Who’s That?

My basement has never exactly been a welcoming place. It’s unfurnished; there’s no carpet and the walls consist of boring, exposed bricks. There’s a set of old wooden stairs on one end that creaks whenever anyone uses them. Behind the stairs is a storage area that begins about four or five feet off the ground and goes maybe fifteen feet further back underneath the garage. The place is a dump, as my brother NEVER cleans it, and toys and tools and random things are sprawled out across the entire basement floor—and that’s an accomplishment considering how huge it is. It’s not very wide but from one end to the other it’s at least eighty feet in length, including the storage space. However it is not easy to see from one end to the other since the water heater, furnace, and other appliances sit conveniently at the bottom of the stairs to make it impossible to carry large objects like the Christmas tree up and down stairs.

Anyways, one night we had some friends over. By “we,” I mean me and my parents. They had a little girl with them, maybe four or five years old, and since my brother was elsewhere—as usual—I wound up sort of babysitting this girl while the parents chatted over desserts or something. Since the basement had so many toys, I thought it was a good idea to take her downstairs to play. Upstairs was kind of boring for a kid her age. The first thing she did when she got down there was find a large box. We had just replaced our washing machine, so its ginormous box was just sitting in the middle of the basement floor.

It was as if I had completely vanished as soon as she crawled into the box. She had entered her own little world, playing house or something. I tuned out for a while to check emails on my iPod while she entertained herself. And then she caught my attention:
“Who’s that?” She asked. I blinked.
“Who’s who?” I responded, confused.
“That man over there—the man in black,” she responded, completely straight-faced.
“There’s no one there,” I told her.
“That’s because he went upstairs,” she told me.
At this point I took the girl upstairs and sat with my parents for the rest of the evening, not saying a word about what she said.

Two years later, I had some friends over in mid-February. In Wisconsin, this means that if you were to go outside at night, you would be frozen solid in under ten minutes. So me and my friends were stuck inside and went downstairs to investigate the “haunted basement” I told them about—the above story, in fact. There were five of us, including me and my cousin. I had a tape recorder to collect audio, my cousin had a digital camera, and the others were armed with flashlights—because they wanted to turn off the lights… reluctantly.

So we pulled the strings to turn off the lights and we sat there in the pitch black basement, but only for a few seconds. A halogen light bulb began to flicker above my head almost immediately. I reach up to find that it was halfway plugged in, but still a coincidence. I hadn’t even turned on the recorder yet. So, I unplug the light and turn on my recorder and tell my cousin to do the same to his camera.

It was past eleven o’clock at night, so it was silent. Absolutely silent. Several minutes passed. We even did that thing they do on TV where you just ask questions to whoever or whatever… there wasn’t a single response. So, it turned into a bit of a joke. We started making fun of the situation and felt pretty stupid; we laughed for a while. Finally, my cousin’s camera gives a low battery warning, so we decide to take the last few minutes seriously.

“Okay, I’m going to count down from three and then let’s have it quiet again,” my cousin says, “three… two… one.” A few silent moments passed. My cousin’s camera beeps and shuts off. I turn off my recorder. We go upstairs to listen to the footage, and that was that.

Of course, the footage was rather uneventful. We listened to the entire tape, and for the longest time we heard nothing but the sounds of our own voices. Until the end:

“Okay, I’m going to count down from three and then let’s have it quiet again,” my cousin says, “three… two… one.” A few silent moments passed. My cousin’s camera beeps and shuts off. But then in the half second between the camera turning off and the end of the footage is a whisper:

“Don’t leave.”

We all stared at each other, petrified.

“Who’s that?” one of my friends asked.
“The man in black,” I told him.

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