Allie Griffith

Allie Griffith
Memphis, Tennessee,
Writer, game developer, artist. Also raconteuse, dilettante, and passionate advocate. I've been called an angel of wisdom and I've been called a judgmental idiot. Sooner or later I'm bound to say something that you disagree with; feel free to tell me your side of the story. I listen to other people's opinions and have occasionally been known to concede that they might have a point and alter mine. I use too many semicolons and I have terrible taste in music. I'm the sort of person who thinks it's more telling to mention that than that I'm married and had a foster daughter but she's grown now. By objective standards, my life is probably a disaster - no health insurance and a chronic illness - but my happiness quotient is the highest of anyone I know. Sometimes I tell sad stories but please don't let them make you sad.

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FEBRUARY 25, 2009 1:42PM

Ghost story - The Laughing Man

Rate: 30 Flag

(Inspired by Jodi's post on ghost photography.)

The second place my husband and I lived in together - the place where we were married - was a crappy little townhouse in an apartment complex called Ridgeway Trace. Ridgeway Trace had been a swanky place to live when it was built in the mid 80s, but was on its way down when we lived there. It's been torn down now; there's a Target right where our place used to be.

Not very romantic, huh?  Not the place you'd expect to find a ghost, for example.

We had only been living there a short time when we started to notice something odd. Our through-the-wall neighbor, the neighbor with whom we shared a back wall, was harassing us in an odd way. Every time we walked up or down the stairs, the neighbor would walk up his stairs too. Heavy footsteps would follow our footsteps up the stairs. Yet it wasn't an echo, exactly, since if you stopped sometimes the other person would stop too and sometimes he would keep going for a few steps and then stop. 

"It doesn't sound like it's across the wall,"  my husband said. "It sounds as if it's on our stairs. It sounds like someone trying to step at the same time you step, and stopping when you stop, and not doing a very good job."

We decided our neighbors couldn't possibly be that dedicated to creeping us out; the footsteps had to be an illusion caused by a freak of acoustics.

In the years to come, almost everyone who visited our house would hear the footsteps on the stairs. No one ever heard the footsteps when another person was present. Most people would hear the footsteps on the first visit. It was as if the heavy treader liked to show off for strangers. We got quite accustomed to white-faced and wild eyed visitors saying, "Uh, something strange just happened to me..." after the first trip on the staircase alone.

Then there was the downstairs bathroom. The downstairs bathroom was wedged in underneath the stairs.  It was a half bath, just a sink with a mirror and a toilet across from a closet. I usually put my makeup on and did my hair there to free up the upstairs bathroom for my husband to shower.

One day I was brushing my hair when a man chuckled in my ear. It was a soft, leering, threatening chuckle, and it was right in my ear. I spun around in a panic but no one was there.

This happened to me a handful of times. In the five years we lived there, it also happened to my mother-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner, our foster daughter, my sister, my best friend at my bridal luncheon, and my next-door-neighbor's girlfriend when she came over to stay with us after a fight. Although the footsteps made people pale and uncertain, the laughing man made women scream and cry. Only women. My mother-in-law, who is not a believer in ghosts, refused to believe there wasn't a man hiding in the coat closet until my father-in-law and husband took all the stuff out of it.

Eventually my husband and I became rather blasé about the whole business. "Oh, yes, you've heard the Laughing Man," we would say, to the latest shaking guest.  "He does that to everyone."

I think we both harbored a suspicion that possibly, just possibly, the laughter was an acoustic trick too, the same mysterious defect in the stairwell that created the illusion of footsteps.

My husband and I talked about whether we believed in ghosts, and about whether anyone had died in our townhouse, and how if someone had we would never know. People did die in middling-cheap apartments;  one year on  New Year's Eve back when my husband was still my boyfriend I was lying in his arms when we heard four gun shots. It was shortly after midnight and we assumed someone was firing off a gun in celebration. But the next morning, we read that two of our neighbors were dead. A jealous husband had heard his wife and her lover were at a party and had walked in and shot them dead with four shots, just after midnight. The murderer turned out to be  someone I had met, the friend of an old boyfriend. The world is a small world and crazy things happen in it.

For what it's worth, I don't believe in ghosts, if by "ghosts" you mean restless spirits of the dead roaming the earth. But I do believe in something. C.S. Lewis suggested that what we call ghosts were simply impressions left by strong personalities and events;  that there was no person there, simply a recording, and that feels plausible to me. But we weren't willing to state as fact that the events we had experienced were caused by such a phenomenon. There were too many other possible explanations.

Then one day I was brushing my hair, and I leaned forward to smooth my eyelid, and I saw in the mirror someone standing behind me. He was shortish, maybe 5'8", young, maybe 25, but rough-skinned in that way that only manual laborers are. White, with dirty blond, longish hair, and stubble. He was wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He had an expression on his face that went with the laughter - a prurient leer, like he was delighted he'd snuck up on me and knew he was scaring me and he enjoyed it. 

I froze for a moment, staring into his face in the mirror. Then I screamed. I'm not a screamer - I had never screamed at the laughter  - but I screamed then. And I turned around, and there was no man there. My husband, who was upstairs on the computer, raced down the stairs to ask if I was okay, had I hurt myself somehow.

We lived there another year at least. I never saw the man again. No one else saw him, although people continued to hear the footsteps and the laughter. We were barely on speaking terms with our landlord (we had a locked in low rent and they wanted an excuse to kick us out and bring in new tenants) so I never asked about the history of our apartment.  We had been there longer than any of our neighbors, which meant there was no point in asking them, and back in those days, we weren't on the internet, so we couldn't have searched. But I will always wonder who that man was, and how he came to have nothing better to do with his days than scare people on our stairs.

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paranormal, creepy, ghosts

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Oh, you are SOOOOO lucky! I would sell my right arm on eBay to see that!!!

(thumbified, but then again - I'm weird.)
You gave me a real turn, and it's broad daylight and I'm terribly jaded to boot. So - excellent! Creepy creepy creepy. Yowza! Thanks for sharing that.
Wow, that is some story and I have to believe it. Things like that have happened in a house where I lived (not the visual) and I know other people with those kinds of unexplained stories. Too weird, and very spooky.
Ooooh... this was CREEPY! Now that you have the internet, have you availed yourself of the information???
There is Something Going On Here. I'm not saying we need a National Summit, but somebody has to recognize all this, and take the bull by the horns...
Nicely written! I could almost see the ghostly guy!rated
It's 12:30am here in San Diego as I type this and I'm all freaked out from the story!!

Man, that's so spooky. Ghosts have always scared me and I'd would've have screamed just like you. In fact, I would have left that very minute to a hotel. Thank goodness your husband was there!

What a well-written, scary story! Rated and I hope I'm not visited by a spirit...
I love a good ghost story. Thanks for sharing that and making it oh so creepy.
I come from a family where the thin veneer of rationality often peels off to reveal a lot of Celtic superstition underneath, and I have aunts who are convinced that the Sight runs in the family. Now I've never seen anything, but my mother tells the tale of the fuzzy black blob that she could occasionally see out of the corner of her eye in the first house that I grew up in. Her theory is that it was a ghost of a dog. Your blog has thereforee given me a dose of the creeping horrors, so I'm off to bury myself in the press release about a German company and its horrible financial results...
I read your post and almost left without a comment. Thinking about all the experiences I've had with ghosts and thinking I didn't have time to write about them all. But I came back to leave a comment because I remembered how nice it is to get one.

Your post was very well written. I was right there. How in the world did you stay there ? I've been very fortunate to have not had a bad experience like you did. Some have been a little scary just by the fact that they happened. I sure hope this hasn't been your only experience. If that were the case for me, I would be left very uncomfortable !

Allie--I shivered, then rated.
I am glad to find you here, have always enjoyed your comments in the salon, both the content & your writing ability. Well done!
"Not scary. Not one little bit," he said looking over his shoulder.

Thanks all!

Cindy Ross, not a writing exercise, sorry. I did see the guy, and I'm not in the habit of seeing things or taking drugs so I'm going to assume it wasn't a hallucination, and I wasn't particularly nervous before it happened so I'm going to assume it wasn't my imagination.

But consider this: although he (assuming there was a personality behind all this) may have been malicious, he was also impotent. We lived in that house many years - at least five, I can't remember exactly when we moved - and they were some of the best years of our lives. We raised our foster daughter there, we had great parties, I wrote my first book there. If he wanted to hurt us, he was unable to.

Husband points out that I forgot to mention the flickering light in that room and the shock he got while fixing it. Which I will now mention, because it proves my point - the light flickered because some dumbass had installed it improperly, and my husband got a bad shock because he was likewise a dumbass and didn't check to make sure the power to the light switch was actually off (labels were wrong) before he tried to fix it. No evil laughing man had anything to do with that, just ordinary human stupidity.

(Although I figure if he could see, he got a kick out of it.)

Newsie763, you know, I haven't. I'm not sure how to start such a search. This is pure speculation, but if I had to make up a story about this guy and what happened there, I'd say that more than likely some man broke into that apartment and scared the heck out of someone. Which might not leave any trace as far as records are concerned.
Great spooky story, rated!
Wow, that's quite a story Allie. I think I would have packed up and moved that day if I saw a strange man in my mirror, though. Rated for spooky, well-written goodness!
Just turned on all my lights. Didn't plan to sleep tonight anyway...
I've had countless experiences like yours, so many that I take them for granted. The first was when I was about ten years old and saw a little woman in a white gown in the bedroom I shared with my two younger brothers (possibly my father's mother, who died when I was four).

I've had "someone" tap me on the back of my head, kiss me on the cheek, stroke my hair, whisper in my ear, whistle in my ear, turn the lights on and off, leave a STRANGE sounding "hello" on my answering machine, push papers off my desk while I was typing, and dozens and dozens more experiences. Possibly I'm more sensitive than other people, I don't know.

I could sit here and type for a couple of hours and not relate everything. Instead I'll say this... There's absolutely NO REASON to be afraid when something occurs. That "someone" is just letting you know that you've got company.
I've always wondered how dead people manage to hang on to their clothes...???
great job at conveying the creepy factor! great post. i wonder if the people who go to target now also hear the laughing man? in the dressing rooms? as others have said, i'm sitting in daylight surrounded by happy puppies and you made me feel that i was right there. love lvoe and gratitude
Great story. The bathroom you describe sounds like a servant's bathroom or the carriage man's bathroom. In old houses, the carriage would be kept separately in a carriage house and access to the bathroom in the main house was usually through a side door and built just under the stairs.
That was what was in my old house.
I had a weird encounter with ghosts in my house, too. Occasionally, at night, I would hear people walking on the wooden floors downstairs, knowing full well that there was no one down there. The house was built in 1848, so I figured it had--as you said--picked up some echoes.
The only thing that ever truly freaked me out was the poetry ghost. I had a magnetic poetry board. I came down one day to discover that, during the night, someone had written a piece of erotic poetry on the board. No one I knew would fess up--and no one had been in the house for almost a week beside me.
I left a message, hoping that more poetry would be left. None was. It's a mystery. I don't rule any of that stuff out.
So creepy - love the C.S. Lewis observation, but you're right that it doesn't seem to fit a manifestation that LEERS AT YOU FROM BEHIND.
Great read! It also sounds like you left your ghost there?
I'm pretty open minded about this and appreciate your bravery in writing about what happened. Thank you.