The House that Wasn't Haunted

By Noah Aylward
  • 25 Mar - 31 Mar, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

I got my first house for more than $10K under market value. The low asking price made my mother nag at me to get every inspection I could pay for, but after the home inspector, the termite inspector, the radon inspector, and the structural engineer all came back with clean bills of health on the property, even she had to admit I'd found a good deal. The seller, an older fellow named George, took my first offer without any haggling. He said he didn't have the energy to take care of the place anymore and just wanted it off his hands. We closed within the month.

George and I only met in person once during the whole process. He gave me a business card and a firm handshake.

“If you ever need anything, you can give me a call, you hear?”

“Sure, thanks.”

According to the card, he did freelance home improvement. I figured he thought I'd remember that card when I wanted something fixed. Truth is, I probably would have. In hindsight, it was a little odd, considering he said he was getting too old to take care of a house. I didn't think about that at the time though, so the card went into a random pocket in my wallet.

After that, I moved in, and pretty soon the place felt nice and lived-in. But there was something else, too. Another feeling in the house. It didn't feel wrong, exactly, but it didn't feel right, either. It might not have been that something seemed off so much as it seemed something wasn't quite on, so to speak.

One morning, maybe a month or so after I moved in, I glanced at a corner in the kitchen and just stopped. Just stared at it. It seemed unfamiliar, somehow. Like I'd never seen it before in my life. I think I knew this corner pretty well. I'd seen those walls and that countertop meet right there plenty of times. Still, there was something weird about it that day, and I stared at it till I realised I was going to be late to work if I didn't get a move on.

“Well, I haven't been here too long,” I said, “Must not be used to the place yet.”

But more time passed and it just kept happening. I'd find myself staring at a wall, a spot on the floor, down a hallway, or into a room feeling bewildered and weird, trying to work out just why it seemed so strange to me. And other odd things were happening, too. Or, no, that doesn't feel like the right way to say it. Odd things weren't happening. Not really, anyway. But odd things weren't exactly not happening, either.

I'd rest my hand on a wall and feel something there, not wet but viscous. I'd look at the wall and see nothing, brush it with my other hand and feel only wall. But I still felt the something. I could sit at my desk and feel a sudden sense of motion. I could see I wasn't moving. My desk never got any farther away from me. But somehow, I moved. Or felt like I did, at least.

Worst of all were the sounds that weren't sounds. Some nights they kept me up till the sky turned grey. Oh, they weren't really sounds. I didn't hear them with my ears. But I didn't imagine them, since I didn't hear them in my mind either. They were all sounds I could almost identify, but not quite. Words that weren't words, drips that weren't drips, my name in the distance, but not my name.

Worst of the not-sounds were the not-footsteps. The footsteps that weren't footsteps got me on the stairs early one morning. With each step I took, I couldn't hear a footstep behind me. It was as though there wasn't something right behind me, not marching in time with me, not staring at the back of my head. About halfway up the stairs I ran, and I didn't hear frantic, cacophonous stomping behind me, in front of me, above and below me, and in the walls to either side of me. I stayed out late that night.

The day I had enough was the day I didn't see something. It wasn't lurking in the corner of my eye all day, something both black and white but somehow not grey, something too far in the periphery to make out clearly. Every time I turned my head, of course, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. That was the day I understood why George gave me his business card. I dug the card out of the drawer I'd tossed it in, punched his number into my phone, and waited for him to pick up.


“Hey, George, It's me. I bought a house from you a while ago.”

“Oh, sure, I remember you. What's up?”

“It's, uh, well, you know.”

“You're not calling for a repair, are you?”


“Weird stuff isn’t happening, right?”


“You're not crazy.”

“If I'm not crazy then what's wrong with this place? Is it haunted?”

“No. There's something there, but it isn’t a ghost.”

“What is it, then?”

“Don’t know. I just know it doesn't feel numinous.”


“You know, like a ghost.”


“No, that's not it. People who say they saw angels say those feel numinous too.”


“Look, just trust me on this. I've lived in a lot of houses, and I'm pretty sure a couple of them were haunted. That place isn’t haunted.”

“So it doesn't feel like a spirit?”

“Sure, that's a good way to put it.”

“I guess you're right. I don't know why, though.”

“Don't think too hard about it. Anything you need?”

“Yeah. How do I get rid of this thing?”

“Don’t know. Don't think you can.”

“Then what do I do? Why'd you sell this place to me?”

“Would you keep that place forever?”


“Look, I lived with that thing for about ten years. As far as I know, it can't hurt you. Or it won't, at least.”

“Is that all you know?”

“Pretty much.”

So I tried to live with it. I walked past the walls I'd never seen before, ignored the weird things that weren't there, and slept through the sounds that weren't sounds. It took some time, but I learned to do it. The place really wasn't haunted.

That all came to an end one day when I'd lived there for almost a year. That's the day I finally saw it. I went down into the basement to grab something, and there it was. It had things that weren't feelers that weren't squirming all over something that wasn't bone. It had something that wasn't an eye, that opened and closed in a motion that wasn't blinking as it didn't stare at me.

I walked out of the basement and called my realtor. It was time to start looking for my second house.