This week’s story explores what it means when something is too good to be true.
Audio production by Evan Shelton.
Narration by Matt Peters.
Hi. I’m Tonia Ransom, creator and executive producer of NIGHTLIGHT, a horror podcast featuring creepy tales written and performed by Black creatives from all over the world.
This week we have a story of a good deal gone wrong. Author Marc Abbott builds a tale of tension and suspense wherein we learn why “too good to be true” isn’t just a saying.
But before we get to our little adventure, just a reminder that all episodes are brought to you by the NIGHTLIGHT Legion. Thanks to our newest members Katie W., Victoria, Taneia, Miggea, Jason S., LBrink5446, Tara, Scott, Marguerite, Lindsay. Thanks also to Jeff who increased their monthly contribution. You all have my eternal gratitude. Again, NIGHTLIGHT is 100% listener supported, so we need your help to keep bringing you new episodes. Just go to patreon.com/nightlightpod to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion and get a shoutout on the podcast.
Now sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy The Foreclosure, by Marc Abbott, narrated by Matt Peters.
There was nothing special about 442 East 12th Street on the outside. The semi-detached house looked ordinary. Two stories, brick with three windows and an egg white painted door. A flight of stairs that lead up from a garage to a porch that was covered by an aluminum awning. A small satellite dish protruded from alongside the right second floor window like an ear.
In the eyes of Brian Lawson, it was a big deal.
After his friend, Jerry McGraw, bought the house he told him about it. The way he described it, Brian expected it to be a fixer upper. It was a big step up from the railroad apartment he was used to visiting. It took him a moment to take it in before he started to climb the stairs.
On the porch, he admired the beautiful chairs decorated with brightly colored throw pillows. Several potted plants had been placed along the base of a wall that surrounded the porch making everything feel inviting. Jerry felt a sense of calm as he rang the bell.
While waiting for Jerry to answer, Brian noticed a stack of mail sticking out of the mailbox. He removed it, glanced at the top envelope and saw it was addressed to the Carter Family. He went to the next letter and saw the same name. Fred Carter. He wondered who the Carters were. He looked at the next envelope and saw the same name again. He thought that the mailman must have made a mistake and put the mail back.
He rang the bell again, then followed it with a knock. Footsteps echoed on the other side then a turn of the locks. Jerry opened the door and threw his arms up.
“My man, you found us,” Jerry said. He stepped forward and embraced him. “So glad you came over.”
“Bro, thanks for the invite. I was not expecting this. You said you had bought a house but I figured it was some one story, ranch style thing.”
“I know, I never thought Marie and I would get a place like this but here we are. Hey, why’d you knock, we have a bell.”
“I rang it twice.”
“You did? I didn’t hear it.” Jerry stepped out onto the porch and pressed the bell. Nothing happened. “Great, another thing that needs to be fixed.”
“Problems already?” Brian asked.
“Nothing that can’t be taken care of. It’s just a pain in the neck, that’s all,” Jerry said. “C’mon in and I’ll give you the grand tour.”
“Cool. Oh, there’s some mail here.” Brian removed it from the mailbox. “I think the mailman delivered this to the wrong house. Belongs to someone named Carter.”
He handed it to Jerry who looked at each piece. “Probably for the former owners. I’ll just toss it. Step in.”
Brian entered the house as Jerry stepped to the side to give him a clear path.
Once he had passed through the foyer, Brian stopped and stared at the living room to his left. The room was fully furnished with a sofa sectional, reading chairs and a grandfather clock. Adjacent to that was a dining room with a long table, chairs, and a china cabinet.
“Jerry, when did you get all of this? You guys moved in a week ago,” Brian said.
“This was already here when we moved in,” Jerry said. He stepped alongside Brian to join him. “We’re going to have the clock appraised next week. We’re not sure if we’re going to keep the sofa though.”
“It looks brand new.”
“I know but we don’t know what the last people were like so, you know, for sanitary reasons. I mean, I’m fine with it, but the wife, she’s being picky about it.”
Brian stepped into the living room for a closer look. He spotted a marble top coffee table that had been placed on the side of the sofa. A vase of roses sat on it.
“That table is nice.”
“We’re keeping that.”
“So, let me get this straight, all of this was here when you got here?”
“The whole house was furnished when we got it. We tossed the bed in our room for obvious reasons. But even the basement is all fixed up,” Jerry said. “Apparently the former owners just left everything behind when they left.”
“That seems odd,” Brian said.
“Not really considering the place was foreclosed.”
“This is a foreclosed house? I thought you got this off the market.”
“We couldn’t afford anything on the market,” Jerry said. “We looked but nothing fell into our price range. So, we went to one of those auctions, you know the ones they have at the convention center downtown? They were doing foreclosures and we put in a bid for this. We really didn’t think we would get it but they accepted our offer and here we are. We didn’t know all this was in here. They didn’t tell us anything about the house other than it was seized by the bank.”
“Nothing about why it was foreclosed?”
“They don’t tell you any of that.”
“Aren’t you concerned that the former owners might come back for their things? I mean, it doesn’t make sense that someone would just up and leave and not take anything with them.” Brain rejoined Jerry. “You don’t think that’s weird?”
“It’s a foreclosure. It’s possible the house was seized while the former owners were out and they couldn’t get any of their things,” Jerry said. “Come with me to the kitchen. You want a beer or something?
“I’ll have some water for now.”
Brian and Jerry started down a long hallway that led to a brightly lit kitchen. To their left were an array of small pictures hanging in a neat row. All of them in black and white. There were no people in the pictures, just places. A couple of castles from somewhere in Europe, a wheat field in Middle America, two of the Empire State Building and the last one was of the house they were in.
“Someone was a photographer,” Brian said.
“I actually like these. Maria said they creep her out. Especially the one of this house.” Jerry took a closer look. “To tell you the truth, it does look kind of ominous. I guess with everything else that’s been going on around here, I can understand her shakiness.” Jerry turned to his right. “That’s the door to the basement. I’ll have to show you that before we head out.”
“What did you mean just now about Maria?”
“Remember what I told you about us having issues with the bell? Well, something’s been causing surges in the electricity around here. Couple that with the house settling and just those phantom sounds you hear every so often in a home and it’s been freaking her out.”
They entered the kitchen. Jerry opened the refrigerator and handed Brian a bottled water. Then he took a soda out, popped the top on the can and drank half of it.
“You sure they were just phantom sounds?”
“Not you too. You’ve been in the house ten minutes and you’re starting to get spooked?” Jerry said.
“Not spooked, concerned. I’ve heard horror stories about people buying foreclosed homes then the former owners pop up and attack them. This whole thing seems too good to be true.”
“If you knew how much this place set us back, you wouldn’t say that. Auction or no auction, we’re going to be paying into this place for a while. But I understand you and Maria’s fears.”
“Are you taking any precautions?”
“Don’t need to. Check this out.” Jerry walked to the kitchen window and pulled back the thin curtains that adorned it. Black iron bars protected the glass. “They’re all over the back windows. They’re all secure too. Unless they’re coming with a torch, there’s no way in from there. Plus, there is an inch-thick steel door leading to the backyard. No one’s breaking in, trust me.”
Brian drank his water. “That certainly is a comfort.”
“All homes have a creep factor to them. Our last apartment, you could hear the squirrels running around in the ceiling, remember?”
“Man, I don’t know how you guys put up with that,” Brian said. “First time I heard that when I was apartment-sitting I thought someone was breaking in from the roof.”
“See. Ergo my point. Now let me show you this basement. I’m thinking of turning this thing into the ultimate man cave.” Jerry led the way. “There’s some nice things down there too but I think if I did a straight gut of it I could. . . What did you say?”
Brian walked into Jerry as he stopped short. “What happened?”
“Did you just say ‘no’?”
“No to what?”
“About the gut?”
“I didn’t say a thing. I’m listening to you,” Brian said.
The two men stood still for a moment. Brian watched as Jerry made a strained face, as though he were listening for something.
“I could have sworn I heard you say something.”
Jerry walked to the door in the center of the hall and opened it. Flicking the light switch at the top of the stairs, he descended slowly.
“Take your time,” he said. “These stairs cry a lot. I’ll need to have them looked at.”
Brian heard the creaking as he made his way into the basement. At the bottom they turned right and entered into an open space that looked more like a study than a basement. A ceiling to floor bookshelf lined the side wall. A mahogany desk sat center atop a beautiful rug. To the far left was a makeshift bar with two paintings of mountains hanging above it.
“Woah! Why would you even want to gut this?” Brian said. “This is beautiful. I’d kill to have that desk.”
“It’s yours then.”
“I don’t want it. We can work out something and you can take it back to your place next week,” Jerry said.
“I appreciate that.” Brian took another sip from his drink. “You ask me, I say keep the bookshelf. If anything, you can put your collectables on it.”
“True.” Jerry stared at it. “It does make you wonder though.”
“How hard of times did the people who lived here fall on to lose this home? There’s an air of sadness about it all,” Jerry said. “They did a great job upkeeping their house. Even converted this place to gas.” He pointed. “Furnace room is down there. Opposite side of the stairs.”
Brian turned and for a split second he thought he saw a face staring at him from the darkness of the room. It was there for a couple of seconds before it moved back into the darkness and was consumed. He froze, the water bottle just inches from his lips. In that moment, his throat went dry as he felt the shivers trickle down his back.
“Did you see that?” he asked.
Brian swallowed hard. “Nothing. My mind’s playing tricks on me.”
“You hungry?” Jerry said. “There’s a bar-b-que spot around the corner. We can get some ribs and come back.”
“Sure. I could use some food.”
Jerry led the way back toward the stairs. Brian kept his eyes on the furnace room as they approached. There was a part of him that wanted to go in there and see if he actually did see a face. That was followed by a sense of dread, as the hairs on his arms stood up. The other part of him, the sensible one, forced him to turn away as they walked by.
Brian decided to wait for Jerry on the porch. He needed the fresh air. He took a seat on one of the chairs and watched one of the neighbors across the street sweep their sidewalk. The man looked up at him, stopped sweeping and waved. Brian waved two fingers back in response.
“Nice afternoon, huh?” a voice said from the stairs. Brian turned his head and saw the mailman step up on the porch. “Just taking in the day?”
“Yeah. Waiting for my friend inside.”
“The new owner? Haven’t met him yet. I had heard this place had been bought,” he said. “Nice to have it lived in again.”
“How long have you been on this route?”
“About ten years.”
“Did you know the last owners?” Brian asked.
“I did. Wonderful couple with two little ones,” the mailman said. “The father was a photographer I think.”
“You know why they left this place?”
“Well, I don’t know the real reason. I know the rumors.” The mailman sorted through the stack he had in his hand. “Foreclosure was one of them. Although to tell you the truth, I never saw any bank letters addressed to them, so I don’t believe that’s what happened. Another story I heard was that the father got a new gig out west and they moved.”
“I don’t think that’s true. The house was furnished when my friend bought it. He says they left it all behind,” Brian said.
“Really? That’s interesting.” He took out three envelopes from the pile and put them in the mailbox. “I know this isn’t his mail, but I have to still deliver it.”
“I hear you. What was the other thing you heard?”
“The other was that they were chased out by the previous owners.”
“Although I’m not too sure if that’s even true because the house has been empty for a while. I would think the remaining family would have tried to acquire it when it went up for sale.”
“Hold on. The former owners of this place chased the last family out? Why?”
“Why did you say remaining family?”
Jerry stepped out on the porch, cutting the mailman off before he could answer.
“Oh, hey, you must be the new owner. My name’s Victor, but everybody calls me Vic. Been on this route for ten years, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” the mailman said.
“Same here,” Jerry extended his hand and Vic shook it.
“I have to run but let me know if there are any special packages you want me to pick up or a special place you want large deliveries left and I’ll take care of it for you,” he said.
“Thanks. I appreciate that,” Jerry said.
“I left the former owner’s mail in the box. I still have to deliver it by law, but you can toss it.” He turned to Brian. “Great chatting with you. Have a good one, gentlemen.”
They watched as Vic descended the stairs and crossed the street to the man sweeping.
“You ready?” Jerry said. He turned, closed the door and locked it.
“We need to talk,” Brian said.
“Let’s do it on the way.”
Brian followed Jerry down to the street. “I was talking to your mailman and he. . . Hey, hold on.” He turned to the house. “You left the light on in your bedroom.”
Jerry looked up. A lamp, sitting in the window of the upper right-side room, was on.
“That’s not our bedroom, that’s a guest room,” Jerry said. “I don’t remember putting that on though. Hold on.”
Jerry walked back to the house and entered. Brian watched and waited. After a moment, the light went out and Jerry exited the house.
“Everything okay?” Brian asked.
“Yeah. Some old lamp Maria put in there from our apartment. I told her to toss it but she’s sentimental about it. Let’s go get those ribs.”
“I’m ready. I was going to say. . . Hey, that light is back on.”
“What?” Jerry looked up at the window. “Okay, that does it. When we get back I’m calling an electrician. We’re going to fix this problem.” He started for the house.
Brian grabbed his arm. “Just leave it and let’s go. We’re coming right back anyway.”
“Electricity is too high. I’m not leaving nothing on that doesn’t need to be. Wait here.”
He watched Jerry run up the stairs two at a time, then go back in. The light went out and seconds later, Jerry emerged again. Brian looked up at the window. The light came back on.
“The light just came back on.”
Jerry raced down the stairs and stood next to Brian. They watched as the light went back out then came back on again.
“That’s a problem,” Jerry said.
“Because of the electricity?”
“No.” Jerry pointed to the window. “That lamp isn’t plugged in.”
“What are you saying?”
“I unplugged that lamp when I went back up there. There’s no way that–”
The light flicked on and off, then the curtain behind it moved.
“Oh, Christ! Jerry, someone is in the house!” Brian said. “I had a bad feeling when I saw that face.”
“What face?” Jerry turned to him. “What are you talking about?”
“In the furnace room. I thought I saw someone looking at us. But I thought it was my imagination.”
“Damn, you saw someone in there and didn’t say anything? Thanks a lot.” Jerry started back toward the house. “Come on.”
“Come on, what?”
“I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let someone rob me. I need your help.”
“Why don’t we just call the police?”
“And buy this guy time to make his exit? Hell no! You want to call the cops on your cell, go ahead. But we’re going to handle this ourselves!”
By the time Brian had his phone out, Jerry was already entering the house. Despite his fear, Brian went after him, forgetting to hit send on his keypad.
Knowing that there was a perpetrator somewhere inside made them anxious. Brian locked the door behind him as Jerry approached the stairs leading to the second floor.
He stared up at the landing, waiting to see if he could spot any movement.
“You hear anything?” Brian whispered.
“No.” Jerry warily started to ascend the stairs. “Stay behind me.”
Brian quickly joined him and followed his footsteps. They were halfway to the second floor when Jerry stopped. He held his hand up, signaling Brian to wait. He stepped closer to the bannister and looked through it at the guest room door.
“I can see movement. Someone is in there,” Jerry said. “Okay, go back down to the foyer. There’s a closet right there. Inside, I have a bat. Bring it to me.”
“We need to get out of here before something bad happens,” Brian said.
“Someone is trespassing on my property. If anything bad happens it will be to them,” Jerry said.
A door slammed on the first floor.
“Christ, Jerry, there’s someone downstairs,” Brian said.
“Are you crazy?”
“I got eyes here. Just go see what that noise was,” Jerry said.
Brian hesitated. Jerry urged him with a wave of his hand. Reluctantly, Brian walked back down the stairs and peered down the hallway. Seeing nothing, he stepped off the last step and headed toward the kitchen.
Jerry watched the shadows of movement under the door. The individual on the other side was pacing back and forth. Then he heard a thud from the hallway. The individual in the room stopped moving. Jerry backed away from the bannister. He anticipated the person would come out now that they heard a noise in the house, but they didn’t move.
“Jerry!” Brian called out above a whisper.
Jerry hurried down the stairs and turned the corner. In the center of the hall was Brian, his body pressed against the wall of photos. His face turned toward Jerry, while his arm was wrenched behind his back by an invisible force.
“Jerry, it’s got me.” There was panic in his voice. “I can’t move! It’s got my arm.”
“What’s got your arm? What’s wrong?”
The click from a doorknob turning caught their attention. The basement door slowly creaked open. They watched as it passed Brian’s back and blocked him from sight.
“Jerry! Oh my God, help me!”
The door slammed shut and Brian was gone.
“Brian.” Jerry rushed to the door and tried to open it, but the knob wouldn’t turn. From the other side he could hear Brian’s screams growing faint. “Brian, open the door.” He slapped the door repeatedly with the palm of his hand. “Brian.”
“Who’s Brian?” a girl’s voice asked.
Jerry turned toward the kitchen, where the voice came from. There was no one there.
“Quiet, he can hear you,” a man’s voice said.
“Who is that?” Jerry screamed.
The sound of heavy footsteps descending the stairs caught his attention. Jerry’s body became numb from fear as the sounds grew closer and closer. A single stair creaked just before they reached the bottom step. Jerry fixed his eyes where a person should be. No one was there.
Heavy breathing slowly filled the silence.
Jerry found the nerve to try and open the basement door. He tried to turn the knob, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Get out of our house!” a voice whispered to him.
“Brian, man, open the door.” Jerry said. His eyes started to fill with tears.
The footsteps slowly approached him. “Get out of our house.”
“Jesus, Brian, please open the door.”
The footsteps stopped inches from him. Jerry could feel hot breath on his neck. His tears started to fall. Icy fingers closed around his wrist and wrenched it up toward the ceiling. Jerry screamed in pain.
The front door slowly swung open filling the hall with sunlight. Jerry felt his wrist being pulled toward the door. Whatever had him was strong and it dragged him with so much power that the tips of his shoes scraped the floor as he moved forward. He cried out for the invisible force to stop, but it didn’t let go.
“Get out of our house,” it said.
When he had reached the foyer, the force threw him forward onto the porch. Jerry landed on his shoulder then rolled twice, ending up on his back. The wind had been knocked out of him. For a moment, he didn’t move.
He eventually found the strength to move his head. Turning to the door, he saw it close. He rolled onto his hands and knees, took a deep breath then got to his feet. Out the corner of his eye, he saw someone laying in the corner of the porch. He rotated his body to get a good look and saw it was Brian. He looked as though he were asleep.
“Brian.” He rushed to his side. “Buddy, you okay?”
Jerry gently shook him. Brian opened his eyes, peered at Jerry and let out a gut-wrenching scream. He began swinging at Jerry, striking him in the jaw. He scrambled to his feet in an effort to run but Jerry grabbed him.
“It’s me, Brian. It’s Jerry.”
“Jerry?” Brian stopped moving and looked at him. His eyes filled with terror. “Is it really you?”
“Yes. How did you get out here?”
“I don’t know.” Brian seized Jerry’s arm. “We need to get out of here.”
“You’re not getting an argument from me,” Jerry said.
The men hurried down the stairs to the street. When they had reached the curb, they looked back at the house.
“You guys okay?” Vic said.
They turned and saw Vic approaching while pushing his mail cart.
“We’re fine,” Jerry said. “We’re just heading out.”
“That look on your face, I’ve seen it before,” Vic said. “It’s a shame, really. That’s such a nice house. But I guess it doesn’t want you around. Tends to let its feelings be known. Don’t take it personally.”
Jerry and Brian watched Vic continue down the street. Before either man could talk, a child’s voice called out from the house.
“Bye-bye,” it said.
Thanks again to our patrons for supporting this podcast. Because of your support, listeners around the world get creepy stories in their ears every other week. If you want new episodes every week, the only way for that to happen is to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion by going to patreon.com/nightlightpod and support this podcast. You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal at PayPal.me/NightlightPodcast. If you’re unable to support us financially, word of mouth is the next best way to help. Give us a shoutout online on Twitter or Instagram @nightlightpod, or Like us on Facebook @nightlightpod. Reviews are also a huge help, so be sure to leave a few kind words on your podcast platform of choice.
Audio production for this episode by Evan Shelton.
And to thank you for listening until the end, we have a creepy fact for you.
The Amityville house is probably the most well-known haunted house of all time. Most folks know that Ronald DeFeo killed his family at 3:15 AM, and the Lutz family, who bought the house after the murders, claimed to wake up at 3:15 AM every night. But it doesn’t stop there. While shooting the Amityville Horror movie remake, actor Ryan Reynolds and other cast and crew on the film also claim to have awoken regularly at 3:15 AM. Oh, and, like the characters in this story, the Lutzes kept the original furniture when they purchased the house–even leaving it exactly the way it was the night of the murders.
We’ll be back in next week with a new episode. October is upon us and that means weekly episodes, plus a Halloween special. Make sure you’re subscribed to get the latest episodes, and info about our October giveaways!