The Crawl space
When I was 14 my mom moved me and my two younger sisters into a small house in Armada, MI. My grandfather owned a second house that he used as a rental, and it had been vacant for a few months. It was a small two bedroom house in desperate need of some ‘TLC’ that sat on 5 acres of land, but we made it work.
For the first few months all three of us, my sisters and myself, had to share a bedroom. We had one of those bunk bed sets that was a twin mattress on top, and a full size on the bottom. My middle sister, Julie, often called dibs on the top bunk, leaving me to sleep with the youngest, Stephanie, on the bottom. It was a tight squeeze all of us in one room, but we were used to it. Due to my father's lack of motivation to work, we had grown up in apartments, duplexes, and random single wide trailers. A few years ago my mom left my dad, offering us a more happy and stable environment. Having an actual house to ourselves was a big deal for us. No loud neighbors keeping us up at night; no trailer park kids stealing your bike if you forgot to lock it up. We were loving every minute of this new place.
The house itself was rather tiny. Just a cozy little living room, a walk-through type of dining room, a single bathroom, and the kitchen. In the kitchen there was a small curtained off closet next to the back door, and in that closet was the door that closed off the steps to the attic. A few feet to the left of that closet was a sort of secret passage. A small 4x4 section of the wall was removable, and when removed revealed the opening to the house’s crawl space. The opening was just a 3x3 square cut into the floor under the attic stairs. The crawl space itself wasn’t much to look at. It was just a space under the house about 3 feet high with a dirt floor. It was where someone would gain access to the house’s plumbing and such. My sisters and I were forbidden from going anywhere near the crawl space. My mom moved a chest freezer in front of the trap door to insure that my sisters and I would steer clear of it.
We had moved into the house in the summer before my freshman year of high school. I had to babysit often, due to our mom being a full time waitress at the local restaurant, which meant lots of play time with my sisters. She was often at work by lunchtime, and didn’t get home until shortlyl after we’d gone to bed. It was almost a daily ritual that after lunch we would sneak over to our neighbor’s pond and go swimming while they were at work. Looking back now I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded, but it was fun for us to feel as if we were doing something rebellious. We would play hide and seek in the back yard. Stephanie’s favorite hiding places were always the old shed, behind the honeysuckle bush, or up the old tree that sat on our property line.
One night we were lying in bed, whispering about the days adventures. Julie was quiet for the most part, but Stephanie was chattering on and on about going fishing the next day at the neighbors pond. Just as I was about to explain why we couldn’t go fishing I’d heard a scratching sound come from underneath our bed.
“Shhhhh. You hear that?” I asked my sisters.
Julie giggled. “What? Stephanie rambling on about fishing?”
Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch.
It occurred again. It didn’t sound like a small scratch, like something that would come from a mouse or a small critter. It sounded like a heavier scratch, as if someone were attempting to use their fingernails to scrape off some chipping paint from a wooden table or chair.
“I heard *that*,” said Stephanie, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Julie is that you?” I demanded, knowing full well that it hadn’t been her.
“It’s not me! Look, I’ll put my hands over the railing.”
We lay there as silent as possible, Julie’s hands hanging over the railing in plain view, waiting for the scratching to occur again.
Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch.
“I-I think it’s under the bed,” Stephanie whispered. Julie gasped and quickly pulled her hands back over the rail. I laid there for what felt like hours, but was really just seconds trying to figure out what to do. Mom was at work and wasn’t due home for a few more hours. I was the oldest, so it was up to me to figure out what was going on and fix the situation. Just as I started to roll towards the edge of the bed, Stephanie grabbed my shoulder.
“What are you doing?!” She whispered frantically.
“I’m going to make sure there’s nothing under the bed, Steph.”
She instantly backed away from me, and scooted her back up against the wall. Julie scooted towards the edge and peeked through the slots of the rail, her covers pulled up to her ears. I slowly leaned to the edge, sliding my fingers down the side of the mattress that was the only thing between me and whatever was scratching the hell out of my floor. My fingers found the metal frame and slid around it, bracing my weight as I slowly slid my face down the side. My eyesight hadn’t even cleared the mattress yet, and I could already hear Stephanie’s frantic breathing mixing in with the heavy pounding of my heart. It felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I took a deep breath and dropped my head down.
Since our nightlight’s glow didn’t reach that far, it was rather dark under our bed. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. I slowly looked from one end to the other, seeing nothing but a stray sock and an old teddy bear.
“What do you see?” Julie whispered.
I did one more sweep of the space, now more confused than scared.
“Nothing. There’s nothing down-“
Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch.
I quickly thrust my body up and slid back towards Stephanie. She curled into my side, as Julie quickly shimmied down the ladder and onto the bottom bunk. We sat there huddled together for a few minutes before Julie suggested sleeping in Mom’s bed. On the count of three we all booked it from our bedroom, through the living room, and into her bedroom as quickly as possible. As we all lay cuddled together, Stephanie now sleeping, Julie turned to me and whispered, “It was getting louder.” I nodded and pulled the blankets up to my ears praying I fell asleep quickly.
The next morning we told our mom what we had heard the night before. She wasn’t in a great mood after coming home from work to find her bed had been claimed and had to sleep on the couch. Still, she’d called my grandfather over to take a look around the house to make sure the outer entrances to the crawl space were secure. He brought over a few bales of hay and put them in front of the two little doors outside, one on each side of the house. He assured my mom that he had looked, and that there was nothing under the house.
The next few nights were the same. The scratching had become sort of a normal occurrence. Our mother had ignored our insistence that there was something beneath the house, saying that we were paranoid with over active imaginations. For a while I thought she may have been right.
A few weeks later we were all getting up and ready for church, when we realized we had no water pressure to shower. This house and it’s plumbing were very old, so issues were to be expected. My mom and I moved the freezer chest aside, and she removed the trap door in the wall to expose the hole into the crawl space. She handed me a flashlight and a broom stick. I stared back at her confused, not knowing what she was asking me to do.
“You’re smaller than I am. Crawl down there and bang on the pipe.”
My heart sank to my butt. No way was I crawling down there.
“Go on, it’s fine. Nothing to be scared of. I’ll hold the light so you can see to slide yourself down.”
I shook my head and backed up a step.
She stepped forward towards me, “Go on. Get down there.”
I slowly stepped into the small area around the hole, and sat down on my butt. All I could think of was whatever creature had been living down there and scratching on our floor every night. It didn’t need to try to scratch it’s way through our floor to get me, because now I was dropping into his territory just offering myself up to him. I dipped one foot into the space like you would dip your toes into a body of water before jumping in.
“Come on, hun. We don’t have all day. Just get down there. I’ll hand you the broom stick, and just bang on that pipe a few times.”
I scooted forward and lowered my legs until my feet felt the solid ground underneath them. I stood and grabbed the broom stick from my mom, setting it aside.
She handed me the flashlight. “You’ll need this to see down there. Just squat down and you’ll see the pipe. Bang on that knot a few times.”
I bent at my knees and started scanning the area quickly. The floor was all packed dirt with little hair balls scattered all over the place as far as I could see. I turned to my left to see the entire space under my house and ended up sticking my face into an old spider web full of dead spiders. I lurched back too quickly and landed on my butt. There were dead spiders everywhere. They were all white with thick legs that almost looked like plastic. There had to be hundreds of them.
“There’s a lot of dead spiders down here, mom. Like a LOT.”
“I know, I know. Just bang on the pipe, hun, and you can get out of there. And don’t touch those spiders.”
I sighed and shone the light around looking for this pipe my mom kept talking about. About a foot to my left I saw it. Crouching, I reached for the broomstick, and as I turned back something caught my eye at the far end of the house. I dropped my stick and shone my light back towards the area I had just realized was under my bedroom.
Nothing but dirt. I swore I saw something move just a second before, but now it was empty. I’d decided I needed to move quickly and get the hell out of there. I hurriedly smacked the knot (as my mom called it) a few times. Just as I was getting ready to head back up into the actual house I heard a shuffling behind me. It sounded like someone or something was scooting quickly across the ground. I froze. Slowly I lifted my flash light and as the cone of light reached that part of the space something black skittered out of sight. I instantly went to stand, hitting my head on the floorboards, and fell to my knees. I crawled as fast as I could, and booked it back out of the crawl space not looking back.
Unfortunately that didn’t work, and we were still without water.
Mom gave in and called my grandpa for help. My grandpa said he knew of a local plumber who was willing to work on Sundays. After about an hour the plumber was in our crawl space working on the rusted pipes amidst the dead spiders. Mom sent us outside to play to stay out of his way.
Three games of hide and seek, a trip to the back woods, and a few bike rides up and down the driveway later, the plumber was packing up his truck. Mom thanked him a few times and offered him some iced tea to go. He politely declined, and we watched him make his way down the road. Mom said she was going to run into town to get a pizza for dinner.
“Why don’t you get Stephanie in the bath real quick, and by the time you’re done I’ll be home with dinner.” Mom said while walking out to her car.
Stephanie sighed loudly, but I nodded. “Ok. We’ll head inside in a few minutes.”
One last trip down the driveway, and then the three of us were putting our bikes away in the garage.
“Maybe mom will get us cheesy bread too,” Julie said while leading the way to the house. Stephanie weaseled her way between us and ran ahead inside. When I walked in I noticed her standing in the center of the dining room facing the kitchen.
“What is it Steph? Hurry and get into the bathroom.”
She didn’t budge. She just kept standing there.
“Stephanie.” I said with a little more authority.
She turned to look at me and said, “They left it open.”
“They left what open?”
“The trap door,” she whispered.
I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what to do. I knew the obvious answer was ‘close the damn trap door’, but in that moment I was too terrified to move.
“Bathroom. Now.” I whispered.
That time there wasn’t any arguing. Stephanie walked into the bathroom, Julie hot on her heels. “Shut the door, and give her a bath. I’ll shut the trap door.” Julie nodded and slowly closed the door. My gaze shifted to the very open trap door and dread instantly filled my stomach. My feet felt like they were full of cement as I stepped towards the entrance to the crawl space. I could hear the water running in the bathroom, and the girls arguing about shampoo. As I got closer a different sound caught my ear. It was the sound of the shuffling I’d heard earlier, though it was a lot closer to the entrance this time.
Three more steps and I’d be close enough to shut that door. The shuffling sounded closer, and little muffled grunting noises that sounded strangely similar to a dogs growl.
Two more steps to go. No matter how terrified I was and ready to get that opening closed off, I couldn’t get myself to move at a faster speed. My brain moved at lightning speed, though my body moved at a glacial pace. My legs felt heavy, though I felt lightheaded. My heart was racing, and my breaths shallow. More shuffling, more growling. I could see inside the hole, I was so close.
One more step. Four black, hair covered, human length fingers with long pointed nails reached up out of the crawl space hole and gripped the ledge. I stopped dead in my tracks. Fingers. The fingers curled a little so that the nails scratched the edge of the hole. My mind was racing while my body was paralyzed with fear. I’d made so many mistakes. I didn’t tell them to close the trap door. I didn’t have a weapon and was totally helpless against whatever it was that was about to climb up into the house. My sisters were alone in the bathroom right next door. I had no weapon. I had no weapon. I had no weapon. Eyes. My eyes locked onto a set of the brightest green eyes I have ever seen. They were glowing and still partially in the dark, but I could make out the slight shape of it’s fur covered head. Scratch. Growl.
I screamed. I screamed as loud as I could until my lungs hurt. I quickly ran to the side and shoved the freezer with everything I had in me to cover that entrance. Julie opened the door of the bathroom, her eyes wide with panic and I pushed her into the bathroom, slamming the door behind us. I locked the door and started sobbing. Julie and Stephanie were both talking a mile a minute, asking question after question and I just sobbed. A few minutes later I saw headlights pull into our long driveway; mom was home. I opened the bathroom window, hopped outside and met my mom at her car. She freaked out because I was hysterical (and hopping out of bathroom windows), but was able to calm me down to hear what I had to say. Nervously, she quickly went into the house, gathered my sisters and sat us in her car as she called my grandpa.
The ten minutes of holding Stephanie wrapped in her towel with Julie sitting next to me waiting for grandpa to get there were the longest ten minutes of my life. He went into the house with his shotgun as if he were ready for WW3. A short while later he came back out saying there was nothing there. He’d checked the entire house, including the crawl space, and saw nothing.
We stayed at my grandparents house that night at my insistence, and my grandpa boarded up the outside entrances to the crawl space the next day. He made one final round to make sure the house and crawl space were clear.
A few days later when I asked him about it, he said the only thing he’d noticed that was ‘off’ about the house was that the hay bale next to my room had been moved and that there were scratches on the wood surrounding the entrance.