I moved out of my parents’ house at an early age and struck out on my own, living in a variety of, ahem, interesting places. My first apartment was with a friend, then I got a place of my own. The place of my own lasted a couple of months, until my friend Rich decided to move in with me. We were roommates for the next couple of years, and moved around a couple times. The most memorable place we ever lived was a place I remember as simply “the green house,” and it would become permanently branded on my memory as one of the scariest places I ever lived.
The green house was in Minot, my hometown. It was perched on the slope of “South Hill” as we called it, just a couple blocks south of Minot High School’s Central Campus, and about a block from Trinity Hospital. A couple of guys we knew from high school found this house, I don’t remember how, and learned it was for rent. It was a massive house. It had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen with a dine-in breakfast nook, a separate dining room, a breezeway with a fireplace connecting the kitchen to the attached garage, plus another separate garage out back. Altogether, there were three floors counting the finished basement, plus an attic that was a half-story. I remember one afternoon shortly after we moved in spending some time looking out a top story window. It was a gray overcast day, but I marveled that I could see above the tree tops in the Souris River Valley below. The house was cold and damp. It felt something like a medieval tower… sound echoed, the wind howled in the eaves. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The thing about this house was, it was really in bad shape. The only reason the property management company had agreed to rent it to us in the first place was the terrible condition it was in — they had plans to knock it down in another year or two. The carpet was worn through to bare wood in places. The plaster walls were cracked and badly in need of paint. The settling of the house over the years had caused doors to warp, making them noisy and hard to open. There was an air of creepiness to it. Our first night in the house, we didn’t have the power turned on yet, so we spent the evening burning white candles with beer cans as holders, telling scary stories and trying to score with the girls who had come to keep us company in this creepy old house. I don’t think any of us succeeded. And I think we set a bad precedent too.
The next day was exploration time. There were five of us guys, and this was the first time all of us were able to be present at the same time, so we took the opportunity to haggle over who got what room. In the process of choosing our rooms, it became obvious that whomever had lived here before had left behind a lot of their life in the house — we found all kinds of cool and intriguing things there. In the basement, we found hundreds of old reel-to-reel tapes and a reel-to-reel player stashed in a cabinet. The tapes were loaded with music from the sixties, some of it apparently recorded during live performances of a GI band in Vietnam. There was military equipment and gear here and there, including demolitions materials and an old military radio of some kind. We discovered the attic was totally wired with antennas for ham radio. And in the parking lot next door, there was an old school bus camper which we scavenged for finds including a working window air conditioner. Every time we found something, it added to the mystique of the place.
We chose our rooms and settled in. Things went pretty well for the first few months, but a few things began to happen… we would hear voices in the house. I always thought the voices sounded a like a radio transmission. The wood floors would creak in the night like someone was walking the halls. Nothing major though, and everybody seemed pretty happy. I actually left for a time in the summer to work as a camp counselor, and when I came back in the fall, the mood had changed. The guy down the hall from me had started drinking pretty heavily and spent a lot of time in his room. The guy in the basement bedroom had grown confrontational and was always trying to pick fights. And my friend Rich had started acting like we weren’t friends at all, laughing along with the crowd when the drunk guy down the hall broke some of my cds and trashed my bedroom. At the time, I just thought I had worn out my welcome, but now I wonder if it was something more.
Things continued to degenerate and it became obvious that most of us would be parting ways before winter set in and the sure-to-be-outlandish heating bills arrived. Over the next sixty days, one-by-one, the guy in the basement, another guy on the main floor, and the drunk guy at the end of the hall moved out. Rich and I were the last two in the house. We had reconciled a bit and were getting along by this time, but making plans of our own to move out within a few weeks.
During this time when it was just the two of us, I went out of town for a weekend, and when I came back, Rich had a very strange story to tell me. To this day, I do not know if it was true. But he looked me in the face when he told it, and I did not detect any deception. Rich said one night while he was sleeping in his room on the top floor, all alone in this huge house, he woke to a loud hammering noise coming from somewhere downstairs. He looked at his clock — it was almost 3 am. He got up and went downstairs to check the front door. There was nobody there. As he was standing there, he heard the pounding noise again, louder this time. But in the depths of this dark house in the middle of the night, he was having a hard time figuring out where it was coming from. He turned and walked one way, stopped, and walked back the other way. The pounding noise came again. Was it coming from the basement?
Rich descended the upper portion of the stairway to the basement just as the pounding happened again, right next to him. Someone was pounding on the door from outside in the driveway. This side door connected the driveway outside to the landing of the basement steps. The door was hard to open and we never used it. It was unnerving in a way, wondering why someone would be knocking on this door. Rich asked, “Who’s there?” A voice answered back, “Minot police.”
Rich grabbed the doorknob and struggled to open it. He got the door open just far enough that he could step outside. He was met by a uniformed Minot Police officer, a man in an Air Force uniform, and another man in coveralls holding some kind of electronic device in his hand. The police officer shined his flashlight in Rich’s eyes.
“Can I help you?” Rich asked, squinting.
The police officer asked Rich a few questions. Did he live here? Who else was home? Could they come in and take a look around? Rich let them in and the guy with the device led the way. They turned left and went down into the basement. Within minutes, they had zeroed in on something… the military radio we had found in the basement when we moved in. “This is it,” the guy with the device said.
The Air Force guy explained that for the last several months, pilots flying into the Minot Air Force Base had been reporting picking up a signal from a beacon — the kind of beacon a pilot triggers when his plane has gone down. A rescue beacon. In playing with the stuff we’d found when we moved in, we had accidentally activated it. The men took the radio and left.
I’m telling you, weird things happened in this house.
In the ensuing weeks, rent came due. Three of our roommates had moved out, and Rich and I were certainly not willing to make up the difference on our paltry paychecks, so the landlord had started coming ’round at odd hours, trying to catch us at home and strong arm us into turning over some cash. We managed to dodge him for some time, so he took drastic measures — he had our power turned off. Then one day we came home from a day at the lake to find they had taken our fridge. They just emptied it and left all the food sitting on the counter. It was in this kind of atmosphere that things came to a head.
The final straw was an event of an unexplained nature, I believe supernatural. We were about two weeks from moving out of the house. We had disposed of all the food in the kitchen, and had just been dining out for all our meals. Essentially, we were just sleeping and showering in this house. One night, Rich and I were planning to go out cruising, trying to meet girls, because that’s what you did when you were a teenager in 1980′s Minot. I was ready to go for the night, but Rich was still getting ready in the bathroom upstairs. Our power was still turned off, so it was dark in the house, aside from the light coming in from the streetlight in the parking lot next door.
I was standing at the foot of the steps on the main floor, and Rich was upstairs getting ready to go. I could hear his boots on the floor in the hallway as he crossed from the bathroom, to his bedroom, and back again. The whole time he was getting ready, I was talking to him from the bottom of the stairs — talking about our plans for the night, the people we hoped to run into, and every now and then, I would cajole him to hurry up. Finally, he came out of the bathroom and started to come down the steps. The stairway to the second floor was not a straight shot, but one of those stairways that went halfway up to a landing where there was a window that looked out onto the parking lot, then the stairway turned ninety degrees to the left and went the rest of the way up to the second floor. So when Rich started coming down the steps, at first I could see just his feet, and more of him was revealed as he descended toward the landing.
When he got to the landing, from my perspective at the bottom of the stairs, he did something strange. Rich walked all the way across the wide landing, and then turned to come down the stairs. His shoulder was nearly touching the wall. It seemed strange. Why wouldn’t he just turn and come right down the middle of the staircase? But before he began to descend from the landing, he just stopped and stood there, staring down at me in the dark.
I was staring back at him. “What are you doing?” I asked.
When I said that, Rich’s head snapped to his right and then he came rushing down the stairs. “What’s going on?” I asked, alarmed. He grabbed me by the arm, yelling “C’mon. Let’s get out of here,” and half dragged me out of the house. Outside, he wouldn’t release his grip on my arm and urged me on to the car. “C’mon, c’mon. We gotta go, man!” We got in the car and he was exhorting me to start the car, but I was very puzzled. I told him, “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on.”
Rich began to explain… He said while we were in the house and he was getting ready, he thought I was standing on the landing of the stairway while I was talking to him. He said when he began to come down from upstairs, he saw me, or something that he thought was me, standing on the stairway landing. So he walked all the way across the landing to get around me and descend the stairs. But when he turned to descend, he saw me in my light-colored shirt, standing at the bottom of the stairs. And when he heard me ask, “What are you doing?” it made him think, “If that’s Troy down there, then who is this?” That’s when his head snapped to the right to see who was standing next to him — and when he looked nobody was there.
He told me this as we sat in the car, and I was saying something like, “Oh my God dude, that is freaky. Oh my God.” We had a good laugh about it. I put the key in the ignition and started the car. When I turned on the headlights, we saw a pale white face and the dark outline of a person staring out the window at us from the location of the stairway landing. We freaked out all over again and got the hell out of there. We never spent another night in that house.
To my knowledge the house is gone now. It was knocked down a couple years later. There would be one more experience for Rich and I, one of an unexplained origin, which I’ll get to in a later post.
Troy Larson is a producer, writer, photographer, and designer from Fargo. Read about his haunted house here.