I have never actually seen a ghost. I tend to believe in the whole science track.
The other thing you should know about me is that I’m actually fairly even-keeled. I can count the number of times I’ve been really angry on one hand.
Fourteen years ago, I was a young, impressionable student attending the University of Washington. I lived at a house on 47th, and it was cheap because I was a student. The paint was peeling off the walls, there were shingles coming off the roof. The back porch was rotted in some places and sometimes, when we were trying to sleep, you could actually hear rats scurrying through the walls.
I was there for a year.
One evening, I was outside by the side of the house, and I started feeling a little weird. Something didn’t strike me as quite right.
I figured it was the windows. There were four of them, about 10 feet up, all in a row. And then I got it. There were only three windows inside the house. I went back inside, turned on the lights, ran back out. And sure enough: One of the windows was dark, all the other windows had light in them.
And I could see behind the dark window that there was a room behind it.
I had been living in this house for a year, and I was like, there’s a secret room in there. This is so cool.
I went back inside and spent about half an hour knocking on the walls, like in the movies, but I couldn’t find any sort of secret door or passage.
Which means that if there was a way in, it had to be from above or below.
There was a small attic, so I shimmied up the walls and I popped the door open. I reached up into the darkness and pulled myself up. Judging by the cobwebs, no one had been up here for a decade. I was a little afraid of spiders, but I really wanted to see how to get into this room.
I shimmed along the beams of the attic, shoving my hand down into the insulation looking for some sort of trap door.
I had been up there long enough that the hairs on the back of my neck were starting to come up. I worried about all these spiders in spaces that I couldn’t see. Eventually, I decided there was no trap door.
As I came down, I heard a knock on the door – strange because no one was expected. But it was my girlfriend Jen.
I told her, “There’s a room in the house, and we HAVE to get in.”
She was not all down with the whole have to get in, but she was supportive.
We thought about this. There was a basement that’s divided in half – one for us, and one where the owner kept old furniture. We were not supposed to go down there, but they had left a key in case of emergency.
I didn’t even pause. I ran to get the key and ran outside to the basement door.
It squeaked as it opened into this darkness, to the top of the stairwell, which went straight down.
Straight ahead was the word, “LOVE,” written in red. There were no lights, just my trusty flashlight.
Around me were cobwebs that were comically thick – Halloween cobweb thick. In them were these half-dollar sized things – I didn’t know what they were, but they were covered in webbing.
As I descended into the basement, I saw old boxes and furniture – what you would expect. I tried to figure out how to get to the far side. I looked with the light to watch my step and I noticed these black rings around the bottom of my stock. And I realized that the black rings were writhing up and down.
I freaked out, sprinted out and tore off my shoes and socks. Hundreds of fleas had attached themselves to my foot.
It was getting dark, and I realized that the house was trying to warm me: Don’t go in that room.
But I didn’t believe in that stuff. I believed in overactive imaginations, so I put that out of my head.
Jen and I returned to the mystery window. We were like little kids trying to reach into the cookie jar; we stacked up a bunch of chairs on top of each other.
I mounted this rickety chair and got my eyes even with the base of the window. I couldn’t see the whole room, but I could see part of it.
My first impression was that the room is bigger than I thought it would be. It was about 15 feet wide, 30 feet deep. The walls were dusty red, and I could see where it was boarded off from the living room.
On one wall were four names in white. The last name was Van, which happens to be my grandfather’s name.
But the window was locked from the inside. We continued to look around the house for clues, and Jen noticed that on the stairs down to my bedroom was a board that was different from the other boards.
I started pushing along its edges. The paint started cracking off. I started pulling it, and almost immediately felt wetness on my face. It was blood.
It’s not just one of those little nosebleeds, it’s one of those gushing, rushing nosebleeds, just-trying-to-get-to-the-bathroom-before-it-spills-out-of-your-hands type. I applied pressure, and I couldn’t get it to stop. It was just pouring and pouring.
After a couple of minutes, it slowed to a drip. After an hour, my fingers felt all tingly, like I’ve been sleeping on them.
It occurred to me, This is another warning. And it wasn’t not a gentle warning. But I wanted to know what was in that room.
I walked back out to the main room where my girlfriend sat. We heard a huge thump from the area of the bathroom. I went back there, and of course, nothing was there. There was nothing that could have fallen, no rats pushing things over. She asked, “What was that?”
I said, in my scariest, rumbling voice, “IT MUST BE –“
And she said, “Stop. Don’t even kid around. I want to go.”
I said, “OK, look. Sure some weird things have happened. But it’s just coincidence.”
And then I had this flashback to when I’m 13 years old, watching "The Amityville Horror," and they’re trying to convince the dad that these weird things are happening, and they should move. And the dad says, “No, no,” and I’m yelling, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.
But they didn’t listen, and then it was too late.
I heard myself saying his words. So I said, “You know what, honey? We can go.”
I went to grab clothes from my room downstairs, avoid looking at the board. But when I came back upstairs, it beckoned me.
And I had to know.
I put my clothes down, grabbed the board and pulled it back. I looked underneath, and it was overlaying another board, and I thought, I’m going to have to take the whole thing out.
But I didn’t care. I knew there was a secret in this room. I didn’t care if rats were going to pour through, or if my nose would bleed.
I put my foot on the board, and I started pulling hard. As the nails started to come out, I felt this hand on my wrist. Jen. She was really scared.
She wasn’t just scared about the house anymore. Looking into her eyes, all this curiosity and rage and wanting to know just drained out of me.
I grabbed her hand and we got out of the house and into the night.
I lived there for another six months, and the room and I came to a kind of truce where I didn’t try to look at it anymore, and I didn’t get any more nose bleeds.
The house is still there. There are high rises there and yoga centers, but that house manages to remain. I slow down on my way home from work, and I try to look in that window.
I think about getting a ladder and a crowbar in the middle of the night. Leaning the ladder against the house, going up the rungs, forcing open the window and going inside.
Just so that I could finally know.
This text version of this story has been lightly edited and condensed. The story originally aired as part of "A Guide To Visitors: Storytelling In Seattle," an eight-part series produced by Jeannie Yandel in 2010.