Whenever I think about this experience, I wonder how many entities were actually watching us. What do you think?
About 15 years ago, on a hot summer afternoon, my oldest son "Duncan" and his wife "Janice" stopped by for coffee. As several family members were sitting around the kitchen table just chatting casually, he told us about a house he and Janice were thinking of buying. I was worried when Duncan told us where it was located: in an especially dangerous neighborhood in Lansing, MI. Everyone knew about the area's high rate of violence, problems with drug dealing, and other related crime.
Duncan and Janice were only in their 20s at that time, but they already had 4 kids. They were barely getting by on Duncan's meager paycheck, so you can understand why, when they heard about a quick path to owning their own home, they were really tempted. Duncan said the friend of a friend was making decent money as a house-flipper--someone who bought derelict houses for next to nothing and then resold them for a profit after doing superficial repairs.
The house-flipper claimed not to know anything about the history of the house except that the last tenants were drug dealers and there had been a police raid. Although the house had been trashed inside and was now condemned, the owner said if Duncan could do a certain amount of work on it so it would no longer be "red tagged," he could buy it for an incredibly low price on a land contract.
Duncan said he'd gone to look at it, but felt there was something "wrong" about the house. Would some of us go with him to check it out? Although paranormal things scare the socks off me, I was very worried about Duncan and his family, so I agreed to go. And since he'd piqued everyone's interest in visiting a possibly haunted house, a whole contingent of people offered to go along with us for protection. So Duncan, Janice, my (now deceased) mother, my second oldest son (college-age), one of Son # 2's friends, my husband and I piled into two vehicles. And off we went.
It was a dingy white two-story place with dented aluminum siding and some boarded-up windows. Built as a sturdy middle-class single family home in the 1930s, it was showing serious signs of neglect now. The neighborhood had changed over the years - and not for the better.
We parked in the street; neighbors watched intently from their porches as we trooped around to the back door. The yard was a mess, overgrown with weeds and littered with junk. We didn't need a key to get in because the door was always kept unlocked - surprising, because once we'd entered the house we found the previous owners had left behind kitchen appliances, two TVs and an X-Box. Normally someone would have broken in and taken these things on the same day as the occupants moved out.
Some of us could sense a presence even before we went into the house. Personally, I felt it when I was about to step into the back yard through a rickety picket gate. Something powerful and angry (I'd describe it as evil) seemed to be watching as we crossed the property line into its territory. For me, the sensation was like walking smack into an electrified fence. I wanted to turn and run, but half of my family had already entered the house.
Although it was daytime, the interior was dim. We couldn't turn on any lights because the utilities had all been turned off. We entered through the kitchen, a particularly dark, narrow room that smelled of old cooking grease, where I sensed an elderly woman's presence. She seemed to be cowering in a corner. Her stringy gray hair was held back with clips, but it had come loose at the sides. She was wearing a dress we used to call a "housecoat" back when I was a kid - a faded floral print. I knew right away that she wasn't the threatening presence here. In fact, I felt she was subdued because of whatever was frightening me.
We didn't stop in the kitchen but instead went directly into what I imagine had once been a formal dining room. I could see the blank spaces where pictures had once hung. I admit I'm not a gun expert, but I saw marks that looked to me like three bullet holes in the cracked drywall. A table near the curtainless window was all but hidden by trash bags full of debris. None of us was interested in finding out exactly what the bags held.
The atmosphere felt heavy and ominous. I had the impression of a very large, dangerous man standing in front of us watching in fury as we looked around. I felt I could "see" him - a thirtyish white man, unshaven, with dark hair almost to his neck line. He was wearing one of those sleeveless shirts that some people call "wife-beaters". He was holding a lit cigarette. He seemed to be claiming this room in particular as his territory.
I don't know why this presence didn't at least try to harm us, because I think he could have. Maybe he was waiting to see what our intentions were.
We ended up taking a hasty tour of the house from the main floor up to the third-floor attic. (No one went into the basement.) We all stayed together, going up and down the stairs single-file. There wasn't much to see except for miscellaneous trash, holes in the grimy drywall, broken windows repaired with cardboard, etc.
One small bedroom toward the front of the house did give me the creeps, although I couldn't quite figure out why. A few broken toys suggested it had been a child's bedroom. I was taken aback to discover a Cub Scout uniform hanging in the doorless closet. Someone - I'm guessing a kid because of the way the printed letters looked - had written on the wall with a colored marker: "I love you, you love me. We're a happy family."
This was around the time when Barney the purple dinosaur was a popular TV personality. (I always found him irritating, but my grandchildren thought he was great.) The words on the wall were taken from Barney's theme song. Seeing them in a lopsided scrawl across the wall gave me a chill. I could imagine how different the little writer's life had been from the world of normalcy that Barney represented.
As we started down the narrow stairway, returning to the main floor, my son suddenly halted on the bottom step. "Come down carefully," he cautioned. "Look at the floor. These weren't here when we went upstairs."
Arranged carefully on the carpet in front of the stairway were several school photos of children. They were the small, wallet-sized pictures that come as part of a photo package. Someone had laid them out in a rough fan shape facing the stairs, as if they specifically wanted us to see and appreciate the pictures when we came down. None of us remembered seeing this earlier.
You won't be surprised to hear that we all dashed for the car, or that Duncan didn't buy the house! We still talk about our "drug house tour" to this day. A few of us felt we'd had an intense experience at the house; others didn't pick up on much. And my husband, who seems to function like paranormal kryptonite, sensed nothing at all!