A Trans-Atlantic Haunting, October 1966

By Allen A. Debus

First off, I have been trained in chemistry, as well as the usual assortment of math & other physical sciences, (physics, calculus & differential equations, etc.) and am not prone to believing “kooky” stuff (pseudo-scientific, weird cryptozoological or otherwise). I like to think of myself as a logically minded person, which is why I enjoyed a recent presentation by TNT Paranormal representatives, which cautiously steered through the important matter of debunking data which might turn out to represent “false positives.”

I did experience one “tale of terror” when I was only about 6 years old that I can debunk merely as a nightmare that upon awakening seemed wholly real. But I cannot readily explain another circumstance, related below. I probably wouldn’t be so interested in ghost hunting phenomena were it not for this experience.

Here’s the true eerie experience, which frightened me to the extreme in October 1966, shortly after I turned 12 years old.

Earlier, that spring, my grandmother, who I loved very much suffered a stroke. After my grandfather brought her home from the hospital, upon our visits to their house in Northbrook, IL, it was very depressing to see her confined to a wheelchair, uncomfortable and often moaning in pain.

My father, then a new Associate Professor in the History of Science received a grant to do a 1-year sabbatical at the University of Cambridge beginning in August. Although he had reservations about leaving my grandfather alone with my sickly grandmother, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. So he arranged for the whole family to shutter up our house in the Chicago burbs and go on this extended trip. I was soon enrolled at a boy’s school in the 7th “form” (e.g. grade).

Now there is a 6 or 7 hour time frame difference between Cambridge, England and Chicago. One night (October 26), after bedtime, for some uncanny reason I was feeling a sense of dread. I need to mention the layout of the university “flat” in which we lived (on the grounds of Churchill College) and where each of us lived in therein. My room was at the end of the hallway, adjacent to the bathroom. Then my other two younger brothers (who had no such experiences this evening) were next, sandwiched between my room and my parent’s room in which there was a telephone.

Although we had lived there for nearly 3 months, for the first time I began hearing light banging noises coming from the bathroom. The clanking intensified in frequency, becoming, well, impossibly “ultra-fast,” also growing very loud. Like drummer Keith Moon high on “uppers.” Then it would taper off, then build again to maddening intensity once more. I was terrified but for more reasons than simply the sound. I just “felt” as if something was very wrong, and I specifically recall thinking about my grandmother. I was too scared to leave my bed but I couldn’t go to sleep. I KNOW I was totally awake through the ordeal.

I didn’t have a clock in my room, but hours later …. or so it seemed, with the banging sounds emanating from the bathroom as I described throughout this whole period, suddenly the telephone rang. I heard my dad conversing, apparently with my grandfather. I clearly heard my dad exclaim, “Mom’s gone.” My grandmother had died. My grandparents had been out for a drive when she went critical and could not be revived by an ambulance crew. My parents were unaware I had been awake since going to bed and had heard the sad news.

I was so terrified (& bereaved) by the awful experience and its unpleasant “outcome” that I couldn’t sleep that night. The next morning at breakfast nobody commented on the banging sounds, as if no one else had noticed them. For some reason I never related what happened to me that night to any relatives, that is, until about 5 years ago during dinner at my parent’s house when I was cajoled into doing so by my wife.

Yes – I know the obvious cause of the banging must have been water being heated through the bathroom piping system. But although we lived in this residence for nearly an entire year, why is this the only particular night (of all nights) that I heard any such noise, and why did it dramatically stop after I heard my dad say “Mom’s gone”?

Sorry guys, this page is copyright Allen A. Debus, 2013. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.



  1. Good tale!


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