In honor of Halloween, here’s a scary story to help celebrate the scariest day of the year.
I was eight years old when I first saw the Tall Man. To this day I don’t know why. Why me? Why did I see him? Really, I guess it doesn’t matter why. The why, it just gives us a reason and a purpose for our suffering that we can explain away.
I woke up suddenly that night. I remember it was in the late fall. The air was cold and biting, so I had my windows shut. Now the layout of my bedroom had me sleeping with my bed against the wall that faces into the hall with the right side shoved into a corner. There was a small window on the wall I faced and another, larger window to my left. Back in those days I always had my blinds open. I liked seeing the moon come out at night and the sun waking me up in the morning. Sometimes a bird or two was sitting on the tree branches just outside the window, as if they were there just to greet me in the morning.
So, like I said, I woke up suddenly. I didn’t know why. I was sound asleep one minute and awake the next. But this wasn’t just being awake. It was like when an elevator starts, with your stomach dropping down a little bit. My eyes snapped open and it felt like my entire body was being pulled down. My stomach lurched. It was like being thrown from reality itself, like my consciousness was being tossed into a deep pit. Confused, I looked to the clock beside my bed to find out what time it was.
There was something at my window.
In a way, what I saw is completely vivid in my mind. Burned there, branded onto my subconscious. But it is also ethereal, like a nightmare that you want to forget but can’t. What I saw was a man. I could see him from the shoulders up. He was dressed in a black suit, so black that it seemed to eat up all that light that was around it, with a white undershirt and a black tie. He wore a tall, black hat. “Like Abraham Lincoln,” I remember thinking later. This perfectly matched his head, which was almost impossibly long. It reached out from his neck, stretching to an impossible length. His skin was pale, so sickly pale that I could clearly see the veins throbbing through his nightmare of a head. But it was his face, though…if one could even call it a face. Yes, there was an area on his head where the mouth and eyes and nose would go. But…he just didn’t have them. There were two indents where the eyes should go, there was a bulge where the nose was supposed to be, and there was a quivering, pulsating area that represented the mouth, but it was all that hideous, pale flesh. Like a clay figure made by a child that they didn’t bother finishing.
I was terrified. Panic set in. I was more scared than I had ever been in my entire life. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t run. I was paralyzed. I opened my mouth to scream for my mom and dad, yet no words came out. Only panicky, raspy noises. Then, to my horror, I saw the thing’s not-mouth twist into a gruesome facsimile of a smile. Then its not-eyes burst open and its not-mouth opened wide. The wind started pounding against the house, shaking the windows and rattling the boards and making a horrible shriek. This is what I thought, until I realized with dawning horror that it was the thing making that noise. It wasn’t the wind. It was screaming
Somehow I broke through my paralysis at this moment and did what any child would do. I threw the covers over my head and shut my eyes and tried to make it go away. I stayed that way all night, not sleeping a wink. There was only one thought going through my mind. My room was on the second floor. How was it able to stand and look into my window?
I looked around the ground underneath my window the next morning. I saw nothing, no disturbed leaves, no tracks in the wet late fall earth. It was so tempting to believe the Tall Man was just a dream, that I had imagined it and it would never bother me again. But in my eight year old heart, I knew that something horrible had happened to me that night. For years afterwards I had nightmares of the Tall Man, standing outside my window, his face that wasn’t a face screaming at me, impossibly long limbs scratching around my house, trying to find a way in. I never had the blinds open after that.
I was thirteen when I encountered the Tall Man again. It was during the day that time. I was in the city, on a bus, alone. I was going to meet up with a friend of mine who lived downtown, so I had my mom drop me off at the mall where I would take the bus the rest of the way. Sitting in the middle of the bus, I let my mind wander a bit. There was this girl in my class, Julie Ford, that I sort of had a thing for. I was running over in my head how I would talk to her next time, what I would say, hey, maybe wanna go to the movies, things like that. I barely even noticed the bus stopping and someone getting on through the back entrance of the bus. They sat down behind me, and all at once there was that lurching of my stomach again, and all thoughts of Julie Ford went from my head.
The Tall Man was sitting behind me.
I couldn’t see him. He made no noise. But somehow I knew that he was behind me. How though? How could he be sitting there. My mind reeled as I tried to comprehend his ghastly form cramped into a tiny bus seat. This was a being that could stand upright and look into a second story window. I knew his arms and legs were bent at awkward, freakish angles as it tried to mimic the behaviors of a normal human being. “Like a spider crouching in a corner,” I remember thinking.
We sat that way for about five minutes, me bolt upright, not moving a muscle, him splayed out like a broken hand. Finally, somehow, I managed to speak. I needed to say something. I had to confront it in some way. “What…do you want? Why are you doing this to me?” I barely managed to croak out. I received no immediate answer. For a full minute I waited, not moving, not blinking.
“You can see me.”
Its voice was horrible. Like the night when I was eight, it felt like a windstorm, only now the storm was in my brain. Behind each word, each syllable, I could hear the pounding gale, and screams in the distance. In my blind panic I turned. I had to confront this thing. I had to…
There was nobody behind me.
I slumped back down into the seat. I could barely breathe. My muscles were tense. Why was this happening? Why did he come back? I sat there, spinning these thoughts around in my head until it was time to get off the bus. I wearily got up and walked towards the front of the bus. None of the other passengers seemed disturbed in the least. Why not them? Why was I the only one that could see him? The driver opened the door and I turned to thank him. He had no face. Like the Tall Man, he only had the indents, the pale see through skin. “You can see me!” it screamed.
Later on I found out that I had collapsed to the floor. I had started screaming, “I see him! I see him!” over and over again before passing out. I don’t remember that. I think I’m grateful for that.
The final time I saw the Tall Man was two years later, when I was fifteen. I was sleeping again. I had double thick blinds up on my windows. Lately it seemed my room was always dark. My mom and dad told me I should open them again, let the sun in. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. But that night, I don’t know when, my mom must have opened the window a crack. She might have been picking up my dirty laundry and felt the room was stuffy. I don’t know. But I didn’t notice it until the blinds started rustling. Immediately my eyes snapped open. There was no wind that night, so I knew that couldn’t be it. I turned to look at the window, but there was nothing there. Then I checked the window my bed faced.
Something was poking the blinds.
My stomach fell, and I was once again back in that nightmare place. I watched as a growing bulge appeared on the blinds, forcing its way into my room. Slowly, ever so slowly it came through, invading my room. It slowly began to snake its way down the blinds, moving towards the floor. As it started to poke out under the blinds, I tried to rationalize what I was seeing. “Its some type of snake or something,” my brain tried to say. I knew it wasn’t true. It was a finger. A pale finger with see through skin. The Tall Man had finally found a way in.
As I stared in horror two more fingers pushed through. I held my breath as they squirmed into my room, not wanting to attract any attention. They began to feel along the wall, moving around, seeing what is there. They moved almost independently, like separate beings. They scraped across my desk, my computer, my book shelf. One dipped into my fish tank, then shrank back, as if the water repulsed it. As the fingers roamed, I made the mistake of breathing. Immediately the fingers snapped to attention, pointed right at me. Terrified, I saw the fingers slowly work their way towards me. As they got closer, I saw that they had no fingernails. I don’t know why this detail stuck out.
As they got closer I took whatever precautions I could, which basically boiled down to curling up in the fetal position as far into the corner of my bed as I could. The fingers came ever closer, within inches of my face, before they suddenly stopped. Suddenly, a string of sickening grunting noises began to emanate from behind the window. He couldn’t reach me. His fingers couldn’t reach. I then heard banging from the larger side window. He was trying to find another way in. Then came an ear splitting shriek, like a dying cat, like a mother at her child’s funeral, like metal during a car accident. The fingers suddenly were sucked back through my window. I knew that the Tall Man was gone again.
That was the last I saw of the Tall Man. That was the last I tried to think about him. I tried to block him out, put him out of my mind. And, for a while anyways, I succeeded. Until that morning. You came downstairs, looking tired. I was already dressed for work, making a bagel, spreading cream cheese on it. I turned to you as you sat there, pink Barbie pajamas on, a sad look on your face. “What’s wrong Cassie? Bad dreams?”
“There was a man at my window last night,” you said.
The knife fell from my hand, with the bagel following it. I felt all the blood drain from my face, from my entire body. I felt cold. I turned to you. “What?” I managed to stammer out. “A man. He scared me,” you said. I bent down to pick up my dropped food, not really paying attention. My eyes never left you. “What did he do?” I slowly asked. “He looked at me. He said I could see him too.” You looked at me then, about ready to cry. “Daddy, what did he mean by that?”
I hugged you, made you feel better. Then, after your mother and I helped you finish getting ready for school I went into the living room. I opened my laptop and I wrote this. I don’t know why he is back. I don’t know why you can see him. And, God help me, I don’t know if there is anything I can do to help. All I can do for sure is write this, to let you know that you aren’t alone. I will be here for you.