It wasn’t one of those cases where the old, nearly-dilapidated home goes on the market for a steal promising a rich history. It wasn’t a case where a beautiful victorian home sold privately through the owners themselves give some quick, half-assed reply about how they just need the money and the house has to go, some rushed deal where suspicions are all up in the air like a bunch of fairies flying freely overhead. No, my husband and I came into this fully unsuspecting, no guns to blaze.
The house was a few miles out of town down a shabby road that had been paved and repaved again, only to be torn up by farmer’s equipment and large trucks taking it as a secret passageway. It wasn’t anything too special but it had been on the market for months and we finally decided to give it a second glance. It preached a lot of wondrous opportunities, room for growth with five bedrooms, and two bathrooms which meant that I would finally be able to spend each morning in peace as I had wished for many years prior. My husband and I were basically rearing our heels and rubbing our hands together at the deal – score! We were sold the moment we boarded our children up in the car and took a look at this place.
Ceiling to floor with renovations and hardwood flooring from the floors of Heavens themselves, and pearly white porcelain sinks and claw foot bathtubs, we saw investment dollars in our eyes and wondered who in their right mind would ever want to move out of such a glorious home. It took a few weeks of convincing but eventually my husband agreed that this might be a nice change from our old apartment style life, into something that could be wonderful adjustments for our two small children. The owners were not shady whatsoever and gave off nothing but positive vibes, a shy and quite nervous couple who preferred not to live so close to a city, as we were in the outskirts of one of the largest ones in America. Just as we saw change in our eyes, they saw dollar signs and fresh starts and we settled on the deal of a lifetime in no time.
Maxwell and Timothy, 6 and 8, fought over the two rooms meant just for them, one of which contained a larger closet and one of which was just larger in general room-space. Maxwell figured “I want the room with the bigger closet because it would be perfect for playing hide and seek” while Timothy maturely stated he thought that he deserved it because it would “be perfect for storing my Star Wars collection.” My husband and I sat down to duke it out for them but also couldn’t come to an agreement. He thought that Maxwell deserved it because he shouldn’t have so much space in his room as he is smaller, but a bigger closet could compensate for that. I thought that Timothy deserved it because he was eldest and eldest has rights, and if this is the room he wanted, then that was his right. In the end, they flipped a coin over it. And Maxwell walked away huffing and puffing, into his large room with barely any closet space.
There was a normal timespan of adjustment, in my opinion, however my husband came to the conclusion that things were taking too long to get back on track. The children attended the same private school so there should have been no confusion or up-in-the-air ordeals about where their newfound education would take place, as there would be nothing “newfound.” However, Timothy was unable to sleep at night. At 8 years old, he had been way out of the lifestyle of wandering in our bedroom at night and hopping into bed with us, only to kick us over to our designated spots and steal all of our covers. It was something I might have suspected from Maxwell every once in a while, but not Timothy, the eldest and bravest. But here he was most nights, doing just that, hogging our bed and making this new night life in our new home the utmost uncomfortable.
“Timothy,” my husband said one morning over breakfast, “What is the problem lately? You just aren’t acting your big, brave self.” Timothy used to live off of the fact that he was growing up and seemed to embrace that life, unlike most children. He was very mature for his still-young age.
“It’s the floors,” he replied, and it was at this point that we were baffled, extremely confused, sharing the strangest glances with one another before we pried further.
“What?” I finally mustered the courage to ask, wondering if he was still half asleep and attempting to adjust to the newly found morning.
In a tired voice that sounded like it was at wit’s end, Timothy then replied, “It’s the floors. Every night I end up on the floor and I have this feeling like I should be under them.”
After lots of consideration, we decided against sending Timothy to a child psychologist. There was a lot of back and forth reasoning between my husband and I over the ordeal, but in the end the conclusion was simple: Nothing too out of the ordinary had happened yet, and it had to have been a simple adjustment problem that some children go through. While I stated that it might be a good idea to consider he talk to someone about it, my husband landed on the particularly true subject that all children deal with things in different ways, and maybe he was having some alarming dreams or something. All we could do was offer open arms to our son.
It was weeks into owning our new home that Timothy came downstairs one Saturday morning looking as if he hadn’t gotten any sleep in weeks. He looked naturally ill and so I scooped him up and took his temperature, only for everything to check out. After some confrontation and questioning like some horrible interrogation room technique from my husband and I, Timothy ‘fessed up.
“There is a hole in my floor.”
Discreetly, my husband and I shared the same confused but somewhat terrified expressions. I suppose my first thought was that the floor had fallen through at some spot and left a gaping hole for either of our sons to fall through had they misstepped. We told Timothy to wait there and went upstairs to investigate the issue at hand. Being careful, we both stepped into the room quite flatly and stared at what was, indeed, a hole in the floor.
A small, latched, missing piece of the floorboards that led to a tiny, box-sixed space where one could keep something as small as a few journals or other backpack-sized items. The missing piece of the floorboards had been covered up by a dresser that the previous owners of the home had allowed us to keep, and we hadn’t taken the time to yet move. Somehow, Timothy had mustered all of his strength and pushed the large dresser out of the way to discover this hideaway section. We cleverly responded with the only thing we could think of at the time: Kind of neat for an 8-year-old to have something like this in his room, to keep extra toys away from his brother. And yet, also bad for when that 8-year-old becomes a teenager and possibly discovers the wonders of pornography magazines.
Once confronted about it, Timothy did not agree. We asked him if he had discovered it weeks prior and that could possibly be the cause of his strange floor nightmares that cause him to be so comfortable that he feels the need to snuggle up next to Mommy and Daddy in bed, nightly. He shook his head vigorously and said that he just found the hole that morning, after it had allegedly “spoken” to him and asked him to crawl on in.
And with that, we re-“thunk” the possibility of handing Timothy over to a child psychologist, every Friday at 11am.
After weeks of visits with the psychologist, Timothy never seemed to improve, in fact, he only seemed to worsen with each continuing day. His once peppy and knowledgable face now showed general upset and despise for everything in this world. He folded in on himself like a bad piece of origami and decided that lack of communication was a better lifestyle choice for himself, leaving his father and I out in the dust.
His child psychologist responded with a meager, “I don’t know what to say; he seems to be doing fine at the sessions and is immaculately well-read and distinguished” but my husband and I just shook our heads and realized that it certainly went deeper than that. The nightmares continued and the only bonding time we had with our son was truthfully in the middle of the night, when he would crawl in bed with us, shaking because of a new floorboard nightmare. It was the strangest thing.
Finally, months into our new home, we decided that the best course of action was to allow the issue to “ride itself out” because all things fade in time, don’t they? We gave both Maxwell and Timothy their own special attention and agreed that getting out of the house sometimes would be a helpful thing. Both being immensely involved in our work, we decided that a good course of action was to schedule events like family movie theater nights and eating out, even though prior we hadn’t done so much either. Timothy, in those small event timelines, seemed to improve. The moment he was outside in the fresh air, watching a local football game, or walking around a mall and looking in book stores, he looked like himself again. He was all smiles, as if he wasn’t trapped inside his own mind anymore – he was free, at last.
But once back in the house, he was introverted and sad, like a depressing husk of the son we had once known. It was a few weeks after our family adventure nights had begun, that we woke up to Maxwell screaming in the middle of the night. This was the first time we had heard him scream so bloodcurdlingly loud and our hearts must have flown all the way from our chests to our necks in that very moment.
Following the bellowing, murderous screams down the hallway, we stopped in front of Timothy’s room for a short second to realize that’s exactly where they were coming from. We threw open the door in a flash and stepped inside to see Maxwell with the nightlight clicked on, but no Timothy in sight. Our eyes scanned the room deliriously for anything out of place, but everything looked as it should be.
“Timothy is gone!” Maxwell screamed, tears now streaming down his face.
“What?!” My husband yelled back, lurching forward to his son and grabbing him by the shoulders. “What happened to Timothy?!”
“I-I came into the bedroom a minute ago because I had a bad dream and was going to sleep with Timothy. But when I crawled into bed, he wasn’t in there. A-and the floor started talking.”
“What are you talking about?” I was now in Maxwell’s face as well. “Floors don’t talk, honey. Whatever is causing these weird dreams in you two…”
“I swear, Mommy, the floor talked!”
And with that, my husband was striding across the floor at breakneck speed to where the trap door sat carved into the floor. The latch was already moved open, and he swung the boards up out of place – only to gasp in terror.
There, in an impossible tucked angle, was Timothy, contorted to fit in a ball shape inside the hideaway spot. He was about half his size with his legs placed awkwardly up to his chin, and his eyes were huge with horror as he gaped at us like we were some alien lifeforms.
The next day, we called the local priest.
My husband was raised by a Catholic family in a small village that is very tight-knit and family oriented. I, however, was raised by two parents who shrugged their shoulders at the idea of church and, as such, I was born into a set of agnostic beliefs and unsureness toward such.
When the priest arrived, we met him in the driveway and continued to tell him a bit of the story that we had discussed on the telephone that morning, to have him nod his head and scratch his chin a few times in disbelief. After we were finished bringing him up to speed, Reverend George walked up to the house carrying his small satchel with a bottle of holy water and a bible, making a cross shape on the door of the house and nodding his head. I felt the need to roll my eyes at the whole ordeal but my husband was grasping my hand with an alarming pressure that said, I believe this is exactly what we needed.
The point of the priest was solely to have him walk into Timothy’s room and spend some time talking to him and possibly “dealing with his demons” of this newfound life of his in a new home. What with any priest, he believed that he could talk to our son and make him feel comfort in this new house and welcome him into opening arms of somebody who was used to listening to a variety of people at confessions and walking them through the difficult times of their lives.
The moment the priest walked through the door, he turned his nose up at the ceiling and a look of general distaste formed across his once expressionless face. He turned to look at my husband and I, but then caught himself and just nodded. “And who were the previous owners of this place?”
“We don’t know much about them, they were just-”
“Gotcha,” George replied with a clearly fake and forced smile, and then, “I will be with your son for a few moments to talk and I will let you know how it goes.”
We entrusted this man in our household and my husband was completely sold on the idea that this would bring only good.
An hour later, and George walked down the stairs without our son in tow. We had heard their mumbling talking through the ceiling for what felt like a millennium, and when he reappeared in the doorway, he just shook his head with a solemn expression wiped smugly across his face.
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else I can do.” And he put on his hat, and left before we got in a word edgewise.
Timothy was sitting on his bed staring down at his feet, and had nothing whatsoever to say about the meeting.
After the oddness of the situation, my husband was quoted as saying, “We must leave this out of God’s hands and into the hands of another more trusted member of society.”
And with more eye rolling from my end, Marsha Fender showed up on our doorstep.
Marsha was an exquisite elder lady hunched over in the back area, with bright green vibrant eyes that could light up an entire room. She had lived in the area her entire life and scaled many local towns, using her skills to bring peace to households and generally find answers. And with that leaves no more room for introduction – Marsha was a parapsychologist, trained in the supernatural and speaking to ghosts.
Marsha scaled the outside of the house before she implemented any of her training on the indoors, taking everything about our lovely, old home into consideration. We threw our hands in the air at the lack of history on the house and she, too, found it odd that nothing had been supplied. We told her that the previous family was a couple in their fourties, eccentric with a lot of knowledge under their belt, with a younger little girl who seemed introverted (but not in the same way as Timothy; we had met her on one other occasion and she had been a strange little girl who hid a lot and kept to herself, but there was no oddness about her like our own son.) Marsha nodded at our storytelling in entirety and eventually said that she would like to scale the inside of the house alone, to which we agreed after some glances at one another. We sat with our sons at the outdoor picnic table for well over 30 minutes, talking and attempting to catch up on their schooltime tales of merriment. Timothy, again, seemed himself while outside.
Eventually, Marsha burst out the front door, her eyes wild with excitement and her face pale as if she had either seen a ghost, or had become one. Her frazzled legs brought her, wobbly, over to our picnic table, where her hand landed to balance herself and she let out a huge breath of fresh air.
“You need to find a new place to live, and you need to find it quickly.”
“Oh, this is enough!” I yelled out of pure frustration, or whatever it was. “First the Reverend, now this lady, and what or who else?! All of this excitement over what happens to be a child who doesn’t want to cope with his new surroundings. I’m sick and tired of feeling at a loss in my own home, my own pride and joy, everything that we have worked for.”
My husband gave me an awkward glance, surprised that I had spoken up.
“You just don’t want to live there…” Marsha started, and then stopped herself. “I can’t stop you from living in your own home but I strongly advise against it.”
“And why’s that?” My typical hands-on-the-hips stance showed itself and my anger was only rising.
“You can’t even walk in there…every step I took, was another body.”
This time, my husband perked up and called from the table, “W-what exactly do you mean by that?”
And it was then that Marsha gave us the dead stare and told us with every ounce of emotion in her soul, “There are at least thousands of ghosts of children wandering around the inside of your home.”
It was months later that we were living back in a drab apartment in the city with one pitiful bathroom and two bedrooms, one for us, and one for the boys. Things were just getting to be back to the normal swing of things and (on the only plus side) Timothy was sleeping in his own bedroom with his brother, peacefully, every single night. My husband and I were enjoying the time we still spent with our sons throughout the week and recently Timothy had been removed from his therapy sessions as things were back to normal. We were about to hang up the short months of our lives where we lived in that fixer-upper of a home that offered us absolutely no answers and left us falling short.
And then my husband came home from work one day, frazzled. The police had visited him during his lunch break.
“What?!” I asked, horrified. “What happened?”
He held his head in his hands. “I don’t even know if I want to tell you.”
“Apparently, an agent from child protective services was called to talk to a Miss Tiana Kingsley at school today. Does that name ring a bell?”
I shook my head from side to side slowly, and then suddenly, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. “Kingsley. That’s the name of the previous owners of the house we lived in, not?”
“Indeed,” he said with a sour look strewn across his face. “They were called to attention because Tiana finally went to a head counselor at her private school and told them about abuse that had been happening in her household for years and figured they would be able to help her get out of the situation.”
“Oh no…” I said, drifting off, but then catching myself. “That’s absolutely terrible. They hurt her?”
“Wrong,” he said, “You’ll never believe it. Apparently, they thought that she was being abused so they talked to her as if she were a victim in the situation, but then she turned to the counselor and attending police officer and she said, ‘Oh, it’s not me that my parents hurt.’ So they asked her what she meant by that…” This time, he was the one who drifted off, and I saw the expression drain from his face and become replaced by something off, some void emotion that screamed that everything was not fine. “Apparently, the Kingsleys had been part of a child trafficking and sex ring. For years they would travel the world, abducting groups of children from their homes and using them for sexual reasons and murder in their own home. People paid to come to that house and abuse those children.”
When I was able to pick up my jaw that was now evidently sitting on the ground, I mumbled a reply to the insane story I had just heard, as things became pieced together. “And somehow, Tiana was unscathed all these years?”
“She tore a hole into the floor of her bedroom and hid in there when people would come to the house for the children.”
Suddenly, Timothy appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, and for all we knew he could have been standing there for minutes. “Whenever I was in that bedroom, it…just felt safe to me. It felt so clogged in that house, like a drain that was backed up with your hair.”
It was then, that everything made perfect sense, for once.