Thursday, September 27, 2007


I don't believe in ghosts. But this actually happened to me.

After my sophomore year of college, I decided it was time to move off-campus. So a buddy of mine and I were quite fortunate to find an awesome apartment located on the third floor of a 100-plus year old brownstone. It was in walking distance to everything, the building itself was gorgeous with real hardwood floors throughout, and we even had rooftop and balcony access.

The first two floors were occupied by a bookstore (from which we were renting the third floor from), so that after the bookstore closed at 5pm, my roommate and I were the only inhabitants of the building. This meant we could be as loud as we wanted and not have to worry about disturbing anybody living below us.

There were two ways into our apartment. One was through the back door, which was essentially a modified fire escape. The other was through the bookstore via the main stairwell in the middle of the building. The owners would lock this door to the main stairwell after closing time to keep us from running amok in the bookstore. This didn't bother us much considering we mostly used the back door to avoid the bookstore patrons anyway.

One night, as I sat at my desk studying into the wee hours of the morning, I heard footsteps directly below me, resonating up from the floor below. It was the sound of somebody wearing heavy boots walking on the hardwood floor. Except it didn't really sound like walking, more like stumbling.

Clump, clump... clump... clump, clump, clumpclumpclump.

I looked at the clock: 1:33AM. I stopped studying and sat there mulling things over a bit. Being that the bookstore was privately owned, it wasn't unusual to have the owners come back after closing time and to do inventory and other stuff. But I've never heard them rustling around this late at night. I listened quietly for a few minutes, but didn't hear anything else.

There was a chance someone might have broken into the bookstore to burglarize the place. So I grabbed a flashlight and went down to the door in the main stairwell, which had a small window, and looked into the bookstore.

Nothing. I shined my flashlight through the window and looked around the best I could. There were no signs of anything wrong. Everything looked like it was in order, the lights were off, and I didn't see anything.

Not satisfied, I then went out our back door, walked to the front of the building, and looked at the door to the bookstore. There were no signs of forced entry, the door was locked, and it was dark in the bookstore. Everything looked as right as rain.

Quite perplexed, but more worried about the chemistry exam I had to take in a few days, I decided to go back in the apartment and get back to studying. Once in the apartment, I looked through the main stairwell door window one more time, saw nothing, and then went back to my room.

But as much as I wanted to get back to studying, I couldn't get my mind off of trying to figure out who had been, or currently was, in the bookstore. As I was deep in thought, I heard the footsteps again.

Clump, clump... clump... clump, clump, clumpclumpclump.

Then silence.

I started to get up from my desk to go for a second look when it dawned on me that these footstep sounds were exactly identical in cadence and rhythm as what I heard the first time.

Then I realized that each time I heard the footsteps, they were going in the same direction: From the second floor balcony towards the center of the house. And that I never really heard the footsteps coming the other way.

What the hell was this burglar doing down there? Stumbling loudly from the balcony to the center of the house, and then tiptoeing around?

Then I realized something: Two weeks ago, the bookstore owners had the first and second floor carpeted.

The noises I heard were the sounds of someone walking on hardwood floors. No question about it. But how that could happen given that we now have carpet, I don't know. I decided that it was definitely too late and too bizarre for me to figure out, I must be hallucinating, and that it was definitely time for me to go to sleep. But not in this building.

So I grabbed a few things, and hiked on over to my cousin's apartment to crash on his couch.

C: [sleepily answering the rabid knocking on his door] What the hell are you doing here?

Me: [rushing past him] Never mind, I'll explain in the morning.

The next morning, once the sun was up and all the demons were hopefully back in hell, I went back to my apartment. I entered through the front door of the bookstore to find one of the owners straightening up the place.

Me: Debbie, were you guys in the bookstore last night?

Debbie No, why?

Me: Are you guys missing anything? Were there any signs of a break in?

Debbie: [beginning to look concerned] No... why?

As I started to explain the boot noises, Debbie's face goes from concerned to complete relief.

Debbie: [relieved] Oh, you heard the footsteps! Whew!

I stopped telling my story.

Debbie: Wow, you had me worried for a bit! Did the apartment get real cold by any chance?

So, apparently this had happened several times over the years. Debbie went on to tell me that the tenants will hear those footsteps, or get woken up by a persistent chill in the middle of the night. Usually this only happens about once or twice a year, and nobody is ever hurt, but several years ago the chills continued for days until the tenant just broke off the rental agreement and left.

Debbie: This place is haunted, didn't we tell you?

What?! Where the hell was that on the rental agreement?!