A true somewhat paranormal story about the first house I bought in a suburb of Chicago
| Ron Osso-6/3/2016
The Old Purdy Place
In 1970, when I was twenty-three, I rented a house that was owned by a realtor. I was living in the Chicago area at the time, and this house was in a suburb called Warrenville. I'd seen an ad in the newspaper about a house for rent, but almost backed out of the deal when I saw the condition it was in. Apparently some kids had broken into it, spray painted graffiti on a few of the walls, and stuffed up the drains in a sink, flooding the kitchen. They'd also broken five of the windows, and punched holes in a few of the plaster lath walls.
However, with some promised financial support from the landlord, a very low rent, and lots of twenty-three-year-old energy, I spent the next year fixing the place up and making it livable, all while residing in it.
A year later, when it came time to either renew my lease or move on, I spoke to my landlord about buying the place. He agreed to sell it to me for $15,000, and was also willing to apply that first year's rent towards the down payment. The rent had been $115/month so that amounted to almost $1,400. Including the closing costs, I needed another $1,000, a tidy sum for me in 1970, but I was able to scrape it together. At the closing, I remember feeling the heavy burden of owing a bank over $13,000, which seems pretty humorous to me today.
The house was quite small, approximately six hundred fifty square feet, with two tiny bedrooms upstairs, one of which I turned into a walk-in closet, a decent sized kitchen, small dining and living rooms, and one tiny bathroom downstairs.
After I bought the house, I found out from a neighbor that it had been built by a carpenter who had a son with pretty severe mental and emotional challenges. The carpenter and his son lived there alone because the wife had died while giving birth. I also found out that a few months before I rented the place, the carpenter had died in the house, of an apparent heart attack. His son, who was in his middle forties and not capable of knowing what to do, put his father's body in a closet under the stairs. Then some period of time later, a group of teenaged boys broke into the house, tied up the son, trashed the place, and in the process discovered the carpenter's deteriorating corpse. The police were notified, took care of the body, put the son in a home, and a few weeks later, the son passed away. It was certainly weird hearing this story about the house I had just bought, from a neighbor who had known the family.
While renting the house that first year, I'd often heard strange noises, like footsteps mainly, that seemed to come from the kitchen. But I wrote them off to it being a creaky old building.
However, after hearing the story of my house, I decided to adopt a one-and-a-half-year-old Great Dane. The first night I brought her home, in the wee hours, she ran to the top of the stairs barking uncontrollably. It was quite startling. I got up, went down stairs, and looked around, but saw nothing unusual. The only weird thing I noticed was, as I passed the closet that was under the stairs, the temperature seemed to drop, it was clearly colder than the rest of the house. To make matters even more strange, my dog would not come downstairs, or leave the bedroom.
Over the next year, other strange things occurred. Once, while I was at the grocery store, two friends stopped by to pay a visit. I'd taken my dog with me. When I saw my friends the next day, they asked me if I hadn't heard them ringing my doorbell and knocking on my front door a day earlier. I let them know I hadn't, and once we narrowed down the timeframe, told them I'd been at the grocery store.
"But your stereo was blasting away, did you leave it on when you went to the store?", asked my friend Jill.
"No I never leave it on when I'm not home, and it wasn't playing when I got back from the store."
We both thought it was odd, but didn't pay too much attention to it; at least, not at first.
Sometime later, I was out running an errand, again with my dog. I always checked to make sure all the lights in the house were off before leaving. It was dusk when I returned, and the light that sat just inside one of the front windows was on. It was not on any kind of timer, and I was sure I'd checked it before leaving, but again figured I must have left it on. I put my key in the front door, turned it and walked inside. The light was no longer on. I thought it strange the bulb burned out at that moment. So I walked to the lamp, pressed the switch, and it came on. That's when I first started to think something was, well for lack of better words, a bit off. Yet nothing bad ever seemed to happen, although my dog did the "run to the top of the stairs and freak out" thing a few more times.
I don't remember how much time had passed, but I later adopted two cats. I traveled for work from time to time in those days, and another of my friends agreed to take my dog while I was out of town, and my friend Jill agreed to come over each day to feed the cats. After one of the trips, when I got home, Jill stopped by and told me she couldn't feed my cats anymore when I traveled. She also seemed upset. When I asked her why, she told me that the evening before, when she came over to feed the cats, she walked into the house, walked by the closet under the stairs, noticed the temperature seemed to drop some, but when she walked into the kitchen to put food and water in the cat's bowls, it was so cold she could see her breath; it was the middle of June. She told me she was sorry, but she knew I was coming home today, so she ran out and didn't feed the cats the night before.
"I'll bet they're hungry'" she added.
A couple of weeks later, I decided to paint the exterior of my house, and put it on the market. I took down the aluminum letters that were over the front entry door. The letters had spelled out "A.M. Purdy", the carpenter's name. After removing them, I sanded the board the letters had been nailed to, filled in the little nail holes, primed the board and put several coats of paint on it. The next day, as I was leaving the house, I looked up at the board. An outline of the letters A.M. Purdy was as clear as if I hadn't prepped the surface at all. I decided to remove the board that the letters had been attached to, and replace it completely. After replacing it, sanding and painting it, I got down from the ladder, took several steps back, and, of course, the outline of the letters was, much to my delight, gone.
After I finished painting the house, and making a few other cosmetic improvements, I put it up for sale and moved to an apartment in downtown Chicago. I wasn't living there more than two weeks when I received a call from the realtor. He had a young couple that was interested in making an offer; at my full asking price, which was almost twice what I paid for it. The realtor wanted to know if I could meet him at his office in Warrenville to sign some paper work, assuming I was interested in accepting the offer. I drove there the following day, signed the papers, and decided to visit the old place one last time.
The house sat on a half-acre of land, and was completely surrounded by hedges that were about eight feet tall. When I put the house on the market, I had trimmed them so they looked nice and neat. I had also built a tall, wooden gate that was six feet high and closed off the front path that led up to the house. So the property was completely surrounded by hedges, and the front wooden gate making it very private. All anyone could see as they approached, was the second floor of the house. I opened the gate, walked up the path to the front door, took out my key, and looked up at the board I had replaced, the one that had the aluminum letters nailed to it. It was a bit faint, but there on that board, in the original outline of those aluminum letters, I could read A.M. Purdy. I decided right then, I didn't need to tour the old place one last time after all. To this day I cannot explain what was going on in that house. There is no logical explanation.
Maybe it was just an old creaky building. Maybe, somehow a cool breeze snuck up from the crawl space and caused temperature fluctuations. Dogs can get spooked by strange noises I told myself. But when I saw that name on the board I had replaced, I seriously questioned what could possibly be going on, because of course, I don't believe in ghosts.