?” Sidekick interrupted.
“Number sixteen [name of road omitted],” Emily replied. “It wasn’t exactly haunted, I don’t know what those things were.”
“What things?” Pretty Pony asked.
“I’d love to hear about it. Want to have coffee this week?” I asked, ignoring the snobby woman.
“Definitely,” Emily replied. “Oh, what a small world.”
We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to text the following morning to make a plan. Then I excused myself to the bathroom even though I didn’t have to go. Emily seemed pleasant but I’d had enough of the other two. I’d spent plenty of time with women like that in the past and I was over it. And I certainly didn’t need the dead people around them letting me in on any of their fucked up secrets.
Emily and I arranged to meet at her office the following Wednesday morning. Located on Central Street the window-lined real estate office was just about what you’d expect. It was the dead of summer and I was grateful to be in a climate controlled building. I checked in at the reception desk with a young man in an expensive looking suit. He phoned to let Emily know I had arrived and offered me coffee. I accepted. Keurig, Newman’s Own, regular sugar in a small paper cup. I sat in a comfortable wing back chair and waited about ten minutes before Emily appeared to receive me.
Average height and below average weight, Emily wore a black and white zebra print pencil skirt and a white button down shirt – tucked in. A multi-strand black beaded necklace and high heeled black patent leather shoes completed the fierce ensemble. I wore a blue and white striped cotton dress from Old Navy and pink flip flops and I’d slicked my hair back in a ponytail after the shower. We didn’t have air conditioning in the new house and it was just too damned hot to bother with a blow dryer. Of course, Emily’s shoulder length waves were the picture of self-care.
I followed the real estate agent past reception through a farm of pristine cubicles towards a row of four offices along the far wall. Emily’s was a corner office, the farthest to the left. She sat behind a farmhouse style desk that I recognized from trolling the Pottery Barn website obsessively and I took a seat across from her on a tasteful and expensive looking leather chair.
“Your oldest goes to [elementary school name omitted] right?” Emily stated.
I nodded and offered, “You guys are at [again, elementary school name omitted]?”
“Right, we’re on Cleveland. Where is your house?”
I gave her my address.
“I know that house. Good bones, lots of potential,” she said knowingly. “Wait, shouldn’t you guys be at [yet another elementary school name omitted]?”
I explained that my oldest daughter had qualified for the specialized services offered at an out of neighborhood elementary school. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people in this town allude to their neighborhood elementary school as though they are indicating their child’s enrollment in an ivy league.
Emily mentioned a family friend whose youngest attended my daughter’s elementary school and we talked for a few moments about how incredibly lucky we were to live in a school district that specialized support services to each child.
“Now where did you move from?” Emily asked.
I gave her our old address.
“Oh that adorable little Cape, I walked through in the broker open. It went fast, right?”
“You guys customized the shit out of that place. Was the move unexpected?” She pried.
“We realized that no matter how many built in shelves we put up we couldn’t make up for lack of square footage,” I explained honestly. “That and the fact that the neighbors felt like they were up our asses backwards. There just wasn’t much privacy.” To end her interrogation I asked, “How long have you worked in Wellesley?”
“Six years this September.”
“I rented apartments in Beacon Hill for a little while,” I told her. “I loved seeing the way people decorate their homes but I didn’t have the nerves for the business, way too stressful.”
Emily laughed, “Well, nerves of steel are definitely an asset in this field.”
“I bet it’s fun to see inside all the houses, though,” I suggested.
“Oh it is, for sure. Talk about customizing the shit out of a place, you wouldn’t believe how much money people spend in this town on interiors.”
“I can imagine. So, what’s the listing you wanted to tell me about?”
“Number twelve [street name omitted]. It’s actually over in your neck of the woods.”
I considered for a moment, “I cut down that street to get over to Route Nine in the morning. I’ll have to pay attention tomorrow when I bring the kids to camp.”
“It’s not much to look at,” Emily said dismissively. “It’s a construction zone now. The original house, the one I sold, had been vacant for some time when the owner’s son put it on the market last October. It was his childhood home, his mother lived there alone for awhile but when she was moved into assisted living the house sat vacant for at least three years until the woman passed. And considering the state of the property I could tell it hadn’t been maintained for years.
Emily paused and picked at a cuticle. “You know,” she said, “It was one of those sales that I should have just known was too good to be true from the beginning. When something like that just lands in your lap, you gotta know there’s a catch.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The son, Jeffrey, called our office and I happened to answer the phone. I never do that anymore, it’s just asking for trouble. But I was the only broker in the office at the time so I took the listing.” Emily shifted and crossed her legs.
“The man seemed genuine on the phone so I proposed meeting him at the house that evening, but he insisted upon showing me the property in daylight,” Emily raised her eyebrows. “I figured maybe he was being precious about showing off the place. A lot of people think their decorating ability has something to do with a sale, and sure if a seller prefers neutrals with a touch of flair and an uncluttered environment then it’ll influence buyers positively. But trust me, no one gives a shit about the custom drapes from Italy.”
“I’m a really big fan of wallpaper,” I admitted.
Emily groaned dramatically, “Ugh, I bet your real estate agent hated you!”
I laughed, “I actually felt bad about it.”
“Well anyway I moved around my schedule and met the guy, Jeffrey, at the property around four o’clock that afternoon. It was late October so we’d completely missed the prime selling season. As you know, the market is strongest here between February and May, June at the very latest. It’s not that houses don’t move out of that timeline but the buyer pool shrinks significantly. Everyone wants their families settled before the school year.” Emily shook her head, “ Sorry I’m veering off into real estate talk.”
“I don’t mind at all, I love real estate talk. My husband is a broker,” I said.
“Oh? Where does he work?”
I told her.
“So he’s on the commercial side,” she said knowingly, though what she knew I couldn’t have guessed.
Not wanting to go too far off track I asked, “What was the house like?”
Without missing a beat Emily detailed, “Nineteen-fifties Colonial a little over two thousand square feet. Three bedrooms but only two baths, though there was the potential to add another off the master. There were minimal updates to the living areas, and gross wall to wall shag carpet in the sun room, but the kitchen had been renovated in the late nineties so it wasn’t a total wash,” Emily took a breath and considered. “It did have a finished basement and built out attic which could serve as an office or spare bedroom and the yard was good; a little over half and acre with great privacy. The yard sloped upwards dramatically in the back, and the landscaping had gone to hell but if someone was up for a project then it could have been a really cool backyard.”
“Thank God it’s off the market, it sounds like Chris’s dream project.”
“Ha, he’s got a good eye then. If you’d put a little money and work into that place you’d flip it in a second.”
“Shhhh,” I said looking over my shoulder, “He’ll hear you.”
“Haha! I’ve got to meet him,” Emily laughed.
“No you don’t,” I replied with fake seriousness. “So what was the guy like? This Jeffrey?”
“In a word? Cagey. He basically power walked me through the house and then ushered me out to the driveway to discuss the listing details. He even had all of the information I needed in a manilla file folder. I’ve worked with a lot of people and I’ve learned to manage people’s anxieties, I get it, there’s a lot of stress involved in a sale, but this guy was different, a nervous wreck. He told me that he was eager to sell the place as fast as possible. I asked if there was any other family who would be involved in decisions regarding the sale and he said he was the mother’s executor and his siblings wanted nothing to do with the home, they’d split any profit but weren’t expecting much.”
“That’s strange,” I commented, “The house must have been at least close to paid off, right?”
“One hundred percent,” Emily leaned forward. “I gave him a range, I said we could list it anywhere from one-point-one million conservatively to one-point-three depending upon whether or not he wanted to test the market. But get this, he told me to put it on the market for eight-five.”
It took a moment for me to catch up, “Wait, he wanted to put it on the market for eight million five hundred thousand dollars?”
Emily rolled her eyes and shook her head at the same time. “No. Eight hundred and fifty thousand.”
“That’s crazy,” I said simply.
“It was. I tried to convince him to at least put it on for a million. It would have flown off the market, but he refused. Said he wanted it gone, ‘tomorrow.’”
“And you know what else? He said if I could sell it within the month then he’d give me a ten percent commission. Double commission!”
“That’s awesome,” I said smiling.
“Yeah, but I hesitated. I mean why was this guy so aggressively leaving so much money on the table? I agreed to the deal, of course, knowing I could get it done. I figured it would be the quickest listing I’d ever handled, and it was, but it was hands down the worst experience of my professional life.”
“Because it was complicated or because it was haunted?” I asked.
Emily folded her hands on the desk in a practiced move. “That word,” she said slowly, “haunted. I always thought that meant ghosts, you know? I’ve never been into anything, um unnatural-”
“Supernatural?” I interjected.
“Right, supernatural. I honestly didn’t even know there was anything else besides ghosts that could haunt a person. So the things in this house, I don’t know what you would call them, but they weren’t dead people and they weren’t monsters.”
“Then what were they?” I asked.
“I know this is going to sound so weird, but have you ever heard of shadows shaped like people? I mean, like a shadow in the form of a person?”
“Uh huh,” I said slowly.
“Well, that’s what was there. At least five of them, but there may have been more. I felt them all over the property, skulking around in the house, out of the house. And they’re tricky, they can look like other things or they can make you see other things. The damn things followed me home.”
“Oh dear,” I breathed.
“So you’ve heard of something like this?”
“Yeah, they’re called shadow people or shadow figures and they are about as bad as it gets, they’re right up there with Black Eyed Kids. Are you still seeing them in your house?” I asked afraid to hear the answer.
“No, no, I managed to get rid of them once I closed the deal. What are Black Eyed Kids?” She asked.
“Oh, I’ll tell you later. But how exactly did you get rid of the shadow people in your home?” I asked, shocked. From what I understood even an exorcism couldn’t get rid of these ancient beings that had in some cases been tied to aliens.
Emily actually looked guilty. “It will sound absurd.”
I stared, waiting.
“Well, I talked to them. I was able to sell them on the fact that it would be more beneficial for them to remain at their original property. You know, that they would have the opportunity to haunt more people there.”
“Emily,” I said slowly not wanting to sound too accusatory.
“I know, but I successfully brokered that deal. I’d already put up with enough in that strange house and I had no legal obligation to take those shadows home with me. They belonged to the property.”
“You sound like it was a piece of furniture or something.”
I considered a moment. “You must be an amazing broker if you could convince shadow people to leave your home just by having a conversation with them.”
Emily smirked. “There are only four private offices in this place and we’re sitting in one of them.”
I laughed. When Emily didn’t elaborate I pressed, “So what happened?”
Emily sat back and rested her head on the chair. “That initial walk through was the only time I saw Jeffrey. I could only get him to correspond through email after that, I literally never spoke to him again. In that regard the sale was easy, I had only to interact with the eventual buyer, but it was unsettling. I never really felt like I was on solid ground.
“The owner was strange for sure, but the strangeness in the house began when I began to prep the house for sale. Jeffrey didn’t offer any push back when I suggested he put all of his mother’s furniture in storage. There was no point in staging the home or even bothering with the landscaping, the house was priced so ridiculously low it would be obvious to buyers we were going for an ‘as is’ sale.
“The first time I went to the home alone was to let in our cleaning team after the movers hauled out all of the furniture. I got there a little early to open up the place and get a lay of the land. The first thing that struck me as odd was that every single door in the house had been closed, and there were a lot of doors in there. Our heating systems are more efficient now, but back in the day people would close off rooms to keep heat in the areas of use, thus all the extra doors between rooms.
“I had this awful feeling walking through there as I opened the doors. Like there was someone standing in the rooms, waiting for me. The upstairs was even worse, unfortunately the hallway light burned out so the only light came from the cracks beneath the doorways. I ended up waiting to open those rooms until the cleaners came. I was that freaked out.
“The windows in the house were too small for the scale of the place and they were sort of set high in the walls, it made the place feel claustrophobic. So I waited in the kitchen for the cleaners to arrive, there was a bay window over the sink and it was the brightest room in the house. I was scrolling through my phone when something in the backyard caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.
“This is going to sound totally unbelievable but there were two coyotes out there in the backyard. One was sitting looking at the house, the other stood facing the woods. They must have sensed that I was looking at them because all of a sudden they both looked at me, through the window.”
“Oh no,” I said nervously.
“We stared at each other for a second and then I came to my senses and lifted my phone and began video recording them. But when I did,” Emily paused, a shiver running through her, “They started walking towards me, towards the house.”
“No,” I breathed.
“Yeah, I know it is crazy but I had this terrible feeling they wanted to attack me. I was inside the house but I was terrified they were going to launch themselves through the window or something. I kept video recording them and I banged on the window and yelled and they stopped walking toward the house and just watched me.” As she was describing the encounter Emily picked her phone up off the desk and began scrolling. “They eventually slunk off into the woods. I saw them. I swear they were there. But look.”
She handed me her phone. I touched the screen to play the video she’d pulled up. It showed a steep overgrown backyard viewed through a rather dirty bay window. The image was a bit jerky and I could hear Emily’s voice saying “Oh my God” and “Shoo! Shoo! Go away!” Then, as Emily banged on the window the camera jerked to the side for several seconds showing another angle of the kitchen, a view of the wall oven, dark wooden cabinets, and a slice of the kitchen island before it moved back to capture the backyard.
I looked up from the phone. Emily was staring at me with her eyebrows raised.
“Well?” She said.
I shook my head, confused. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see anything.”
“I don’t get it,” I said with a nervous laugh.
“I saw two coyotes in that yard. They were there and they were incredibly aggressive, that was my experience. Okay? But they didn’t show up on that video. That was freaky enough, but watch it again. Go on.”
I watched the video again but still saw only an empty backyard through a dirty window and a quick glimpse of the kitchen.
I looked up and shook my head.
Emily held out her hand, “Let me see the phone,” she insisted. She swiped the screen then held it up so I could see it. I leaned forward. Pointing to the lower right hand corner of the screen she said, “Focus here, okay?”
I squinted and watched the small screen intently, then gasped and shot back in my chair. “What was that?”
“It was one of them,” Emily said very quietly as if the being on the video might hear us.
I reached out to take the phone from her and watched the recording several more times. In the video as Emily bangs on the window and the camera pans over to the kitchen it captures the head and upper body of a shadow figure. The thing stood at the far edge of the screen next to the kitchen island. Almost as if it realized it’s image was being captured it quickly shrank back out of view.
When compared to the surroundings the thing was tall. At least seven or eight feet. Its head a dark oval, it’s shoulders narrow. It moved quickly, purposefully but almost as a dense mist.
“That thing was just standing behind you.” I said in disbelief.
“It made me see those animals in the yard even though they weren’t really there.”
“Did you watch this video right away? In the house?”
Emily shook her head insistently. “No, I didn’t watch it until later that night, to show my husband.”
“What did he think?”
“We watched the video at least five times before we even noticed that shadow man. He doesn’t like me being alone in these houses in the first place so he wasn’t exactly pleased.”
“Man,” I breathed. “What did you tell the owner?”
“Nothing,” she said dismissively though I couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t mention it to him.
“I wouldn’t have stepped one foot back in that house after watching that video.”
“I didn’t have a choice, the broker open was scheduled only two days later. I knew that first open house would be swamped, the price would bring everyone and their sister in to get a look. Knowing I would be surrounded by other brokers eased my anxiety but I still had to go early to open the place up and arrange the sign in area and listing sheets. The day I’d seen the coyotes in the yard I’d hung around and done some work on my laptop while the cleaners worked so I knew that the place was clean and ready to show.
“The day of that first open house I waited until the very last minute to go in. Again, all the interior doors in that damn place had been closed. I am one hundred percent positive that they’d been left open when I’d locked the place up behind the cleaners. I shot off a text to Jeffrey asking as casually as I could if he’d been to the house since I’d been there last. He hadn’t.
“I walked through the first floor as quickly as possible opening doors, still with that awful feeling that someone was waiting for me in one of those rooms. Then I had to go upstairs. Luckily I’d had the bulbs replaced in the overhead lights but,” Emily shook her head, “There were three bedrooms, a bath and then the door at the base of the attic stairs. I’d opened all the doors to the second floor rooms without incident and then I opened the attic door and flipped on the light switch at the base of those stairs when I did I heard a low growl.”
Emily stopped talking, I could tell she was gauging my reaction. I said, “I would have run out of there.”
“I thought it was one of those dogs, the coyotes I saw in the backyard. That was my first reaction, I thought- I don’t know what I thought but it sounded like a dog’s growl and just as I was trying to decide what to do I heard a voice call from downstairs. It was a broker. I made a split decision to close the attic door and deal with the situation later. I pulled myself together, went downstairs and greeted the brokers who were streaming in. I excused myself quickly and made a sign that said ‘Do Not Enter – Stairway Under Construction” and slapped it on that attic door. Then I put several pieces of tape along the doorframe to reinforce the point.”
“Quick thinking, “ I commented.
Emily shrugged. “Within minutes I had about thirty brokers walking through the house and it was steady for the next two hours. They all wanted to know what was wrong with the place, why was it going on the market so cheap?”
“I was relieved at the turnout, I knew the place would be under agreement before the weekend. I just had to get through the open house, wait for an offer and get the deal done.
“I’d planned to wrap things up by noon and everyone had pretty much filtered out by that time but as I was talking to this one woman from my office I saw a guy walk in the front door and head right up the stairs. I assumed he knew he’d arrived at the tail end of things and wanted to get a quick look around before I closed up.
“I finished talking to my colleague and walked her out, I’d set up the listing sheets and sign in book in the living room in view of the front door and was gathering my things waiting for the guy to come back downstairs when I heard the attic door open. The noise was unmistakable, the door creaked horribly. I froze, terrified. Literally scared to death. The general public are looky loos, you can’t trust them to obey a sign you can only trust locks to keep them out of a particular part of the house. But brokers are professional and wouldn’t open a marked door. If nothing else they would worry there might be cameras on the premises and wouldn’t want to be caught.
“I went to the base of the stairs and called up, ‘Hello? Sir? Please close the attic door, it’s unsafe.’ He didn’t answer. ‘Sir!’ I called again, but nothing. In my mind I saw those coyotes launching themselves down the attic stairs to maul the guy. It was completely irrational, but something had growled at me. There was an animal in that attic and now I had a nosey jerk ignoring the sign I’d put up.
“I stomped up the stairs, trying to make a show of how much I meant business, but when I got up there the attic door was shut. The sign was in place and the tape along the doorframe undisturbed.”
“Oh no,” I groaned.
“I peeked my head into the two smaller bedrooms and the bath and didn’t see anyone so that left the master bedroom. I didn’t see the guy in there either, but there was a walk in closet and I couldn’t view it fully from the doorway so I crept into the room to get a better view. I was so frightened I don’t know how I made myself do it, but I couldn’t have some man lurking around in there, the open house was officially over as of five minutes ago. I had to get him out so I could get out of there.
“I was about halfway across the room when the bedroom door slammed behind me. It nearly gave me a heart attack. I spun around to look at it and I didn’t know what to do but I knew I had to act fast. I went to the door and locked the handle then I called my manager and explained the situation. That I was wrapping up a broker’s open and there was a weird guy in the house. She assured me she’d be there in five minutes with another one of our colleagues – a man.”
“Why didn’t you call the police?” I asked, shocked.
“If the guy had tried to get into the room then I would have, but I didn’t want to bring any negative attention to the house, it was for sale after all. I listened at the door and all was silent. It felt like forever but my manager was there in minutes. I heard her calling my name from the bottom of the stairs and I heard Steven, my co-worker say, ‘I’m coming up and I’ve got a baseball bat. Ms. Bennington has her phone set to call 9-1-1 if you give us any trouble.’ Then, ‘Emily, where are you?’
“I cracked the door open and saw him ascending the stairs. He held out a hand motioning for me to stay where I was and I did as he checked out each room. When he said it was alright to come out he asked about the attic. ‘Could anyone be up there?’ Not with the tape on the doorframe intact, I told him. ‘Are the stairs really under construction or is it just a mess up there?’ He wanted to know. I told him I thought there might be an animal up there and didn’t want anyone going up until I’d called animal control. He reasoned that the creep had probably heard me calling Patty, our manager, from the bedroom and had run out the front door. Then he told me to go downstairs to let her know I was alright, and insisted on checking the attic.”
“No,” I groaned. “You let him go up there?”
“I couldn’t convince him otherwise. So I went downstairs and found Patty picking up listing sheets from the living room floor, they’d been scattered everywhere. After about five minutes Steven came downstairs. ‘All clear,’ he said, ‘But someone was up in that attic,’ and he held up one of the listing sheets.
“‘That’s impossible,’ I told him. ‘The guy I saw didn’t even stop to sign in let alone grab one of my listing sheets.’ Steven just shrugged. ‘Let’s hope this thing goes under contract fast, this place gives me the creeps.’
“They stayed with me while I locked up the house. And, you know, I saw something move a curtain in one of the master bedroom windows as I was pulling out of the driveway. It meant for me to see it.”
“Geez, Emily. This is dark.”
“Luckily, well, not luckily, but at least I only had to go back to that house one more time. A developer ended up buying the place. The day after the broker’s open he contacted me for a showing. We were out back and he was trying to determine how difficult it might be to level a section of the back yard when I looked up to the treeline at the top of the slope and saw those fucking coyotes again. I gasped and pointed at them, and said something like ‘We need to go inside, now!’ I’m sure you can guess what happened.”
“He didn’t see them,” I ventured.
“Correct. I tried my best to keep it together. I was quite certain that I was losing my mind, the coyotes just sat and watched us while the client – completely unaware, mind you – took measurements. I stood on the porch as close to the door as possible.
“Finally, the developer wrapped up his data gathering and was asking me some questions about the property line when I heard a very big and very loud bang come from inside the house. It made both of us jump, which was oddly reassuring because at least I wasn’t the only one who heard it.
“‘What in the hell was that?’ The guy asked. I had no idea. There was no furniture in the place at all, let alone anything that could have fallen and made that loud of a noise. I tried to hide how frightened I was and we went inside. Thankfully he walked through the house with me, we couldn’t find anything that could have made that loud of a bang. It was as though something large had slammed against one of the walls.
“We’d gone through everything, the attic and first and second floors but the guy wanted to see the basement. He wanted to get an idea for the foundation. I suspected at the time that he was trying to decide whether to gut renovate or demolish. I did not want anything to do with that basement. I don’t know why, I just didn’t,” Emily said defensively.
“I wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with it either,” I reassured her.
Emily blew out a breath. “I flipped on the light and hesitated at the top of the stairs. Straining to hear or see if anything was down there. ‘Everything alright?’ the developer asked. I made some excuse about my eyes adjusting to the low light but my voice was shaking. I don’t know if the guy didn’t notice or if he just didn’t care, but down we went. The basement was pretty much divided in half; one area a finished section all wallboard and carpet, the other half unfinished concrete. That’s where the utilities were located along with the washer and dryer.
“He began taking measurements and I walked over to the door dividing the spaces to open it up and turn on the light which unfortunately hung from the ceiling at the center of the room. The room was unnaturally dark. I thought I’d remembered some ground level windows when I’d been down there briefly before, but I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I walked to the center of the room cursing whomever made such a stupid lighting arrangement.”
Emily took too calming breaths. “Sorry, this still really affects me when I think of it.”
“Take your time,” I said, meaning Let’s just stop right here.
“I was in the center of that room and I found the pull string. I yanked on it and when the light came on I saw that I was surrounded by five of those shadow people. They were around me in a semi circle and I became completely frozen in place, unable to move. I literally couldn’t move at all. I couldn’t scream, hell I couldn’t even let go of the light cord. They were so tall they had to hunch a little so their oval heads wouldn’t touch the ceiling. They began to sort of close in around me.
“Thank God, right at that moment my client dropped his heavy tape measurer on a counter in the other room. The noise of it broke the spell somehow. I realized I could move so I backed out of the room even though my legs were jelly and slammed the door. I held the knob tight as if that could somehow keep the things from getting out of that room. I was totally unaware that the client was right beside me. ‘What’s up? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ he said. It took me a minute to gather myself. ‘Rats! There are a lot of rats in there. We’ve got to get upstairs.’
“I didn’t know whether he believed me but after a beat he said, ‘Well that decides it. I’m goin’ into tear down mode.’We went back upstairs and outside and that was the very last time I ever stepped foot in that devil of a home. The guy paid asking price in cash with no inspection and no contingencies and that was the end of the listing.”
“So then he just tore the thing down.”
“He sure did, and he’s building a stunner. I’ve seen the plans.”
“But you said the shadows followed you.”
“It was a couple nights later, I was up in the middle of the night to get some water and as I closed my refrigerator door something moved out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a person, walking through the archway to our living room. I tried to blame it on a trick of the light from the refrigerator door, but it put me on alert.
“The next night as I was pulling my car into the garage a head poked out from in front of my husband’s dump truck and then quickly pulled back, I-”
“Wait, your garage is big enough to hold a dump truck?” I interrupted, attempting to imagine it.
“No, that’s just what we call the pick up truck my husband uses to drag stuff to the dump,” Emily said dismissively. “Anyway, I saw someone dart back behind the truck so I backed right out of there, lowered the garage door, called the police and sat in the driveway waiting for them to come.
“You thought it might have been a person?”
Emily considered. “I hoped it might be a real person. We keep our house on lockdown. There’s no way someone could get into it from the garage without setting off our alarm system. And aside from the garage doors for the cars there is not other way out of the garage.”
“I’m guessing the police didn’t find anything.”
Emily shook her head and gave a little sniff. “I knew the shadows followed me and I knew I had to act fast. I didn’t want them to get comfortable in my home. I could feel them almost doing recognizance. Testing the perimeter of my life if you will. I thought on it for about a day and then I knew what I had to do.
“I stayed up late that night until I my husband was fast asleep. Then I gathered a couple candles and arranged them near my front door. I sat on the ground and stayed as still as I could until I could sense the things noticed what I was doing. I say sensed, but it was more like this feeling of intense dread that came over me whenever they were near.
“I told them – out loud – that I was the wrong choice for their efforts. That it was only my husband and myself in the home, that we never had guests and that we both worked sixty hour weeks. Their talents would be wasted on us. I insisted that there would be people coming and going constantly from their old address and that eventually, knowing what I did about the size of the house the developer was planning to build, chances were good a large family would purchase the property. The choice was obvious, I told them as calmly as I could muster. It would be short-sighted of them to attach to us.
“Then I blew out the candles and opened the door. I know how ridiculously dramatic it sounds but I felt they might appreciate the ritual of it. I said, ‘Goodbye and good luck,’ as firmly as I could, waited a moment and then closed and locked the door. I could feel that they’d gone. The house felt lighter and I wasn’t frightened any longer.”
“Wow,” I said in disbelief. “I can’t believe you simply convinced them to go.”
Emily smiled smugly. “I’m a really good broker,” she whispered.