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Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Haunted House By the River

My parents and I moved from St. Albans to Charleston. I was already familiar with Charleston as I had lived with my grandmother till I was five and spent summers with her. We moved into an apartment in an old house that sat near the Elk River and was by the Quarrier Street bridge. There were four apartments and we lived on the bottom left. If you wanted to go upstairs to see someone in another apartment, you used the downstairs middle door and walked up a flight of steps. There you would find a door to the left and one to the right. If you looked up at the ceiling, you’d see a cord to a pull-down staircase.
I immediately discovered that there were two girls who lived upstairs on the right: They were somewhat older than me [I was 12] but we became quick friends. And their mother worked as did mine and all three of us loved to explore. Into several months of living in our apartment, my parents separated. Being so young, I felt semi-scared when I was alone: The apartment was huge and all of the rooms went straight back.
One summer night my mother was getting ready to take a bath. She had the water running and was about to get in the tub when the phone rang. Putting on a robe, she rushed out and grabbed the phone. The next thing I heard was a loud crash and the sound of water splashing. The ceiling had opened up over the tub and huge metal tubing fell right into it. Had she been in the tub, it would have killed her.
Of course that scared her and she called the landlord: He had the ceiling fixed.
Two days later it was so hot that I went upstairs and asked one of the girls if she wanted to lie out in the sun. “Yes” she said. And so I proceeded to go back to our apartment and get a blanket. We were out in the front yard and getting thirsty: It was my idea to go in and make lemonade. While I was pouring it into glasses, I could hear loud footsteps above me but the people who lived over us were not home. The footsteps were so loud that the chandeliers were shaking all over the apartment and so was everything else.
I rushed out to tell my friend what had happened and we rushed up the middle steps and could still hear the noise. We got gutsy and pulled the cord to the pull-down steps and went into the attic and we were scared to death. What we saw was a series of rooms and in the middle was a staircase that went down and apparently had long been blocked off in the original house. Frightening thing was that we could see a door semi-opened down those steps and then the loud footsteps started again.
Both of us ran down the pull-down staircase, down the middle steps and outside as fast as we could. She went with me into my apartment and we called the police: When they came, they checked out the attic and could find nothing. I remember a policeman saying, “It must have been a friendly ghost!”
I related this to my mother and she wasn’t sure if I was telling the truth but I was. Several more weird incidents happened that prompted my mother to find another apartment. My grandmother lived in the first block of Randolph Street: When my mother or I had called her after each incident, she replied: “No wonder things went on in that house! It was built during the civil war. And supposedly there had been an underground railroad underneath it.” That was true. And when the apartments were made in the house, a lot was covered up—no doubt the bad things.
I was so thankful when my mother found a nearby apartment and after one year of living in that place, we moved.
Years went by, the house was demolished and there is now a parking lot there. Sometimes when I am driving over the bridge, I look over to the left and can see that place like it was yesterday. And I’m so thankful that we got out of there!
Sherry Hill


  1. Sherry, good scary story, thanks! It's simply amazing timing that the phone rang when it did AND that your mom decided it important enough to leave the tub. This short story sounds like it could be turned into a novel--especially with the underlying thread of the Underground Railroad. Did you paint that picture of your house? It's so beautiful.

  2. Sherry, the story "had me". I wish that I could keep reading. It could be a really good novel. I'll bet a lot of things happened in the house for many years. And to think that you lived through some of them when you were little....glad you got out when you did. Marilyn