The Man Who Wasn’t There

Photo Courtesy of Erica Jo Photography

Yesterday, upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

I wish, I wish he’d go away…

-William Hughes Mearns, Antigonish (1899)

Just outside of Lansing is a three-mile stretch of road separating the capital city from its nearest neighbor to the west, the city of Grand Ledge. Once a two-lane dirt road dubbed ‘Suicide Saginaw’ due to its overabundance of accidents, Saginaw Highway is now a five-lane paved thoroughfare that is traveled by thousands of vehicles every day. While the highway and the communities it connects have gone through major transformations in recent decades, the houses that line that particular section of Saginaw Highway haven’t changed much over the decades. Many of them are century-old farmhouses, some with the farms still in operation. Nestled among them is an unassuming little house, white with green shutters, that doesn’t stand out from its neighbors in any noticeable way. But this particular house, which is passed by thousands of commuters on any given day, has been named one of the most haunted private residences in Michigan by paranormal investigators. Why, though? Was it the scene of a horrific crime? Was it built on a Native American burial ground? The truth about hauntings is that sometimes there simply are no solid answers. A house doesn’t need a good backstory to be haunted, however. I know, because this is my ghost story.

Photo Courtesy of Erica Jo Photography

We moved into the 1920s-era Cape Cod when my sons were eight and thirteen, and my husband was still in the Army, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. While I was intrigued by the paranormal, I didn’t necessarily believe in ghosts. But I knew that our new country abode gave me the creeps. Especially at night. Especially when I was alone. For weeks before we moved in as I painted, ripped out carpet, and cleaned, I chalked up the uneasy feeling the house gave me to the fact that it was just different from what I was used to. I’d spent the five years prior living in a small townhouse with neighbors on either side of me, a well-lit parking lot out front, and a small common area out back with picnic tables and a playground. There were always people everywhere. So this newfound space, the solitude, the silence- it was all foreign to me.

Heebie-jeebies aside, I was excited. It was the biggest house my kids and I had ever lived in. It had an open floor plan, tons of windows, a few acres of land, a chicken coop from the 1800s that served as a storage shed, and an old dilapidated barn just beyond the property line, surrounded by a marsh.  On a hot and humid summer day in 2012, we moved all of our belongings into our new home with help from friends, then spent the rest of the day unpacking and organizing. We had our first family dinner in the house (tacos, if I recall correctly), and then the kids went upstairs for the night. They were so excited to have an entire floor to themselves. I was tired and a bit on edge after some strange occurrences at the house the day before, so I went upstairs around 9:00 pm to help the boys get ready for bed. While I was upstairs, the smoke detector in the hallway outside their room started going off. Figuring it was a faulty battery, I snatched it off the wall and took the battery out. I hadn’t been cooking, there were no candles burning, and the other two smoke detectors within a five foot vicinity didn’t go off. I tucked the boys into bed and took the detector downstairs with me so I wouldn’t forget to replace the battery the following day.

Ready for bed, I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. I set my glass on the stove, steadying it with my left hand as I opened the refrigerator with my right. When I reached into the freezer to get a handful of ice, an electric shock surged up my arm that was touching the stove. I screamed, knocking the glass of water to the ground. In serious pain, I checked to make sure none of the stove burners were on. They weren’t. I made a mental note to call my landlord first thing in the morning.

Shaken up and with my arm still aching, I went to bed. I tossed and turned until about 3:00 am, when the smoke detector in the main hall started going off. Only partially awake, I stumbled out of bed, found the step ladder, and teetered on the top step as I pulled the smoke detector down and ripped out the battery. I was too tired to concern myself with why two smoke detectors had gone off on the same night. I didn’t even bother looking for signs of a fire, which, in retrospect, wasn’t my best decision.

But when a third smoke detector, the one in my bedroom, started going off a few hours later, I could no longer brush it off as no big deal. I took the battery out, did a thorough sweep of the house to make sure nothing was burning, checked on the boys, and then stared at the clock until it was an acceptable time to call my landlord.

In the light of day, the house was investigated, the air was tested, and the detectors were replaced. I tried to convince myself that it was all a strange coincidence, that it didn’t mean anything. But in the back of my mind, a little voice was nagging at me, telling me something wasn’t right. For the entire five years we lived in the house, we were unable to keep a smoke detector in the master bedroom. Anytime we tried, we would be woken up in the middle of the night to horrendous, unprovoked screeching.

The following night I was doing dishes in the kitchen, enjoying the warm summer breeze coming through the open windows. Suddenly, I heard something in the back yard. Surrounded by woods and swampland, there were no neighboring yards anywhere close enough that I should have heard another person. Not unless they were in my yard. And it sounded like they were. I turned off the lights so I could see out the window, and spent a good fifteen minutes on my hands and knees peering out the bottom of the gigantic picture window in the living room into the pitch black darkness. I called my husband, who would be in Texas for another four months and hadn’t yet laid eyes on our new house. In tears, I told him about all of the strange things that had happened since we moved in barely 24 hours earlier. He blamed my nerves, but he would soon find out for himself that what was going on in our new home was not in my head. It was very real.

After a few days in the new house, our dogs started to behave oddly. While behavioral changes in pets are certainly common after a move, there was nothing common about the way my dogs were acting. One night, out of the blue, one of my normally calm, laid back pups started barking ferociously in the middle of the night. It woke me up out of a dead sleep. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins as I grabbed my phone and headed to the back door, sure there had to be someone on the other side of it. There was no one there. Still, Sammy kept barking. What’s more, he was standing so that he could see out the window that looks out over the porch, and appeared to be looking right at something…or someone. After about five minutes, he calmed down and I went back to sleep. For less than an hour. Because the barking started again. Once again, there was nobody there. Once again, I calmed my poor pup down and went back to sleep. When it happened a third time, I gave up any hope of actually sleeping and turned on the TV. Sammy continued to bark at the back door intermittently until well after the sun came up. And that was only the first of many times that this would happen over the years.

Our other dog Sophie, who was just a puppy when we moved into our haunted house, always insisted on sleeping in bed with me. At first I was fine with that. My husband was still across the country, and who doesn’t like puppy snuggles? But about a week after we moved, she took up a maddening night-time routine, one that continued for months. Roughly once a week, right around 3:00 am, she would get up, crawl out from under the covers she’d burrowed beneath, walk to the end of the bed, and start barking out the bedroom door, into the hallway. Every time, I would get up and turn on the lights to show her there was nothing there. Once the lights came on, she would stop barking. But as soon as I turned them off, she would start again.

It was Sophie’s strange behavior that first alerted my husband to the fact that I wasn’t crazy, that something was happening in our new house that defied explanation. He came to visit a couple of times before he came home permanently that fall. His first day in the house, he witnessed Sophie have one of her random freakouts. She was in the middle of the living room, her hair standing on end, baring her teeth as she snarled and barked at some invisible being. I saw the look on his face, and I knew that he knew. The entire time we lived in the house, our dogs were constantly on edge, as if they were trying to protect us from some unseen danger.

One of the most traumatizing things to occur in the house happened about two months after we moved in. I arrived home from work on an evening that my children weren’t home, looking forward to a quiet night by myself. I’d picked up takeout on the way home, and had just sat down at the dining room table when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. At first, I thought one of the dogs had had an accident on the carpet. I was mumbling all sorts of profanities as I went into the kitchen for cleaning supplies. It wasn’t until I bent down to pick up the doggie doo that I discovered the horrific truth. It was a dead bat. I screamed. I panicked. I grabbed a dog in each arm and fled my home, locking myself in my car with the windows up in 80 degree heat until reinforcements arrived and removed the bat. The dogs had to be quarantined. The bat had to be tested for rabies. After a very harrowing 24 hours, the test came back negative. No rabies. Thank God. What was weird, the animal control technician remarked, was that the bat showed no signs of illness or trauma at all. It hadn’t been mauled by the dogs or mutilated by the ceiling fan. It was just dead. In the middle of my living room. And it unfortunately wasn’t the last time I would have an odd vermin encounter in the house.

About a month after the bat incident, I found myself home alone enjoying a quiet Sunday. I was still shaken from something that had happened the previous day, and every little noise set my nerves on edge. Eventually, I decided I had to leave the house for a while. I headed into the bathroom to get ready to go when I saw something moving in my peripheral vision. Something alive. Something swimming. In my toilet. I screamed probably louder than I’ve ever screamed in my entire life, fled from the bathroom, slammed the door, blockaded it with a chair, and ran outside crying hysterical tears. With trembling hands I picked up my phone and did the only logical thing- I called my husband, who was still 1,200 miles from home.

“There’s something swimming in the toilet!” I screamed, before he could even say hello.

“One more time?” he asked, caught off guard and trying to stifle a laugh.

“There is something alive, swimming in our toilet!” I screamed again.  “I think it’s an otter! Or maybe an alligator!”

“What would you like me to do about it?” he asked, being completely reasonable in a very unreasonable situation. Truth be told, I don’t think he believed me. With the crazy stories I was always telling him about our new house, I think he was genuinely concerned for my mental health.

“Get it out!!” I yelled.  “Obviously!”  And therein was problem.  As much as my husband would have loved to be my toilet-monster slaying hero, he couldn’t.  He was stuck in Texas and I was stuck in that house, fending for myself. During my husband’s time in the Army, I became accustomed to doing it all on my own. But it was a very fragile balancing act. One so fragile that when the unpredictable happened, it didn’t just tip the scales, it caused them (and me) to come unhinged completely. I couldn’t live in that house alone. Not anymore. And I couldn’t take care of the demon in my bathroom. I just couldn’t. But because I had no other choice, I put on my big girl panties, dried my tears, and did what any hysterical girl with an absent husband would do- I called my parents. The toilet-monster, as it turned out, was a chipmunk. A chipmunk. In my toilet.

As I laid in bed that night thinking about dead chipmunks in my toilet and dead bats in my living room, I said aloud, “Why does it have to be rodents?” I hate rodents. Absolutely hate them. They are the one thing that keeps me away from certain haunted locations that I would otherwise be thrilled to investigate. No sooner did the words come out of my mouth than the strangest feeling came over me. The bat I found in the house was already dead. The chipmunk I found in the toilet had already been trapped. Both times vermin had gotten into my house, someone (or something) had taken care of them for me. The spirit in my house, who I was now positive existed and was pretty sure was a young boy, was looking out for me. For the first time since moving in, I didn’t feel afraid. I felt…comforted. Which was a good thing, because the prior day’s events had left absolutely zero doubt that our house was haunted.

The day before the chipmunk incident, I woke up to probably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life (and I’ve seen a chipmunk swimming in my toilet.) I got out of bed to find a stranger’s footprints at the end of my bed. Perfectly defined bare human footprints. Six of them. One right and five left. They started in the middle of the room, appearing out of nowhere, and ended at the very edge of my bed, almost as if whoever they belonged to had climbed into bed with me. I knew they weren’t my footprints, and I was fairly certain they didn’t belong to my children either. But before I mopped them up (after taking pictures, of course), the boys and I all got our feet wet and stood next to the phantom prints to compare. The footprints weren’t any of ours. And I was so meticulous about making sure the house was spotless before bed each night, I would have seen them if they’d been there the night before. Every doubt I’d had, every fear I’d tried to quell, every time my husband tried to placate me when I was talking crazy- it was all pointless now. Our house was haunted. And I had photographic proof.

It was because of that picture of the footprints that our house wound up being the subject of a paranormal investigation hosted by a local radio station in 2012. I thought bringing in a team of experts would give us answers. In reality, it left us with a million more questions. I didn’t share with any of the people associated with the investigation that I thought our ghost was a little boy. But as soon as the group’s psychic arrived, she pointed to the tire swing in the back yard and said, “there’s a little boy from the 1920s sitting right there on the swing watching us.” And the night only got crazier from there.

In total, three teams conducted the investigation: Marter Paranormal, Hauntings Paranormal, and Portal Paranormal. They recorded countless EVPs- the voice of a little boy, an old man, a younger man, at least one woman. Sometimes the spirits talked to one another, which I was told is extremely rare. One of the spirits said my name. Another said the name of my mother, which I hadn’t shared with any of the investigators. Some of the voices were not just picked up by recordings, but were heard by the naked ear. One of a little boy in the chicken coop out back, and one of an old man in the basement. An apparition was caught on camera in the back yard near the tire swing, right where the psychic had earlier seen the young boy. Several investigators saw shadow people in the basement and the master bedroom. The equipment the investigators brought yielded results in every room of the house and throughout the yard and surrounding property.

Photo Courtesy of Erica Jo Photography

Marter Paranormal Research Team concluded: “Review of EVPs revealed not only intelligent responses to actions and questions by the investigators but multiple voices on several EVPs interacting with each other. This is not a common occurrence and we believe revealed that there are multiple spirits at this location that are communicating with each other and able to see, understand and interact with the current residents. We are reasonably certain that we have identified a younger child as well as multiple adults.” But who were these spirits? Where did they come from? Why were they there? The search for answers to these questions led to a half dozen more paranormal investigations over the next few years. Each investigation turned up mounds of evidence, but nobody was ever able to determine exactly why our house was so haunted.

Perhaps one of the strangest things historians found was that there was no record of home ownership until the late 1950s, even though the house was built in the 1920s. Thirty years of living occurred in that home without a single trace left behind. It was impossible to know how many people had lived there, and how many had died there. While we never did find the answers we sought, the paranormal activity continued.

Even after our house was labeled one of the most haunted private residences in the state, we tried to keep things as normal as possible. This was our home. It was where we were raising our children. We had parties, celebrated holidays, and did all the things families living in unhaunted houses do. When guests would visit for the first time, they would often remark how “cute” or how “normal” the house seemed. I think folks expected peeling paint and cobwebs and ectoplasm oozing from the walls or something. The only room that really ever made people uncomfortable was the bathroom. Visitors would often come running out of the bathroom, their eyes wide, saying that they heard something, or that they felt like someone was watching them. One psychic said she believed that a child died in the bathroom many years ago, most likely in the bathtub. This theory was never proven.  Most times, though, life in our haunted house was pretty typical. Almost boring. Sometimes we would go months and months without any paranormal activity at all. Living in a haunted house isn’t as exciting as the movies make it seem.

We were in the house a full six months before we started hearing voices. One night I was feeling under the weather and was lying in bed, just about to fall asleep, when I heard it. A woman’s voice, clear as day, breathed the name “Karen” directly into my ear. The voice sounded eerily like one of the voices that had been recorded by investigators a few months earlier. I bolted upright in bed, terrified. I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and turned on the flashlight, fully expecting to see someone standing beside the bed. Nothing. Whoever Karen was, she was gone.

A few nights later, it was my husband’s turn. He woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of children playing at the foot of our bed. (None of our children were home at the time.) I didn’t find out about the incident until the next day, when I received a text at work that said: I know you’re in a meeting, but I gotta ask you- did you hear the two little boy voices playing in our room at 4:00 this morning? Sadly, I hadn’t. Not normally one to wake up easily, my husband said it was the sound of laughter that caused him to rise from his slumber, followed by a child saying, “it’s my turn.”

Hearing voices became a regular occurrence after that. Once, I awoke to the sound of a child whispering my name into my ear. Another time, I was headed into the bathroom when I saw a shadow pass beneath the door. Assuming it was my husband since we were the only two home, I asked, “are you in there?”

He responded with a quick, “yeah.” I stood at the end of the hall for a good five minutes waiting for him to come out, only to have him eventually come in the back door from outside.

“Were you not just in the bathroom?” I asked accusingly.

He looked at me, puzzled. “No. I’ve been outside with the dogs for the past twenty minutes.”

Voices weren’t the only sounds that woke us in the dead of night. Many times we would hear phantom crashes, water spilling, music playing, TVs blaring, only to find the room the noise was coming from completely silent.

While we never determined the real-world identities of any of our spirits, we did find out the name of our little boy ghost. Bobby. Nearly a year after moving into the house, we had some friends over for a small party. One friend brought her two-year-old daughter, who had a bladder the size of, well, a two-year-old’s. The first time her mother took her into the bathroom, they came running out seconds later. Apparently, the little girl started talking to someone named “Bobby.” A few hours later, she had to use the bathroom again. With reluctance, her mother took her back to the bathroom. Within ten seconds, my friend was screaming my name. I ran into the bathroom to find her wide-eyed and shaking, her little girl smiling and confused.

“She started talking about Bobby again and I can’t handle it,” my friend said. “You have to stay in here.”

Knowing that young children are said to be more susceptible to seeing and hearing the undead than adults, I started asking questions. “Is Bobby in here?” I asked her. She smilled and nodded. “Where?” She pointed to the bathtub. Her mother started backing out of the bathroom slowly, torn between her fear of ghosts and the instinct to protect her daughter. I walked over to the bathtub and pulled open the shower curtain. Nothing. But the little girl definitely seemed to see something. “Do you see him?” I asked. She nodded again. “In here?”

She smiled, then walked cautiously to where I was standing. She looked into the bathtub, then made the cutest little gasping sound as she appeared to watch something rise up slowly out of the tub, to the ceiling, then hover above the sink.

“Is Bobby up there?” I asked as she stared at the ceiling.

“Yeah,” she whispered, her eyes not moving. With that, her mother grabbed her and fled, first the bathroom, then the house. We’d never discussed the ghosts in our house in front of my friend’s daughter. So the fact that she saw a little boy named Bobby in the same room where a child is believed to have died was more than coincidental.

Once he had a name, Bobby became more real, both in theory, and in the things he was capable of. One morning, I stepped into the shower to find all of my shampoos and soaps squeezed out of their bottles and smeared all over the shower walls. The kids were gone for the weekend, and my husband didn’t have a death wish. There was no explanation besides Bobby.

Another time, I walked into the same bathroom to find it in complete disarray- toilet paper rolls unrolled and thrown all over, other toiletries strewn about, towels pulled from the towel bars lying crumpled on the floor. Bobby had to be the culprit.

On another occasion, my husband came home to an empty house that had been spotless when he left it, only to find that half the shower curtain had been ripped from its hooks, and the glass change jar we kept in our bedroom was spilled on the floor.

One day I was home alone cleaning and Bobby trailed behind me undoing my work. I fluffed the couch pillows and put them in their place, only to turn around and find them on the floor again. I folded towels and put them in the closet, only to find the closet door wide open and the towels on the floor a little while later. That same night, I was in the bathroom washing my face while my husband did dishes in the kitchen. I heard him turning the sink on and off, scrubbing pots and pans, opening and closing the cupboards to put things away. When I was done in the bathroom, I went out into the kitchen to see if I could help. The lights were off, the sink was full of dirty dishes, and my husband was in bed, fast asleep.

One morning, I was still in bed when my husband left for work. The children were gone, so I was home alone. I woke up around 9:00 am and heard my husband come in the house. I heard his heavy footsteps travel from the back door through the kitchen, then the middle room, then past our bedroom. When he didn’t open the door, I sent him a text, too tired to get up. Where are you? His response sent shivers down my spine: At work, why?

Living in a haunted house didn’t seem to affect the children until we’d been there for just over a year. One night, my usually independent ten-year-old made me sit in the bathroom (with my eyes closed, of course) while he showered. He said the lights kept flickering and he felt like he was being watched. The next morning, his older brother was more difficult to wake up than usual. When I finally dragged him out of bed, he said he was overly tired because he hadn’t slept well the night before. He said he felt like someone was watching him all night long. He was unaware of his brother’s similar experience the night before.

Photo Courtesy of Erica Jo Photography

A few weeks later, we experienced the only incident that ever made me truly consider packing up and moving. We’d just had a paranormal investigation a few days prior, which always seemed to stir up the activity a bit. It was the first night we’d had both my and my husband’s children in the house since the investigation. The three younger boys slept upstairs, while my oldest son camped out on the couch in the living room. At about 2:00 in the morning, I was awoken by the sound of someone running in the house. I got up to find my teenage son not sleep-walking, but sleep-running. He was running in frantic circles through the living room, middle room, dining room, and kitchen, his eyes closed, still completely asleep. I gently took his arm, pulled him into my room, and sat him down on the bed. I asked him what he was doing and he began mumbling, eyes still closed, about his brother taking some “brown thing” from him, and other nonsensical things. I walked him back out to the couch, tucked him back in, and settled in on the loveseat beside him. When the younger boys got up in the morning, my ten-year-old had dark circles under his eyes, and could barely hold his head up. He hadn’t slept. He said that at 2:00 in the morning, his nine-year-old stepbrother sat up in bed and, still asleep, started banging his head into his pillow repeatedly and growling, waking the other children. After a few minutes he stopped, laid back down, and was again fast asleep. This happened at the exact same time my older son jumped up from the couch and began running through the house in his sleep. When questioned, neither of the boys had any recollection of their strange middle-of-the-night behavior. My knee-jerk reaction was to move out that very day. But after thinking it over, I agreed to a compromise with my husband. We would stay, but if it every happened again, we would move so fast he’d be stuck doing all of the packing by himself.

One morning, I awoke to my teenage son standing beside my bed, his eyes wide. “Mom, I’m scared,” he said. He’d been upstairs by himself getting ready for school when he heard the sound of a child laughing in his brother’s room. Then something crashed to the ground. My husband went upstairs to investigate the source of the crash, and found nothing out of place.

A couple months later, the same son came running down into my room in the middle of the night saying that he heard footsteps coming up the stairs, then something slam on the ground directly outside his bedroom door. He said it was so loud, he thought it was me or his stepdad up there checking on him. When he realized he was alone, he freaked out and fled his room.

A few months after that, a similar event occurred. Except this time, it woke the entire house. At about 3:30 in the morning, we all awoke to a loud crash in my oldest son’s room. Then another. Then another. Then several more. I then listened in horror to what sounded like him falling down the stairs. I was paralyzed with fear as I began calling frantically for my son. He raced into my room, unharmed.

“I’m okay, I just got really scared,” he said. He hadn’t fallen down the stairs, he’d come running down them. We all took a few moments to catch our breath before he explained that he woke up to the sound of things falling everywhere in his room, which sent him running.

The next morning, after the sun was up, we all went upstairs together to survey the damage. On his otherwise spotless floor were his phone (which he’d left on his nightstand), his TV controller (which had been on his bed), a video game controller that had been on his entertainment center, and three action figures that were on display on a shelf in the hall. Nothing in our younger son’s room was touched.

While the footprint photos were the first bit of hard evidence we got, they wouldn’t be the last. A year and a half after we moved into the house, I caught activity on video that experts still cannot explain. I was home alone with my youngest son. We were watching movies together in the living room when the light in the middle room began turning on and off by itself. Not flickering, but very distinctly turning on, then back off. I started recording video on my phone in one minute increments. Nothing would happen while I was recording, but as soon as I stopped, the light would turn itself on and off again. Finally, during one recording, my son said, “Maybe Bobby doesn’t like to be caught on camera.” In immediate response, the light turned on and then off. And it was all caught on film.

We were in the house a good year and a half before I saw my first apparition. One night, I woke up around 2:00 am needing to use the bathroom. When I walked out into the middle room, I was startled by what I thought was a person sitting on the bench against the wall. When I stopped to really look, there was nothing there. I used the bathroom, made my way back down the hall and through the middle room, and as I entered my bedroom, I saw the same apparition standing beside my bed, near the closet door. I blinked and it was gone. It wasn’t a dark shadow, and it definitely wasn’t a person. It was almost like a light brown, person-shaped fog.

My husband has seen a shadow person pass through the kitchen on more than one occasion. In separate incidents months apart, both of my boys woke up screaming for me, claiming that there was someone standing at the end of their bed, watching them sleep.

The last apparition I saw was right before we moved out. I was asleep on the couch when I woke up suddenly to find a light, shadowy figure standing in the corner of the room. As I stared at it, it didn’t disappear. It hovered in the corner for a few seconds, then glided out the front door. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was one of the spirits saying goodbye.

One day, a couple of years into our stay at our haunted house, I arrived home from work and decided to take a nap. I laid down on the couch, closed my eyes, and began to drift instantly. Over the next hour and a half, I slept and awoke in erratic intervals, all while my husband ran his fingers through my hair, which he often does when we’re watching TV together. I woke up when the dogs began barking like crazy at the sound of a truck pulling into the driveway. My husband’s truck. He’d left to go to the store before I even fell asleep. He wasn’t beside me on the couch during my nap. So who was running their fingers through my hair?

Photo Courtesy of Erica Jo Photography

Several months later, something similar happened to my eldest son. He came running into my room in the middle of the night, terrified. He said he was trying to sleep and kept feeling someone touching him and running a hand through his hair. At one point, he distinctly felt someone sit down on the end of his bed, which was what prompted him to come racing downstairs. Too afraid to go back upstairs, he slept on the couch that night. I slept on the loveseat beside him. Several times during the night, he jolted awake, insisting that someone had poked him or touched him. Once, he said he felt someone pulling on his leg. He kept thinking he saw shadows walking through the house, and we both heard footsteps and creaking floorboards.

Later that day, he was upstairs watching TV while the rest of us were downstairs. All of a sudden, we heard a loud explosion. My son screamed. We all went racing up the stairs. The light fixture in his brother’s room had shattered. It didn’t fall, didn’t get bumped. There was nobody in the room. The lightbulbs simply exploded.

After over five years living in one of the most paranormally active homes in Michigan, we decided to move. Not because of the ghosts, but because it was time to take the leap from renter to homeowner. One of the last major events I remember, aside from seeing the apparition shortly before we moved, was a summer night that I was trying to sleep on the couch, feeling restless for no particular reason. The alarm on my husband’s truck started going off. He grabbed a baseball bat and headed outside, but there was no one there. Suddenly, my car alarm started going off on the other side of the driveway. Again, there was nobody anywhere near our house or vehicles. While he was inspecting my car and locking it back up, the alarm on my son’s truck out front went off. My husband stood vigil near the door for the next hour, looking for any sign of intruders. Nobody was there. Nobody we could see, anyway.

Finding our new home was relatively easy. We quickly fell in love with a 1920 Victorian house just north of town. Our friends teased us for buying an even older house than the one we were leaving. I assured everyone that our new house wasn’t haunted. The whole vibe was much lighter. Besides, what were the chances of us living in two haunted houses in a row? Just like I’d done the first time around, I ignored the warning signs, and wrote them off as coincidences. But our first night in the new house, as my husband and I were getting ready to go to bed, the gas detector began shrieking from the dining room. I unplugged it and plugged it back in. It happened again. We could hear the shrill blare of the alarm all the way outside, where we waited for the utility company to arrive and inspect the house for a gas leak. While we sat in the parking lot across the street from the new house, unable to reenter until it was deemed safe, I couldn’t help but laugh as I reflected on our first night in the old house, when the smoke detectors went off all night long without cause. Just as there had been no fire in the old house, there was no gas leak in the new house, of course. Just Bobby coming to say goodbye. At least, I hope it was Bobby…