Wanna hear a ghost story? This is the house of my childhood. It’s a corner house located in a hamlet called Woodlawn in Erie County, New York, just outside the city limits of Buffalo. It doesn’t seem very big now but at the time it seemed cavernous. The upstairs and downstairs were arranged in a way that either level could have been its own small apartment. The second floor (next to the bedroom) held the drawdown doorway to an old, wooden attic. I would describe the attic as “creepy” if it weren’t for the basement, which had a cement floor and root cellar that would give the creep-factor of the Amityville House a run for its money.
Childhood wasn’t a happy experience for me and some of the things I experienced were much scarier than any ghost story I can tell. Still, there were so many unexplained and chilling experiences in this house that I can’t help but think of the building itself as an overall container for horror. It is my experience that events in life can act as catalysts for the unexplained. Similar to the way that a poison or toxin can trigger a chain of traumatic events in the body, the painful things we experience can seep into and infect our environment. Or in the case of environments that are already tainted, those events can awaken the slumbering darkness within.
In the case of the house on 7th street, one of the leading elements of my experiences was isolation. My mother and stepfather slept in the downstairs master bedroom on one end of the house while my bedroom was upstairs, on the other end. My room was also next to the attic door. While most of the time I preferred to be solitary (I didn’t really have any friends besides my cousins who lived in the next village over), I didn’t much like living in what was essentially my own apartment when nighttime fell. I had good reasons why. It started with the attic and escalated from there.
My bedroom was next to the attic door which had a wooden walk-up stairway. I actually liked playing up there in the daytime.
I can’t remember when it started happening, but the attic is my first memory of strange occurrences at the house. Attics in old houses are naturally scary because they often produce whistling or howling noises from drafts, creaks from the house settling, or even scratching noises from animals. I never experienced any of that. In my attic, it was the door. I remember laying in bed one night and hearing the brass knob of the door rattling. Sometimes the door would gentle shake if it were windy outside so I assumed that’s what was happening on the first night when I crawled out of bed to check. As I turned the corner into the hallway to check the door, I noticed the knob twisting and turning violently while the door itself remained perfectly still. How could the wind turn the handle fully yet not disturb the door itself? Further, I noticed that it only happened at night just as I was falling asleep. I know that I wasn’t just hearing things in the sleepy haze of bedtime because I would see the movement of the knob visually in the few cases where I was brave enough to investigate.
And then, the dragging noises. Imagine a heavyset man with a bad leg. You’d hear a *thump* noise, just like a step, and then a heavy drag immediately following it. Not long after the doorknob business began, the dragging noise started. No one could ever figure out what it was. All I knew was that hearing either the doorknob or the dragging would immediately fill me with dread. That’s why I started sleeping with pillows over my ears on most nights.
I feel like most kids probably hate their basement if they have one. My basement was as cold, dark, and eerie as any. The back of the room had a root cellar with a dirt floor that I was certain doubled as an entryway into Hell itself. If the aesthetics of this place weren’t bad enough, the visual hauntings really pushed it over the edge.
For a long time I only heard things, mostly from the attic but also increasingly in the hallways, kitchens, and even in my bedroom itself (I’ll get to that in a minute). Seeing is a totally different experience from hearing.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw something in that house. I was sent to the basement to get something from the dryer which thankfully was close to the stairs. I quickly descended the stairs and looked for whatever I was getting from the dryer. While standing there, I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye and quickly turned my head to check. Nothing. I continued my dryer search. And then I thought I saw something again. This time, I was sure. Looking behind me and into the dark corner of the room, I saw someone (something?) standing there, staring right at me. I can’t really remember exactly what it looked like. My memory is foggy and large parts of it have been filtered out of my brain, as with other traumas from the house. I do remember freezing in sheer terror and running back up the stairs as fast as my legs could carry me. I also recall feeling chased out. I can’t remember ever going back down there again.
The Staircase and Hallway
The first and second floors of the house are connected by two sections of stairs. From the first floor, a heavy wooden staircase with a large banister goes to an initial landing. Then, a smaller set of steps that turn the corner and land you on the second floor. Over the years of living in the house, I would have vivid nightmares about these stairs. Typically I would be in a state of trying to escape from something and running either up the stairs or down them. But in my escape, my feet would feel heavy, as if they were loaded with sandbags. The things would always catch me in the end and drag me up or down the stairs like a rag doll.
If the nightmares were the more terrible experience on the staircase, I would consider myself lucky. After the nightmares intensified around the age of 10, I started experiencing waking night-terrors. These are generally experiences of being fully awake yet experiencing things physically, audibly, or visually that resemble a dreamtime nightmare.
I woke up in my bed one night to the sound of my mother’s voice whispering my name from the first floor. “Psst, David! Hey, David! Come here…”
The first time I heard it I just thought it was my mother and didn’t assume that it was anything frightening. I crawled out of bed and headed for the stairs. In turning the corner and expecting to find her there, I found only darkness and silence. I thought I was dreaming so I went back to bed. And then it happened again.
“David….David…get down here right now or I’ll come up there. David…”
The whispering grew louder and more insistent. Once again I got out of bed and rounded the corner.
Feeling creeped out and generally confused, I walked down the stairs, across the house, and into my mother’s bedroom. I woke her up and asked why she was calling me. She hadn’t been. In fact, she was angry with me for waking her up in the middle of the night. I was sent right back to bed.
The calling happened regularly after that first night. I can’t remember how long. I never went to investigate again.
As all of these visual and auditory experiences escalated, the physical attacks began. I don’t remember them happening very often but I’ll never forget the times when they did. I had a very tall bunk bed that reached almost to the top of the tall ceilings. It was just enough space for a small boy to crawl into. It was guarded on the side with a beam, as most bunk beds are.
The first physical experiences weren’t violent. I remember laying there one night and feeling the corner of the blanket slide off my feet, leaving my legs exposed. This would happen over and over and I eventually made it a habit to sleep with the blankets tucked tightly underneath me.
At some point after this happened several times, I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling of something tugging at my leg, like someone had a hold of me. Looking down, I couldn’t see anything. It wasn’t strong enough to move my whole body, but it felt like it was attempting to. The force was unsuccessful for the most part. At least at first
One night I had the most vivid and terrifying nightmare that I’ve ever had, even to this day. I dreamt that the whispering voice of my mother was calling me from the staircase, as it had been doing for a couple of years. In the dream, I started walking down the stairs but was stopped by some unseen force halfway down. I was thrown onto my back and dragged back up the stairs, kicking and screaming along the way. I would get loose and start to run back down, only to be grabbed and dragged back up again. I remember gaining the realization that I was stuck in a dream and tried to wake myself up. But the harder I tried to wake up, the worse and more violent the experience became.
Towards the end of the dream felt myself waking up. As soon as I opened my eyes I noticed I was physically falling, seemingly from the ceiling (the height of my bed) onto the floor. I hit the floor of my bedroom, right on my back. I’ve never again experienced getting the wind knocked out of me so badly as I had that night. I screamed and cried from both terror and pain so loudly that I woke up the whole house. Everyone came running upstairs to find me on the floor, struggling to get my breath back. It should have been impossible for me to fall out of bed like that. The railing beam that guarded the side of the bed didn’t leave any room for my body to get past it, even if I were to squeeze myself into it. The only way it could have happened would be if I were pulled out from the foot of the bed, while sleeping on my back, and slammed down onto the floor. Because of that illogical position, no one believed that I fell out of bed at all.
Looking Back: Trauma, Poltergeist, and Youth Energy
Poltergeist are traditionally thought of as troublesome spirits that cause physical disturbances. Most of us are familiar with them through the 1982 movie of that very name. However, many paranormal researchers pose that the phenomena of poltergeist activity is caused by manifestations of psychokinesis, a psychic ability that has an observable effect on physical conditions. It is thought that these “hauntings” escalate in homes with children since kids often contain high levels of psychic energy. In homes where traumatic events (like physical abuse) occur, this energy is instigated, propelled, and exaggerated. Worse, if there are individual entities in the home, the psychic energy is laid out for them like a buffet.
Was my childhood house haunted by individual, malicious, and intelligent entities? Was my childhood energy producing a psychokinetic power of my own making? Was it a mixture of the two? To this day, I cannot be sure. Even posing the question to some of the most talented psychics and mediums I know only result in more confusion. In any case, my childhood “ghost stories” are presented here, on my poison column, as an example of how unbalanced and disturbed energy can act as a psychic poison for a complete environment. This is why so much of my magical interest is placed in the area of spiritual purification and why I eventually wrote a book on that very topic. In fact, one of my first magical operations I performed when I began my early magical training was to filter and shut out the type of psychic receptivity I experienced at the house on 7th street. I’ve been opening it back up slowly over the years, knowing that being too closed off is a burden to my ambitions and interests in the Craft at large.
Now I would like to hear from you, dear readers. Have you ever lived in a “haunted house”? Do you tend to think of these experiences as spurred by independent entities or through the psychic manifestations of traumatized youth? Is it a mixture of the two? Hit the comments section and share your story if you feel so inclined.