It was an odd period in my life, the night I first met Mike and his sister Sarah and saw ‘That House.’
You see, I had friends one might call a bit different, though on the surface most of them would appear to be very down to earth types.
D, was a Chicago probation officer, who worked in the court system for the Cook County Sheriffs office. She had long black hair, was ultra-thin, spoke six or seven languages fluently and by all appearances was a normal young woman rising in the sheriff’s department. I don’t remember how or where I met her, but she introduced me years earlier to Nikki, a musician. Nikki is one of the kindest women I’ve ever met, with a heart of gold, but if I was feeling a bit of a weirdo, all I had to do was hang around Nikki for a few hours and I’d feel and if I was the most normal person on the planet.
The night D, introduced Nikki and me to Mike and his sister Sarah, was a warm, humid Chicago night, luckily there was a good breeze off the water or it would have been sweltering. Mike was a contractor, you know the type of person who ‘if I can’t see it or feel it,’ it doesn’t exist. He was of average height and on the stocky side. But nevertheless, a nice unassuming man. I guess he took Richard Crow’s ghost-tour that night because of ‘That House.’ You see things had changed for Mike after he bought ‘That House,’ though one could debate whether it was for the good or not.
The stars shimmered overhead, and the ghost tour on Lake Michigan, began quietly enough, each of us waiting to see something odd as we chatted and got to know each other. It was an uneventful, and as fun, as any get together on a crowded boat with perfect strangers could be. Perhaps, as Richard said, Ghosts don’t usually make as many appearances in warm weather, though I don’t know this to be true.
After the tour, Richard invited the five of us to have a late-night bite to eat at the Billy Goat Tavern; which was frequented by reporters and television stars. Among them Mike Roko, and many from the crew of SNL.
The Billy Goat Tavern was located between the Chicago Sun-Times and The Chicago Tribune buildings on the lower level and what one would definitely-call a dive. The food was so-so, the atmosphere definitely old Chicago. It was built in 1934 and said to be the beginning of the Cubs Curse.
Our conversation revolved around ghosts and those that Richard had researched and became famous for that research. The ghosts included Resurrection Mary as well as many of the most haunted sites in Chicago including the Red Lion Pub.
At about twelve the subject of Mike’s house came up.
Mike had bought ‘That House,’ about six months earlier. It was built somewhere around the late eighteen-hundreds to the early nineteen-hundreds and was rumored to have been built on top of an old Native American burial ground and once owned by Al Capone’s gang.
It was white with a porch and a smallish second story and stood on a large lot. I will say that house was in quite a state of disrepair and needed much updating as none had been done since around nineteen hundred and forty or so, when Mike bought it and began the renovations.
Sarah, was living in the one completed room in the house and though nice enough, seemed overly quiet. Not in a shy sort of way, but in a not quite themselves way. It was difficult to pinpoint the oddity of her shyness, but by all accounts, it had begun when she moved into that house.
As with many homes built in that era, the basement was dirt and quite shallow. Too shallow to install today’s water heaters and furnace units, so the first thing Mike had to do was dig out a portion of the floor to allow for the taller units. It was during this that he found the lime pit with the remains of human bones.
Of course, he called the police, who determined that the bones were both too old and due to the lime, they were degraded past being able to identify them. But, it was suspected their origination was during the years that Al Capone’s gang used the house.
It was during the beginning of the renovations that things began to get really crazy in that house. Mike was the sort that laid his tools out in the order he would be using them. But that changed as the tools began moving, he’d reach for one and find another in its place. Frustrated with this, Mike began double checking his layouts, all the while believing he must have laid them out incorrectly. And he began to look at them all the time. At first, he couldn’t believe his eyes, when he began to see them moving of their own accord. Though it would only get weirder.
No longer were they moving, but as he worked they began flying around the room. It was as if some unseen people were playing toss the ball or something similar. It was after that that Mike and Sarah invited the first psychic investigator to the house.
As I had never met either Mike or Sarah before, I was skeptical of his story, though did attempt to keep an open mind. If he hadn’t asked us back to the house that night, I would probably have remained skeptical to this day.
But for what came later at the house. The first thing I noticed during his tour, was the cold spots in the house, though I did put them off to the possibility of drafts. Though it was a warm evening with little breeze, my mind wanted to believe it was breezes or the result of all the ghost story talk. It wasn’t until we finally got to the basement that I knew it was not drafts.
There were no windows in the basement, no access into it other than through the main house and it was no cooler than any other basement at that time of year. After Mike showed us the box that contained the what remained of the bones, after the cops had removed most of them, Nikki, Mike, and I stood and talked about all that Mike had experienced since he bought that house. As we talked an icy-cold breeze swept in and around the three of us. I spooked, and just hiked it up the stairs, leaving Mike and Nikki to follow.
It was all I could do to even say goodbye to Mike and Sarah. I barely thanked them and turned to Nikki and said we must go now! I know I was being a chicken. I’ll tell you honestly, I couldn’t help it. There was something or things that meant harm in that house, I could feel them.
I must have appeared very rude, when I hightailed it to Nikki’s car, leaving the three of them standing on the porch chatting.
As I sat in the car waiting and watching them on the porch, I noticed the figure upstairs, sitting by the window in Sarah’s bedroom, there appeared to be a string like light that somehow joined that old woman to Sarah. I admit, it was the strangest thing I had ever seen, and I believed I must be imagining things. I would have put it onto drink, but I hadn’t had a drink that night, nor am I much of a drinker.
I just sat there and watched for a few minutes, until the old woman turned her head, her gaze left Sarah and she looked straight at me. The moment our eyes met, I was filled with such horror, there was something so alien to anything I had ever experienced or even thought of, in her eyes. I felt as if my energy was somehow being tapped, to give her strength, leaving me empty of what was me. I was being robbed of life and I knew it.
Panic set in. But, I managed to pull my gaze away from her and laid my hand on the horn loudly. I didn’t think about whether-or-not I would wake the neighbors, cause a commotion or anything except to get Nikki over to the car. I had to leave and NOW. Luckily for me, Nikki did come and quickly, I think I just said, drive. I don’t remember much until we were off that street, though I felt the presence of that old woman in the car with us as Nikki drove me home.
I felt the existence of that old woman throughout the night and couldn’t shake it. The next morning, I told my mother about the experience and she wanted to at least drive by the house. After a while I agreed, we would that afternoon. But, first I wanted to do some research to find out what that old woman might be.
It was during my research that I learned of Sentinels, they are a sort of spirit that keeps the most malignant of the other ghosts in a place in check. The problem is they grow old, though it usually takes decades or sometimes centuries for that to happen. From what I read, how long it takes is usually decided by how many people they can draw energy from, and she had been alone for a very long time. She needed a replacement and I feared from what I witnessed she had picked Sarah. By all accounts, before Sarah had moved into that house, she was an outgoing young woman. Not at all like the quiet, introverted woman that I met.
That afternoon, my mother and I drove to the house, or at least to the place where that house should have been. But it took three or four circles up and down that street before we could find the house. It just wasn’t there, the first few times we drove by it.
It only took my mother one minute and one look at the house, before she said to me, “get out of here.” It was during the trip home that she said, she believed there was not just a few, but many, many malignant spirits in that house and that it needed an exorcism badly. She wasn’t even sure that would work, but without it, people would die, at least Sarah would for sure. Sarah would be trapped in that house forever if it wasn’t done. I called Mike and told him what I suspected and gave him my advice on the matter. I believe he thought I was a total nutcase. For whatever reason, I didn’t hear back from Mike for nearly a year. It had been late summer when I first saw that house and it was early the next summer, when I finally received a call from Mike, inviting me to a barbeque.
Apparently, he had finally finished the renovations and yes, they had, had the house exorcised. Not once but by three different groups of people including a Catholic priest.
The day of the barbeque, I re-met, Mike and Sarah. Sarah was a completely changed woman, gone was the quiet, introverted woman and in her place, I found a normal, young woman, interested in men, dating, recipes, the new baby that her sister had. In other words, Sarah was herself again. The house was bright and cheery, without a hint of a ghost of any kind, nor did I feel the presence of that old woman again.