I’ve got one I call “Old Gray Thing” that I always forget to post. It was a paranormal encounter but I’m still not sure what exactly it was, and I’ve always been curious if anyone else has seen one too. I’m doxxing myself if anyone I know reads this, but here goes nothing...

I lost my home and job in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I returned to New Orleans a month later to salvage my possessions and found a job doing disaster relief for FEMA. Since 80% of the city’s housing was destroyed, it was nearly impossible to find a safe, clean and affordable place to live. After sleeping in my car and on friends’ couches for several weeks, I found a furnished studio apartment in the French Quarter at a surprisingly low price. It was filthy, infested with roaches and had creepy art all over the walls, but it was my only housing option so I rolled up my sleeves, enthusiastically cleaned and repainted and moved in.

Everything was fine until around Thanksgiving, when someone delivered flowers to the apartment. The card read “Dear (man’s name), Rest in Peace. Love, your Family.” I figured someone had delivered them to the wrong address, but they looked pretty so I took them inside and put them in a vase. I later told one of my neighbors about the odd delivery and he went pale and said “oh no, you weren’t supposed to take those inside.” He then informed me that a very depressed, alcoholic young man had lived there a year ago and hung himself one night in the apartment. The ceiling didn’t have enough drop room to break his neck, so he slowly strangled. The neighbors heard him choking and kicking the wall in agony and eventually broke down the door and called 911, but it was too late. His windpipe was crushed and he died in the apartment. After that the new tenants complained of paranormal activity, and no one stayed more than a month or two. They all broke lease and left abruptly, usually leaving all their possessions behind (which is why I got it cheap and furnished!) His parents believed his spirit was still there and regularly delivered flowers or gifts to the home, but the neighbors had agreed never to take them inside since it seemed to make the activity worse. Would’ve been nice to get that memo, but okay!

After that I also began to experience paranormal activity. I woke up hearing a loud, rhythmic thumping noise in the walls at the same time every night - right where he’d hung himself. All flowers and plants withered and died within a few hours of bringing them inside the apartment. Objects would move on their own, and anything I hung on the walls would somehow unscrew itself and crash to the floor. Some nights the bead curtain between the kitchenette and the main room would move on its own, like someone was walking through. It was creepy, but I decided to endure it since I had nowhere else to live. I’m superstitious but I’m also a pragmatist! And I felt sorry for the young man, who died a horrible lonely death and whose spirit was now trapped within the walls. I would often speak out loud to him, read the notes his family sent to the house, and basically try to befriend him. The neighbors told me he probably enjoyed having a friendly young woman his own age around. I even created a small altar for him with objects I thought would bring him comfort. This all turned out to be a big mistake.

The bizarre activity continued to escalate over months, and I became more and more depressed. It wasn’t just the apartment. I was working long hours, the city was beyond fucked up and my disaster relief job was traumatic. Everything culminated in a visit from an old friend - a self-described skeptic and atheist - in the spring of 2006. After one night in my apartment, he moved into a hotel and said “you shouldn’t stay in that place anymore, there’s something bad there.” A few days later I was assigned to a nursing home to help the residents process their disaster relief applications. An elderly lady I was working with suddenly stopped and said “God is giving me a word for you, young lady. You’re in danger right now. If you stay where you are any longer, you’ll die.” By that point I was thoroughly freaked out. I called my landlord and told her I appreciated the cheap place, but I had to move out. She said “I’m not surprised.” I arranged to move in with a friend until I could find a new place.

Once I began packing up, the paranormal activity escalated violently. The thumping got louder to the point where I couldn’t sleep. I also began to experience sleep paralysis. One night I woke up around the same time the thumping usually started, but the room was dead quiet. The bead curtain started moving again, but this time something came through. It was vaguely human-shaped, but it wasn’t human. Its body was gray and faded out, like television static or smoke. It had no hands, feet or face. It moved in an unsettling way, shuffling and stooped and jerky, like something very old struggling to walk. I laid there frozen in fear as it moved slowly across the room, eventually standing by the bed behind my head, and leaned over until it loomed inches from my face. It let out a strange high-pitched screech, and then whispered something softly. I can’t remember what it said - something intended to be comforting like “don’t worry, baby” - but as it breathed into my ear a wave of cold, dark, clammy dread washed over my body. It was the worst sensation I’ve ever felt in my life. All I can describe it as is a feeling of suicide. Of dying alone in darkness and terror with no comfort. Then it faded into the wall and disappeared.

I jumped out of bed, turned all the lights on and spent the rest of the night frantically packing and throwing things into my car. I was out by morning and slept at my friend’s house that night. Early the next morning I woke up on her couch with sleep paralysis. There was a doorway in her wall that shouldn’t be there (it turned out there had once been a physical doorway there, but it had been plastered over into the wall.) The old gray thing came through again, creeping into the room with the same weird jerking movements. It leaned over me again, until it was lying completely on top of me - whispering gentle nonsense in my ear, infecting my entire body with foul, creeping dread. Then it left and the doorway disappeared again. My friend woke up shortly afterward and said she’d had horrible nightmares all night. I threw away every object I owned associated with the apartment and called my mother, a deeply religious woman. “I think a ghost followed me from my old place” I said, and told her everything that had happened. She was alarmed. “That’s not a human spirit,” she said. “That’s something else, pretending to be one.” She sent me to her priest for a blessing. I saw it a few times after that, but it eventually faded away. It seemed to lose power over me the longer I stayed outside the haunted apartment. Years passed, and eventually I never saw it again. I still own one object from that apartment though - an artwork that was hanging on the wall when I moved in, that I haven’t been able to part with. It reminds me of that stressful time, of everything I went through and survived. It’s an abstract print of a light-colored piece of textile twisting across a black background. It’s vaguely human-shaped, but it isn’t human.