My grandfather was once a tail-gunner in World War II, and finding it to his liking, subsequently spent his entire working career in the Air Force. He was a man proud of his station - Warrant Officer - and the posts he'd held. He often said he had no interest in becoming an officer; he enjoyed the camaraderie among the enlisted men and had reached the top of that particular pecking order. To begin again as a mere lieutenant, among "all those stuffy snobs" was unthinkable. He retired with a full pension, still a young man. He was also an autocratic, arrogant, angry, and controlling individual. In all their years together, my grandmother had never written a cheque and never driven to the store without his say-so. Men were innerved by him. My own mother said he had never touched her in any way, not even a hug, in all the years she knew him.
Some years after his retirement, he was stricken by a massive heart attack. He was taken to hospital from his house, whereupon he died, having barely managed his final signature on his last will and testament a lawyer had propped before his quaking fingers. He was the sort of man given to thinking that, if you write up your will, you've got one foot in the grave already and he had a lot of years left, years he intended to dominate into submission. But he'd had one clogged artery in the grave all along, and hadn't known it.
The family was in shock, and my aunts and uncles - most of them - still lived at home, as they were young adults. My mother was the oldest, and I was a young boy at the time. We were all in the house to stay with my grandmother, who was medicated to the point of psychosis.
The night after he died, my aunt was awakened by a sound... It sounded like a person walking up and down the hallways near the bedrooms. The sound was quiet at first, but the sound grew and grew. She leaped out of bed and threw open her doorway... And there was nothing there. Other bedroom doors opened - the entire family was awake, my grandmother included. The sound of footsteps was now a full-on thwacking of boots on wood, parade-ground marching which was unmistakably a soldier's march, echoing and resounding throughout the hallway.
"Where is that sound coming from?" my aunt wailed. "The floor is carpeted!" And it was - now. Years earlier though, it had been hardwood.
As suddenly as the terrifying marching had begun, it stopped. Not even a double-step of "coming to attention" - the sound of stomping boots ended like a TV switching off, and we were all left staring at our gaping faces: Did we all just hear that?
The next day, we went into the kitchen and found all the cupboard doors had been opened, and a loaf of bread was sitting on the countertop. Nobody fessed up to having done this, and it's possible somebody lied or forgot about doing it, but given the incident with the marching boots, we were left to wonder if it was an extension of the frightening episode of the night before.
Days later, my uncle went into the basement to get a popsicle from the fridge, and found a basketball bouncing all by itself.
And...that was all. Nothing else happened in that house, and we all talked about the strange things that happened that week in my grandmother's house as though it was a story that had happened to somebody else. But we remember the terror - usually at night.
Years and years later, my sister was staying over at the house, as my Grandmother was babysitting us, and in the middle of the night, she awakened us with a bloodcurdling scream.
My grandma rushed into the room. "What is it?!"
"I saw - I saw a shape!" my sister sobbed.
"It was black. It was standing in the doorway. Its head was as tall as the top... It was standing there, staring at me... And I saw it blink."
"Blinked you say!"
"Really slowly, like a cat... It had huge, shiny eyes."
My grandmother thought about this a second, pondering the height of the doorway, and said, "Get your backpack; we'll sleep at your mother's."
We rode home, grandma's Cadillac frigid in the winter dark, and once again, I looked back at that strange house and thought of the things that continued to happen in that place.
It was the last time I spent the night there. Because the house burned down unaccountably a few months later while my grandmother was on vacation.
Nobody missed it.