The Red House

This is a story my mother told us kids. I believe it to be true, as she has never faltered.

My mother grew up poor. My grandpa worked at the sewage plant, and my grandma was a lunch lady for the local school, and did laundry and cleaning in the summers.

They were extremely frugal, and were saving for a house of their own. In the mean time, they rented apartments in bad neighborhoods to save on rent.

One day, they saw an advertisement for a upper apartment, an older home split into a duplex. It was in a slightly nicer, safer area and was surprisingly affordable. My mom was about 2 years old, and my grandma was pregnant with her second child, and safer was what they needed.

They decided to move in.

My mom drove us past it a few years ago, now painted a bright sunny yellow. At the time they moved in, it was a rusty red. Barn red, as the paint was cheap.

The lower unit was vacant, which suited them just fine. After years of being packed like sardines in tiny apartments stacked on top of each other, it was nice and almost luxurious.

The trouble started a few weeks in. Windows would shut by themselves. Old houses can be unpredictable, they thought. But, sometimes the windows would also open by themselves, which was a bit harder to explain. It was summer, so they left the windows open most of the time.

Their next door neighbors started to complain about noises. “Why are you flushing the toilets and slamming things all day?” They asked.

My grandparents were stumped, as they both usually worked and my mom was at Nanna’s house during the day.

They assumed the lower unit was being rented and worked on. But, looking into the windows revealed no workers, no people, just dust.

Then then my mom started to have nightmares. Not the usual type- but terrors, screaming, and inconsolable. My grandma would rock her to sleep, and would sometimes fall asleep with my mom, her head against the wall and my mom in her crib. One night, she heard footsteps. Over and over. My mom woke up, stared at my grandma, and whispered “it’s here, it’s here!”. The sounds were coming from the back of the closet. My Grandma yelled for her husband.

Grandpa peeled back the wood panel behind the closet. There were a set of stairs from when the house was a single family home. The owners had boarded them over.

At my grandma’s request, grandpa grabbed a flashlight and looked around. There were no footprints in the thick dust, and no disturbances to the net of cobwebs.

He nailed the panel back, and sensibly suggested they all needed a bit more sleep.

My mom slept in their room for a few nights, but ultimately was put back to sleep in her own room.

The night she was put back was seared into her memory, to the point she has repeated it many times and never deviates.

She again heard the footsteps slowly coming up the stairs. She started to cry silently, and lay in her crib, pretending to be asleep as the footsteps drew closer.

She felt someone standing over her. Hoping it was one of her parents, she cracked on eye open. It was not Grandma or Grandpa.

My mom describes him as an old man. Not old like Nanna, but old like a mummy. Sallow skin, sunken cheeks, and long grey stringy hair.

He smiled at her. He had broken brown teeth, sharp and jagged. He was shirtless, and she could see his skin was ragged and thick, like a callus. He had impossibly long fingers, topped with thick, sharp yellow fingernails.

He reached into the crib.

At this point, my mom screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

Grandma and Grandpa finally stumbled into the room.

The next day, they started finding a different place to live immediately. While they searched, my mom slept every night in between her parents.

I asked once why they took my mom seriously. She said “they found me on the other side of the room, by the closet.”