By Steven LaChance, 2004
Do you believe in ghosts? I used to be like many of you. I was a true skeptic. A true disbeliever. That was me until three years ago. Now I do believe. I wish I didn’t. It would be easier for me to sleep at night. Even now, three years later, I am still waking up in the night by the memory of the screaming man, the child in pain, and the dark ghostly image that turned my world upside down and changed my beliefs forever. I do believe in ghosts.
It was in May 2001. I needed desperately to find a place for myself and three children to live in Union, Missouri. Our lease was up at the apartment where we had lived for two years. I was a single father and about to find myself and my children homeless. Like many, I had answered just about every ad in the newspaper for rentals. One evening I received a call from this woman telling me about this house. She said it was a rather large old house in perfect shape. She invited me to an open house that was to be held that coming Sunday. Sunday rolled around. You can’t imagine the surprise when my daughter and I rolled up in front of this large white house. We walked in. The smell of baking cookies hit us immediately upon entering through the front door. To our surprise, we were standing in a living room with cherubs surrounding the top of the walls around the room. The original woodwork was intact, and a large wooden pole ran to the ceiling, creating a divider separating the living room from the family room. The house had two floors with three bedrooms and a large family kitchen with a mudroom that led to the back door. The upstairs bedrooms had a breezeway that could be accessed from all rooms.
The basement had an old butcher’s shower and a fruit cellar. It was more house than we ever imagined for the price, and we immediately decided we had to have it. Anyone who has lived in an apartment for two years with three children would understand our desperation. We had to have this house.
We spoke with the landlady, and she gave me an application to fill out. Many people were there looking at the house, so we knew we would have to compete to be its tenants. I handed my application to the landlady. “You understand the responsibility of living in an old house like this?” she asked. “Oh, yes, I understand. It’s beautiful.”, I quickly replied, not understanding what I agreed to. “Well then, I will get back to you,” she quickly retorted and was off to peddle her wares to another of the visiting house hunters. She was a strange old lady and the way she showed the house wasn’t in a real estate-type manner. She showed the house as if she were showing a museum. We felt like we were on one of the house tours often given each year for charity.
A week went by before the phone rang one evening. The strange landlady was overly excited to tell me that she had selected me, my daughter, and two sons to live in the old house. I was to meet her that following day at a restaurant to settle all of the paperwork and payment. I thought this was a little strange, and I was a little disappointed because I couldn’t wait to see the house that would now become our home. The papers were signed on the following day. That weekend was Memorial weekend, and we were all set to move in.
It seemed like years before Friday came that week, but we were finally there. Moving day. The move was typical, and before we knew it, our belongings were safely hidden inside the old white house. I was removing the last few items from the moving truck when a car slowed down, almost stopping in front of our new home. From the window of the slow-moving car, the passenger said, “Hope you get along okay here,” and then sped up and drove away. “What do you think of that dad,” my puzzled daughter asked. “Friendly neighbors, I suppose,” I replied as I shut the sliding door to the truck.
The first night in the house went by without fanfare. Maybe because we were so tired from the move or perhaps because the house wanted to draw us in a little closer before beginning its series of attacks and assaults upon me and my family. The next morning started like most any other day. Except, I did notice one strange thing about the house. Each of the houses’ interior doors had an old-fashioned hook and eye latch, but not on the inside of each room’s doors to keep someone out. The latches were on the outside of the room’s doors as if to keep something in. “What is it, Dad?” my youngest son asked from behind. “Oh, nothing,” I replied and unpacked our things.
The first incident happened in the living room when I was hanging a large picture of two angels. My daughter thought that this would complement the cherubs that surrounded the room. I hung the picture and turned to walk away. Crash! I turned to see that the picture had fallen to the floor. Re-hanging the picture once again, I turned away. Crash! The picture was once again on the floor. Hanging it for a third time, I felt a rush of air when I started walking away, and something hit the back of my ankles. “What the hell…?” I turned to see the picture lying at my feet. More determined than ever, I hung the picture again and stated loudly, “Stay there, dammit.” I had to laugh because I was alone. Who did I think I was talking to? The kids were playing on the front porch.
“Dad, come see this,” my daughter’s voice rang through the front door. I stepped out onto the porch. “Sit down and watch this,” she said excitedly. “Watch what?” I replied. No sooner were the words out of my mouth when my daughter pointed to an old man walking down the sidewalk toward our house. However, when he reached our property line, he quickly crossed the street and walked on the opposite sidewalk. “They don’t like walking in front of our house Dad. Isn’t that weird?” my daughter, breathless with excitement stated. And right she was. I sat on that porch for three hours, watching our neighbors across the street from our house whenever they walked along our street. A couple of times, I motioned as if to say hello, but they just dropped their heads and continued at a brisker pace. “Maybe they are uncomfortable with new neighbors?” I rationalized, trying to make sense of the senseless situation. We went inside for dinner, and the rest of the night went usually without incident.
Sunday. The kids came home from church excited because we had set aside the day to work on our yard. This was a big deal for us because the only outside area our apartment provided was a front balcony. We mowed the grass and cleaned the leaves from under the porch and in the front yard. Strangely enough, the trees seemed to be shedding their leaves as if it were Fall. Strange tree behavior, I thought, and I made a mental note to mention it to the landlady when I talked with her next. I asked my youngest son to go inside and bring out the garden hose from the basement so we could clean off the walkways and wash down the weathered white of the house.
A few moments passed when I heard him screaming from inside the house. Running frantically into the house, I found him standing in the kitchen, shaking in the middle of a puddle of urine. “What’s wrong? What happened?” Looking at me with the scared eyes of a child, he said, “Something chased me up the basement steps.” “What chased you?” I asked, already thinking the overactive imagination of a little boy was at play here. “I don’t know, Daddy, but it was big.” My other two children and I checked the basement but found nothing except the garden hose that had been dropped during his frightened escape. “Let’s get you cleaned up,” I said. Naturally, there was teasing from my other two children about the proverbial basement monster. “Better watch out when you go into the basement because…” The glare of my eye finished my middle boy’s sentence. The rest of Sunday and Monday went without any other incidents, and we were so happy those first few days in the house. My daughter was making plans about gardens and decorating, and my boys thought walking to their baseball games would be easy because the park was very close. It was a normal, happy time which, unfortunately, did not last for long.
Monday came. The last week of school for my kids and a long week of work for me. Each day we would leave the house and return each evening to find every light in the house turned on. I blamed the children for leaving the lights on in the morning. However, my daughter and I sent the boys to the car on Friday while we toured the house, ensuring every light was off. That night we returned home to find again every light burning. When I walked into the house, I was a little shaken – there was no logical reason for all of the lights to be on other than someone in our house. Searching the house in a panic, I found nothing.
“Daddy, it’s cold in here,” my daughter stated from the living room. What was she talking about? Sweat was pouring down my back and across my brow. However, the temperature dropped thirty degrees when I stepped into the living room. That was the first time I felt its presence. I can’t describe it any better; it felt like an electrical current running through my body, bringing tears to my eyes and bumps to my arms. It passed quickly. I remember thinking, “What the hell was that?” Soon, my daughter stated, “Daddy, it’s getting warm in here,” sure enough, the temperature was rising as I watched the thermostat climb. That night my children slept with me – what little sleep I got.
Sunday night. We were sitting in the living room talking. I was getting ready to take a trip the following morning to Indianapolis for work, and we were discussing their plans for a stay at Grandma’s. The kids had their backs to the living room, for which I am still thankful because the memory of what happened next still haunts my dreams. I noticed it first out of the corner of my eye. A quick glance. Standing at the kitchen doorway leading into the family room, something was moving. Not something – someone. I looked toward it again. It was a dark figure of a man, even though there was full light. He was solid in form, except there was a moving, churning, dark gray, black smoke or mist that made up his form.
I looked down because I was sure I wasn’t seeing this and that my eyes were playing tricks on me. One or two good rationalizations, and we could go on with our lives without incident. A few moments passed, and I was sure it would be gone when I looked up again. But he was still there, and he began to move.
Moving into the family room and pausing in the center, his form was still a churning mass, turning blackness. He stood there for what seemed an eternity, but it was only a few moments before he melted into the air. Gone. I remember the thoughts that were racing through my head. “I have two choices. We could run out of the house screaming into the night like those crazies you always see in the movies. You know, the ones that are always based on fact. Or, the other choice, we could get up quietly, leave the house and figure all of this out.” My hands were shaking uncontrollably. “That’s what we’ll do. We will go quietly, orderly, as if nothing was wrong.”
Standing on shaky legs, I said in my calmest daddy voice, “Let’s go get a soda and see grandma.” My youngest was instantly excited at the prospect of a soda before bed, and the older two looked at me as if I lost my mind. “Come on, guys, it will be fun.” Thank God, my car keys were on the coffee table before us. We moved orderly out the front door, and I turned to lock the door when a loud painful scream of a man came from inside the house. It sounded as if he was screaming in pain, so loud that it could be heard throughout the neighborhood, and the dogs began to bark. To hell with orderly, “Get in the car!” I screamed at my children.
At a dead run, we headed to the car and to drive to my Mom’s house, which is still a blur to this day. I panicked, knowing we had to escape the old white house. But before we were away from the neighborhood, my youngest son, in a terrified voice, said, “Daddy, the basement monster is standing in the upstairs window.” I looked back, and sure enough, the black form stood in the window, watching us leave.
That night we stayed at my parents’ house. I gathered my things early the next day and left for my business trip. I had a whole week of rationalizations when I returned home to pick up my children. Where else were we to go? I had put everything I had saved, and then some, into the move. We had no choice but to return to the big old white house. Besides, after a week of talking myself out of the events of that night, I was ready to return, so on Friday night, we returned to the house. The weekend went by without incident, though we got very little sleep.
I was taking another extended weekend to make up for my kids for my week away. On Saturday, we explored the big shed at the back of the yard, and in it, we found several personal belongings that appeared to belong to different people. My parents convinced me that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to call the strange old landlady and ask her some straightforward questions about the house.
It was to be one of the most awkward and strangest phone calls of my life. Once I could reach her, I carefully chose my words and asked in a normal voice if any of the previous tenants had ever mentioned a ghost. Well, of course, she said at first that she could not remember. However, she said that one female tenant had claimed that her dead father had come to visit her, but the old woman always thought she was crazy. The landlady said that the girl had left behind some of the stuff in the shed, but she couldn’t get her to come pick it up.
The other stuff in the shed evidently belonged to a man who had lived there but left in the middle of the night, leaving behind his things. But, no, she had never heard of anyone talking about the house being haunted. I asked her how long ago did these people live there? And she said, “Not much more than a year, honey; why do you ask?” The phone call wasn’t of much help. And it didn’t calm my fears much, but what else could I do?
The rest of the long weekend came and went. I had convinced myself that it was just a one-time ordeal because nothing more was happening. That was until Monday night. I was on the phone with my mom. The kids were off playing in my bedroom, which was located on the first floor. While on the phone, I began to hear the inside doors rattling. Listening closely, they rattled again, and I yelled at the kids to quit playing games. I told my Mom everything was okay, just the kids playing tricks. They rattled again, this time harder. So, this time louder, I scolded the children to behave and stop playing tricks. At this time, they rattled louder, but before I could scold, my daughter’s scared voice cut me off., “Daddy, I’m in here reading, and my brothers are asleep.”
Now I will try to recreate what happens next to the best of my memory. Some of it I remember clearly. Other parts are a blur to this day. Just as soon as I heard my daughter, the temperature in the house instantly dropped a good 30 degrees. With it came the feeling of the electrical charge running through my body, its energy, and a horrible stench that I cannot describe permeated the room. And then, the screaming started – softly at first but building momentum. I yelled through the phone to my mother to help – we were getting out. Then the whole house began to shake and come alive. From the above, I could hear something large coming down the stairs. Boom. Boom! BOOM! The screaming of the man over and over. The screaming of my daughter, “Daddy, what is happening!” Along with this came the thought that one of my two bedroom doors connected to the stairs. BOOM! BOOM! It was coming down those stairs! I had to get to my children! The whole house was alive with noise. The floor beneath me was shaking as I approached the bedroom door. I felt something behind me, and I knew I didn’t want to turn around to see it! BOOM! SCREAMING! A new scream mixed into the man’s scream – this one from a child. BOOM! SCREAMS! BOOM! I made it to my bedroom door, but it wouldn’t open. By this time, I, too, am screaming. Throwing myself against the door, it still wouldn’t budge. I repeatedly threw myself against the door until it finally slammed open.
My daughter was in shock at this point. I instructed my middle son to grab his brother, run out the front door, and head for the car. BOOM! BOOM! SCREAMS! My daughter won’t move, and I finally had to slap her to bring her to life. Finally responding, I grab her and head for the door as I hear the other bedroom door slam open behind us. It was on our trail, and I knew I couldn’t let it reach us. The whole house was still shaking and alive with noise and something big on our heels. When we reached the front door and out onto the porch, I slammed the front door behind us. As we got into the car, we could still hear the noise from the house. I drove away and parked at the top of the street, where I could still see the house, and wait for my parents to arrive. We could see “it” searching through the house. Searching! Searching for us! Its blackness moving from room to room methodically.
That was our last night in the house. My children never returned. I NEVER WENT ALONE when I returned to get a few of our things on several occasions. Everyone I brought into that house with me would also witness something happen. A scream. Whispers. Pounding from the floor above. It was not selective anymore at who it let hear its fury. I remember what the old lady said as I turned over the key. Standing there, the whole side of my arm and torso still bruised from throwing myself against that bedroom door, she said, “Some people are meant to live in an old house like that. And some people aren’t. I never thought you were the old house type.” And I guess she was right.
About a month after moving out of the old house, a friend sent me a website address she wanted me desperately to see. “Put John T. Crowe, Union, Missouri, into your search engine,” she said. When I did, the face of a man came onto my screen. The same face that showed up in a picture my brother took in the fruit cellar one afternoon while I was packing for the move. The man was famous. The land is famous, dating back to the Civil War.
About a year ago, someone I know saw a police car race up to that house one night and witnessed a family running out of its front door in their nightclothes.
As for the house today – the old lady turned it into a dog kennel this past fall. I guess she ran out of people that could live in an old white house like that one.
You see, I do believe in ghosts. I still drive past that house occasionally, and when I get enough nerve, I look up at the upstairs window, and it’s there. Watching. Waiting. Angry. Sometimes its screams still wake me from my sleep, its infectious scream creeping into my dreams, turning them into nightmares. I still don’t sleep very well. In my dreams, I see a faceless man standing in that basement, washing away blood from his naked blood-covered body. Grunting. Panting. Breathing.
The breathing you’d hear when you were alone with it in a room. The breathing you would hear when you knew it was there. Heavy. Labored. Breathing. Yes, I do believe in ghosts. I do believe in ghosts. And maybe you should too?
Submitted by Steven LaChance. Updated: July 2023.
About the Author: Steven LaChance started a forum after having lived through this story and its effects. However, it became inactive in 2007. He also authored the book “The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House” in September 2008.
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