I honestly don't know what to make of my childhood experiences. I had a troubled, abusive upbringing and didn't really deal with it until I was in my thirties. I don't know if my experience of dark places was a side effect of that, or if I managed to short-circuit a genuine extrasensory gift along with so many other aspects of my character. Regardless, here's my tale, and your input is most appreciated.
I grew up in a modern, cookie-cutter raised ranch in a planned suburban development. It was built in 1965, and until my parents relocated in 1987, we were its only occupants. Previous to that, our hill had been wild forest for centuries after some time as an apple orchard in the early 18th century. There had been no human habitation, no ancient curses, and our "quiet corner" of Connecticut had been so isolated that the New England witch controversies had never come within miles of it. In short (too late), there was nothing from the dawn of time through the Vietnam era that could have left any residual human imprint on the first spot on the planet that I called home.
Except the dark spot. More precisely, our basement. Our house was built into the hillside at the crest of the grandly named Mount Sumner (really, just a steep hill) so that the basement was completely buried at the front of the house, but at ground level in back. The builder had intended that homeowners finish the basements into recreation rooms, so the basement had a working fireplace, sliding glass door and large window. My parents never finished our basement, so this potentially well appointed space was used for storage, and housed the furnace, water heater and laundry appliances.
The door and window faced east, but even on the brightest mornings, the basement was as dark as it was at night... At least, to my eyes. Turning on the lights didn't help either. The bulbs themselves were bright enough, and staring directly at them would leave spots in my vision, but it was as if the illumination struggled to reach any further than the edge of the glass. Worst of all, though, was the fact that the shadows that lay claim to the room weren't entirely cast by old boxes, discarded furniture and the furnace - they moved and they "spoke".
No, it wasn't English, or anything approaching any spoken language I've ever heard - I've gone over this with a couple of psychiatric professionals over the years, who seem to salivate at the prospect that a client may have heard voices and listen intently until I explain in full. It was more of a guttural background chuckle that would stop and start. As a child, I had the feeling that they were able to understand each other, and that they enjoyed the fact that seeing and hearing them terrified me.
After mocking, yelling and hitting didn't discourage my complaints to my parents, my mother humored me by accompanying me to the basement one night. There was motion where there shouldn't have been, which she explained away as a draft... But moving what? There were a few boxes and an old couch there at the time, and the bare-bulb light fixtures were affixed to the beams. She claimed not to hear the murmuring at all, but just about jumped out of her skin when the furnace roared to life. In short (again, too late), my parents accused me of having an overactive imagination, and threatened that continued flights of fancy on my part would lead to doctors, foster care, and all sorts of other horrors.
So I avoided the basement as much as possible, and completed any chores down there as quickly as I could. As I got older, I became aware of other "dark" places, though none of them had the added funhouse babbling and motion of our basement.
There was a house on the main drag between home and the supermarket, for instance, that sat in a pool of darkness despite being in the middle of a sunny, treeless yard. There was also something very shady about the local Congregational church... Fortunately not our denomination, and I only had to enter the building once, as a teenager, to drive my sister home from a chorus recital. By then, I had a handle on things.
I'd discovered drugs. Valium, to be precise, though many and varied others would follow. My mother had a seemingly bottomless supply, and I took one once after a schoolmate extolled its virtues. Not only did it calm me down and make my life infinitely more tolerable, but I discovered a side benefit the next time I had to retrieve the laundry - the sun was out and the basement was brighter than I'd ever seen it before. The shadow things were still there, but both less visible and less audible than before. I upped the dosage and they vanished entirely.
I've since stopped using controlled substances to combat life's many trials. In fact, it will be twenty years later this month. I don't see dark places anymore, but I can still feel if a building or part of it is "wrong". I leave it to you to decide if this was all childhood trauma gone awry or something more ephemeral.