The Perils of Curiosity

or, “Why You Should Think Twice Before Researching Your House.”

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  If you currently live with me, you probably want to skip this one.  If you know the person who currently lives with me, please don’t mention this.

My last roommate moved out in early October, and my current roommate moved in last week, so I’ve had a good couple months with the apartment to myself.  One night during this period, I was chilling in my living room by myself and decided to Google my address, just for the hell of it.  I knew the house I live in was somewhere around 120 years old, so it must have a decent bit of history to it.  I came across census data that gave me the names of a family who lived here from about 1915 to 1937, back when it was a single-family home.  A lawyer and his wife lived here with their children and servants and eventually their children’s spouses and grandchildren and other extended family.  A little more Googling revealed that the lawyer was disbarred at some point—still haven’t found out why, but I’m working on it—and that he was involved in some start-up businesses.  Alright.  So I kept Googling merrily away until I stumbled on an article about a murder from 1935.  I had to register for one of those newspaper archive websites and give them my credit card number to get to the rest, but I REALLY HAD TO READ the article.  Wouldn’t you?  It turns out that newspaper articles were ridiculously detailed back then.  And it turns out that there was a murder-suicide IN MY ACTUAL APARTMENT.  I’d love to reprint the article here for you, but anyone dedicated enough could stalk me that way, so I’ll kind of sort of paraphrase it.

The article said that the girl who was killed was 20 years old.  She had been living in Buffalo for a couple of months, staying with her aunt, and had been hired by the family as a maid.  They’d had their son’s 28-year-old brother-in-law staying with them for a few weeks.  He was romantically pursuing the victim but she refused his advances—she was already engaged to someone else—so he shot her at the top of the stairs to the third floor, then walked down seven steps to the landing, shot himself, fell down the rest of the stairs and crashed through a window.  The article made sure to note that he was staying in a blue room on the third floor with one window, that he was reading a detective magazine, that he used a small-caliber bullet, that the only other person home was a two-year-old grandchild, that the victim was shot in the left side of the head, and that she had been a member of her high school archery team and Glee Club.

So here I am, alone in the living room of my THIRD-FLOOR APARTMENT, reading this article late at night, with the growing conviction that I’ve just been transported into a horror movie and in another minute some sort of ghost with a bullet wound in its head is going to pop out and strangle me.  And I summon up the courage to walk over to the stairs to count them, and, yep, there are exactly seven steps to the landing.  HOLY FUCKING SHIT.  My heart started racing and I knew I was not getting any sleep that night.  I’ve always considered myself a ghost agnostic, leaning toward skeptic—I won’t claim that ghosts for sure don’t exist, but I’m certainly not going to believe in them unless I have a convincing personal experience with one.  And that didn’t happen, but I was still pretty spooked, which makes me wonder whether I’m a little more superstitious than I’m willing to admit even to myself.  I panicked slightly every time I had to walk downstairs, involuntarily conjuring up images of the murder.  I tried burning some sage at the suggestion of a friend, and I eventually ended up asking one of the priests from my college to come over and bless the house.  He did, and he assured me that it wasn’t haunted, so I started feeling better about it.  And now I have a roommate again, so it’s all good.

After that little revelation I’ve actually continued my research project.  I figure I’m not going to come across anything worse than that, so why not press on?  It’s a good excuse to explore the resources the public library has to offer.  I just finished sifting through all the city directories from 1930 to present, and I’m looking forward to busting out the microfiche.  I know, what a nerd.

So I hope you enjoyed my “ghost” story and that you have a happy and spook-free 2013!