From an early age, I loved hearing scary stories. When I was first learning to read, I worked very hard in school. My teachers thought I was trying to be a good student. The truth is, I wanted to be able to read even more scary stories on my own.
My mom recognized this obsession, and would often share her own creepy tales. If a storm took the power out, she’d light a few candles and tell about the frightening, weird, and sometimes baffling experiences she had growing up.
Many of the stories were about her old home, which she suspected was haunted. As much as I loved these tales, sometimes, the ones that were completely free of paranormal elements scared me the most.
My mom had grown up in a dangerous neighborhood. Many of her stories were simply about the truly frightening people she encountered during her childhood.
A story about a ghost is scary to a child. A story about a living person who wants to harm you for absolutely no reason was even more unnerving. It communicated a truth about the world that I could never completely forget once I’d learned it. The world can be a dangerous place. The people in it aren’t always good. A normal evening can become a descent into fear at any moment. And sometimes, the only thing standing between you and true horror is a locked kitchen door.
This story in particular has always managed to rob me of sleep.
My mom was home with her sisters one night. There were six of them in total, along with a brother who was out of the house at the time. My grandmother wouldn’t be home from work for several hours. My grandfather had already died at this point. Although some of the older sisters were teenagers, they were all young enough to feel vulnerable and alone that evening.
There had been a fire in the house a few weeks earlier. It damaged a large portion of one of the walls, making it very easy for an intruder to get in. Because they lived in a bad neighborhood, my mom and my aunts spent that evening together in the kitchen, with the door to the adjoining hallway locked. They didn’t have much that anyone might want to steal, but they also knew that people break into homes for other, far worse reasons.
Besides the door to the hallway, there was no way to get out of the kitchen. The room was essentially landlocked.
In other words, they were trapped.
Unfortunately, because of the fire damage, the kitchen was the safest room in the home at that time. It wasn’t an ideal spot, but it was the best place to gather until someone older got home.
My mom and her sisters were chatting, waiting for my grandmother to get back from work, when they noticed something strange. The handle on the hallway door was turning, as if someone was trying to get into the kitchen.
They asked if someone was there, but got no response. Still, the person kept twisting at the door knob.
This went on for several minutes. In a vain attempt to scare the intruder away, my mom and her sisters pretended they were having a big party. They made a lot of noise, hoping they might trick the person in the hallway into thinking there was a much bigger, older group of people in the kitchen.
At first, it seemed like the trick might have worked. The handle did eventually stop moving. For a brief moment, everyone thought the danger was gone.
Sadly, this was not the case at all.
The sound of someone trying to open the door may have stopped, but it was soon replaced by another sound.
Click-click. Click-click. Click-click.
At first, no one could figure out what it was. They only knew it was coming from the hallway. It took a few moments for them to realize that whoever was behind the door was now switching the hallway light on and off.
Somehow, that was scarier than someone trying to get in. There was no reason for this person to switch the light on and off like that. But they kept at it. Clearly, they were now just taunting my mom and her sisters. The fact that they never said a word just made it that much more terrifying.
My aunt called the police, but the police were notoriously slow in that neighborhood. There was simply too much crime for them to respond quickly.
After calling the police, she called a neighbor and asked them to come to the house. Understandably, the neighbor was just as frightened by the thought of this intruder as they were. He went over to the front door and shouted for them to come out (it was a small house), but he would not go in. He thought he might be able to scare the intruder off by making it clear an adult was waiting for everyone outside now.
He was wrong. All throughout this experience, the noise never stopped. Click-click. Click-click.
My mom and aunts finally had enough. They needed to get out of that room somehow. Every sister grabbed a knife, and they all lined up at the hallway door, from oldest to youngest. That was one of the few times my mom was happy to be the youngest of seven children.
After a moment, they opened the door to the hallway and charged into it. They hoped they might scare the intruder away, but their main goal was simply to get out of the house.
When they entered the hallway, the light was off. The sun had fallen by that point, so the entire hallway was dark. That’s probably for the best. No one truly wanted to see the person who’d been taunting them all evening. More importantly, they didn’t want that person to get a good look at them. However, my aunt Nora, the oldest of the sisters, did see something: the outline of a dark figure running down the hall and up the stairs.
She didn’t take any time to stop and confront this figure. Instead, she and all the others ran out of the house. They spent the rest of that evening out front, waiting for the police and my grandmother.
Eventually, the police did arrive. They searched the home, but whoever broke in was gone. Everyone agreed that the person must have entered and exited the house through the fire-damaged section.
They never caught the intruder. It could have been a random lunatic. It could have been someone they saw every day. This person might have just been passing through the area, or they might have been stalking my mom and her sisters, watching them for weeks.
Not knowing who had broken in that night was frightening. And yet, not knowing why this person decided to spend an evening tormenting six young girls with something as simple as a noise was even worse.