The Thing On The Stairs
by A. Mulconry
(Battle Creek, Michigan USA)
When I go back to Brooklyn, N.Y., I often pass by the building where I spent most of my childhood; a top floor apartment over an old tavern. The place houses a sports bar now and the rooms have been broken up into additional units. I have often wondered through the years, if any tenants have ever run into “the thing on the stairs”? To me it was real and terrifying, my very own true ghost story. I was very young, six years old at time we occupied that eight room apartment in Bay Ridge . It had tall ceilings, a sealed off dumbwaiter, butlers’ pantry, claw foot tub, pull chain toilet, defunct gas fixtures, pocket doors, lots of closets, two ornate fireplaces and a large windowless interior room. The rent was insanely cheap, and stayed that way for the entire time my family lived there. There was no “on site” landlord. We paid a real estate broker the first of every month. For years there was no way for us to move, our options were few and our change purse held moths. The apartment had a creep factor meant for horror movies. Its walls held a subtle evil, the kind that can’t be proven or admitted to. Old places have memories, they absorb the human events around them . I guess you could say I lived in a haunted house...that is if you believe in the supernatural. Whatever it was, there was something wrong going on. My Mother called on her own brand of Irish Catholicism , she hung crucifixes and said prayers of protection. No family is happy all the time , but we seemed to have more than our share of tragedies while living there. An inordinate amount of accidents, illnesses and bad luck plagued us. We were not a” typical” family to begin with, and adding insult to injury ,various relatives lived with us in Grand Central Station fashion, often bringing their own emotional” Samsonite “along. I wonder if the apartment fed off of our turmoil? Maybe our strife was ingested into the very walls , devoured by the plaster and wood . It ,the “something “happened one evening in 1959. I had gone to sleep at 7:30 p.m., and awoke hours later to the sound of buzzing . There were always doors opening on their own, shadows, cold spots and odd sounds in the place; whispers, muffled cries, raps, knocks and bangs at all hours, and we for the most part ignored them, it was the price to pay for the luxury of cheap rent.
Seems my family had more to fear from the living than they did from the dead. This sound was different , it had awakened me and made me cry out from my bed...”Mama!”Usually my Mother was a very light sleeper, she would rush to my side at the slightest stir. This night she didn’t respond. I got out of bed and ran to my parents bedroom, but for some reason they wouldn’t or couldn’t wake up. The buzzing was getting louder, like bees returning to a hive. In the darkness I made it to the foyer and the front door. The doorknob was hard to turn, but by using both hands I opened it and
found myself on the landing. The top floor staircase was bathed in a greenish glow from a bare lightbulb and years of cheap paint. It was late and the bar downstairs had been closed for hours ,the place was deserted, it was a weeknight. I stood at the edge of the stairs deafened by the sound and waited, I don’t know why? From below the top floor landing I could see movement between the bannister, a faint shadow at first, it was synchronized to the insect hum, swirling and floating. A greasy smokiness mounted the stairs with some weight and purpose. The shape of a tall man appeared. He was wearing what looked to be a dark overcoat, gloves , a diaphanous white scarf at his neck and a sort of hat atop his head. He was solid , but the edges of this being were blurred , out of focus. He never spoke, but the buzzing became even louder, a painful stinging noise. To me he looked as if he was wearing a rubber Red Devil mask , with a thin mustache ,goatee and horns poking out from just under the brim of the hat. The mask seemed to be leaking, tendrils of blackness peeked from around the sides and bottom. It was as if it were holding back the contents of the head. I kept shouting “HELLO?”, but there was no answer. We were now face to face on the landing, I was paralyzed with fear. A small cry was all I could manage as I looked into that face. He had holes where his eyes should have been. If it had been a mask, there should have been a pair of eyes looking back at me, there was nothing. Time stopped. The roar of a thousand insects vanished. Whatever faced me on the landing was now retreating backwards into itself. At that exact moment my Mother rushed out of our apartment and scooped me up into her arms. The lights in the stairway flickered. Whatever I had encountered that night has remained a mystery. I never saw it again. Could it have been a nightmare....or a drunk from the bar? What caused that noise ? Over the years my memory could have been tainted ,or maybe I imagined it all. My brothers all agreed that the place was odd, and they were leery of the staircase. Each said that they often thought they saw someone standing at the bottom of the stairwell, but when they went to investigate, there was no one there. Long after we had moved from those crazy rooms above the neighborhood saloon , I asked my Mom what she remembered of our time there. She said that she believed it was a haunted place . Things were seen, heard , felt. Never wanting to be alone in the apartment, she’d leave as soon as everyone was gone for the day and only return when someone was about to come home. She remembered the night that I wound up on the landing, standing perilously close to the edge of the stairs. She was amazed that I had gotten there without her hearing me . Mostly she remembered a flickering of lights and the loud hum of insects....a subtle evil.