Who You Gonna Call? Not Me.

Lisa here, just back from a trip to Target and who knows how many other retailers on Route 22 in New Jersey. I had a List, you see, and it took a few extra stops and U-turns. It’s beastly hot here in early September, but the stores are full of pumpkins, skeletons, black cats, and ghosts. So cute in the store—but in real life…

Once there was a starving editorial assistant (that would be me) working in a fancy Manhattan publishing house by day and going home each night to a serious dump of a Brooklyn apartment. I’d tell you the exact address, but these days, the neighborhood is super trendy and the landlord pulls in about 5 grand each month for rent.

I was riding the subway home, desperately hanging onto a pole and clutching a tote full of manuscripts to be read by sunrise, when someone called my name. A former colleague I didn’t know that well, but she was nice enough. A little out there, maybe, but who wasn’t?

She asked if I was in the market for a new apartment (the answer is always “yes” in NYC), because she was moving in with her new boyfriend in Boston and needed to sub-let. She didn’t want to actually give up the apartment, in case things didn’t work out. The rent was only $350 a month—and fully furnished.

I literally dropped the heavy bag on my foot. Three-fifty? Half what I was paying for my drafty studio. Of course, there was a catch. I’d have to take care of her two cats, because her boyfriend was allergic. Fine. “And there’s a poltergeist,” she added casually.

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I’m sure I had a half-shocked, half-horrified look on my face. I’d seen the movie. “Don’t worry,” my acquaintance said. “A poltergeist is just a mischievous teenager spirit—you know, with a lot of energy. This one is a 14-year-old boy. You’ll be perfectly safe.”

I moved in the very next month. The apartment was on the bottom floor of a former carriage house, located behind my landlord’s home. To get to it, I had to let myself in through a locked gate and then cross a courtyard under a long, grapevine-covered (my landlord was Armenian) pergola.

The apartment was large, dark, and musty. I didn’t care, because I was out most of the time. (Again: $350/month.) The only problem was the cats. Constantly skittish and destructive, they leapt across furniture and knocked objects to the floor. Sometimes I’d even enter a room to find a framed print askew on the wall. Also, they hated me, which hurt my feelings. I couldn’t remember what my friend had told me their names were, so I called them Satan and Damien. They leveled death-glares at me from the tops of the floor-to-almost-ceiling bookcases.

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One night after work I stood outside my apartment, fumbling for my keys. I finally found them and, just as I reached out toward the lock, I heard a click and the door opened. Whoa. A weird burst of wind from inside the house? Sure, Jan.

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And even though I heard some weird buzzing noise from the dark living room I stepped cautiously inside. Just like those movies where the babysitter is determined to investigate the creepy basement where the killer is lurking. I flipped on the dim overhead light and there was my vacuum cleaner smack in the middle of the living room. Running.

I knew for sure I hadn’t left it there. I almost never vacuumed. Had my landlord’s elderly mother let herself into my apartment to spruce things up and then walked out with the vac still running? There was only one exit from the apartment—the front door, and the windows had bars, so I hadn’t caught anyone in the act of invading my space. The intimidating cats weren’t anywhere in sight, and I doubted they’d lugged a vac out, plugged it in, and engaged in some light housekeeping to welcome me home.

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I turned off the vac, yanked the cord from the outlet, and headed straight to the bedroom per usual to check my phone messages on the answering machine. The little red light was blinking twice. Yay, 2 people had called me. I pushed “Play Message” for the first one and got…the vacuum sounds on tape. Well, that was annoying. I quickly erased it and jumped to the second message—the vac again. How was that even possible? To use the answering machine as a tape recorder, you had to push two buttons down at the same time and hold them there. I doubted my landlord’s mother, who didn’t speak a word of English, had been involved, or that Satan and Damien were that talented with their claws.

And then there was that click I’d heard in the hallway. Who had unlocked my front door for me upon my arrival, plugged in my vac, and recorded the annoying buzzing on my machine? And left the scene in darkness?

Guess I’ll never know.

Readers, do you have a true ghost story for us (or one that could be true)? Or maybe you had a truly terrifying rental apartment. Let us know in the comments!

31 thoughts on “Who You Gonna Call? Not Me.

    1. Wish I could tell you I moved out pronto, but…$350/month. My boyfriend moved in with me and I’m not sure what happened to the poltergeist. I did rehome the cats back to their owner, though. She stayed in Boston (without the allergic boyfriend).


  1. My mom passed away in January, when my daughter was 17. About a month later hubby and I had gone out to church, she stayed home. When we got home she told us that as she was getting ready to take a shower, she heard what sounded like an old person with a walker walking down the halway outside the bathroom door. Then she heard someone playing with the handles on my dresser. (the floppy kind) She got very scared and jumped out the bathroom window in her bare feet, ran to the house next door (an acre and a half away, in the snow) to call the police. They came and found nothing.
    That night, I was sleeping and I woke up feeling a hand grabbing my ankle. I opened my eyes and there was no one there, but I still felt the hand holding my ankle. That is how my mom used to wake me up for school in the morning when I was a kid. Surprisingly I was not scared, I just knew my mom was saying goodbye and that she was ok.

    My sister passed away just this past March. She was living in RI where we all grew up until the last several years when she needed more care. She used to call me multiple times a day, leaving messages.
    Just a month ago, I was on my way down to Bristol, RI from my home in central MA. I was singing in a concert at one of the living history museums there. As soon as I got in the car and plugged my phone into the charger to use the GPS, the car radio started playing the last voicemail my sister had left for me. She told me that she had fallen but she was not hurt and she wanted me to know she was ok. I have a habit of erasing all my voicemails right after listening to them. Maybe I missed one. I looked in my phone in every place I could think of. The message is not there. My only thought is that my sister wanted to come with me to RI to hear me sing. I hope she did come with me. She would have enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yikes, Lisa! I don’t have any ghost stories, but I did have some questionable apartment choices. In college, we rented an apartment that was just one long hallway. None of the rooms had windows, so it was super dim there all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes, Jen, what is it with dim rental apartments? You can buy a ton of lamps but that gives a whole different vibe in the daytime. I presently have a very dark kitchen, except when there’s snow and then it’s blinding.


  3. We had a ghost living in our house when we moved it. He turned out to be the grandson, who died tragically, of the couple we bought the house from. Christian was quite mischievous and loved to hide things, turn on computers, and turn off the electricity. He also loved Christmas and peered over our shoulders as we opened our gifts. (If you’re wondering how we knew this, his orb would be visible in our photographs). While visiting Savannah, Georgia, I met an author at a book signing and he explained how to send a spirit onward to continue his journey. Since then, we haven’t experienced any more incidents of Chistian’s playful shenanigans–his presence having left our house.

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  4. Sounds exactly like something a 14-year-old boy would do…I bet he was trying to ride the vacuum cleaner like a Segue. You should have left out some pizza and Oreos to pacify him. As for the cats…eek. Seems like it would have been hard to close your eyes at night knowing they were waiting…just waiting…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure I did have pizza and Oreos around. He probably had to fight the (unseen by me) rats for them. Those cats really were so strange–they perched above me like Snoopy in those old strips–when he was on a branch, leaning over people pretending to be a vulture.


  5. WOW. Lisa, that is bizarre! But yeah, at $350 a month, you stay in your apartment in NY. That’s what my rent was in the 80s. The apartment was robbed four or five times – I can’t even remember – and I STILL stayed.

    I did have one ghostly experience, but afterwards I read there’s a state your body can be in where you’re somewhere betweeen sleep and awake and you feel paralyzed so now I’m pretty sure I was in that state and dreamt it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I’ve told my ghost stories.
    At a hotel, checked in and went to my class. Came back later, and someone had been sleeping in the bed. Nothing was missing, and security checked my door program thingy. No made had come in, no one came in laid down and realized the room was already occupied so they left. No excuse was ever uncovered.
    The. There was my mother. She was going through a depression. Was thinking about you know what. My deceased grandmother showed up in her shower and told her not to do it, because mom was going to me a grandmother soon. Yup! I called within a week and told my mother I was pregnant. Grandma saxton has always watched over us

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  7. Spooky, Lisa.

    My dorm room sophomore year was allegedly haunted by the ghost of a friar we called George. There was one spot on the wall that was always ice cold and nothing would stick there – not even using duct tape. George used to call us at 3am, too. The phone would ring and there would be dead silence – not even breathing. But that was the extent of his shenanigans.


  8. As Danny Zuko said, I’ve got chills–they’re multiplying!

    What a great ghost story, Lisa! I have none to offer, but I can say that after I seeing Poltergeist, I was too terrified to watch TV for months. And that’s saying something!


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