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Interior of my haunted apartment

The ramps should have been a warning. The apartment otherwise looked normal—just old. But where the stairs or elevator should have been were long, carpeted ramps, zig-zagging their way up the four-story building. As someone new to Seattle, I marveled at how the city seemed so politically correct; even the apartments appeared to be wheelchair accessible. I didn’t realize that my new apartment building had been a leukemia hospital at the turn of the century—back when the illness was a death sentence—and subsequently a hospital for wounded soldiers. The ramps were necessary for wheeling an endless succession of bodies out of the building.

Last week a robbery and a shooting took place on the corner where the apartment building, The Morris, still sits in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. That area has always been down and out; in fact, that part of Summit Avenue was once christened “Meth Avenue” because of all the homemade labs lining the block. People may think it’s scary to have a shooting—and there had been other gunshots while I lived at The Morris—but the thing that frightened me most was what lived inside the building: animated, unseen, and always there.

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The foreboding facade of The Morris, May 2015

After I moved in, the on-site manager, Dave, told me about the history of the building and the ghostly activity inside it. I was skeptical, but could feel there was something unsettling about the interior, particularly its basement. One time Dave had seen a panel of glass, which was propped up against a wall, silently shatter on its own and slowly slide down until it folded into a sitting position. He and his live-in boyfriend also heard voices, but struck a cavalier attitude. Dave told me he was part Chippewa, so he had psychic abilities and had seen scarier things. As a child, he had run inside an old frontier hotel in Oregon and immediately seen a cowboy’s lifeless body hanging from the tall, rickety staircase. His family looked but didn’t see a thing.

My own apartment unit seemed normal, but strange things began to happen around me at The Morris. I wasn’t sure how much was a result of the paranormal, but the building definitely seemed to contain some perverse, dark energy. I discovered that Dave, who was a burly guy in his mid-thirties, was regularly beaten up by his delicate-framed boyfriend, Shea. Shea had a wandering eye and apparently slept with a knife under his pillow. A few months later, Dave had a heart attack after biting down too hard on a Dorito and cutting his gum deeply enough to drench the entire bed mattress with blood. “This building is killing me,” he confided to me afterward.

Dave managed to convalesce and kick Shea out, and then one day he informed me that a corner unit on the top floor opened up. Since I hadn’t encountered any ghosts in my unit—and I wasn’t even sure I believed in them anyway—I decided to take a chance and move in. And that’s when the trouble began.

At first glance, the apartment was a charming one-bedroom with a bay window and a beautiful wall of exposed brick. Sure, it looked out onto a couple of seedy halfway houses and an all-night drug drive-thru window, where a morbidly obese man sat at a first-floor window and dispensed small white packets day and night. That didn’t faze me, but my first night in the unit, I felt something was wrong. As a single female, I felt vulnerable and was afraid to even leave the bedroom to get a drink of water out in the kitchen. It had nothing to do with crime; it was something inexplicable.

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The beautiful exposed brick wall in my living room

The next day I instinctively set out the little ornaments and drawings that friends had given me, almost as protective talismen. I hung my photographs and artwork in an effort to make the place more familiar and comfortable. But the apartment never felt like home because, as I later found out, it was already inhabited by something else.

Soon I began to pull long, blond—almost white—human hairs out of the carpet. They didn’t belong to anyone I’d invited over. They were unrealistically long, as if they had grown for decades. Dave told me the former tenant had short, brown hair and the carpets had been cleaned after she moved out.

Weeks went by, and I constantly felt like I was being watched. One particular corner of the kitchen seemed thick with a heavy, unwelcoming atmosphere, so I hung my favorite photos there. One day my glance fell upon a picture of my boyfriend and me laughing at the camera. I was shocked to see something unexpected staring out at me through his eyes. There was an arresting, and unmistakably evil, glint in them that made me instantly take down the photo and shove it in a drawer.

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The photo mentioned above is the horizontal one right next to the postcard hanging by itself

The same thing happened again, this time with a self-portrait I’d made in the living room. Using a mirror and charcoal on paper, I’d drawn myself peering at the viewer over one shoulder. Creating a self-portrait—or any piece of art—is the ultimate act of ownership. However, this drawing didn’t belong to me. One day I looked at it and realized the eyes were someone else’s, staring unerringly at me. A chill immediately entered my heart. The drawing went straight into the trash.

The bedroom was not a safe sanctuary, either. A family of rodents skittered across the ceiling all night. In the daytime, pigeons would alight on the roof, their calls amplified into loud, unearthly moans. “Nngrhh nngrrrhhhh nngrrrhhhh”—it sounded eerie and inhuman, like a raunchy sex session between lost souls. The animals created so much dander that my boyfriend could not breathe in the room and would wake up gasping for air.

The most unnerving thing about the apartment was how it made the most familiar objects and people unrecognizable to me. I once woke up in the middle of the night and thought my boyfriend’s thumb was an enormous insect that had strayed onto the sheets. Another day I was applying my makeup in a mirror when I spotted a long, gray snake hanging from the exposed pipe along the wall. A terrifying second passed before I saw that it was one of my favorite scarves that I’d hung as decoration.

It was becoming apparent to me that my apartment, formerly the nurses’ station in the hospital, was haunted. I casually mentioned this on a phone call with my mother, who didn’t believe in the paranormal, and tried to act unconcerned about it. Gazing idly at the exposed brick wall, my eyes locked onto one of its many deep cavities. From the pitch-black hole emanated an intense and forbidding coldness that halted the laughter in my throat. I heeded it as a warning to never make light of the spiritual world.

Then three of my clocks stopped at the same time. They all had differing power sources: electric, battery powered, and manual wind-up. My favorite clock, which had a brand-new battery, would break in that position and never move again. I seeked counsel at Travellers, a nearby shop that sold all kinds of esoterica. The soft-spoken man behind the counter was an official ghost catcher. He told me, “The time your clocks stopped was probably significant to whoever is still in your apartment. It was probably when the person died.” Then he sold me a sage stick to “smudge” the apartment and wished me luck. I looked at the fat bundle of dried leaves in my hand and desperately hoped it would work.

To be continued.