The Footsteps on the Stairs

Each night, the footsteps were the same; deliberate and heavy. The
sound would slice into my hazy dreams, and I’d drift helplessly back into the
world. My eyes would start to focus, gradually taking in the shadows lurking in my room.
In the corner, my dresser would morph into a dark shape of some menacing,
faceless monster, crouched and ready to pounce. A creeping,
gnawing feeling of being stripped bare, vulnerable and exposed, would begin to
crawl up my spine and seep into my thoughts. A shaft of pale
moonlight would stream through the gingham curtains of my
bedroom’s narrow windows, illuminating them like a pair of glowing pink eyes. Night after night, I would slowly pull my crocheted afghan up to my ears and wait to hear it again.

If my breathing was still enough, maybe I wouldn’t.

Thwick, thwick. Thwick, thwick. Thwick, Thwick.

I knew the sounds weren’t of this earth. Incredibly, the noises
seemed to be oozing and dripping with every step. Some nights, I imagined the
footsteps were of a slimy creature from the murky depths of the ocean. I was
convinced a giant menacing octopus was mucking across my grandmother’s pea green
kitchen linoleum and heading straight for my bedroom door. Yet as soon as I
would hear them, they would disappear again, melting into the symphony of the
crickets softly chirping outside my window.

But this night was different.

Thwick, thwick. Thwick, thwick, thwick, thwick–

The footsteps hesitated. The door to the basement, right
outside my bedroom, slowly opened, producing a
high-pitched screech that sent a lightning bolt of panic down my back. The warm
lump at the foot of my bed began to move. My dog raised her head, nose
twitching, as she cocked one ear toward the sound. Peeking through the delicate
holes in the afghan, I noticed the moonlight sparkling, tiny diamonds dancing in her brown eyes. I drew in a sharp breath then slowly let it back out, producing a feeling of
comforting warmth inside my little cocoon.

Suddenly, she heaved herself off my canopy bed and landed on the
pink rug below, sending herself sliding across the hardwood floor. She
scrambled back up, her nails clicking on the wood, and leaped toward the
bedroom door. Her tail wagged furiously as she looked up at the ceiling, ready
to greet this nightly visitor. Or thing.

The squishy steps resumed and I held my breath as I heard them going
down into the basement, each stair creaking under their weight. I threw off the
covers and glanced at the clock by my bed. 2:30 the bright red display flashed,
taunting me. The terror of a possible burglar in our home seized my racing
mind as the back of my neck turned to ice. I jumped out of my bed and stood frozen in the bone white moonlight.

The crickets were silent. My dog began to whine at the ceiling.

“Shh!” I hissed through clenched teeth. I tiptoed barefoot toward the
door and peered through the crack.

The kitchen was empty. I held my breath as I took one step onto the cold linoleum. In response, the footsteps on the stairs abruptly stopped, leaving me to listen to the refrigerator’s low hum. The light above the stove flickered. My dog
was now at the top of the basement steps, tail wagging in slow circles as she
peered down into the darkness. She gently barked and the tags on her collar jingled,
startling me out of my reverie.

I knew I had to look.

I rested my shaking hand on my dog’s head. “What’s down
there, girl?” I whispered.

The dusty basement steps didn’t answer.

Closing my eyes, I reached into the shadows to find the light switch. With a loud click,
I heard the faint crackle and buzz of the bare light bulb hanging at the foot
of the stairs.  Electricity surged through every cell of my body. The hair on my neck prickled as my eyes adjusted to the bright yellow light.  I crept halfway down the steps, scanning the dirty cement floor. The walls were thick with shadows and cobwebs. The washer and dryer sat silently in the corner, dirty laundry still waiting in a pile in the basket. My dog sat down at the foot of the steps, looked up at the ceiling and whimpered.

The next morning, I sat at the kitchen table, bleary-eyed from
the night before. My mother placed a carton of orange juice in front of me and
turned back to the pancakes browning on the stove.

“Hey, did you leave the basement light on last night?”
she asked over her shoulder, stacking the pancakes onto a plate.

“Yeah, sorry,” I mumbled. I gulped some orange
juice and looked down at my dog, curled up at my feet. She raised her head and
seemed to look right through me with her liquid brown eyes. I nervously twirled
my hair around my fingers.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I ask you something? And promise me you won’t think I’m
crazy.”

“Well, I’ll try,” she laughed. “What’s up?”
she asked, sitting down across from me.

“Is this house haunted? I mean, have you ever heard a ghost
here? Or sounds?”

“Why do you ask?” My mother’s eyebrows arched and she sipped
her coffee.

“I heard something. Well, every night I hear something.
Footsteps–going downstairs into the basement. And they sound, oh I don’t
know…they sound almost squishy or wet. I know, I know.  It’s crazy.” I sighed and picked at the pancakes in front of me.

“Oh!” My mother laughed. “That’s just your
grandfather,” she said and waved her hand at me. He’s probably just come
back from fishing. I hear him sometimes, too.”

My grandfather grew up loving the great outdoors. He often spent
his time hunting and fishing, never passing up a chance to go camping. When my
mother was a little girl, she remembers her dad happily coming home after another
weekend fishing trip up in the dense forest of northern Maine. He’d stroll into
the kitchen with his catch, kiss my grandmother on the cheek and hand the fish
over to be cleaned for that night’s supper. Then he’d walk down into the
basement in his muddy hunting boots to put away his fishing gear and tackle box. For
my mom, these were some of her warmest memories of her father.

He died at the age of 53, long before I was born.

The following night after the conversation at breakfast, I heard the familiar steps again. I smiled and looked up at the ceiling. “Hi, Grandpa. I can hear you, you know,” I whispered.
“Did you catch some fish again?” I added, giggling, unsure of why I
was talking to the air. Almost expecting an answer, I listened, holding my
breath.

The footsteps stopped.  The crickets’ chirping grew louder, and I knew the night would hold onto the secrets of this world a little longer. The soothing glow of the pale moonlight enveloped me once again as I stroked my dog’s silky ears and sighed. Looking into her eyes, I felt she knew these secrets well.

I never heard the footsteps again.

__________________________________________

 

Thanks for reading.

Happy Halloween to all of my blogging friends and readers!

I want to thank you all for your support and kindness with your positive comments.

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60 thoughts on “The Footsteps on the Stairs

  1. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words) says:

    Fabulous and creepy. I’m going to link this to my post today, as they are related. It’s kind of sad that you never heard the footsteps again, unless he was just looking for your acknowledgment to move on.

    Great writing!
    Lisa

    1. I like to think he was waiting for me to say hello to him. It is sad I never knew either of my grandfathers. This grandfather died in the room I had my bedroom in. (I only had that bedroom a short time thankfully! too scary for a girl of 10) The house I grew up in was over 100 years old and there are countless ghost stories to be told. That place was truly haunted. I eventually got used to all the odd noises and stuff. Sadly it’s no longer there, L.L. Bean’s hunting department is though.
      Thanks for the link, Lisa!

      1. “Sadly it’s no longer there, L.L. Bean’s hunting department is though.”

        Ahhh, no wonder I get so creeped out whenever we’re there! I always thought it was the large selection of hunting equipment, but now I KNOW!

        😉

      2. Ha, Christy! Well, uh…I think it’s probably more due to the creepy hunting stuff at Bean’s. The stuffed moose above the fireplace on the second floor there always gives me the heebie jeebies.

  2. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I’d welcome the ghosts of my past beloved friends. Really. It’s keeping them close to my heart, without seeing or hearing them, that’s so difficult. But I pretend they’re in my home and it’s a little bit comforting.

    1. Absolutely, SDS. I would welcome ghosts from my past relatives. It does give my heart some peace. I do talk to my dad still to this day (he passed away 20 years ago) and even ask him to send me little signs to let me know he’s around.

  3. Great story! And sounds like you have fond memories of your grandfather. Like you both of my grandfathers died very young and I never knew them. Regarding our house supposedly its haunted but we’ve never experienced anything so I figure were okay. Thanks for sharing this, the story opening was fabulous and had me hooked!

    1. Good to see you, BRC! That’s right, I remember the post about your old house, that was excellent. My childhood home had so many ghosts and spooky stories, it was hard just to pick one. Thanks for the comments, I really admire your blog and writing style so I appreciate them.

  4. *clapclapclapclapclapclap*
    Excellent, Darla! Based on your response to the comments, this is a true story? Awesome!
    I admire your ability and dedication to writing something like this – filled so richly with details. Writing stories like this one makes me tired – I have a hard time maintaining the effort to be descriptive, etc. You make it seem easy, though I don’t think it is easy.

    Well done, my friend. Well done!

    1. Yes, all true, Lenore. My mom and my grandmother had experienced so many ghosts in their lives, it was like a normal thing to our family. I admit to being scared sometimes, of course, but really the paranormal is something I am very familiar with at this point in my life. My dad gives me signs all the time that he’s around. I will write a post about that very soon.

      Thanks for such supportive comments, Lenore. Writing about my own personal experiences like this is much more time-consuming for me and I am always rereading it and finding things I need to edit. Sigh. Such is the life of a writer. Which I am. A writer. I guess. Now I need the confidence to say that out loud, right?!

  5. Reeled me right in- hook, line, and sinker!! So scarily descriptive that I was almost too afraid to read on (I don’t do well with scary stuff). And how absolutely cool to hear your grandfather! Had my grandmother chime in to a reading I was receiving from a woman I know- relating to and giving advice to help my little man.

    This piece definitely has the ring of being inspired. Well written.

    1. Well, I am happy you continued to read, Sue. I love scary stories (Stephen King is one of my favorite authors) How incredible to have your grandmother give you advice! Have you written a post about that yet? I bet she is watching over you and her grandson. I had a vivid reading years ago (my very first one) and she contacted my father and proceeded to tell me extremely detailed things about him and me that no one would ever know, so I was convinced he’s around.

  6. John Erickson says:

    I was worried up until your dog wagged her tail. They know so much, so much more than we do. At that point, it had to be a friendly but lost soul.
    “I can hear you now.” And with that, he knew you would remember him, and moved on. 🙂

    1. Exactly, John. If my dog had growled, I would have run screaming into my parent’s room! My dog, Princess, was always seeing things in that house that I couldn’t. She was my protector though, so I felt safe with her by my side. I do believe that people that have passed sometimes do just want to know that we recognize that they are there, or that we’re still thinking of them. I just wish I had known him in this life.

  7. Hi,
    A great story, I really enjoyed the read, I thought for sure you were going to get an answer back. 🙂 I just noticed your last post was Freshly Pressed Congrats.

    1. I love that comment! Kind of fitting, isn’t it? He worked for L.L. Bean, he was his accountant back in the day. This is why camping was his life. I grew up right next door to Bean’s so I suppose it was inevitable that done day they would build on top of my old childhood home.

  8. I love this story – it’s so timely. My great-grandfather had a wooden leg and his house stood empty on the hill above my grandparents’ house. The leg didn’t accompany him to the grave, so it played havoc alone by itself in that lonely old house. Usually it was one of the cousins who slipped through an upstairs window to terrorize the rest of us, but we were sufficiently frightened to make it back to grandma’s in record time! Will read more of your posts!

    1. Now that sounds like a ghost story just waiting to be told, writingfeemail! Typical of a cousin to scare you like that, isn’t it. I’m happy you enjoyed my story and I hope you stick around.

  9. Awesome story! I’m not one for gorey stories, but I love ghostly stories or stories that leave a little to your imagination. Very well written, I’m sure much better than my “Spooktacular” story that I just wrote. I called it my version of “Tales From the Crypt” I was feeling inspired by a couple of photographs that I posted with my story. I will be checking back to see what else you have up your sleeve 😉

    1. I will have to check out your spooky story. I have lots of others to tell. Helps that I grew up in such an old house where several generations of my family lived over the years. Back then, a few things did creep me out, but I’ve learned to appreciate them and to know my loved ones are still around and their presence can be felt.

      1. Till I was about 12 we lived in an old farmhouse..this place had the creepy affect and there are quite a few tales I remember. You are an inspiration..I’m going to have to dig into my past and think of some of the experiences that I had in that old house.. I to can appretiate that old house now and all that came with it..

  10. Congratulations on telling your true story, so beautifully. I practice with the true ones this way, too. My “ghost” story will be harder to tell well, because it doesn’t have much in the way of an arc, especially not a beautiful one like yours. I like yours much better. I’m glad you shared it with us.

    1. Thank you so much, Sparks. I don’t think I appreciated my experience as much at the time. Now that I’m older and more interested in life and death, I am grateful I had these ghostly experiences growing up. It truly has influenced my view on death in general. I will look forward to reading your ghost story.

  11. Lovely! Spooky and lovely! I don’t think I would have had the courage to come out from underneath the afghan, even with my trusty dog at my side – you’re pretty brave.

  12. How awesome this was to read! I’ve only experienced what I believe to be the paranormal once in my life that I’m aware of, but I was also with what I’d call an “paranormal” guy at the time who always thought spirits were out to get him, ha, ha… To experience this through a fabulous storytelling was perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit, and I just decorated my house last night, too. Wonderful!

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed it and it helped get you in the Halloween spirit. I never thought spirits were out to get me (thank god) but I’ve had paranormal experiences since I can remember, so it’s pretty normal stuff for me.

  13. Hi! I love this story! I believe in ghosts. In fact when my Dad died he visited his office a few hours after he died. Some of the people at the office who didn’t realize that he had passed away even talked to him. He was already gone physically.

    Maybe your Grandfather and my Dad might be sharing the same heaven!

    Cheers,
    Louise

    1. Louise, I have no doubt they are sharing the same heaven. I enjoyed reading about your dad and loved to see the old pictures of him. He sounds like he was a special man, so I’m certain he’s around you all the time.

      The story of your dad visiting his office is amazing. Both my mother and I have seen my late father after he passed and no one can convince me otherwise.It’s something you have to experience firsthand of course to be convinced.

  14. Great writing, Darla. I especially like the part when you turn on the basement light: “I heard the faint crackle and buzz of the bare light bulb hanging at the foot of the stairs. Electricity surged through every cell of my body.” At first I thought you were just telling a good ghost story, and was happily surprised to see that this was a real event from your young life.

    Isn’t there a full-size stuffed moose at L.L. Bean? I was there a few years ago, and must have walked through the very spot where all of this happened. Now the hair on my neck is prickling.

    1. Charles, I always look forward to your response, because you manage to zero in on the same sentences that I like the most.

      There are two stuffed moose, locked in battle with their antlers still stuck together, on display downstairs as well. Incredibly rare thing. My grandfather would have loved to see that. And yes, the hairs prickling on your neck were due to all of my late relatives still roaming that exact spot! But don’t worry, they’re friendly ghosts.

  15. I believe you’ve tapped into the Stephen King collective, up there in Maine. 🙂 Great post. Spooky and fun, I loved it.

    Must be something about this time of year that draws our minds to mysterious sounds and imagined sights. The Telltale Heart of Autumn, I guess. I just wrote a post about basements too. Though nothing like yours (http://play101.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/im-not-going-down-to-the-basement/) I do have basements on the brain.

    Again, I loved this post, loved your writing… great job!

    1. Maine is never short on spooky inspiration…no wonder Stephen King never moved from here! By the way, he grew up in the town next to my hometown and I’ve driven by his childhood house and it’s straight out of a horror movie. The town I live in currently was where he attended high school and my kids will go to the same school he did and once again, the school is very scary and rumored to be haunted. mua ha ha!

      There is something about this time of year that I just love. I have basements on the brain lately too (and attics–another story for another time!) I will have to check your post out. Thanks!

  16. Priya says:

    Oh, here’s a story! And what heart-stopping one at that!

    Like SDS, I’d like to know my surroundings are haunted by the spirits of old friends, too. That’d be neat!

    P.S. There is no way I’d say “I knew I have to look.” I’d die instead. And just so you know, I gave you my endless wisdom of “Oh no, no. No! Don’t look!” I dole it out to all characters in movies and books. No one listens to me. And they pay, don’t they? All you need to do it so just lie on your bed, face down, hold your breath — it’ll go. Glad this story ended ended on a different note, though,

    1. I thought for a moment I could hear you saying “don’t look!” Priya. 😉 But, like in movies, you have to look. I really wanted to know what it was I was hearing all those nights. I don’t know if it was bravery or just blind curiousity. I was relieved my mom told me my grandpa wore hunting boots because that explained the squishy sound (and also made me feel less crazy for hearing it!)

  17. What a great story Darla. You were a very brave 10 year old. I’m like Priya, I would’ve stayed under the covers.
    I think the magic in the story was in the little details you gave of your dog who for instance skidded across your bedroom floor in her rush to get out, but didn’t bark at the “burglar”. I know I started breathing again when I read she was wagging her tail at your bedroom door.

    I’ve never seen ghosts or lived in a haunted house, but after my mother passed away in July she’s been sending me messages. One of the posts I wrote on my Mom’s messages I called “Synchronicity and Meaningful coincidences.”
    http://wp.me/pN0M1-Qm

    1. Rosie, there were many night I did stay huddled under my covers! My dog’s response was what gave the the courage to go and look. I knew in my heart, it was some sort of friendly ghost or “memory” left behind in that old house. These things have always fascinated me growing up, so maybe that’s why my curiousity got the better of me! I am glad I looked and told my mom about what I heard, otherwise I’d never have that special deep connection with my grandfather, who I never knew in this life.

      I am sorry your mother recently passed away. My father died 20 years ago and never fails to send me a sign when I ask him. I can’t wait to read your post. Thanks for sharing it.

  18. You acknowledged him. He appreciated that. Nice read. Stumbled upon you via Lisa(Woman Yielding Words).. My late Grandmom visited me in Spirit as I prepared my first Thanksgiving dinner for my husband’s family and other European colleagues. She was all over the kitchen, adding more of the spice to the turkey, prompting me with the stuffing, and the sweet potatoes and brown sugar? I couldn’t believe that creation! But it was she who did it all! Folk ummmed and aaahed and spoke of that dinner for days. I used to get spooked about ghosts and reaking doors and such, but since I came close to death once, I am certain that some spirits have basically unfinished business…they can’t rest.If it is a bad energy you sense, light a candle and incense and tell it you are not the one it seeks… The good ones return to prompt you to be your best self and give it your best shot…
    I will be back to your blog again..

    1. I loved reading how your grandmother was there with you, helping you cook. I’m sure she was very proud of you and was with you and your family during Thanksgiving dinner. My dad died 20 years ago a few days before Thanksgiving (his favorite holiday). My brothers and my mom and I were all sitting around the table, crying and holding hands and said a prayer and told him we missed him. Suddenly, my mom’s camera flew off of the piano and landed onto the table, right in front of all of us. My dad always loved to take pictures so this was his way of letting us know he was still there. Hard to deny something when eight people saw it with their own eyes! I imagine since you came very close to death, it’s easy for you to believe in life after death. It certainly doesn’t spook me as much anymore either. Thanks for visiting, whenquiet.

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