The Stranger in the Hall
My uncle was in college the first time he saw it. He awoke one night in the bedroom of his apartment to the sound of somebody quietly rummaging through his desk. He stayed perfectly still as he blinked the sleep out of his eyes, trying to make sure this wasn’t just his mind playing tricks on him. At his desk, he saw a dark figure hunched over. He thought that he was being robbed.
Deciding to try to take the man by surprise, he leapt out of bed and shouted at him. Startled, the man at the desk turned and ran out of the room with my uncle following right behind him. He chased him down a short hallway that rounded a corner into a living room, but once my uncle turned that same corner the man had disappeared. At this point his roommate had been woken up by the commotion and came out to see what was going on. They searched the apartment and found no sign of anybody. The doors were still locked, and they couldn’t see how anybody could have gotten in or out. Everyone thought that he must have dreamt it, but my uncle remained adamant about what he had seen.
Several years later, he was living in a home that he and my aunt had just purchased. It was their first house, and my aunt was about seven months pregnant with their first child. One night, he woke up with the sense that somebody had entered their bedroom.
He looked over at my aunt laying next to him in bed, fast asleep. Beyond her, in the doorway, stood a dark figure. Again, he assumed that somebody had broken into his house. He sat up, shouting questions at the man in the doorway, who didn’t seem to react this time. My aunt woke up confused, asking what was going on. This was when the figure in the doorway stepped back into the hall, out of sight. My uncle again leapt out of bed (stepping on my aunt, according to her account) and gave chase.
Just like before, the man seemed to vanish into thin air. My uncle searched every room of the house, and with every door locked and window shut; there was no sign that anybody had actually entered. My aunt didn’t see the figure in the doorway, but my uncle again remained adamant. He even called the police, who also could find nothing to suggest that anybody had broken in.
I wouldn’t hear him tell this story until I was in high school, long after the last incident had occurred. I had an interest in the paranormal at that time, and I remember being really affected by it. I had never heard a first hand ghost story from anybody before, so I was really intrigued. I had lots of questions, but my uncle didn’t offer any answers. He wasn’t even sure if he believed that it was a ghost, although he didn’t have any other explanation to offer.
I would tell his story to friends on occasion. I got a kick out of people’s reactions to it, and sometimes it would inspire them to tell an odd story of their own. I believed my uncle in that he thought he had seen something, but it seemed just as likely to me that he had imagined it.
In the summer after my sophomore year of college I was back at my parent’s house, where I shared a room with my younger brother. My cousin (from the opposite side of my family) was in town for the weekend and was staying with us. The three of us had decided to call it a night, and had gone up to our bedroom. I was asleep shortly after turning off the light, but my brother and cousin stayed up chatting. Our bedroom was on the second floor of the house, at the end of the hall.
According to them, their conversation had just died down and they were quiet for a minute or two. It was pretty late and everyone else in the house had gone to sleep long before us, so when they heard somebody slowly walking up the stairs they both looked to the doorway to see who it was. Stricken by fear, my cousin meekly asked my brother if he could also see a man standing in the hallway.
He shot out of bed toward the light switch as the figure began to walk towards our room. I woke up to my cousin screaming and my brother freaking out. They said that as soon as he flipped the light on, the man, who had been standing only a few feet away from my brother, vanished. They were hysterical.
To me, this felt like it had to be related to the encounters that my uncle had experienced years before. I called him the next day to see what he thought about it, and he was unusually quiet. That bothered me for some reason. I think that I wanted him to be excited that somebody else could give some credence to his own accounts, but he barely made any comments on the phone. I brought it up again the next time I saw him in person, and again he had little to say. I’ve always wondered what he made of the encounter and if there was something that he wasn’t sharing with us.
I’m still not sure what to make of it all. I believe that my brother and my cousin saw something that night, and any doubts about my uncle’s story have long disappeared. But as time goes by it’s felt less and less real to me, and maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s why my uncle no longer wants to talk about it. There’s a famous study where scientists discovered that simply observing light photons had influence over their behavior. Perhaps this is taking things out of context, but I believe that to a certain extent we inform our own reality. The less real something seems, the less reason you have to fear it.