Tujunga, California, sits in the foothills a few miles above Los Angeles. It, like several other cities and towns along the edges of the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests, has an odd feel to it. There’s a loneliness and uneasiness to the area, faint, but there nonetheless. During the 80s, we rented a roomy single-story house there.
It was a ranch house built in the 60s, nice but unremarkable. The sunny living room, dining room, and kitchen formed a circle at one end and beyond the front door at the edge of the living room, a dark hall contained four bedrooms and one bath. Our bedroom was at the far end. The floors were oak under carpet. We lived there for six months and nothing overt occurred, but we were always uneasy there.
Our five cats suddenly became clingy and insisted on sleeping with us. They’d never been interested before, but now they clawed the door if we shut them out. The only other thing that was strange (in retrospect) was the muscle twitch that began in my right shoulder. At night, when I’d go in the bathroom to brush my teeth, I’d feel a little tap, like someone touching my shoulder blade. It would happen most every night, just once, and had a slight electric feel to it.
I wasn’t concerned and never thought about it until it stopped after we moved out. The night before we moved out, we had left our toddler with his grandmother and our cats at our new home then returned to the packed-up house to sleep on the mattress we’d left on the floor. In the morning, my spouse got up first, to go down to L.A. to borrow a truck from his company. I lazed in bed after he said goodbye. I heard him walk down the long hall and open and close the door. A minute or two passed and I heard the front door open and close again.
I thought he’d forgotten his wallet and called his name as I got up to find it. There was no reply, but I heard his footsteps coming slowly up the hall. They were heavier sounding than they should be and why was he walking so slowly? I called out again, yet there was no reply. Adrenaline-charged now, half-sure I had a prowler, I pulled on a T-shirt and jeans and grabbed the only thing left in the room that could serve as a weapon—a broom. I held the handle in both hands, ready to poke a belly or bash a head, I moved behind the closed bedroom door and waited. A split second more and the footsteps stopped on the other side of the door.
I announced I had a gun. No reply. Minutes passed. Finally, too charged up to stand there waiting any longer, I moved to the wall and slammed open the door, shoving the broom handle forward as fast as I could. There was nothing there. I waited. And then heard footsteps again, down in the living room or kitchen. There was no window that would open easily. I had to go for the front door. My trusty broom-spear aimed forward, I stepped softly down the hall, trying not to creak the floor.
I got to the end of the hall and paused, seeing no one. The footsteps stopped. The intruder was probably in the kitchen. I began to turn toward the front door, just a few feet out of the hall and, suddenly, the footsteps started up again, heavy and frightening, right behind me, trudging up the hall toward our bedroom. I didn’t look back—I just high-tailed it outside and waited for my mate. I had weathered the poltergeist phenomena years before in the house in San Bernardino, discounting it because it didn’t affect my emotions. But this—I hate the word “evil” but that best describes the sensation I experienced.
I wasn’t positive there was a living prowler in the house anymore. When my spouse arrived, he was more amused than worried. We went inside and stood in the foyer a moment looking around. As we stepped forward, the footsteps began in front of us and went a few yards up the hall and we heard the door to the first bedroom slam even though it didn’t move. There was silence for a few moments, then the footsteps headed up the hall and faded away. With broom and crowbar in hand, we explored the house together, but there was nothing to see or hear.
Nothing happened again until late afternoon. We were almost done loading the truck and were flopped on the floor of the bedroom with the phantom door-slamming,drinking warm Cokes. My mate yelped suddenly and his lower leg jerked. He said something had yanked his ankle. I thought he was kidding. Still we finished up before dark and got out of there. The next afternoon, he went back to give the key to the landlord, who hadn’t yet arrived. My husband decided to take a last look through the house to make sure we hadn’t left anything behind.
He started in the garage and worked his way through the living areas and up the hall. He was in our bedroom when he heard the front door slam and footsteps head up the hall. He assumed it was the landlord and came out to greet him. There was no one there. He locked up and left the key in the mailbox. Years later, I found out that a man who had lived there with his wife and child had gradually descended into a brain tumor-induced madness and regularly abused his family.
Paranormal research has revealed that hauntings activated by people moving out of a house are not uncommon. Perhaps our leaving set off the nasty footstep “tape” because the man’s family left him. [Tamara Thorne is a novelist specializing in the paranormal. Her books include Haunted, Moonfall, Eternity, Candle Bay, and Bad Things. Her newest novel, The Forgotten, is a ghost story, available as of November 2002. When not writing, Tamara spends much of her time researching hauntings and other phenomena both by book and in person.]
The House in Tujunga By Tamara Thorne