I was five years old when my family moved into an apartment in one of the outer boroughs of New York City. Growing up in Queens was neither very exciting nor very boring but our new home terrified me completely.
For almost nine years, we lived in that small apartment on the first floor of a four-story building. Ours was all the way at the corner too and being that it was the first floor, there were fewer apartments. All in all, it was very quiet and cozy and we didn't mind that at first. The only thing was that this apartment had become available after the previous occupant had passed away. She was an elderly woman who had died of natural causes so there wasn't really anything to be scared of, as my parents had assured me. However, I was only five at the time, so that really made me a little uncomfortable and slightly scared.
In the first few years that we lived there, it was only my paranoia and childish fears that made me dislike our apartment. But over time, I got used to it, as did the rest of my family. There was nothing wrong with the place and I was beginning to realize that. However, I began to notice many little things happening.
The first incidence that I can recall happened when I was nine and in the fourth grade. I was sitting in the living room doing my homework on my older brother's desk. All the lights were on but I was the only one in the room. Everyone else was in the kitchen. It was nighttime so it was pretty dark outside and the window was reflecting the room somewhat. The only view we had from the windows was the wall in the back of the building and a few trees that were in the closed-off alley. (Remember we lived in the apartment all the way in the corner so we couldn't see the streets from so far back.) I was sitting quietly doing my work with the TV on when I thought I saw something strange in the window's reflection. I shrugged it off because it could be anything, really. What I saw seemed like something big and foggy so I thought maybe the glass needed cleaning. So I went back to my work, but I just couldn't concentrate. Finally, I looked up at the window and realized that there was nothing wrong with the glass. I was staring at something white in the reflection. I looked closely at it, but couldn't tell what it was because there was nothing big and white next to me in the room, no drawers, no cabinets, nothing. So I turned back at the window, squinting my eyes, and froze. I could see almost clearly now the figure of a woman hunched over and leaning on the side of my desk, as though she were trying to help me with my homework. She appeared to be old and was dressed in all white. She looked at me in the reflection and smiled. I took perhaps a 3-second look at the window and ran out of the room. I know I saw it fast but it was clear enough for me to always remember. She didn't seem threatening or anything but that was just too much.
Afterwards, I dismissed the incident as perhaps a hallucination. Maybe I just thought I was seeing things because it was late at night. So I didn't let it bother me too much after that. Around a year later, another incident happened but I never saw that old lady again. This time, my father and my brother had gone outside and it was only me and my mother at home. My mother was busy in the kitchen, cooking for a big dinner later that night. I went to the living room (same room as before) to play with my ball and hit it against the wall. When I was playing, I suddenly caught sight of the television (which was turned off). I thought I saw something in the reflection, but when I looked back, it was nothing. We had a huge birdcage sitting on the floor outside the room and our birds were chirping a lot. I went back to playing with my ball. But I was curious so I went back to the black TV screen to look at the reflection again. This time, I could see my brother sitting on the floor outside the cage, looking at the birds. I know for a fact that he wasn't home because the hallway was right there. I kept staring at the reflection and the figure that looked like my brother turned around and gave me a creepy smile. Its eyes seemed to be glowing. Even my birds started chirping more loudly than usual. I was only ten so I ran to my mom, hysterical. When my father and brother came home, I told my brother what I saw and he just teased me. He said something like, "Yes, I'm dead and this is my ghost you're talking to now." I just wish he had taken me seriously but of course he told me I was just imagining it all.
My brother, himself, however, had once told me about something that had happened to him. He had told this to me years before this last incident. One night, my brother had stayed up watching TV. He slept in the living room. My mother and I were sleeping in another room and my father was at work. Anyway, my brother had heard the sound of water running in the bathroom as though someone were washing some clothes in the bathtub. So my brother just went to check anyway since he thought that we had all gone to sleep. When he came towards the bathroom, he saw that the lights were off in the whole apartment and no one was even in the bathroom. We were sleeping, just like he had suspected. And then he said he thought he suddenly saw a cat in the hallway. The next morning, he asked my mom if she had been washing clothes in the bathroom. She said no and then my brother laughed and told me what happened. He didn't seem scared at all.
Another night, my father was at work and my brother was watching TV in the living room again. My mother and I were in the single bedroom. She was on the computer and I was playing with a ball, throwing it against the wall. (I had a habit of doing that a lot.) Anyway, my brother came tried to come to our room, so I thought it would be funny to lock the door on him. He would push on one side and I would push from the other. We kept laughing and he kept coming back and trying to open it again kind of like a game, until our mother told us to stop or else we would break the door. So my brother went away after we got yelled at and I went back to playing by myself. Then I saw the doorknob turning and I laughed and called out to my brother who I assumed was on the other side. But no one opened the door and no one was turning the doorknob anymore. So I thought he was playing a trick on me. I looked under the crack between the bottom of the door and the floor expecting to see my brother's feet. But then I realized that he wasn't at the other end. No one was there. Then who turned the knob? I asked my brother later if he had come back to open the door and he said no and that he was watching TV. When I told him what happened, he said that I shouldn't be so scared all the time. I'm sure that if he had been playing a trick on me, he would have tried to make me more frightened and not reassure me. Also, I would have heard his footsteps if he really had walked away.
That was perhaps the last strange occurrence that occurred at that place. We eventually moved away when I turned 14. In the previous months before that, three residents in our building had died: a teenager that lived across the floor (and my brother's former classmate), an elderly woman that lived in the apartment right above us, and another neighbor that my parents knew well. Everyone in the building, I remember, had gone through a sad time with all these sudden deaths (which all happened within the year). When we moved away, I was sad that my last memories of this home would be that.
P.S. Coincidentally, we moved away Halloween night into a house on a dead end street. Ironically, that house wasn't scary at all!