It all started when I was 17 years old. My family and I moved in with my grandmother, and I had my own bedroom for the first time in my life. My room was located upstairs. On the other side of the wall by my bed, there was a crawl space that led into the attic. I never went in there because it creeped me out. It made me so uncomfortable that by the third night of living there, I ended up moving my dresser in front of the little crawl space door just so I wouldn’t have to look at it.
The nightmares started almost immediately. At least once a week, I would see a pale woman with long, dark hair and a white nightgown. In these dreams, she was always crawling around inside of the walls next to my bed or reaching through the wall and trying to grab me. I would often wake up from the nightmares to the sound of loud noises on the other side of the wall by my headboard. I would try to tell myself it was all just a dream, but the noises continued even when I was awake.
I would hear movement behind the wall, as well as scratching. I told myself that some kind of small animal must have gotten in there, but the rapid rhythm and weight behind the noises sounded human, the way knees and bare hands would smack against a floor if a person was crawling. It wasn’t long after that, I began hearing creaking on the staircase that led to my room. It sounded like someone was slowly walking up and down the stairs all night long, pacing pointlessly until dawn. Because of this, I spent the last half of my senior year of high school sleep-deprived and depressed.
I would often go to sleep as soon as I got home from school and set my alarm to wake up when the sun was about to go down. I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping up there in my room in the dark. I didn’t want to go downstairs and disturb the rest of my family, who were asleep, so I spent most nights awake by myself, doing homework or watching TV in my room. Because my sleep schedule was backwards and I slept as soon as I got home from school, I didn’t really have much of a social life my senior year. This largely contributed to my depression.
Teachers began to notice the way I always looked run down and my grades were slipping. A few would ask me if I was okay or subtly try to inquire about my home life. I couldn’t exactly tell them that I was constantly being targeted by nightmares and weird noises in my new bedroom, to the point that I had to readjust my entire schedule just to feel safe and function properly. So, I always assured them that I was just tired and stressed out about college and exams.
One night, before exams, my friend stayed over at my house so he could get some decent sleep. His house was always being overrun by his mother’s drunk friends and loud partying. I offered to let him stay in my room that night, which I had to sneak him into so my relatives wouldn’t see him and get the wrong idea. When we were lying in bed that night and turned out the lights, the creaking of the staircase started almost immediately.
“What the hell was that?” he whispered, sitting up in bed.
“Don’t worry, it’s not my family or anyone coming to yell at us. Nobody knows you’re here.”
“Then who is it?” he asked, now hiding under the blankets next to me.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
The footsteps got louder as they reached the top of the staircase, then dissipated as they went back down them. “What are they doing?” he asked, reaching for the lamp by my bed.
I sighed. “Don’t laugh, okay?”
He stared at me, impatient and confused.
“Dude, my room is haunted,” I said blatantly, “Something goes up and down my stairs or makes noises in the crawl space behind my wall almost every night. I don’t know what it is, but it won’t hurt you.”
He didn’t say a word, just stared at me like I was stupid.
“Well, go look if you don’t believe me! There’s nobody on the staircase. You won’t see anything.”
Reluctantly, he got out of bed and took a few cautious steps toward the staircase, where the footsteps were getting louder again. He turned on my bedroom light and they stopped. “Oh, shit! There’s nobody even there!” he whispered before running back to my bed and hiding under the covers again.
“I told you!” I said while hitting him with my pillow. “You left the light on, jackass!”
I ended up being the one who had to get out of bed and turn the ceiling light off again. I put a mix CD into my DVD player and turned the volume down so my friend could fall asleep with the light and gentle music from the TV next to him. It worked. He was able to get some sleep before the exam the following day, but he never came over to my house again after that.
When I was 19 and in college, I moved in with a friend. Over the next few years, after the upstairs stopped being my bedroom, I stopped dreaming of the woman completely. It wasn’t until I was 24 and sleeping on my then-deceased grandmother’s couch while visiting my family, who still lived in that house, that I dreamt of her again.
In the dream, the woman was trying to beckon me upstairs, back into my old bedroom. She was crawling on the living room ceiling above my head and pointing to the door that led to the upstairs. Terrified, I asked her who she was and what she wanted. As if telepathically, the name “Lisa” popped into my head, as if whispered from deep within my own mind in an unfamiliar voice. Then, she scurried across the ceiling and through the door to the upstairs. It was as though she expected me to follow her. After she vanished, I awoke in my grandmother’s living room, on the couch. “Lisa?” I whispered to myself. “Her name is Lisa?”
A few more years passed, with no thoughts of the strange woman who had haunted my dreams for so long. I had almost forgotten about her until about six months ago.
My family and I were all sitting in the living room, watching a show about people and their paranormal experiences. My nephew, nine years old, paused the TV and pointed at a creepy woman on the screen. The woman was pale with long, dark hair and fake blood on her face. She looked horrifically familiar. Before I could open my mouth to speak, my nephew said, “I saw her! Or, I saw a woman who looked a lot like her! It was about a week ago. She was in the hallway when I got up in the middle of the night to pee!”
I stared at him in astonishment as he continued, “She was really creepy! She was like 7 feet tall and was wearing—”
“A white nightgown?” I asked, reluctantly.
His gasp in response to my question confirmed my worst fears.
“YES!” He started enthusiastically jumping up and down and asked, “How did you know?! I told my mom I saw her, and I don’t think she believed me! You saw her too?”
I looked at my sister, still in shock. “Yeah,” she said, “the other night, he woke me up crying. He was going on about a scary, tall lady he saw in the hallway. He said she had black hair and a white dress. I told him it was probably just a nightmare—”
“NO!” My nephew interrupted, stomping his foot, “I was awake! I saw her! She was real!”
My sister and I just stared at each other in disbelief before going out onto the front porch to talk.
“When did you see this creepy lady?” she asked as soon as we shut the screen door behind us.
“When I was 17, when we first moved here. Remember when I lived upstairs?”
“Yeah, you barely ever left your room, you would sleep all damn day.”
“No,” I corrected her, “I would sleep until the sun went down. Then I would stay up all night and do homework or watch TV up there until I had to get ready for school. Do you know why I did that? I tried to tell you a few times, but you never listened.”
“The nightmares,” my sister whispered, eyes wide with recollection, “You used to have nightmares all the time! About—”
“About the woman with long, dark hair in the white dress—”
“Who used to crawl around inside the walls in your dreams!” she finished the sentence for me. “I thought you were making it up, looking for attention.”
“I would never do something like that for attention!”
“Well, shit! If it’s the same creepy lady, if she’s real and haunting my kid now, what the hell do we do?”
I opened the front door and called my nephew out onto the porch with us and told him to sit down on the front steps. “Listen to me,” I said, holding his face between my hands. “That woman that we both saw? I dreamt about her a lot over the years, and in the last one where I saw her, she told me her name. It’s Lisa.”
“Lisa?” my nephew repeated, as if her name was some kind of terminal diagnosis or disease.
“Yes. If she is the same woman I think she is, her name is Lisa. Next time you see her, you tell her that if she’s not from God, she has to go away.”
My nephew nodded, then turned back to the house and yelled, “I’m not afraid of you anymore, Lisa!”
Two weeks passed, and once again, we had all nearly forgotten about the strange woman called Lisa. Life had returned to normal. Then, one late night in April, everything changed.
I was sitting in the kitchen, having a midnight snack, when my sister walked in. Naturally, I offered her some of the chocolate-covered cashews that I had been snacking on. She gratefully accepted the five pieces that I dropped into her hand and walked away. “These are so good!” she said from the other room. “I haven’t had these in forever!”
Five minutes later, my sister came back into the kitchen. She looked different. Her eyelids were extremely heavy, and it was like she could barely keep them open. I could hear her labored breathing from where I was sitting.
“Are…. are you sure…. those were just…. cashews?”
“Yeah,” I lifted the package so she could read the label, “I know we are both allergic to walnuts and pecans, but these are cashews. I wouldn’t be eating them or offering them to you otherwise.”
“I don’t…feel so good. My throat…and tongue…feel weird. Do they look weird?”
I turned the flashlight of my phone on and looked at the back of her throat, which was closing up. I tried to remain calm and hide the panic in my voice as I said, “It doesn’t look that bad. But you might have developed an allergy to cashews now, too. You should go to the hospital, just to be safe.”
Our father drove my sister to the Emergency Room while I stayed home with her sleeping children that night. Thank God she went when she did. The doctors ended up giving her an epi pen and a shit ton of Benadryl to counteract the anaphylaxis from her newly developed cashew allergy. The doctor sat with her and held her hand as she fought for each breath until the treatment kicked in. Her oxygen level had dropped down into the low 60s. She was very, very lucky to have survived that night.
As if that whole ordeal wasn’t terrifying enough, what my sister told me when she got home from the hospital that morning gave me instant goosebumps.
“I saw Lisa,” she said, sitting down next to me in the kitchen as the sun rose. “At the hospital, I saw her as the doctor was holding my hand. I thought I was going to die.”
I got up and shut the kitchen door just in case the kids woke up so they wouldn’t hear our conversation. Then I sat back down and stared at her in silence, waiting for her to continue.
“I was laying there in the room, and there were a couple nurses by one side of my bed, and the doctor on the other side who was holding my hand. I don’t know if it was the lack of oxygen to my brain or all of the Benadryl, but I swear to God I saw her. There were these bright lights, and these mirror tiles on the ceiling above my bed. I saw the reflections of everyone in the room, but I also saw her. She was standing by the doctor. She was looking up at the ceiling, at me through the reflection by the lights. I know it sounds crazy, but she was smiling at me.”
“Yeah. Smiling. Not a comforting smile, either. She looked evil, like she was waiting to take me.”
“It was probably just a hallucination or product of all the meds they gave you,” I said, trying to comfort myself more than I was trying to comfort my sister in that moment. “I’m sure it was nothing. Maybe a manifestation of your anxiety and the chaos of the situation.”
“Yeah,” my sister reluctantly agreed. “You’re probably right. Well, I think I’m going to try to go to bed now that I can breathe again. All that Benadryl that they gave me is kicking my ass.”
I got up and went to bed, too. When I fell asleep that morning, I dreamt of Lisa for the first time in three years.
In the dream, I found myself in the hospital room, standing next to my sister who was laying in the bed. The nurses were beside me, checking her I.V. bag, and the doctor was across from me, holding my sister’s hand. My sister wasn’t moving—she was barely breathing—and was staring at the ceiling. Then I saw her. Lisa was standing next to the doctor on the opposite side of the bed from me. She was staring at me. I had never seen her face so close up before. I could see the skin decaying on her face and peeling away from her bones. It was at that moment I realized I was dreaming. I borrowed my nephew’s courage and words from when we had all been sitting on the porch two weeks prior and said, “I’m not afraid of you, Lisa! If you’re not from God, go away!” I then proceeded to hold up my middle finger at her in the dream, which triggered the most gruesome smile from her that I had ever seen. It was like her mouth took up her entire face. As the corners of her mouth lifted, her lips peeled away from her set of jagged, rotting teeth. It was like she perceived my acknowledgement and lack of fear of her as a challenge. Then I woke up.
I thought about telling my sister that I dreamt of Lisa again but decided against it. It was time to move forward and stop encouraging the nightmares and sightings of the strange, dead woman. I kept my mouth shut for three whole weeks. I was doing a good job of keeping my experiences to myself until I thought I saw her out of the corner of my eye in the kitchen three nights in a row. Finally, I caved and told my sister about the dream I had where I confronted Lisa and how I was now starting to see her while I was awake. I didn’t tell her where I saw Lisa, only that I always felt like she was haunting the edges of my vision. A few days later, my sister told me she dreamt of her again.
“I’m so sick of this spooky bitch,” my sister said, while pouring a bowl of cereal. “I saw her in my dream last night. I dreamt I was here, in the kitchen in the middle of the night. In the dream, I was getting a glass of water, when I saw her standing over there, by the microwave. She was huge, and like, floating in the corner by the ceiling.” She laughed, adding milk to her bowl. “I was scared at first, but then I remembered how you said you dreamt of her and gave her the finger. So, I did the same thing. I told her to fuck off and I wasn’t afraid of her. Then she smiled her awful, evil smile. Then I woke up and came in here to make sure it was all just a dream.”
A few more months passed, and none of us had dreamt of or seen her. Everything felt normal again until earlier this week. I was helping my nephew with some homework. We were home alone and sitting on his bedroom floor. We both kept catching glimpses of movement in the hallway out of the corner of our eye. It became so distracting and our anxiety got so high that we had to close the door just to focus. When we did, the feeling in the room got really heavy.
We both stopped what we were doing and just stared at each other in silence. We sat there quietly on high alert, just listening. That was when we heard a disembodied female voice start humming. Both of our mouths dropped open as we continued staring at each other in silence, forgetting to breathe. All the while, the humming continued.
My nephew quickly got up and ran over to the window, which was shut, and looked out onto the street to make sure there wasn’t anyone in front of our house making noise. Of course, the street was empty.
“I think it’s coming from the heater vent,” I whispered while crawling toward the vent. We both stayed on our hands and knees and listened. I was wrong. The humming was coming from inside of the room.
“It’s Lisa!” my nephew yelled before we both ran out of the room. We sat on the porch for an hour, waiting for my sister to get home from the store.
I don’t know what Lisa is. I don’t know if she is a Tulpa that started out as a fragment of my imagination, who I believed in the existence of so strongly that she came to exist in my reality as well as the reality of my closest loved ones. I don’t know if by talking about her to my family, their imaginations started conjuring up visions of her as well. Or maybe she’s an intelligent, dark entity all her own who we all just happen to be encountering in unison. All I know is that when I finally talked to my mother about her last night, it changed everything.
We tried to keep our experiences to ourselves because my mother didn’t seem to have any stories about Lisa like the rest of us did. We didn’t want to scare her or get in her head with our fear and make her start having nightmares, too. After the situation with the humming in my nephew’s bedroom, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore.
“I wanted to talk to you about something,” I said to my mother as I entered her room.
“What’s up?” My mother asked with concern as she watched me close the door behind me.
“Okay, so this might sound weird, but I need you to hear me out before you judge me.”
My mother nodded, and held her pinkie finger up in the air, as if to say, “I swear.”
“Have you had any weird dreams lately?”
“Not that I know of,” my mother shrugged, then stared off in the distance as she searched her memory. “Then again, I don’t really dream much. If I do, I don’t usually remember them.”
“Okay. That’s good.” I thought about just dropping the entire conversation and just leaving my mother’s bedroom at that point. Why burden her with our bullshit if she was unaffected by what the rest of us were going through?
“What’s going on?” She stared at me intently, reading the discomfort on my face.
“Okay. Where do I start?” I moved across the room and sat on the foot of her bed. “Do you remember when we first moved in here and my room was upstairs?”
“Yeah,” my mom laughed, “You hardly ever left your room. You were always sleeping. You loved it up there, finally getting some peace and privacy after all those years of sharing a room with your sister.”
“It wasn’t like that,” I sighed and squeezed the bridge of my nose between my fingers. “Mom, I was really depressed when we first moved here, and I was always tired.”
“I know, that’s true, too. I just figured you were having a hard time adjusting to the move and living here with Grandma as her health was declining the way it was.”
“Yes, that was definitely a contributing factor, but I was also going through something else that I didn’t really talk to you about.”
“Oh?” My mom sat up in bed so she could hear me better.
“At that time, I was having frequent nightmares and weird experiences in my room. Like, I kept hearing noises that would keep me awake and creep me out—”
“Yeah, it takes awhile to adjust to the noises of living somewhere new.”
“No, Mom. It wasn’t like that. It sounded like someone would be walking around in my room while I was sleeping or going up and down my staircase all night. It was really creepy.”
“Okay. That is creepy. But what were the nightmares about that you mentioned?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed, “It sounds stupid when I say it aloud, but they were really scary.”
“Well, I’m listening,” my mother said impatiently.
“Okay. So, like once or twice a week, I would have nightmares about this creepy dead woman with long, dark hair. She wore a white nightgown and would crawl behind the walls of my bedroom or on the ceiling. It got to the point that the dreams scared me so bad, that I would only sleep when it was light outside. Then I would stay up all night doing homework or whatever, until it was time to get ready for school the next morning.”
My mom was silent for a moment, as though trying to think of a proper way to respond. “Yes, I remember that. You would come home from school, grab a snack, and go straight to bed. By the time you woke up, I barely got to see you because it would be later in the evening.”
“Well, shit. I wish you would have told me about all of this when you were younger. Maybe I could have helped you, or found you someone who could.”
“I didn’t want to bother you with my paranormal bullshit at the time, because I knew you were stressed out enough having to take care of Grandma as she was dying. My problems seemed so small in comparison to what you were already dealing with.”
“I still would have listened and tried to help you,” she insisted, reaching for my hand.
“Well, I know that now.”
My mom smiled, then shook her head. “Wait a minute, why are you telling me all of this now? What does then have to do with now? Why did you ask me if I was having any weird dreams?”
“Because,” my sister said, opening the door and entering the bedroom, “we are all dreaming of and seeing her now.”
My mom’s mouth dropped open. “Of the same woman?”
“Yes!” My nephew yelled from the hallway, “Her name is Lisa!”
I laughed. “My God, can anyone have a private conversation around here?” Secretly, I was thankful that they were there to back me up.
“Wait a minute,” my mom said to me. “Where did you say you would see her in your nightmares? What was she doing?”
“Well, lately, we’ve been seeing her out of the corner of our eye while we are awake. But when the nightmares initially started for me, I always saw her crawling in the crawl space or in the attic behind my bedroom wall.”
My mother gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh no. Oh, God!”
“What is it?!” My sister and I asked in unison as our mother began to cry.
“This must have been about 20 years ago,” she said, reaching for a tissue on her nightstand, “Your grandma and I were sick with grief after my Daddy died, and we did something stupid.”
“Oh, God. Here we go.” My sister rolled her eyes and sat with us on the bed. “What did you do?”
Our mom sighed and looked at us with what can only be described as fear. “We used a Ouija board on the living room floor and attempted to contact your grandpa’s spirit right after he passed.”
“Oh my God!” I got off the bed, stood up, and looked at her. “Please tell me you closed the session and said Goodbye when you guys were done!”
“I-I’m so sorry, we didn’t know,” she said, before blowing her nose obnoxiously into the tissue.
“Really?!” my sister yelled, before getting up off the bed and standing next to me.
“There’s more,” our mother whispered, reaching for another tissue. “When we sat there, with our hands on the part of the board that moves around, something came through. I asked who we were talking to, and it moved the wooden thing, and spelled out L-I. I thought it was trying to spell out my name, Linda. I got scared and told Grandma I didn’t want to play with it anymore. So, we threw it in the box and…” Her voice trailed off.
“It wasn’t spelling out your name, it was trying to spell out her name. Lisa. You let her in. And she’s still here! And now she is tormenting us and the kids!” My sister stormed out of the bedroom and slammed the door behind her.
“And what?” I said.
“What?” My mom looked at me, confused.
“You trailed off,” I explained, “You said you threw the Ouija board in the box, and then you trailed off. What happened?”
“Oh. Yeah, we threw the damn board in the box, and then we put it… we put it in the attic. In the—” She couldn’t finish her sentence.
“In the crawl space. Behind the wall of my bedroom, where I used to dream of Lisa crawling and trying to get out of.”
“Yes. Oh my god, I am so sorry! I had no idea!”
“It all makes sense now!” I grabbed the box of tissues off of my mother’s night stand, and started drying tears of my own. “All these years, I knew I wasn’t crazy!”