In April of 2003 I packed all of my things (compacted all of them is more like it) into boxes and containers and moved from my 'deluxe apartment in the sky' to a small, 500 square foot studio. I had never lived in a studio apartment before and so to deal with the challenge of it, I had completely planned out everything - the measurements, furniture, placement of each of my wall hangings. Not only that, every inch of the space, as you can imagine - especially if you know me and my methodical nature - had been thought of and carefully used. This is an important detail for later, just so you know.
I was single, and moving to this new, smaller apartment was a result of separating from my partner of three years. The reasons that we separated aren't important here, but let me at least interject there was no animosity or anger or bad ju-ju or anything taken with me to this new apartment. If there's any truth to people and places harboring negative emotions, I throw that out here for you to consider now, you know, just in case.
"Old people everywhere."
Before we step all the way into this scary chamber, I should describe the layout of it just a bit. I'll detail more when it's needed, so imagine this all in your head: My new-to-me third (and top) floor studio was long, but not terribly wide. The carpet, although new, was a dark brown, the color I imagined they have in Hell's waiting room. The dark carpeting darkened the already small space so much. The walls were painted a matte, off-yellowish color, the color of smoker's teeth, which strangely worked well with the carpeting. The ceilings were speckled with asbestos popcorn and were dirty and shadowy and hid spiderwebs quite well. One wall of the apartment was entirely wood paneled, but had been painted over instead of removed, only compounding the decorative nightmare.
The front door opened to the right, and on the right the wall fully extended all the way to the opposite side of the apartment, to the sliding glass door. To the immediate left of the front door was a walk-in closet. To get to the bath, you walked directly through this closet.
Passing the closet, there was on the left side of the apartment a small kitchen area. A bar-height counter ran the full length of the kitchen which afforded me a place to put a microwave at one end and still have room to eat, as well as spread out my sketch pad, pencils, ink pens and other items for when I itched to be creative and draw-y. Near the microwave was a vintage ash tray I had purchased in a Long Beach second-hand store; it is where I kept my keys, wallet, maybe some change. I always placed these items here in the tray when I arrived home.
I had placed a large chair with a built-in ottoman on the kitchen side of the studio. This chair was angled toward the TV, which was on the opposite wall in a large, three-piece IKEA entertainment center. Next to the chair was my small computer desk. If you were sitting at this desk, the sliding glass door and a small balcony were to the right of you, and the foot of my queen-size bed behind.
Old people everywhere. I was able to settle in really quickly, despite the down-grade in space. Everything fit just as nicely as I had planned. Even so, I found I needed a few items and when I came home from an errand on the second or third day of residence, someone had written on the hallway wall adjacent to my door, in scratchy lead pencil, those three words: old people everywhere. It's true: there were indeed old people everywhere. When I moved into the complex, there were quite a few elderly people residing throughout. It was a little strange, actually, as if the place had at one time been a senior complex, but I never found any proof of that.
I left the penciled writing there on the wall for a long time before I finally let the office know about it. It was slightly entertaining, seeing it every day, and I had hoped someone would eventually knock on my door to tell me that they had written it there. This never happened. A few weeks later I noticed the writing had been removed, painted over. Whomever wrote on the hallway wall right by my door never confessed, and to this day I have no idea who did it.
Each time I came home from wherever I had been I would deposit my keys and wallet into my second-hand valet tray by the microwave. Sometimes during the evenings and if industrious I would break out the sketch pad which I kept on the kitchen bar counter top. When done, I would close the spiral-bound sketch book and put my pencils either inside of the wired spiral or next to it. Twice that I recall, I awoke in the morning and found one or both pencils sitting away from the sketch pad. Can those things just roll? Surely. But here's an interesting fact: One of the pencils was actually a mechanical one, the kind with a button near the tip to kick out more lead when depressed. It also had a clip for your pocket. On another occasion, the non-mechanical pencil was on the kitchen floor, hiding under the toe kick.
I once found my keys on my desk, about 20 feet away from the valet tray on the countertop where I kept them. Where I always kept them. On two other instances, they keys were outside but next to the tray that I would have dropped them into. This was disturbing, but not alarming, not yet, anyways. More so, it was not like me to not place them where I always would have placed them. Right there, in the tray, right as I walked into the apartment.
One of the non-furniture items I had in my space was an large exercise ball, you know the kind I mean, those inflatable torture balls that are used to correct your posture or for you to do impossible sit-ups on. The only thing that would make these exercise balls super fun is to have a super cute horse head attached so you could bounce around the house. Alas, mine had no horse head, and the only thing I used it for was occasionally sitting on it. To use it, I had to physically pick it up and move it from the area I kept it in - between the large chair and my desk (the only empty wall space in the apartment) - and use it in front of the TV. I say I had to pick it up not because it was heavy or inconvenient but because I couldn't just push it with one hand from its space and roll it over to somewhere else. The opening between the end of the large chair and the end of my bed where it would have to fit was just big enough for me to walk through if I slowed and slightly turned. When I was done using the torture ball, I would lift it up and stuff it back in its special area. If I had left it in front of the TV I'd then not be able to view the television and I'd also trip over it at night if I were to get up.
After a chiropractor appointment, I had come home to watch some television. I probably bounced on the exercise ball in front of the tube for thirty minutes before a shower and relaxing the rest of the evening. Whatever I did the rest of the evening is long lost to unimportance, but know that I had returned the exercise ball to its special exercise ball space and eventually went to bed. When I awoke the next morning,
the ball was in front of the television
and I gasped. I remember this clearly. It was...in front of the television. I have no history of sleep walking, no memory of having to move the ball in the middle of the night for any reason (and why would I; if I had moved it, I'd just fall over it, Dyke Van Dyke style, in the dark on my way to a midnight pee). No, I hadn't moved it. Or had I?
At this point, I jokingly allowed myself to believe that yes, this apartment was haunted. But that's insane! I do believe in spooks (I say like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz). And even though there could be many explanations for the things that were occurring, these ever-so-little things, I continued to tell myself that okay, sure, it's a ghost. Why not. I got a ghost! Lucky me.
The incident with the exercise ball only happened once. Thankfully once. But that was a big one; it was a big ball, a big deal. Why? Because if it happened as I suspected, it had been a mass of energy from beyond-the-grave (or not quite in the grave yet) to have something so large as that exercise ball to have been moved. Keys or pencils are one thing. But it's only in movies that large objects are moved, right? If anything were really happening in my apartment, I thought for sure that no way did the ball move on its own. I must have done that.
Those were funny things, weren't they? Round items rolling across a countertop; the madness! Keys not where I put them; you're just losing it! Get some sleep! Yet, it was still a somewhat of a joke until I encountered the two cold spots.
Sure, sure! Now you're making this up. That is so cliche; cold spots! What's next in this tale, rattling chains? I'd not fault you for walking away now, saying, Okay, I'm done; this has gone on long enough. But I tell you, Wait, there's much more. More cliches, more horrifying and real cliches.
Cold spots are said to be reported in many haunted locations. These cold spots are small areas that feel much colder than the surrounding area and are considered by some to be a sign of a ghost or some type of presence because whatever plain these entities inhabit, they draw the warmth and energy from a location and the people inhabiting it so they can materialize or cause objects to move. Some cold spots are always felt in the same place while others seem to appear and disappear at different locations. The first time I encountered a cold spot was before the 'big ball' incident. The first time I felt it I woke in the night and walked toward the bathroom at the opposite end of the studio; the kitchen counter would be on my right and as I passed the counter the air became noticeably cold, much colder than it should have been at that time of night on a summer evening. The apartment had no air conditioning, and I only had an oscillating fan which was placed on my desk top, near the foot of my bed, and pointing directly at me and not circulating air around the room. The front door had rubber weather stripping around it so no air flow was coming from that direction. There were no ceiling ventilation openings, and no other reasons why the air would have been particularly and suddenly cold right there in that spot of the studio. Since it were summer, I had the sliding glass door open. But at this time, there were no breezes and even if there had been, there was nothing happening that would have been remotely cold enough or strong enough to create the cold spot right there, and only there.
This first incidence, I didn't think much of it. My imagination, surely. I went back to bed and more or less had forgotten about it. The second time, however I had walked home from a club and after showering I remember staying up with SNL, which was already in progress. Still summer, I can't recall if the fan was on or not. If it were on, it would be pointing right at my head and chest level as it sat on the desk to my left.
But when that cold, creepy chill crawled up my legs, I jumped. It wasn't just the sudden unnatural cold that startled me, it was the sudden unexpected tingling that shot up from my feet to my knees, like a slight electrocution, or the tingling you feel when you move your legs or toes too quickly after they have fallen asleep. It lasted for possibly two seconds, but felt like ten. Then, like everything that was happening inside that unit, it was gone.
It would be at this point in the movie or television production that the protagonist would have told someone about the strange going-ons, or made a visit to their small town library to find out the history of the building, the possibility of neighborhood tragedies. The protagonist would discover the native burial ground the building stood on, perhaps. But I did none of this and only kept all of these events to myself. And by now what I kept inside was a little bit of fear, too. I can tell you that I recall talking to the ghost once or twice, saying aloud, "Ha ha, that's funny!" or, "Where's my pencil going to be today?" And it was also by now that I still only half-believed that there was such a thing in my apartment to begin with; I thought everything could be explained in some fashion. Even so, I was nice to whatever might be there because, well, you never know.
“Having faith in the existence of the paranormal, like faith in anything, means believing that it can stand up to honest skepticism.” - Ryan Buell
Knowing that each of these minor events could be somehow explained, I never lived in fear or dread of being home or even being home alone. Overall, it wasn't a nuisance or frightening. Weird, yes. Entertaining, perhaps. But all of the of these minor summertime events culminated with something not-so-cute and entertaining: the old man standing at the foot of my bed, staring at me, in the dead of night.