I'm from the Badlands region of North Dakota, and I live out in the country, where things are pretty secluded and quiet. Most of the people in my area are farmers or ranchers. My house is across a field from one of our neighbors about a half mile down the road, for whom I used to babysit back when I was in high school. The two kids I watched were a brother and sister, both in upper gradeschool, so they were okay by themselves, just not for long periods of time or at night.
I was over babysitting one Friday night while their dad was out (I was maybe a sophomore in high school?), and we were in the living room after dinner watching a movie. The girl had fallen asleep, so when the movie finished I left it on the blue screen to get her up and to bed; I planned on taking the movie out after she had gone to bed, rather than having her really wake up again, since it was pretty late. The brother offered to take care of it, but I told him to wait, since their VCR made a lot of noise and the TV would go to noisy static when we took the tape out. I went to the girl's room to get her bed ready so she could just climb in and go to sleep, and I heard the VCR eject and the TV go to static. Irritated, I called to the brother, "I asked you to wait so the noise wouldn't wake her up!" and he called back that it wasn't him. I told him to turn the TV off, and we'd just take care of it after his sister was in bed, but he said it wouldn't turn off. I walked back to try and turn it off, but I couldn't get it to shut off either. By this point the girl was awake, so I just unplugged it, thinking I would explain to their dad when he got home that we couldn't get the buttons to work. Except it still didn't shut off. I was very weirded out by this, because no TV does that, I don't care how old it is.
At this point, the brother and sister started freaking out. Between the two of them, they started talking about how "It's the ghost" and stuff like that. I told them not to be ridiculous, that those don't exist, the closest thing they'd get to a ghost is an angel, and angels certainly don't break TV sets. I'm a very practical person, so I sincerely believed it must just be some weird technical issue.
As we were trying to figure out what to do about the TV, there were a few weird thumps/bangs from the basement. Again, I didn't think anything of it, because it's an old house and the heater often makes noise. But then the kids started to panic. I was trying to calm them down; I thought they were being silly. It was late, and dark, and the TV was being strange, so I figured they were freaking themselves out over nothing.
That's when the thumps and bangs turned into footsteps. Steady, thudding footsteps, the kind that work boots make on wood. That caught my attention. A lot of people where I live don't really lock their doors much, and we were no exception. I thought someone had wandered off the highway, maybe from a mancamp or oil well, and was in the house. It had happened once at my house while I was (thankfully) out working in the back yard, someone had gone inside, taken food, left bootprints on the floor, and left. I thought the same thing was happening here. I immediately motioned for the kids to be absolutely quiet. There was only one door, so we couldn't really get out (the windows were usually stuck shut and the ones that did move made a lot of noise). They have a couch against the wall next to the doorway, and a loveseat on the perpendicular wall next to it, so there's kind of a corner of empty space between the ends of these seats by the corner where the walls meet. I motioned for them to get in there and hide behind the seat if they could. I followed, but couldn't fit behind the seat, so I just hunched down as much as possible. I was very afraid of what would happen if an intruder found us, but was trying very hard to keep a brave face with the kids there. The only phone in the house was the landline in the kitchen.
The footsteps continued approaching the doorway, and finally reached it. I could hear them stop just inside the room, and there was sort of a muffled wheezing, like someone with trouble breathing would make. I peeked behind the couch along the wall to the floor by the doorway, but couldn't see anything. The kids were really panicked, and the brother was holding the sister so she wouldn't make noise. We were all scared. A couple moments after the footsteps stopped, the TV just all of a sudden turned off. It was totally quiet except for the wheezing. I remember I sat there praying whoever it was wouldn't see me (the kids were pretty hidden) and wouldn't be able to hear us at all. The footsteps began moving again, back out and down the hall. It sounded like they went down the stairs, and there were a few more thuds down there after that, not really footsteps, just bangs and noises. We didn't dare move.
I remember we sat hunkered down there for what felt like hours before their dad finally got back. He scared the crap out of us when he walked in and called hello. I peeked over the arm of the couch and saw it was him, and I've never been so happy to see him in my life. The kids climbed out and ran to him, but I told them to keep hushed. I quickly and quietly tried to relate the night's events as much as I could, expressing that we never heard the intruder leave. He told us to stay in the living room and ran to his room to grab the shotgun from under his bed. He started going slowly down the stairs, trying not to make noise, and I kept the kids with me on the couch. After a long time he came back up. He looked shaken, but didn't want to talk in front of the kids. He just told them whoever it was wasn't there anymore, and called the local sheriff to come check the house just in case. While we waited for the sheriff to get there, he explained to me what he could.
When he got downstairs, there was no one there. The back light was on, even though no one had been down there all day. There were also several things laying on the floor that were usually hanging up or on shelves (tools, some cans of food, a box) and an old pair of work boots at the bottom of the stairs. He asked if we had gone down there, and I said no. All that was there was a workbench and small pantry, so we had no reason to go down there at all. The part that freaked me out was when he said there was no way someone could've gotten in, because he locked the door when he left. I thought it had been open, but I guess he remembered to lock it since he knew he'd be out late. He said it was still locked when he got back, and the key was on its hook behind the board where they kept it. There was absolutely no explanation for anything we heard. We plugged the TV back in, and it was on a regular channel, even though we had never switched it back.
I ran the entire half mile home that night, and I never went back to babysit there again. I always made him bring the kids to my house. My dad later told me (in a completely unrelated conversation) that an old farmer had died in that house of natural causes, and had wanted the farm to stay in the family. His children, however, took their mother to a nursing home and sold the farm. Their mother was irate, but they went through with it anyway. In my father's words, "He'd roll over in his grave if he knew!"
I don't know what happened. I don't believe in ghosts or any such thing, but someone was in that house. I know what the facts are, but I don't know what they mean. They just don't add up. One thing I do know: I'm not going back in that house.
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