I lived in a series of houses and apartments that could have each claimed to be a horror movie set. Once with my best friend, I was the caretaker for an abandoned house. We slept in sleeping bags next to space heaters and tried to ignore the walls which were all painted in bright colors and then smeared in other colors like a blown-up version of a first grade art show. After that, I lived with my boyfriend in a depressed apartment on a drug-infested street. One morning we woke up to Animal Control blocking our truck in, turns out our neighbor had an pet alligator in his basement. I’ve lived in cockroach motels in New York City, and now own of an old Victorian with five ornate fireplaces and three flights of creaky wooden stairs. I should have a ton of creepy stories for all these locations, but I don’t. They were all just places. In fact, in all my life there was only one house where I experienced unexplained things, only one place where I remember feeling scared out of no where and for no reason, where awful and sad things happened, and that was the house I moved into when I was ten.

I can’t remember if we had just gotten the key, or if we were still waiting to finalize the closing paperwork, but I do remember driving to that house to check it out with my brothers and my mom, knowing this was going to be our new house. I remember driving down the bumpy, windy road to get to it. I remember turning into the long shared driveway, past the first house and a little deeper into the woods, and then watching the sky darken as dozens and dozens of crows all took to the sky at the sound of our car pulling up. I remember locking eyes with my mom because neither of us had ever seen that many crows and we both knew it was a movie-perfect bad omen that neither one of us wanted to take seriously. That was the first thing.

The moving in went fine, but shortly after we got there, my parents found out that they were building a cemetery behind our house. My parents weren’t afraid of the cemetery. They were mad because they liked the privacy of the lot. Our driveway was to be extended to serve as the road to the cemetery. There’d be traffic. It wouldn’t be secluded. My parents felt duped. In the end, other than one awful summer’s day when I was out sunbathing in practically nothing as a long, LONG funeral procession eased slowly by, the cemetery wasn’t much of an issue. It connected with a much older cemetery a few houses down to the left of us, forming an L. Our house was in the nook. It mostly meant I had a quiet place to hang by myself, think deep thoughts, and smoke cigarettes. I grew up watching it be built and noting each new headstone. I played my guitar back there, and for a while we all set our clocks by the guy in the blue van who would drive up at three in the afternoon and scream at his father’s headstone for a while and then turn around and drive away. But that’s what I remember about moving in, picking the paint for my room and my mom and dad being mad about the cemetery going in.

The first few years living there we all had our own unsettling moments. When I turned the lights off every night to go to sleep, the hallway light that my mom always left on tore a line under the door that never went the whole way. The corner was always dark. Like something was sitting there. I checked it so many times in the daytime. The floor must have just been uneven. I could never quite get a convincing read one way or the other. My youngest brother, very little at the time, swore he watched a piece of his lamp separate, rotate slowly in the air and then set down. He was probably having a dream, but still to this day he swears it happened. My mom heard little kid footsteps in footie pajamas scamper across the linoleum kitchen floor. She ran downstairs to find us all soundly asleep. Probably an auditory hallucination. As an adult sometimes I think I hear my kid whisper “mom” in my ear at night but I’m really just imagining it.

It took years of these happenings – spooky, but excusable, good enough for a story, but not for a haunting – before a pattern began to emerge. All of these things were happening in the same small circle of the house. The kitchen in that house was a rectangle, one end butting out into a tiny hallway just big enough to hold the doors to a bathroom, my youngest brother’s room, my room, and the basement. I remember realizing that if you drew a circle around that end of the kitchen, almost story took place within it, and if you grew that circle just a little bit more to encompass a little more of the kitchen, and if you thought of it as less of a flat circle and more of a sphere, a bubble that at its highest and lowest points reached down into a small pocket of the basement and up into a tiny patch of my middle brother’s bedroom, it accounted for every single happening. Entire big chunks of my house were boring, duds, told no stories. That bubble told them all.

It was in that kitchen that I discovered my phantosmia. Phantosmia is smelling phantom smells. It happens to me now and then and I still think of it as just a quirk, but it was in that kitchen that I would suddenly be hit with a powerful scent of roses. It was in that kitchen that we stood as a family – my mom, my brothers, and I – leisurely eating breakfast and getting ready one winter morning. It had snowed the night before, school was delayed, and my mom pulled back the curtains to the kitchen door to reveal footprints in the snow walking right up to our kitchen door. They came from back in the woods, beyond which was only the cemetery, they led through the yard, to our covered porch, right up to the door, and there they stopped. The door was locked. There were no signs of entry. There were no snowy shoeprints inside. Just the footprints that came up, and none that walked away. I saw it. My mom saw it. We all saw it. It was just like the crows. We all looked at each other, laughed at our uneasiness, and then went about our day. Years later, I wonder why we didn’t tear the house apart looking for an intruder, but like I said the door was fine and when I ask my mom about it now, she just says she knew that wasn’t what it was. I find myself wondering if it would be scarier if something was coming in or leaving.

At the epicenter of the whole bubble in the part of the kitchen that narrows to the little hallway is the basement door. I spent a lot of time playing in the basement. The basement never bothered me. But the stairs still do. I don’t think there has ever been a time since we lived there including my entire adult life that I walked down those stairs without the overwhelming, screaming feeling that I was about to be pushed. The feeling is so loud. So distinct. I am going to be pushed. I am going to fall to the bottom. I am going to die at the bottom. Everyone will think I tripped, but I will have been pushed. I can’t think of many other feelings that strong, none that are so unwarranted and repetitive. As a grown adult, it surprises me every time.

All of the most terrible things that ever happened to our family happened there in that bubble. My brother lost himself to a drug addiction for years hunkering down within that bubble. His girlfriend tried to kill herself within that bubble. Who knows if these things mean anything? Once my brother got better, my dad got sick. He fell and died right there in that bubble. A month later, our cat died in the exact same spot.

After that, things got more intense according to my mother and middle brother who were the only ones still living in the house. My brother describes a time when he came home to find the kitchen cabinet doors open and cups and glasses neatly on the floor as if they were placed there, my mom, a time she opened the pantry to find all the cans which they neatly placed labels-front turned around. Once both my brothers set up a recorder and pushed record as the family left the house for the evening. You can hear the family leave. They all leave together. Then you hear the silverware rustling. I’ve never heard the tape. It still seems possible that exhausted and grieving, they dreamt or hallucinated this stuff. It still all happened in the kitchen.

Years later, I would park my RV in the driveway in the summers so my kids and I could visit. My husband would come when he wasn’t working. He was making coffee on the stove in the kitchen. The stove is right next to the basement door, the epicenter. I was in the RV cleaning. He ran out of the house screaming, asking if I’d been in the kitchen. He felt something come up behind him. When he spun around, of course, there was nothing there. In the thirteen years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him half as terrified as he was that day. That’s when I told him about the bubble.

The summer following that one I had what will probably be the most unexplained, confusing experience of my life. My husband was away working and I was living with the kids in the RV again. I walked out to the driveway to call him and catch up. As the phone was ringing, I turned to face the house and suddenly a black spot caught my attention rising from behind my house. In the same general location as all these happenings was, well, an actual black bubble. (I shit you not.) A UFO? An orb? I really don’t know what to call it because any noun seems to imply some definition and I do not know how to define what I saw. What appeared to be a perfect black circle bobbed up from behind the house sort of swishing higher up and away from me. My first thought was that it was a blind spot happening in my visual processing. I remember hearing about someone who hit their head and then had a black spot in their vision until their brain learned to correct it. I moved my eyes all around, but the spot stayed where it was. It acted like a balloon or a bubble, the way it bobbed and bounced and floated through the air so the rest of the time I watched it, I was just looking for confirmation that it was a balloon. But it wasn’t. First of all, it was a perfect circle, an uncomfortably, unnaturally perfect circle. Second of all, it was so black, paint black, cartoon black, a void. The object was moving almost due North on a bright afternoon in summer. There was nothing that could have silhouetted it like that. Neither the color nor shape changed at all even as it moved from low and close to me to high up and farther away. Finally, when I lost sight of it, it moved behind some trees back towards the old cemetery. There was nothing to gauge its size before that point but when it moved behind the trees, I could see that it was much bigger than your average Mylar balloon. I still don’t know what I saw. I found a Youtube video from Russia that shows two guys looking at a black ball that moved in the same weird bouncing way. My stomach dropped when I saw that because it was so close to what I saw. That’s what happens if you search black circle UFO. If you search black orb, you get a lot of articles explaining that black orbs are connected to severe negative emotions or evil. I’ve tried a million times to find a more grounded explanation to no avail. The whole experience was so outside the ordinary. I have been endlessly grateful that it happened while I was on the phone with my husband, that even if someone wasn’t there to see it with me, at least he heard me saying “oh my God” into the phone several thousand times. At least I know I didn’t dream it. The experience wasn’t scary. If anything, it felt magical. It wasn’t until much later, really until I hit the black orb search that had paragraph after paragraph on evil and negative energy that I thought about where I had seen it, where it had emanated from, and then my stomach dropped again.

I don’t know what any of this means. I have a really hard time accepting a supernatural answer. It just isn’t who I am. I read stories like this one and tick off explanations for each item. I write off those people as at the very least too imaginative, too willing to accept their senses and believe their memories infallible. And then I think about the house now. My dad is buried in the nearby cemetery. Despite us wanting to sell the house for years, somehow it is still sitting there getting older, abandoned, but without a “for sale” in the yard. Black mold from the basement has crept up into the rest of the house. When my youngest brother texted me about how far the mold had penetrated into the house, he used the word “selective.” I’m sure you can guess the locations.