Okay, this might get lost in the abyss, but I know that a lot of folks read these all month. Bear with me, this got a little long as I typed it out.

Let me preface this story with my level of belief in the paranormal. I want to believe, but I have to rule out all logical explanations. Most of the time when people experience the paranormal there is a logical explanation for it. I have experienced a number of things that I cannot explain, but am open to scientific explanations for. I don’t know if what I experience was a malevolent ghost or if it was demonic, but it certainly wasn’t anything I could easily explain away.
When I was almost 24 I moved into my first apartment after a spring semester living in a dorm as a non-traditional student. I had originally had plans to live with three friends, but one decided to live with her boyfriend, another was temperamental and was mad at me for some reason, and the third I hadn’t actually met because he was living abroad in Germany. Because I didn’t want to get stuck living in a dorm again, I pre-applied for an apartment and signed a lease, sight unseen. I did have a courtesy showing afterwards, but it didn’t matter- I already had the apartment. The property management employee met me at the building, but really had no clue what he was doing. He was clearly a maintenance guy who had been asked to show the apartment because he was in the area, they did not have their usual staff show me.

My apartment was upstairs so we creeped up the rickety stairs to the second floor, and I noted right away that everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, as if it had been abandoned for months. It had a simple layout- bathroom at the top of the stairs, bedroom to the right of that, kitchen and then living room. I did notice there were pennies in all of the rooms, too, but just figured that the previous tenants left in a hurry. In the main hallway there was a door to an attic. This attic was the size of the entire apartment, and I was stoked about having the extra space. The door had a latch that you could put a padlock on, which I found strange, but figured it had been used for the owner’s storage in the past and might not have always been accessible to the tenants.

The maintenance man opened the door to the attic and tried to flip the switch, but we quickly discovered that the utilities had been shut off (which the office later told me I had to deal with myself). He commented that my suspicion of the tenants leaving in a hurry was probably right, he mused that they probably had been evicted and that the management company never shut off utilities between tenants so they had been shut off by the utility company. It was a bright and sunny day, so we hadn’t needed to turn on the lights until this point, and decided that enough light was filtering into the attic to check it out. At the top of the stairs there is spray painted on the wall “BLOOD BEN BLOOD BEN”. I think I said out loud how creepy it was but figured I could just put a poster over it anyway. The maintenance guy responded with how the previous tenants smoked in the building (which I could clearly smell), and that there was a no smoking policy in their apartments. I told him that was fine, I don’t smoke. After that the maintenance guy showed me out and I got the keys to the apartment the next day from the office.

It was still the last week of classes, and I was really good friends with one of the older lunch ladies (S) at the university cafeteria. We were fast friends, and she really played the role of “the cool aunt’ to me while I was living in that college town. My mother always told me how important it is to make friends with people older than you, and I have always taken that to heart. So anyway, I went to dinner and of course S asked how my apartment showing went. Over my crappy cafeteria meal I told her all about it, the Blood Ben. After we speculated on what it meant, S offered to come cleanse the apartment for me the next day. So she came with her little dog, saged the apartment and said “Devil are you here? You have to get out!” and we giggled and she told me she thought the apartment suited me.

I really took ownership over my first place, excited to finally be on my own after what had felt like a “failure to launch” for my first five or so years of adulthood. Before I moved my things in I scrubbed the place down. I hung my Harry Potter posters over the Blood Ben in the attic, and collected all the pennies everywhere. As I was washing the windows, I found a necklace hanging from one of the front windows. It was an Eye of Horus. I decided to Google the significance, and learned that it was a symbol of protection and good health. I don’t know if I liked the meaning of it or just was too creeped out to take it down, but I really felt like I needed to leave it there.

As I made my way through the entire apartment on my cleaning spree, I found a wallet in a drawer in the kitchen. The coin purse part was filled with copper pennies and I realized that all of the pennies I had found were copper- they were not the newer shinier ones. Hmmm. I realized that the pennies were in two paces- the center of each room and in the corners of the rooms. I Googled this and discovered that the ones in the center of the rooms were for good luck, the ones in the corners were used to protect from ghosts and spirits. I kept looking through the wallet and found the card slots filled with business cards for a nearby county’s victim/witness office, several psychologists, a defense attorney, child protective services, things that lead me to believe that the person who lived in my apartment before me had experienced some violence, child custody issues, and probably mental health issues. Well, that really explained the need for protection! I shrugged it off and put the wallet back in the drawer. That night I moved everything I had locally from my dorm to my apartment, knowing my furniture and some other things would be brought by my family from three hours away over the weekend.

I laid down in my apartment for my first night, sleeping on the mattress pad from my dorm, watching The Office on my phone. I was exhausted after doing so much work on my own and happy to cozy in for the night. That’s when I heard it. Footsteps walking through the attic above me. I froze. I could hear blood rushing to my ears as panic coursed through me. I could hear my heart pounding unusually loud as I quickly scanned my brain for a logical explanation. I landed on one quickly- the man who lives in the other upstairs apartment has a finished attic that serves as a bedroom. I remembered this from the online listing, which showed pictures from all four apartments in the four-plex. He must be walking around his bedroom and the sound must just be carrying across the empty wood-floor attic since there is nothing to absorb the sound in my half! It was a good enough answer to me for the night, I rolled onto my side and fell asleep to the sounds of Jim and Dwight and Michael Scott.

I didn’t yet have pots and pans, so the next morning I microwaved some food for breakfast. As I was waiting for the timer to count down, I looked on the top of my cupboards and noticed something else left by the previous tenants. It was really inconspicuous, there was no surprise that I missed it yesterday or during my tour. I climbed up on the counter and pulled it down. In my hands was a 2-quart mason jar filled with stuff, and nothing cutesy. There was needles and pins and rusty bent nails. Broken glass. Something that looked like rotted meat. Some herbs. And it was filled up with some mystery liquid. My stomach dropped and for some reason “Witch Bottle” came to mind. Now I love spooky and paranormal and shows like the X-Files, but I promise you that I had never heard of a witch bottle before. I have never dabbled in witchcraft, besides trying (and failing) to play Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board in Girl Scouts. So I pulled out my phone and typed it into Google and found some old geocities page with neon colors on a black background that explained to me that it was probably filled with urine and possibly menstrual blood and was created to protect its creator from negative psychic energy. Uh, FUCK. THAT. I marched downstairs, to the back alley, and dumped that thing in the trash. I was a little concerned about inviting some bad juju from getting rid of it, but decided that since it was made to protect someone who abandoned it, I was safe. Plus I wasn’t even sure I believed in bad juju.

Over the next few months I was able to get all my furniture added into my new apartment, I got a cat, and I really made the place my home. Since that attic door made my heart pound every time I walked by it, I decorated the door with a bunch of old Harry Potter magazine clippings and what not. I put a padlock on it because I kept hearing those footsteps. Maybe the guy nextdoor could get INTO my attic? There was an old door between the two, maybe I hadn’t examined it very closely and it could be used. I wasn’t going to let an intruder come get me in the night, so a padlock on that attic seemed good enough. In spite of the attic, my apartment had a lot of light and had good atmosphere, so I was happy with it. I worked hard that summer, I was the poorest I’ve ever been, but I was happy microwaving cheddarwursts and eating grilled pb&js so that I could spend a little money drinking rail gin and tonics with my friends at the local bars.

Fall started, I was better fed since S would sneak me into the cafeteria on campus for free, and I got involved with activities at school. I lived close enough to campus that I could easily drop by and change before work, or spend a little time snuggling my cat before an evening of student government meetings. The town I lived in is on the head of Lake Superior, and I relished being in such a beautiful place with such crappy weather. I had been living in my apartment for 5 months in late October, and this particular day we were facing very strong winds. It’s not uncommon in that area, in fact Gordon Lightfoot talks about it in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” when she ship sank because the “gales of November” came early (which is happening earlier every year, thank you climate change). These winds rattled the windows, blew your car door shut when you tried to open it, you know the type of winds you expect with a storm on a seafront. I got to the top of the stairs and rounded the corner and my attic door was wide open. My heart was in my throat, my stomach dropped out of my butt, I had that head rush of panic. I frantically packed an overnight bag and some supplies for the cat and- wait! Where was my kitty? Oh, I could hear him RUNNING AROUND IN THE ATTIC. Luckily he came when he was called, I scooped him up, and I got the fuck out of there. I sped off to campus to tell S, who was working the dinner shift at the caf.

S was convinced that the door opened because of the wind- there must be a draft in the attic that caused the door to open! I couldn’t be consoled, the door had a padlock on it and that lock was still locked on the ring. Someone either came into my apartment to unlock it, or… I had no other explanation. Except maybe Blood Ben? Ha, those things don’t really happen. It was agreed that I would spend the night on S’s couch and, since night had fallen, we would together check out my apartment come daylight.

The next morning S and I brought my kitty back to my apartment and looked around. The atmosphere had significantly changed in the place. When before my apartment had held all kind of light and felt warm and cozy, suddenly it felt shadowy and cold. The door was still open, so we unlocked the padlock and re-locked the door shut. S was convinced that I must have messed with the lock and not remembered, but she might have just been saying that to comfort me. She didn’t visit my apartment again. I brushed off the atmospheric change to the fact that it was fall, I had to keep living in the place for another 7 months, so I just convinced myself that the changes weren’t there.

After that I started waking in the night. I have experienced sleep paralysis before, but what I started experiencing couldn’t be that. I would wake up and feel an energy in the doorway, like I could see the outline of a large figure, but there was nothing there. I would wake up and stare at it, trying to see the figure that I knew was there. I could move, I would often roll onto my side and stare at it over my shoulder. Sometimes I would wake up to the sound of my cat playing with his jingleballs rolling down the hall or bouncing down the stairs. I would audibly tell him to stop playing, and then feel him in the bed- he wasn’t pushing the jingleballs around, he was asleep next to me. I would tell myself there must be a draft and force myself to sleep. I would sometimes feel this energy staring at me from the hallway when I was in the living room. I started cutting through the kitchen to get to the living room so I didn’t have to walk by the attic door- the Harry Potter decorations were no longer helping ease my anxiety. If I needed to put something in my attic for storage, I would have a friend come over and do it. I could sense something sinister staring at me from the attic when I walked out to my car parked on the street in front of the building. I would look over my shoulder at my building and I would be surprised NOT to see a face in the attic window. Was I going crazy? I had lived in this apartment for 5 months without any issues, and all of the sudden I was filled with anxiety anytime I needed to go home. I got another kitty to keep mine entertained, and I returned home as little as I could, usually only to sleep and shower.

Because of my anxiety in my apartment, I often spent my time on campus or at friends’ houses. But one night three friends decided to come over so we could watch a Youtube series together on my AppleTV. We all watched a couple episodes and were having a good time. They wanted to go outside for a cigarette but commented about how -30 temperature was too cold for it. Feeling emboldened by a few beers, I offered my attic. The previous tenants smoked in there, it still smelled like smoke up there, and besides… these guys didn’t believe in my ghost! We climbed the stairs, and when we hit the top stair one of the guys said “We have to get out. Now. We can’t be here.” Great. This was comforting.

When we all got back to my living room, he told me about how when he hit the top stair he instantly felt that there was something that hated him deeply. He babbled on about needed to ground himself to a tree, that he didn’t believe in magic, but his mother told him that if he ever felt unsafe he should imagine himself attached somehow to a tree. I didn’t really listen that closely to him explaining that tree stuff, I was preoccupied that my “ghost” was confirmed by someone else. The three of them left shortly after and I was left alone with my kitties and my ghost.

After another seven or eight months in the apartment, I was able to secure another living situation. It wasn’t ideal, being the only girl in a house with four college-aged guys, but it wouldn’t be haunted and it would cost a lot less to split rent. I scrubbed out the place, moved everything on my own, and saved the little bit of storage in my attic for last. I got one of my new roommates and a friend who claimed to be “sensitive” to spirits come over to help me. This sensitive friend had wanted to come to my apartment before, but after the instance with the three friends needing to leave the attic, I didn’t want anything to get stirred up. The three of us hauled everything out, and I told that last friend that he could spend some time in the attic but he needed to lock the apartment behind him- I was going to drop off the keys. I said goodbye and went to my new home, leaving the Eye of Horus and wallet of pennies where I had found them.

The sensitive friend messaged me a few hours later. There was a doorway between the attics. It was sealed. But it was covered in chalk writings in Latin. He didn’t tell me what it said, but that the door was used as some portal. And that there was one violent spirit in that attic… and he wanted me. Things likely would have escalated if I had stayed, he reckoned that I got out just in time. For the remaining four years I lived in that town, I avoided that street. The handful of times I had to drive by that building I felt that same energy in the attic, staring me down from the window as I drove by.