This story and the next are based on events that I experienced many years ago. They are not fiction.
In the summer of 1980, I moved to a new apartment with my mom and sister. You could smell the paint and the fresh wood of the kitchen cupboards. The outside was still naked concrete and the parking spaces gravel. Surrounding houses were being built and we, the kids, played in the rain-filled foundations, pretending to be gangsters or characters from westerns, running up stairs without railings in houses that had only floors, no walls.
But that’s not what this story is about. It is about the strange man that used to live with us.
I’m not sure when I started seeing him. I just know that I did, frequently. You could see him from the corner of your eye, but the moment you looked, he was gone. At first I was afraid of this, but one apparently gets used to anything. He seemed harmless, just hovering there in silence.
The house was organised like any modern apartment, a small hall where you entered, leading to a living room. On one side of the hall was a kitchen with an opening, no door, on the other, the bedrooms and a toilet.
The man was tall, and it definitely was a man. He was taller than an average person, close to two metres, wore a long black coat. His hair must have been black as well, although I never really saw his head as a separate thing. Neither did I see his feet. I presume they were there, but he didn’t walk in the usual sense. He floated from one side of the hall to the other. It’s hard to explain. It wasn’t like he was flying, more the absence of walking. He just moved from one side to the other.
I never remember seeing him in any of the rooms. Just in the hall.
Although I was open to the supernatural back in those days, I was never particularly spiritual. I still believed in God and didn’t rule out the existence of ghosts, or whatever spirits they might be. After seeing the man many times, I accepted the fact that he was there, or that I was just seeing things. I learned not to look, because you could only see him from the corner of your eye. The slightest movement of the eyes and he disappeared.
A couple of years passed, I saw him regularly but didn’t really think much of it. I’d read the Bible somewhere around 1984 or thereabouts, and my faith was fading. God didn’t seem to make much sense, so ghosts probably weren’t real either. I was probably insane, or imagining it. Even if I saw him, I didn’t really believe my own eyes.
The shock came at the dinner table one evening. We were sitting there, me, my younger sister and mother. Out of nowhere, my sister speaks. ‘Who is the man in the hallway?’
I looked at her in astonishment. Then my mother spoke.
‘You see him too?’
I said nothing. As sceptical as I had become, this was strange, as much a proof as anything. I had been seeing him, then my sister mentions him out of nowhere, and apparently, my mother had seen him too. He wasn’t the creation of my overactive teenage mind.
There has never been a definite explanation for what happened. My mother did some research and contacted the building company. They obviously said nothing, except that an accident had happened during the construction of these apartment buildings. A wall in a hall in one of the apartments had collapsed and killed a worker. They wouldn’t say which building or apartment, but we figured it may well have been ours.
It may or may not be related that a couple of years later, I was watching TV with a friend in the living room. He jumped up and said, ‘there’s someone in the hall’. I replied, it’s just the ghost. I explained to him we were all seeing this man and that he did no harm.
After watching TV for a while, I started to feel extremely uneasy. Like there were a thousand eyes looking at me from all around the living room. It was a sensation I hadn’t felt before, and I said nothing. Just sat there, trying to watch the TV, trying to ignore this hoard of eyes looking at me.
‘Shall we go for a walk?’ my friend asked. He stood up without waiting for an answer.
‘Yeah, let’s.’ We both hurried out of the apartment and walked around the neighbourhood. He explained how he’d felt eyes staring at him. Neither of us saw anything, but we both felt it.
After a quarter of an hour or so, we returned. I put the key in the door and felt some kind of negative energy, almost like an electric shock, but without the pain. There was a tall and narrow window in the door and I felt “them” looking through it. I said we should keep walking.
Another ten to fifteen minutes later, we returned. I put the key in the door and felt nothing. We went inside. The atmosphere was different. There was a sense of relief in the air, like sunshine after a heavy shower. We both knew that whatever had been there was gone now.
There has never an explanation for either of these phenomena, I have no idea what we felt. Did a man die in our apartment? Does that explain the man in the hall? What was the second thing? How can a thousand demons, or whatever they were, make you so uncomfortable that you escape your own home?
I am convinced there is a logical explanation to everything. There are no supernatural forces, no creator playing with us and no spirits haunting us and our houses, but I do not know how to explain what happened in that apartment. I’d love to understand what we saw and felt back in those days.
This story is the eleventh installment in the Moments series