Little Twinkling Lights
by Alice Mulconry
(Battle Creek, Mi. USA)
It started with the sight of twinkling lights at the dark end of the hallway. Tiny bright dots flashing blue, green, yellow and red. I rode my tricycle down the far end of the hall, between my room and my middle brother’s room, I came to a stop. The lights playfully danced before me as I stared in rapt wonder. The small bursts of energy swirled playfully around as I reached out to catch the luminous sprites. The dazzling light show lasted until my mother called to me from the kitchen. I wheeled back up the apartment’s long hall. I couldn’t wait to tell my her about what I had encountered. She listened with a worried look on her face and told me to only ride my trike as far as the sunlit rooms.
Our eight large rooms over an old saloon were housed at the end of a block of brick buildings on a busy Brooklyn street. They had been built in 1920, or so it was stated by a building plan in the city files, but the building seemed much older. The interior was fitted with gas powered light fixtures and late 19th century design elements. Rumors in the neighborhood were that the place had been a private gentleman’s club, rife with boot- leg booze and debauchery, owned by a Tammany Hall doyen, which would have explained the much painted over red velvet flocked wallpaper, inner windowless rooms and plaster of Paris nymphs adorning the two large fireplaces. The vibe was tomblike and damp like a flooded root cellar. The odor of must and rot competed with the stale beer smell wafting up from the old man’s bar on the ground floor. This was my family’s home , a place that only cost $50.50 a month from 1945 until 1971. A cheap place with even cheaper secrets. It was the only place we could afford, the only place where we could live.
Every family has skeletons in their closets, but ours were fully animated, out in the open with bad intent. We lived in a haunted apartment because we ourselves were haunted.
The ghosts, were the extra that came with the cheap rent, like exposed brick or a walk- in closet. I became aware of “them” that day as I rode my trike down the hall. The preliminary light show would soon be followed by a sighting of a woman dressed in a long satiny blue dress who smelled of flowers. I would pedal towards the darkness , completely ignoring my mother’s command to stay in the light. The draw to catch up to the beautiful form was overpowering, but the moment I came to the last room in the apartment she had walked into a wall. The game of hide and seek would soon take an ominous turn . The pretty ghost was always one beat away, until the day she turned around and stared directly at me, her face had the faintest smile that soon turned into a melted grin. I sat motionless on my bike, frozen in terror as an icy cold blast went through me. The sweet scent of flowers had become overpowering and funereal. The spell was broken when my mother called out my name. The walls echoed “Aaaallliiiccceee” in a metallic reverb that mocked me as I furiously pedaled back up the hallway.
Throughout the years my family was subjected to scratching sounds coming from the walls and ceilings, loud crashing noises , cold spots , dead flies piled high on closet floors, the incessant low hum of unseen insects , doors , closets, cabinets, dresser drawers, opening on their own , faucets turning on at full blast, televisions and radios turning on and off by themselves, missing personal objects that would sometimes turn up and sometimes not and sightings of full bodied apparitions . Things didn’t always go bump in the night either. One could witness something in broad daylight or at 3:00 a.m. those behind the veil weren’t restricted to time constraints. Most of the paranormal occurrences were ignored because my oldest brother was in competition with the daily horror show. His drink fueled rages often pre-empted anything the undead or never living could muster. The infestation had begun.
Violence in real time and that which had happened in the past was imprinted into the very walls of our home . Whatever had happened in that place so long ago lingered in the hall, staircase, dumbwaiter , airshaft and the darkest rooms of the apartment. As I grew up, the haunt became stronger. The odd thump, or whisper had been replaced by shadow beings …and something I had encountered on the staircase one February night , that could only be described as foot soldier for Satan. Even the rooms formerly bathed in sunlight had turned darker and menacing. The apartment’s energy seemed to ebb and flow with my brother’s murderous moods . Whatever demons controlled the atmosphere , had their evil thirst quenched by his nearly nightly forays into madness. They fed off him and he fed off them. We were being consumed by the oppression.
In 1971 the absentee landlord paid a visit, the first in twenty six years. He said that the building had been sold and we had to leave because the new owner was moving his mother into our apartment. That was an old tried and true line often repeated to poor( living paycheck to paycheck) slobs in Brooklyn, you had to go, there’d be no debate because the new owner was” moving his mother in”. We knew it wasn’t true. We wound up moving to five sad, shabby rooms over a drug store at $125.00 a month. On the day that we moved, my father witnessed a ten deep column of cockroaches leave a windowless inside room and file down the stairs in military precision to the basement.
My brother calmed down a little after the move , I guess he left some of his demonic baggage behind, but not all. A poltergeist of sorts followed us to the rooms over the drug store , knocking over bric-a-brac and causing things to be misplaced. In 1976 that apartment would be the scene of one of my brother’s most violent outbursts. He tried to stab my father to death. My brother’s descent into possession was complete.
Over the years I have stopped by to see the place, it’s still a bar, but just not an old man’s last resort. Today it is a sports watering - hole for millennials, big screen tvs and free WI-FI have replaced the ancient pool table and dilapidated dart board , the aroma of spicy Buffalo wings and craft beer have replaced the stale beer smell of despair. Our haunted eight room apartment on the top floor has been remade into several units. I’m sure the rent is forty times or more what it was for us. I have often wondered if the reconfiguration of the apartments changed anything ? Did it stir things up more or quiet them? I do know that there have been many tenants since my family lived there and none stayed as long as we did.
My oldest brother died over twenty years ago. While he lay dying ,he often raved about devils watching him from the corner of the hospital room. Maybe my brother( and his problems) was the conduit for these things to manifest . It all started for me with the sight of twinkling lights down a dark hallway.