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I Always Thought Something Was Off About My Basement, But I Had No Idea How Terrifying The

Truth Was Cliff Barlow


I remember seeing the house for the first time. I was a child of seven. My young parents had just bought
their first home. I remember I used to hate living in the cramped, dingy apartment we previously
inhabited and opened the door to our new home with wide eyed wonder. It blew my young mind how
spacious this house was. I went upstairs to scope out my bedroom. I was so excited that I was getting my
own room and did not have to share it with my infant brother.
On my grand tour of my new digs, I finally made it down to our basement. The basement was nothing
like the rest of the house. The upstairs was elegant and classy. The basement was cold, metallic, and
sterile. The ceiling covered in ancient pipes winding in grotesque angles. The floor covered in rough
cement. I recall taking a look at the stairs for the first time and being immediately struck with how odd
they were.
The stairs were surrounded in drywall which clashed with the rest of the basement. One particular
section of the wall was colored differently than the rest. It stood out like a sore thumb. I inched close to
it and felt the texture of it. It felt very strange. I then knocked on it. A hollow sound pervaded the empty
air of the basement. Something about that sound immediately put me ill at ease. I walked up the stairs
as I could hear that same hollow sound echo in the emptiness of the basement.
As we settled into our new home, I began to get comfortable with my surroundings. The house began to
feel familiar. Everywhere, that is, except for the basement. It just always put me off, and I avoided going
down there as best as I could. Our family couldnt be happier. My loving father and mother doted over
me and my little brother. My life was perfect.
Then it began.
I would hear errant noises. When I pointed it out to my parents, they told me the old standby that the
house was settling in. One night in particular indicated that something wasnt right. I snuck downstairs
to the kitchen for a late night snack. As I closed the refrigerator, I heard a tapping sound cut through the
silence of the night. I craned my head to see if I could pinpoint where the sound was coming from.
Dread began to wash over me as I realized that tapping was coming from the basement. I inched my way
over to the basement door. I opened it to see the blackness of the depths below.
My ears perked up. There it was again. That hollow tapping sound. The same sound I had heard on my
initial visit to the basement from hitting the drywall. I turned on the lights steeling myself to go down
the stairs and investigate. The tapping continued as I took the first step. Fear overtook me. I ran back to
my room and hid under my covers until the morning light gave way to a new day.
I remember walking down the stairs. Being the first one up and about, I ran to the living room to play
Nintendo. On my way, I passed the door to the basement. It was shut. Though I was in a state of near
panic when I ran from it the previous night, I distinctly remember leaving the door open and not turning
off the lights. I rationalized that my mother or father must have gone down there for some reason and
lost myself in Super Mario Bros. 3.
Later, I mentioned the incident to my parents, and they just assured me that what I heard was the sound
of the hot water heater clicking in the night. I knew better, but welcomed a logical explanation.
About a month after the move, my mother asked me to run downstairs and grab a load of socks as our
washer and dryer were in the basement. I reluctantly told her I would. It was the middle of the day and
enough time had passed to dull the fear I had felt a week prior.
I turned on the lights. I ran down the stairs. Hearing the hollow sound echo with my footsteps, a cold
sweat started to form on me. I made my way to the dryer and grabbed a basket. I pulled the socks out
hastily and shoved them into the basket. After I shut the door to the dryer, I surveyed my surroundings.
The stillness of the basement was so eerie. Then I heard it. A faintly audible whisper.
At first, I thought it was somebody calling from upstairs, and their voice scarcely making it down into the
basement. However, this was not the case. That sound was coming from the basement, specifically,
from under the stairs. As I stood frozen with fear, it began to increase in volume but still remained
barely above the threshold of human perception, what was being said incomprehensible to my young
ears.
Then it stopped as quickly as it began.
I moved toward the stairs keeping my eye on the oddly colored portion of the drywall. As I took my first
step to escape this ever growing nightmare, the most profoundly terrifying moment of my life occurred.
A loud, hollow bang shook the stairs. Almost knocking me to the ground. I ran up the stairs as fast as my
legs would carry me.
Through tears and shaking uncontrollably, I told my parents what happened. They tried their best to
calm me, but nothing they said could ease my mind. I told them in no uncertain terms that I would never
go down to the basement again. They must have been convinced of how terrified I was, because they
honored my request and never sent me down there again.
After another three months in the house, things returned to normalcy for me, and honestly, there was
about a two week period where I was happy again. The last time happiness would exist in my life or my
families for that matter. One moment in particular comes to mind. I remember lifting up little Jonathon
above my head lovingly as his pacifier fell out of his mouth and brushed against my nose tickling me. I
pulled him in for a big bear hug and remember how he smelled. That wonderful smell that babies emit
and, for the last time, feeling content.
Any semblance of contentment came crashing down for me and my parents the night of July 2nd, 1991.
That is the day Jonathon went missing.
A ransom note was scrawled in barely legible English and left in his bed demanding $20,000 dollars cash.
It informed my parents that if they contacted the police, they would kill Jonathon. My mother and father
took to their room and argued loudly and emotionally over whether or not to call the police as I listened
with tears streaming down my eyes. My mother eventually wore down my father, and the police were
called. Seeing as the location of the drop and time were indicated on the note, the police set up a
wiretap just in case the kidnapper decided to call. I asked my parents and the police if they had
thoroughly searched through the house in case he was still here. They assured me they had and that
Jonathon would be fine after the drop, but the seed of an idea was already growing in my mind that
would blossom throughout the rest of my life.
My parents followed the instructions to a T. They dropped off the money and then waited in the
location that they were supposed to pick up Jonathon.
He never came.
Needless to say, this tore my family apart. As the weeks passed and there was no news about Jonathon,
my young, vibrant parents became husks of their former selves, my mother especially. She blamed
herself for getting the police involved and believed that to be the reason Jonathon was not returned.
One night as she was sobbing alone in shambles clutching a bottle of wine, I finally decided to divulge to
her my theory that had been brewing inside my skull. I told her that I thought it was whoever (or
whatever for that matter) was under the stairs that had gotten Jonathon and maybe he is still alive. She
slapped me across my face so hard that I saw stars. She screamed at me. The guilt expressing itself as
rage. She told me to stop the childish bullshit and just accept that Jonathon was taken out of the house
by some sick fuck and is dead. My childhood died that day. I remember contemplating taking a hammer
and exposing whatever was under the stairs myself, but the fear was just too overwhelming for me to
actually do it let alone step one stair down into that basement.
My family moved shortly after this incident. I remember looking to the future with what might resemble
optimism only to have it come crashing down. My parents divorced. The grief was too much to share
and not a year after that my mother killed herself. The guilt must have just overwhelmed her. My father
did his best to raise me, but Jonathons long shadow always hung over our lives.
Twenty years later, I began to think long and hard about my little brothers disappearance and how
angry it made me. My family had a chance at a normal and fulfilling life, and it was snuffed out in an
instant by whoever took him. I wasnt just robbed of a little brother. I was robbed of any chance of
happiness. As I grew up, I accepted the official story of what happened. But lately, curiosity began to get
the better of me. I began driving past the old house. Seeing that it was currently vacant. Ideas began to
swirl in my head.
So, I broke into the house bolstered by alcohol. I decided to do it. Knowing I would likely find nothing
under the basement stairs, but hoping that this would close a too long chapter in my life and allow me
to finally move on. To my dismay, the stairs sounded exactly the same as I remember they did, a hollow
sound pervading the emptiness of the basement. I stare at the spot in the drywall, still discolored, still
just as ominous as it was when I was a child. However, fear was not going to stop me. In fact, I was
feeling the opposite. I was feeling a courage I hadnt felt in a long time. The moment of truth was upon
me. With all the force within me emboldened by years of pent up rage, I ran toward the wall shoulder
first. The drywall came crashing down around me. I opened my eyes as my bravery was immediately
eroded and turned into absolute horror.
Jesus.
Bones.
Bones everywhere.
My horror increased to unimaginable heights as I surveyed the tight space seeing the myriad skeletons
strewn about. The light playing menacingly on their tiny frames. Tattered pieces of paper were strewn
about with God only knows what written on them. There must have been the remains of 20-30 children.
My fright reaching a crescendo when I realized that with no exceptions they were all missing their skulls.
One particularly tiny one begged for my attention. I became weak in the knees and fell backwards when
I saw what were unmistakably bite marks up and down the tiny forearm.
As I hit the ground, I expected to hear a dull thud as I landed on the concrete. Instead I heard a hollow
sound. I looked to see what I had landed on, a trap door. Finding new courage, summoning strength I
didnt know I had, I opened it.
Below me lay a dark tunnel, a crawl space that could barely fit a person lying on their stomach. The dank
smell wafting upward made me reluctant, but I knew what I had to do. Before I was conscious of what
my muscles were doing, I found myself crawling through the darkness toward whatever lay on the other
side.
As I reached the end of the tunnel, I looked up to see a sliver of light cutting through the darkness. With
trepidation, I pushed upwards.
Cautiously, I poked my head up. To my surprise, the tunnel had led to the other side of the stairs. I
crawled out to find myself in the corner of the basement facing the stairs behind a dryer covered in
years of dust. The implications of all of this sent my mind reeling, but before I could form a coherent
thought the lights turned off in the basement.
My heart caught in my throat as I began to hear someone descending the stairs, slow but sure steps
announcing I was no longer alone. With every thud, my heart skipped a beat. I began to hear that
incomprehensible whispering absolutely indelible in my mind. The familiarity reigniting the fear and woe
of my lost childhood. Worrying the darkness would not adequately hide me, I sought cover by ducking
behind the dryer not willing to take the risk of catching a glimpse though every fiber of my being
screamed to do so.
Panic began to set in. What am I going to do when he (it?) discovers his lair has been revealed? While I
was mulling over my options, the screaming began.
I say scream as a frame of reference, but there is no way to truly describe the guttural noises I heard.
The sounds smashing the silence of the basement were, so bone chilling, so surreal as to defy
description. He clearly had discovered his perverse sanctuary had been disturbed. Before I knew it, I was
up the stairs running for my life.
I made it to my car too scared to turn around. With all muscles working in concert, I opened the door
and put the key in the ignition in one swift movement. As my car sprang to life under the street light, a
shadow fell over my car. I gunned it never looking back, flooring the accelerator to the local police
precinct. I breathlessly tried to explain to the attending officer what had occurred and collapsed to the
floor mid sentence.
Now, it is a month later. The next day after my discovery the police launched an investigation and
quickly made the same gruesome discovery. I was thanked profusely by the police and the community
for what I had found telling me they were going to be able to close the books on multiple missing person
cases. However, they were not able to find the perpetrator of these heinous crimes. They began to test
the DNA of the bodies. A profound sense of relief overcame me when I received the call informing me
that one of the tiny skeletons belonged to Jonathon.
I shared the news with my father. The look on his face, relief all encompassing as the burden he had
carried for so many years was lifted. We hugged as tears filled both of our eyes.
However, the relief has been short lived.
The thing that keeps me up at night is that whoever or whatever did this is still out there. The question
that plagues my mind is whether or not this monster is literal or figurative. Either way, I hope I never
find out.

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