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As Dog as My Witness, There’s a Freaking Ghost in Here

Vandal is the only one besides me who observed the supernatural occurrences.

By Lissa BayPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
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Vandal hiding from the ghost (my picture)

My dog Vandal and I accidentally moved into a haunted house.

We'd been living at my dad's when I got my first non-retail job as a law office secretary in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. My income jumped to $14 an hour with 40 hours per week guaranteed, and I felt rich. I decided to look for an apartment for the two of us, closer to my new job.

Only, $14 an hour didn't make a gal and her dog rich, not by a long shot. And apartments in Phoenixville weren't cheap. It's a hopping little town, with lots of bars, restaurants, coffeeshops, a theater, and town-wide events almost weekly. Affordable housing was hard enough to find there even without also needing it to allow dogs.

I kept refreshing Craigslist over and over, but moving out felt fairly out of reach.

Then one day, miracle of miracles, a new posting appeared for a tiny one-bedroom rowhome, priced far lower than anything else I'd seen. It cost about the same as living with roommates would -- and it allowed dogs.

I went to see the place without Vandal. Was it nice? Nope, definitely not. The carpet needed replacing, the linoleum in the kitchen was warped, and the wall in the closet seemed to be crumbling. Worst of all, the place had a chill.

But I could afford it and I wouldn't have to have roommates, so I jumped at the chance to sign a lease.

Vandal Had His Suspicions from the Start

When I brought my dog to our new home, I could tell he wasn't too keen on it. He sniffed every corner of that cold place and kept giving me looks like, "You don't actually intend for us to live here, do you?"

I tried to comfort him. "C'mon Vandal, it'll be okay. I'll be with you the whole time. We'll protect each other."

My dad took this picture of me comforting Vandal. (Used with his permission)

He didn't appear entirely convinced, but he was an open-minded dog, and agreed to give it a fair shot.

Overall, he liked Phoenixville. We lived close to Reeves Park, where he could socialize with all the other dogs and get his fetch on. The town has a feel like I've only ever seen on TV -- small but not at all sleepy. We knew our neighbors, and everyone loved Vandal. He made friends with each person and dog with whom we crossed paths. He'd literally pee with excitement when we ran into this one woman and her golden retriever mix, both of whom he adored.

But the house where we lived was another story. He didn't adore it there. Sometimes he'd be snoring on his bed when, out of nowhere, he'd startle awake like he heard something, then turn and look to me with canine terror -- ears back, eyes wide, panting.

"What is it? What'd you hear?" I'd ask him, but he wasn't talking. He'd wriggle himself under the futon to resume his nap.

Then I Heard It Too

The sounds happened late at night while I was in the state between wakefulness and sleep. Girlish tinkling laughter. Little footsteps charging across the ceiling, followed by a door slamming. Singing.

Now, I know what you're thinking. There's good reason to be skeptical, and I'd be thinking the same things if I were you. You're thinking:

  1. You know that people can hallucinate as they're falling asleep, right? Yes, I do know that, and it's a fair point. But let me ask you this: why didn't I have hypnogogic hallucinations before I moved into that house, and why didn't I continue having them after I moved?
  2. Perhaps you were hearing your upstairs neighbors running and slamming doors. Except, we didn't have upstairs neighbors. It was a house, not an "apartment" in the classic sense of the word. A small house, but a house nonetheless.
  3. Yes, but a row house, right? Meaning you shared walls with someone on either side. Well, yes, that's true. But the house my bedroom shared a wall with was occupied by Jerry, a senior citizen who had never married and had no children or grandchildren. His boyfriend Edmundo stayed over with him sometimes, but Edmundo's laughter was booming, not small and childlike.
  4. Okay, but what about the house on the other side? A married couple in their 40's lived on that side. If they had any kids, I never saw them. I did hear that couple fairly often, though -- fighting. Not singing, not laughing. Slamming doors? Sure, sometimes. But this wasn't the same thing.

You'll just have to trust me on this. Suspend your disbelief for a minute -- I certainly had to. I'd found an affordable place to live. The last thing I wanted was for it to be creepy and, I daresay, haunted.

The Final Straw

We didn't keep living in that house for very long. Oh, I wanted to. Who wants to have to up and move after just a couple months? But something too bizarre, too disturbing and unexplainable, made staying there impossible.

I'd been slowly but surely gathering tchotchkes and objet d'art from thrift stores and yard sales to make the house a home, and one day, I set them up on the mantle above what likely used to be an operating fireplace but was now sealed shut behind plaster. I thought it looked pretty spiffy, my doohickeys all lined up.

I accumulated secondhand doodads to brighten the place. (My picture, taken years after this story occurred, in an apartment that wasn't haunted.)

Rather than standing around patting myself on the back for a job well done decorating the busted-up old house, I decided to share the love with Vandal. I knelt down with him and started giving him all the pets.

"See, Vandal?" I said. "This place isn't so bad, is it? It's starting to feel like home. Right, my man?"

And just as I was saying this to my dog, out the corner of my eye, something like a hand swooshed by and knocked everything I'd just placed on the mantle off, sending them flying across the carpet.

Vandal and I looked at each other like, "WTF, did you see that?" He had, and he was just as terrified as me.

Once again, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking:

  1. Maybe it was an earthquake. No, it wasn't an earthquake. This was in Pennsylvania, not California. One time, a far-away earthquake shook Phoenixville a tiny little bit and everyone went totally apeshit, I'm not kidding. We were texting each other, tweeting about it, people were going outside, worried the buildings were going to crumble. If there'd been an earthquake, everyone would be talking about it. There wasn't an earthquake.
  2. Maybe the mantle was on an angle and everything slid off. That's logical and I'd love to believe that, but the force with which the items got knocked off make it impossible. If they slid off, they'd have fallen just under the mantle, but that's not what happened. These items flew like an angry hand knocked them with force.
  3. Maybe you're out of your damn mind. Well, that's certainly a possibility, I'll grant you that. But not Vandal. That dog was as sane as they come.

Vandal and I Hightailed It Out of There

This story has a happy ending. We returned to my dad's house for a couple nights, but not for long. As I mentioned, Vandal had made lots of friends, including a woman and her golden retriever. I ran into her after work a few days later and mentioned my housing troubles to her. She told me she had a room opening up in her house -- dogs permitted.

Also, you may recall, I worked at a law office. One of the attorneys there helped me get out of the lease at the haunted house by writing a strongly worded letter to the landlord on official stationery. That pretty much did the trick. I did lose my security deposit, but it was a small price to pay for not living with a freaking ghost, or angry spirit, or whatever the hell was happening in that house.

The new house had a big backyard and a pool! Vandal was the happiest dog in the world. His charming personality had pretty much secured us this place, so he deserved all the happiness it brought him.

I couldn't have asked for a better friend than my dog. I may have been making $14 an hour, but Vandal and I wanted for nothing. We had great hiking destinations nearby, an un-haunted place to live, and each other. And that was all either of us needed.

Vandal, all wet after jumping into Phoenixville's French Creek, and me. (Picture by my father -- used with his permission.)

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About the Creator

Lissa Bay

Lissa is a writer and nanny who lives in Oakland, California. She enjoys books, books, playing Disney songs on ukulele for kiddos, books, and hanging out with her deeply world-weary dog, Willow. And, oh yeah, also—get this: books.

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