DISCLAIMER: At the risk of bragging, I should disclose that I tell scary stories for a living. While that might lead some to assume I'm making all of this up, if anything it should actually lend validity to the following claim. Because I make up stuff on a professional level and therefore have no desire to try and validate my fiction writing skills on a site meant to host true ghost stories. I promised I would share all of mine eventually though, and it's about time I actually try and do that...
I was born and raised in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina hit the summer after my senior year of high school. This story takes place two Christmas Eves later, outside the swanky Lakefront condo where I was currently living. And that was only because for a good while after Katrina, the whole city suffered from an epidemic of vacant luxury apartments.
Those brave few of us who had come back early enough that you could still smell the inside of everyone's refrigerator when you drove down the street were able to live pretty much wherever we wanted for insanely cheap. Before the lakefront condo, I had been paying $200 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment on Magazine St. Which is currently going for EIGHT TIMES that. I only moved to the lakefront condo because it was CHEAPER, if you can believe it.
My mom was still living in Baton Rouge at this time and my younger sister had wanted to see the extended family for Christmas, so she was crashing with me that night. Even though she was in her late teens by this point, it had been a rough past few years and my mom wanted to surprise my sister with Christmas presents when she woke up in the morning.
Which is how I ended up spending most of that Christmas Eve night driving all the way to BR and back, my trunk now full of wrapped presents and my sister's dog May-May in the passenger seat, panting with anticipation. This was during the like two whole weeks of winter we get here each year and I remember it was cold enough that night that there was snow on the I-10. For a lifelong NOLA native, that sight alone was pretty surreal.
I finally got back to the condo at about 3AM and had parked out front instead of inside the parking garage to make it easier to unload the car. I called my girlfriend to confirm that my sister was asleep and was waiting for her to come down and take May-May so I could safely sneak the presents up.
I wanted to save my girlfriend time and meet her at the entrance to the complex, so I clipped May-May's leash to her collar and we exited the car. We had just started toward the building when it happened.
Now, you need to understand that May-May is one of the sweetest dogs ever. Whenever she sees literally ANYBODY, her tail starts wagging because she knows there's at least an off-chance she might get attention. I had never heard May-May growl for real until that moment and it took me a second to realize it was even her making the noise.
My gaze was on the building's entrance when the growling started and I looked down just in time to see May-May stop dead in her tracks and then hunch down so low, her belly was almost touching the ground. She was looking at the vacant lot bordering the left side of the condo complex and I reflexively turned to follow her line of sight.
I saw a crying woman standing there, just beyond the corner of the building. She was in her 30s and had vaguely curly blond hair, barefoot and wearing only a white t-shirt that was long enough to resemble a night gown. The woman was sobbing and normally, if I were to see a half-naked woman sobbing in the middle of the night, I'd like to think my first reaction would be to try and help her.
But something about the sound of May-May's growl had sent a chill up my spine and when I spotted the woman, I froze in place as alarm-bells began to go off from what felt like the most primitive parts of my brain. And as soon as she saw me see her, we locked eyes and the woman let out the most blood-chilling scream I had ever heard.
If you've seen that recent RING camera footage of a car driving by someone's house with a possible female kidnapping victim in the passenger seat, this woman's scream sounded a lot like that. She pointed out at the lake in front of her/behind me as the scream seemed to go on forever. Even longer than you'd think someone could scream.
And then she was gone. The woman didn't fade away. It wasn't even like I blinked and she had vanished. She was simply there and then she wasn't, her scream cut-off just as suddenly but the sound of it still ringing in my ears.
About a week later, one of the maintenance men told me that before Katrina, a homeless couple with two kids used to live out of an old shed that had been abandoned on that vacant field between the complex and the neighboring building. Of course, they hadn't been seen since the hurricane and like many of the city's homeless, were presumed dead.
And of course my description of the screaming woman matched the mother of this homeless family exactly, down to her slightly curly blond hair and the long t-shirt she wore like a dress. Which led me to conclude that she hadn't been pointing at the lake. She had been pointing at the floodwaters.