Strange Sounds, Burial Grounds And The Case Of The Twisted Dream Catcher

Oct 23, 2016
Originally published on October 26, 2016 6:49 am

Moshe the cat lives in an old brick house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. His owner, Cassandra Slack, moved in a little more than a year ago.

The first floor feels open and airy. Large windows bring a flood of light inside, making the original hardwood floors shine.

But downstairs, in the basement where Slack lives, the atmosphere is different. The floor is carpeted, the lights are dim, and the ceiling is low.

Slack had an eerie experience down here when she first moved in.

"I was in the basement getting my stuff all settled and I was hearing noises upstairs. Like distinct footsteps." Slack said. She assumed one of her two roommates had just come home.

"I walked upstairs and I'm like, 'Hey,' and nobody responded. So I went up upstairs to the bedrooms. And I said, 'Hey!' And nobody responded," she said. Neither of her roommates were at home.

"I really freaked myself out by talking to nothing."

Slack said she continued to hear the footsteps and she learned to ignore them. She's also heard strange noises late at night coming from the water heater closet a few feet from her bed.

"I heard this fluttering and a crash and thud," she said, remembering back to a night this past spring. "I was convinced it was a bat or something. But there was nothing there."

Adding to the closet's creepiness, Slack said she can't turn off the light in there either. Its been on ever since she moved in more than a year ago and the bulb has yet to even flicker.

Slack can tune out the unexplained sounds, but something else happened upstairs in the dining room that's harder for her to dismiss.

There is a dream catcher hanging 8 feet from the floor in the back corner of the dining room. She hung it at that height to keep it out of the cat's reach.

"I came home one day and the dream catcher is on the floor and it's bent out of shape. Like it's been dragged down, so it went from a circle to an eye shape," she said. "It was really freaky that it was not only on the floor but really distorted looking."

Slack repaired her dream catcher and put it back up on the wall. It has remained untouched since.

"Which makes me think it's not the cats, because they're inclined to go back to things that look like toys to them."

Slack has an idea as to why these things might be happening. She got the idea from her next door neighbor.

Ella Louise Wingfield Walker is the unofficial neighborhood historian. She's 92 years old and has lived in the same house her entire life.

"I was born in this house and I'm gonna die in this house," Walker said.

Her house and Cassandra Slack's house are next to a big gray church. Before the church and surrounding houses were built, Walker said this piece of land was a cemetery.

Walker's father told her about the house's spooky history when she was 6 years old.

"I started crying," she said. "I thought there were dead bodies in the house."

Walker's fear waned years ago, when she was still a child. The same can't be said for her neighbors, though. According to Walker, many of them are well aware that this plot of land used to be a cemetery.

"I told a lot of them," she said with a chuckle.

While Walker likes to share the story of the cemetery, that's all it is to her — a story that is guaranteed to raise some goosebumps. She said the only spooky thing she has seen in her house is a mouse.

Next door, a mouse is the least of Cassandra Slack's concerns; Moshe provides free pest control. Slack has a feeling her cat might be able to handle paranormal pests, too.

She isn't sure what to make of the experiences she has had in the house, but she said the footsteps she used to hear often have died down.

"This is my theory: The person/ghost who lived here is allergic to cats and was like, 'Nah, I'm out of here,' " she said, ending with a laugh.

That person/ghost did not respond to our requests for comment.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Our next story is mostly an October problem, when the bumps and squeaks and creaks and noises in your house feel less like the refrigerator and more like something paranormal. NPR's Parth Shah tries to uncover the mysteries in a house built almost a century ago here in Washington, D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

PARTH SHAH, BYLINE: Moshe the cat lives in an old brick house in central D.C. His owner, Cassandra Slack, rented a room here a little more than a year ago.

CASSANDRA SLACK: So we're in, like, the main living room-ish area.

SHAH: The first floor of the house feels open and airy. But in the basement where Cassandra lives, the atmosphere is different - the floor is carpeted, the lights are dim and the ceiling is low.

SLACK: So the basement is here.

SHAH: It's spooky. And it's felt this way ever since Cassandra first moved in.

SLACK: One day, I was here getting my stuff all settled and I was hearing noises upstairs, like, distinct footsteps. So I walked upstairs and I'm like, hey. And nobody responded. So I was like, OK, maybe they went up upstairs. So I went upstairs to the bedroom and I was like, hey. And nobody responded. And I was, like - I really freaked myself out talking to nothing.

SHAH: Cassandra learned to ignore the footsteps. But something else happened upstairs in the dining room, something that's harder for her to forget.

SLACK: That, like, dream catcher over in the corner - I'm not that tall, so I had to, like, really climb to put it up.

SHAH: So how many feet high would you say that is?

SLACK: I would say it's probably eight to nine.

SHAH: She put the dreamcatcher at that height because she knew her cats wouldn't be able to reach it.

SLACK: And I come home one day, the dreamcatcher's on the floor and it's bent out of shape, like, really distorted-looking.

SHAH: Well, did you put it up - back immediately?

SLACK: Yeah. I had to, like, fix it. And it's been left alone. Nothing's happened to it, which makes me think that it's not the cats because they're inclined to keep going back at things that look like toys to them.

SHAH: Cassandra has an idea as to why these things might be happening, and she got the idea from her next-door neighbor. Cassandra takes me over to meet her.

ELLA LOUISE WINGFIELD WALKER: This is the dining room. Now, this was the porch.

SHAH: Ella Louise Wingfield Walker is 92 years old. She's lived in this house her entire life. You could say she's the unofficial neighborhood historian.

WALKER: These three houses here was the cemetery for the church over here.

SHAH: Ella points towards the big gray church next door.

When did you learn that this used to be a cemetery?

WALKER: Let me see. I was born in '25, so I guess I was about 6 years old.

SHAH: Do you remember - were you scared by that?

WALKER: What, by knowing it was a cemetery? Oh yeah. I started crying.

SHAH: Do you think a lot of people around here know that these three houses used to be built - were built on former graves?

WALKER: Oh yeah, sure. I told a lot of them.

SHAH: Oh, sure, she says, I told a lot of them. And while Ella likes to share this story, she says she has actually never had a ghost experience.

Nothing spooky ever happen in the house?

WALKER: A mouse.

SHAH: Not - in the house, not a mouse.

WALKER: Yeah, but a mouse was in the house.

(LAUGHTER, SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

SHAH: Back at Cassandra's place, a mouse is the least of her concerns. Her cats provide free pest control. And she has a feeling that her cats might be able to handle paranormal pests, too. She says the footsteps she used to hear have died down.

SLACK: This is my theory - the person/ghost who lived here is, like, allergic to cats and so was like, nah, I'm out of here (laughter).

SHAH: That person/ghost did not respond to our request for comment. Parth Shah, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.