Secret in the Attic
by PS Gifford
The very instant that we laid eyes on our house, here in Lake Forest, California in 2003, we simply knew that we must have it. The house has cathedral ceilings up and down, and the only attic space was in the adjoining wall from my son's room, which is above the kitchen. It is about 12 feet long, and its highest point is about five feet, and then it tapers down from the angle of the roof.
The first thing I noticed that was odd was that it had been nailed shut. Not just with a few nails, but about 12 long, ominous ones. The former occupant was either attempting to stop someone getting in... or out. It was upon the third night that we first heard something out of sorts: a scratching noise above the kitchen. I told my wife and son that we must have a trapped animal in the attic space, perhaps a rat. Yet, for some unexplainable reason, my imagination kept considering a far more sinister a prospect. Whatever the course, I was going to have to investigate.
That Saturday my wife went off shoe shopping and left me and my son to attend to a variety of "honey do's". Toward the top of the list was investigating the attic. It was the last task I completed that day. Finally, I could no longer procrastinate, and retrieved my tool box from the garage and, with Jonathan eagerly at my heel, we slowly marched upstairs. My dog Tasha was as usual also by my side.
We went into Jonathan's room and into the corner where the wood panel is nailed into place. The angle from the attic continues up in my son's room, so there is only five foot height outside the panel. I sighed and set my tool box down, and banged my head in the process. This entertained my son, but only irritated me further. I pulled my hammer from the box and with much effort I eventually pulled out the first nail. It was a good six inches long. The strange thing was after that first nail got out, Tasha started whining and licking my hand. Eventually, she was so much of a distraction that I had to ask Jonathan to take her downstairs.
It must have taken three quarters of an hour to get the first 11 nails out. It was a warm afternoon, and my salty sweat was starting to drip down my forehead and burn my eyes. I was just drying off my eyes when I thought I heard something from inside the space... a rustling noise. Now I am a big fan of horror movies, and the noise, however slight, was a noise nonetheless; this could only mean one thing: that something was moving in there, just a few feet from where I was now sitting.
The look on my son's face was transformed from a bored look to one of slight fear. Perhaps he was somehow in tune to my thoughts, or maybe he could also sense that things were not quiet right with this attic. I considered simply nailing the board back into place, yet part of me could not do that. I simply had to know. So I took a deep breath and worked on the last nail.
As it slipped from the place it had obviously been situated in years, the board came free. The first thing that we became aware of was the smell. It reminded me of rotting meat. As there were no lights put into the space, I sent Jonathan back down to the garage to retrieve the most powerful flashlight I own. He raced down with the exuberance of a 10 year old and was back moments later.
Jonathan looked at me. I looked at Jonathan. "Well," he said, "are you going in or not?" Now surely I could not disappoint the only person who considered me afraid of nothing. I edged into the space and fired up the flashlight. I was completely taken aback by the sight that met my eyes, and quickly exited. I had noticed three things: a baby's rattle, an old-fashioned Teddy bear, and what looked to be a baby.
As I reentered the attic, with a more rational mind, and discovered what had appeared to be a baby was only in fact a doll. I chuckled to myself at how my mind had twisted the situation. We left the door un-nailed, just resting against the gaping hole, and continued on with the day. We did not think much more of it until that evening whilst we were watching television; we once more heard the noise. But this time it was significantly louder.
That morning, I once again stuck my head into the attic, and this time I almost screamed. Not from what I saw, but from what I did not see. The doll had vanished. My son swears up and down that he did not take it, and I am inclined to believe him. He would have been far too scared to have gone into the attic by himself anyhow.
I quickly nailed up the panel again, and to this day I have never again ventured inside our attic. Yes, on occasion we still do hear strange noises coming from that space; in fact, quite recently my son, who is now 12, raced into our bedroom in the middle of the night claiming that he could hear a baby crying. Was it really just his imagination? I am not so very sure.