Thebluecanary wrote:Here's a scary ghost story for ya'll. It happened to me a long time ago. It sounds pretty unbelievable so you are completely welcome to assume that I made it up.
Years ago I was married and working 6am till 2pm at a bakery making very little money. I came home from my shift to find a note from my then husband, informing me that he had found me a gig for that afternoon doing a move-out cleaning for a real estate agent at the office where he worked. Seems that her regular cleaning lady bailed on her at the last minute, and she was now in a bind since the house was closing that following Monday and she needed it cleaned before then. She was willing to pay me 200 bucks, which made me suck up my tiredness, pack up the car with my implements of dirt destruction and head to the office to pick up the keys and the directions. My husband told me that he would come out and help me when he got off if I was still working on the place. Honestly, since it was an empty house, I figured I'd be finished before then.
It was a 60s brick ranch at the end of a quiet street in a nice neighborhood. I let myself in through the back door next to what had once been a garage and was now a closed in workshop area. The workshop was full of flies and it smelled like spoiled meat. I spotted a black plastic bag full of trash on the floor, figured that for the culprit, and carried it outside and dropped it in the big corrugated metal trashcan on the patio.
When I clean a house the first thing I do after I unload my stuff is to take a walk completely around to see what I'm dealing with. Empty houses are easier to clean than houses that have people living in them, but you'd be surprised how dirty even the cleanest house is once the furniture and knick-nacks are gone. This house, I immediately realized, was FILTHY. Not a little messy. Pathlogical. Fucking. Filth.
The walls, blinds and kitchen appliances were coated with a greasy yellow coating that I supposed was years of unadulterated cooking funk and nicotine. The hardwood floors and linoleum were caked with black grime. The oven actually looked like someone had been using it to render lard...the entire inside was thick with charred black ick. The overhead fans looked to be covered in Spanish moss. The one bathroom had a toilet that looked like some prop from a movie about a serial killer, and I was pretty sure that that was actual doody caked and smeared in between the little blue tiles of the bathroom floor.
No wonder the cleaning lady bailed. In fact, it looked like she'd bailed from the actual job site. In the back bedroom, I found her sponge, her bucket (lukewarm, but still sudsy) and a step stool kicked over on it's side. I could see that she'd started washing the wall. There was about a three foot swath of clean, robin's egg blue showing through the nicotine grime, and then a sort of trail out. Like she'd started, realized that 200 bucks wasn't enough for this level of nast, and said fuck it.
Well, she obviously didn't need the money as bad as I did. And it was dirty, but I'd seen plenty of dirty before. I worked as a maid in the last town we lived in, and I'd done my share of icky post-eviction cleanups, and even temped once with a biohazard removal company cleaning up the remnants of a melted fat dude from a hardwood floor. I was hard. I could clean this house.
First, though, I was going to go smoke a cigarette and think about cleaning the house.
I went out through the back door and propped it open with the lid of the big metal trash can so that the spoiled smell might air out a little bit. I sat down at the little picnic table out back and lit up and wondered about the life of whoever had lived in that house. People live filthy, even in the burbs. You'd probably be surprised by how nasty people can be. But this was a little above and beyond. I figured that the previous owner had probably been elderly, unable to clean up the accumulated evidence of daily living for years due to frailty or sickness. They had probably died or moved into a home, and I figured the new owners were well aware of the condition of the house when they bought it but were expecting a professional cleaning and I felt sure I'd have to deliver.
I called my husband, told him that the house was going to take longer than I figured, and that he should meet me out there after work. And bring bleach. After I hung up from talking to him I turned to watch a squirrel chasing a little bird at the edge of the yard behind me. A loud sound of grating metal made me turn, just in time to see the back door slam shut. The trash can lid had rolled away and the wind had blown the door shut.
It was locked up tight. Lucky for me, I'm smart and I remembered to put the keys in my pocket. I let myself back in and got ready to get to it. I was ready, dude. At least, I thought that I was.
(Cue Twilight Zone Theme. That's all for now kiddies. More later.)
All are lunatics but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.
Thebluecanary wrote:I always start with the kitchen when I'm cleaning a house. Usually, that's the dirtiest room and it takes the longest. This kitchen, I knew, would take an especially long time due to the greasy orange-yellow film that covered every surface and the horrifying state of the oven.
First thing I did was open the oven and hose it down with a good healthy dose of oven cleaner. Then I closed it up so it could marinate and started washing down the walls and counters. The soapy water I was using turned dark brown and viscous very quickly from the sheer volume of grossness all over everything, and I had to continually dump it down the sink and make more. Still, one of the best things about cleaning is seeing actual visual evidence that your hard work is accomplishing something, and with a little elbow grease and some Citra-Solve I was actually able to make the dull yellow cabinets and walls look white again.
The blinds, though, were another story. They were pretty much ruined. The film of smoke and grease from the kitchen had baked deep into the cheap plastic, and they were bent and broken in spots and pretty damn disgusting. There was no saving them, and I didn't want to leave them hanging there looking so shabby, so I pulled out my trusty multi-tool and snapped them off their tracks. I tossed them in the corner of the kitchen and went looking for something to put them in. There had been a black plastic bag full of trash in the workshop/garage when I got there, so I was hoping that maybe there might be some extra trash bags out there. I checked all the shelves and cabinets in that room, and was about to give up when I spotted a utility closet tucked over in the corner next to the washer and dryer.
I opened the closet door and saw what looked like a box of trash bags on the floor. I stepped inside and reached for the chain pull that would switch on the light in the closet. When I did it, I was already looking down at the box and so luckily what fell on my head when I pulled the chain hit me on top of the head and not square in the face.
I screamed, because I'm an arachnophobe and I automatically assume that anything falling on me from above is a giant spider. It wasn't, though. It was a doll. A clown doll.
It had a porcelain head and hands and was wearing a white and black satin outfit and it had the traditional clown features with the leering red mouth and fuzzy orange hair and bulbous cherry nose. I picked it up and said a few choice bad words at it; I dislike clowns almost as much as spiders, honestly. This little dude was worn and stained, as if some kid had carried him around for ages. I wondered how he got up in the top of the closet, and how exactly he could have been positioned so that he fell on me when I pulled the chain. Weird.
It was a box of trash bags on the floor and there were still two bags left inside. I carried the bags and the doll back to the kitchen, stuffed the blinds in a bag, and after thinking about it for a minute tossed the clown doll in as well. At first I felt bad doing it; what if it was some kid's treasured binky, left behind in the move? But I didn't think so. I tied the bag up and carried it outside and sat it next to the big metal trash can. Later Bozo, you creepy fuck.
I finished wiping down the cabinets and pulled on my giant rubber gloves and started working on the inside of the oven with a razor blade and a green scrubby. The oven cleaner had barely made a dent in the grime, but I figured it had loosened it up enough and I didn't want to wait any longer. So I scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed and scraped. Any repetitive mindless task is very close to meditation. The body goes on autopilot and the mind wanders and usually I find it very soothing and relaxing.
Not in that house, though. It was when I was cleaning the oven, my mind pleasantly drifting in space while my body sweated, that I first became aware of the sound. It began as a kind of low level hum that I could almost feel in the back of my neck, and it unconsciously made me start grinding my teeth. As I became more aware of it, and focused in on it trying to identify it and where it was coming from, it grew in depth and became regular, a kind of rhythmic sibilant sound like a woman sucking air in and out over her teeth while in labor. It seemed to be coming from everywhere, the walls, the floor, the ceiling. I actually stopped scrubbing, thinking that maybe it was a sound I was making, but it didn't stop. I sat still and listened, the hair beginning to rise on the back of my neck. It grew even clearer. Nonononononononononono. A constant repeating loop of no.
What the fuck, chuck? It was a subtle sound, barely at the edge of human audible range, and yet it was a tangible noise and I could feel it in my spine and in my teeth. I took off my glove and stuck my hand over the floor vent next to the stove, thinking that maybe the ac had kicked on and was rattling but there was no air moving through the grate.
For a moment I had the distinct thought that something was there, in the house, and that it didn't want the house to be cleaned. I have always believed in ghosts, and I have seen them since I was little. I'd even done some paranormal investigating in our last hometown with a group of scientists who used me as their medium. But in my experience, most ghosts were harmless and relatively repetitive, like recordings of energy made somehow on the atmosphere. I'd had a few experiences with what I felt like were negative spirits, but they certainly weren't in broad daylight on a sunny Friday afternoon. When investigating the paranormal on any serious scientific level, a healthy dose of common sense and skepticism is imperative. Most weird things that happen in houses which are blamed on spirit activity are actually mundane things with perfectly rational explanations. And I was sitting still when I should have been working, giving myself the heebie jeebies over some noise in an old house.
I shook my head to snap out of it and went back to cleaning. The noise did not cease. If anything, it intensified. But I did a fair job of ignoring it. I fell back into the rhythm of scrubbing and scraping and wiping and scouring. But the lingering unease that I felt wasn't easy to shake off. I began to think of things that I didn't usually dwell on. Death. Pain. Sadness. It was like my thoughts were not my own. As if I'd slipped down into some lower level of consciousness and was dreaming while I was awake. Nightmares. Horrible images appeared in my mind. I didn't even realize it was happening for awhile and when I finally did it took a few moments to free myself from it, like struggling to wake from a bad dream in a deep sleep.
I'd inhaled too much oven cleaner. That was it. I peeled off my gloves and headed outside for a smoke to clear my head and get some air. I almost tripped on the clown doll, which was lying on the steps leading down from the kitchen into the enclosed garage.
I almost screamed again. It fell out of the trash bag, rational mind insisted. The blinds poked a hole in the plastic and it fell out and you didn't notice it. That's all.
Whatever. I picked it up and tossed it in the metal trash can and shoved the lid on tight. Then, I used the entire metal trash can to prop the back door open this time. It was heavy, but I managed to drag it over and wedge it in place.
Outside, with the birds chirping and the sun shining and the soft breeze cooling the sweat on the back of my neck, I felt I could think objectively. Was the house haunted? Maybe. Or maybe I was overreacting to perfectly ordinary things, blowing them out of proportion, letting my imagination run away with me.
Fact was, I needed the money. Even if the house WAS haunted, it wasn't like the movies. Ghosts couldn't hurt you. My husband would be there long before dark, and he would be the first to tell anyone that he didn't believe in any ghost nonsense at all. With his help, I could finish cleaning the house and be done with it, and maybe there would be enough left from that 200 bucks to go shoe shopping this weekend.
I felt better after a couple of cigarettes. What I would do is simply get up, go back inside, and finish the job. Period. Though I couldn't help thinking about the real estate agent's regular cleaning lady, the one who had bailed leaving her sponge and bucket and stool. Maybe it wasn't just the impossibly dirty house that made her leave the job?
Well, she wasn't as tough as me obviously. I got up, went inside, put on my gloves and started on the oven again.
(If ya'll are still interested in this, I'll finish when I get back to town next week. Sorry it's so wordy, but it's a story I've never told before and I wanted to tell it right.)
All are lunatics but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.
Bear with me, people, it's about to get fucking weird up in here.
So I put my super duper gloves on and started cleaning the oven again. I was almost done, really just needed to get the last little bits of burned on crud from the bottom under the heating element. I'll admit to not being the best oven cleaner in my own home...but I'd never seen anything in all my years of cleaning other people's ovens to rival this. Big globs of black charred fat and what looked for all the world like hunks of burned paper. Given the atmosphere of the house and the weirdness I'd already experienced, my imagination was bubbling at the implication of burned paper in the bottom of an oven. Was it a murder confession? Kiddie porn? A scorned lover turning love letters to ash? There was nothing readable on any of the pieces of paper, however, so it will forever be a mystery.
I used a hunk of paper towels to wipe down the inside of the oven, and by god that fucker was as clean as it was going to get. Honestly, if I were the person buying the house, I'd get a new one anyway. At least for the moment, no strange disembodied voice was whispering "no" in my ear.
I turned to get the last black plastic trash bag so I could toss my paper towels and my now ruined green scrubby, and that's when I saw him in the living room. There was a short half wall bar separating the kitchen from the living room, and next to that was a wide arched doorway through which I could see the long bank of windows on the far wall of the living room. The late afternoon sun shone brightly through the glass, and there under the windows in a floating haze of dust motes was what looked like a midget in some sort of ethnic German costume. He wore little brown shorts with gold suspenders and little black shoes with big silver buckles and white knee socks. His head was caved in at the top, as if he'd been smashed in the skull with a sledge hammer; it was such a deep, wide divot that it forced his eyes wide apart and bugged them out in a particularly grotesque manner, and he was smiling a mouth full of yellowed, worn down teeth.
I screamed. There was nothing else a sane person might do in such a situation, other than perhaps shit their pants, which I thankfully did not do. When I screamed, he bounced straight up in the air in a really awkward sort of way, like Donkey Kong or Mario in an old 8 bit video game, and dissipated. Popped, actually, like a soap bubble.
For a minute I just sat there, shaking my head. I think I probably drooled a little out my wide open mouth. Every single hair on my entire body stood at attention. I felt like I wanted to get up and run away, but I was paralyzed. My legs were asleep from kneeling in front of the stove and my spine felt like cold liquid, not capable of supporting my weight if I tried to stand.
The human mind is a funny thing, though. It's almost as if we have some kind of built in survival reset switch that shields us from things too disturbing to process, things that are so unbelievable that if we were to actually acknowledge their existence our entire reality would unravel to a catastrophic degree. One moment I was slack jawed with fear, wringing my hands in their yellow rubber gloves. The next, I was fine. No way I saw that. Just no way. Didn't happen. It was gone like that, gone from my mind; it wouldn't come back until I was out of that house and safe in my own bed that night, and then it would appear in my dreams periodically for years after. But that day, in that house, it was like it didn't happen. What I experienced at that moment was one of those "Wait, what was I doing?" feelings of disjointedness, followed by, "Oh, yeah. Done with the oven. Now I just have to do the fridge."
And that's what I did. I hauled all the plastic drawers out of the fridge, soaped them up in the sink, rinsed them squeaky clean, wiped out the inside of the fridge, put it all back together again, swept the floor, ran a bucket of hot soapy water and started mopping the linoleum. I even hummed a happy little song while I was doing it.
That was what I was doing when the voice called out "Hello?" from the garage, and to my credit I didn't scream. A woman appeared in the doorway. She was a real person, not any sort of apparition, with poofy frosted hair and mom jeans and a mickey mouse t-shirt. She smiled at me and I smiled back.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"This was my house," She said with a wistful sort of expression. "We're moving to Washington and we're closing on Monday. The realtor said someone would be here today cleaning, that it would be OK for me to take just one last look around?"
"Um, sure..." I said. She didn't look anything like someone I'd imagine living in this house. Not with the level of filth she'd obviously left behind her, not with all the assorted weirdness. She looked like the mom everyone wanted to carpool with. And she blew my "the house is this dirty because the previous owner was elderly and infirm" theory right out of the water.
"We lived here for 20 years," She said, running her ringed hands along the door frame where she stood. "Raised two kids here."
"Oh yeah?" Something about her, mom jeans or not, made me fairly uncomfortable. The more I was around her, the more her dreamy smile seemed medicated. She came on into the kitchen and a smell like stale perfume and sour milk followed her. It was an effort not to wrinkle my nose.
"Yes." She said. "I won't bother you. I just want to walk around for a bit."
She did, and I followed under pretense of sweeping the hardwoods in the living room and the bedrooms. I was fascinated. The house was bad. I could feel that beyond a shadow of a doubt now. The very atmosphere inside was oppressive, and being there left a feeling of filth on my skin that was only partially due to the condition of the place. That lady, though, beamed at each and every nook and cranny like it was a spotless mansion laid out for a Better Homes and Gardens shoot. She ran her hands along walls and windowsills, and a few times she even stopped and pressed herself to the wall in a way that was disturbingly sensual. A couple of times, it seemed like she was cooing, to herself or god knows what. Finally, she made a circuit of the house and came back into the living room, where I was now using ammonia and a newspaper to clean the film off the windows. Her eyes were brimming with tears.
"Don't use water on the hardwoods, OK?" she sniffled. "It's not good for them. Just use a dry mop and furniture polish."
"Sure," I said. As if she were in any position to be giving cleaning advice, at least from the evidence on the scene.
"Well, I guess I'll go." She said.
"OK. Bye." She waved and I waved back and she was gone, leaving me reeling from the surreality of the entire exchange.
All I had to do was dust the fans and baseboards, wash down the walls, clean the bathroom and I was out of there. Suddenly, though, with the sun starting to set and the atmosphere of the house beating down on me again, as if it had grown stronger somehow from the presence of the former owner, the task seemed too much. I could just leave, leave the job undone and not get paid, but my pride and my poverty wouldn't let me. I'd done some hard work and I couldn't see letting it go unrewarded.
The humming was back, though. This time there were no words, just a low guttural grinding that I could feel in my molars. It made my jaw ache and my eyes burn. I decided that what I would do is go outside and sit on that picnic table and smoke cigarettes and wait on my husband, with his mockery of anything supernatural and his bottles of bleach, to arrive. A glance at my watch told me he should be there any minute.
Two cigarettes in, I watched the trash can, which I'd left propping open the garage door, move a good two feet, grinding loudly across the concrete patio. There was no wind. Even if there were, it couldn't have moved that can. The door slammed shut and the sound echoed off the trees behind me. The entire thing was so much a poor horror movie cliche that it frankly pissed me off. As I said before, I was no ghost novice. And I was a firm believer in the idea that ghosts might sometimes be obnoxious, but otherwise harmless. And, I'm not the smartest person sometimes, either, I'll admit. My balls sometimes outweigh my brains.
I was mad. The whole thing made me mad. Wasting my afternoon cleaning that gratuitous filth. Being fucked with by something that I couldn't really see and didn't understand. I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and I was shaking with rage when I jumped off the table and headed for the door.
"Motherfucker!" I screamed as I jammed the key into the lock. "I want this motherfucking door OPEN!"
I jerked it open. There in the doorway, for just a second, maybe two, was what looked like a three foot diameter shifting black mass of hair, teeth and eyeballs. It hovered in the dying light like something out of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign on acid. And then it, too, popped like a soap bubble and fled my consciousness for the time being.
I shoved the trash can in place and this time it stayed. I pulled the lid off and looked inside, and the clown doll was gone. Creepy bitch had probably taken it with her when she finished her farewell tour. Probably she would sleep with it at night now.
My husband pulled into the driveway then, all smiles in his fancy work clothes holding two bottles of Clorox.
"Yeah, you're going to get dirty," I told him, and we went back inside.
We started washing the walls at opposite ends of the house. I didn't say anything to him about the house being haunted. He wouldn't believe it anyway, and I was frankly curious to see his reaction to the place. I used big towels on the end of my mop handle, and I was finished with the living room and starting on the middle bedroom by the time he was half done with the big bedroom, the one where the last cleaning lady had bailed in the middle of the job.
It was pink under the grime, and there were little Hello Kitty stickers stuck to the windowsill. A girl's room. I dusted the fan with a damp cloth, feeling the whole time I was up on the stepladder that a pair of hands was hovering at my back waiting to push me off, but nothing happened. Before I left the room, I opened the closet to make sure there were no more creepy dolls waiting to fall on the new owners. The floor on the right side of the closet was pocked with little black burns, and when I flicked the light on I could see that the wall around that area was decorated with little rows of penciled hash marks with lines through them, the way prisoners count days in old movies. For a moment, I was filled with the vision of a teenaged girl, huddled in the bottom of the closet, smoking cigarettes and counting the days till...what? 18? I wondered what mental institution was her home now.
My husband met me in the hallway, a dripping rag in his hand.
"This house is creepy." He said. "It feels wrong. I don't like it."
For him, this was a great admission. I just shrugged.
"Yeah, it's icky. I don't like it either."
"We have to get it clean, though," He said. "I promised Lisa we'd get it done."
"So go finish the walls in there." I said. I was completely, irrationally angry at him all of a sudden. Like, I wanted to punch his teeth out the back of his head.
"Yeah yeah," He said, and turned his back on me and went back to it.
I went into the living room and washed the fan in there. The grinding noise was still in my head; it had never stopped. If anything, it got worse and with it came thoughts that were not mine. I thought about going in there and clubbing my husband over the head with the mop for getting me into this mess. I thought about carving out a thick chunk of meat from his white, chubby throat. My heart raced. I was so scared that I wanted to cry, suddenly. It was August, but suddenly it was so cold in the house that my breath was like steam in the air. I thought about babies with hollow rotten eye sockets and food crawling with maggots and blood on the walls. The step ladder that I was on shifted itself three inches back and I barely managed not to fall off. The grinding noise was all I could hear. It filled my head, made my ears ring.
In the back bedroom, my husband began to sing, loudly. "I'm Henry the VIII I am, Henry the VIII I am, I am."
He could hear it, too, I realized. It wasn't just me, having some sort of episode, some sick hallucination. He was aware of the noise, and god knows what it was making him think of. The step ladder slid from one end of the living room to the other, came to rest against the far wall. I started to sing, too.
"I got married to the widow next door, she's been married seven times before!"
It was loud, tuneless, desperate singing, both of us at the top of our lungs. Something started pounding on the walls and the ceiling, and I actually thought it might be my husband until he ran out into the hallway and cried;
"What the fuck was that?"
"I don't know. Why are you singing?"
"Because...I don't know why. There's a sound here. It's the air conditioner or something. It's annoying. It must be broken. Are you running water? Why are the pipes knocking?"
They stopped when he said it. I shook my head.
"Listen," I said. "I want to get out of here. Fuck washing the walls in that last bedroom. I'm going to bleach bomb the bathroom and we're going the hell home."
"Lisa might..." He said
"Fuck that bitch." I said. "She's seen this house. She knows how nasty it is. 200 bucks is a bargain. If she stiffs me, I'll drive down to that office and stab her in the goddamn neck."
His eyes widened and he didn't argue.
I leaned into the bathroom. Thank god it was small. There WAS shit grimed deep into the grooves between the tile. I could smell it. I flushed the toilet, dumped some of the bleach into the bowl and flushed again. More bleach in the sink, some in the tub. The stains were so deep that I was pretty sure they would never come out anyway. I ran water down the tub drain, still with my feet in the hallway, my body contorted to reach the faucet without putting my feet or knees on the shit stained floor. Finally, I dumped the second bottle of bleach on the floor. The fumes were nearly blinding. The shower curtain was black with mold. I jerked it down off the rings and balled it up under my arm. When we left, it went into the metal trash can.
"Good enough." I said.
My husband opened his mouth as if to argue.
"If you want to stay and finish it better, you're welcome." I said. His eyes widened in fear and I knew that he knew that something was bad in the house. He would never admit it, but he knew.
We left all the lights on. I didn't want to think about walking through that house in the dark, and it was full night now. Actually, it was close to midnight, though it didn't seem possible that we'd been there that long. I threw away every towel and rag I'd used inside, and my rubber gloves too. I didn't feel like any amount of hot water and Tide could get them clean again. I shoved everything into that metal trash can, and then pulled it away from the door and let the door slam shut and lock.
As we walked away, he to his car me to my truck, I looked back one last time. I did not turn into a pillar of salt. But I did see the clown doll, perched proudly on top of the metal trash can, where it had not been just a moment earlier. As we drove away, the lights went out in the house, one by one.
I drove home and when I got there I scrubbed myself in the shower for an hour like I'd been crawling around inside a nuclear reactor. I barely slept that night, and when I did my dreams were unmentionable.
We never talked about it, not really. My husband informed the realtor, Lisa, that the house had been exceptionally dirty, which could not have been a surprise to her, and she tipped me an extra 50. He never mentioned anything other than the filth, not the grinding, not the pounding, not the frantic singing to drown out whatever he was hearing, and I never brought it up. I did make him promise never to commit me to cleaning anything else until I had a chance to see the place for myself, and he never did.
In fact, I have never told a living soul all the details that I've given in this little narrative. It's too crazy, too unbelievable. I've started, a few times, to talk about it with people I trust, but the idea of them thinking I'm crazy always stops me. I think about that house still, and wonder what the story was behind it, what was living in it, and what it might have done to the people who bought the house. Not very often, but sometimes, I dream about it.
I'd be interested to hear ideas and to open up a dialogue with folks about what they think and if there are any similar experiences out there I'd like to hear them. We're all anonymous strangers on the internet, after all, so where better to air our fantastic supernatural dirty laundry?
All are lunatics but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.
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