This story takes place in 2008-2009 in the [REDACTED] neighborhood of Boston also known to locals as [REDACTED]. I had moved to Boston and didn’t know anyone when I moved there from New York. I got a room in what was basically a boarding house about a ten minute walk from Harvard so each morning on my commute to work, I would walk through the fabled yard and see the students and professors coming and going to class.
The roommates were a mixture of graduate students from all over the world who attended various universities or institutions in the area. After a few weeks there, I was contacted by Simone, someone who was part of a friend group in New York but we were not close. What I knew about her was that she was smart, talented, and quirky. She called me since had been admitted to a program at Harvard and was looking for an apartment or room to rent. I let her know that the place I stayed was not for everyone, it was eccentric but friendly, but not just a room. After she rented a room down the road and this situation didn’t work out, she managed to find a space in the same house as I. I learned of this when I came home from work, asked what she was doing in the living room, and she said, why, I live here now.
A few weeks into the program and late at night – after the now ritual nightly dose of wine and conversation with housemates about their classes, internships, research projects – Simone asked to talk to me somewhere more private. We moved to the porch, and the autumn was still crisp and comfortable, and I was glad to have someone to talk to who was familiar. I didn’t expect the seriousness of the subject that came next. Simone told me in confidence that her professors were harassing her. She was afraid of her position at the school, and of course, these wise old men carried a great deal of power, especially over an attractive and smart woman who is trying to succeed at a top university. She didn’t go into details other than these professors had a whisper campaign to both undermine her academic work and make her more open to their advances. I gave what advice I could. Go to the student union or some other campus department that would be able to act on her issues. She said that as a woman and had dealt with plenty of sexist harassment in life and certainly in her former industry was male-dominated and she was used to men acting inappropriately. She was just glad to tell someone else. She knew she could deal with it and that I would listen to her. I told her to keep me informed and if I could help topple a cabal of old pervert professors and bring their behavior into the open, to let me know.
Weeks went on, and no details were given, but Simone would let me know that the strange behavior at school was continuing but not to worry. Then, she talked to me again. The professors, especially Professor X, head of the department, were now stalking her off campus. She was convinced that her work threatened them as they were old hacks out of ideas, and she was a woman with progressive ideas pushing against their domain. They had taken to moving things about at her work area, and more threateningly, were appearing to follow her first in the building, then on campus, then on the walk home. Clearly, things were escalating.
I got a light knock at the door in the middle of the night about a week or so later. He’s outside! I looked about the house, but there wasn’t anyone about. I told Simone that it was time she went to the police. She continued that this was something she could handle. She needed to just show up to school fearless.
However, the stalking got worse. I was often gone for work or on weekends, so my contact with Simone had gaps of a few days at a time. When I returned from a weekend out of town, Simone had to talk to me at once. The professor had gotten to her window and had scrapped on the glass. This was getting too much. While her window did open onto a roof that could be accessed by climbing up all the various things piled between the house and a garage filled with stored items and the landlord’s strange experiments. It seemed a stretch that an old professor would be able to achieve this feat. In a rooming house full of transient students in a neighborhood of Boston that had just gentrified a few years prior, it was not outlandish to consider that some former resident who knew the backyard or area pervert could be attempting to break in. I talked to the landlord about putting fresh locks on her window. She was convinced this stranger was the professor and not some random person, She agreed the figure was hard to see, but it was him, considering the professor wore his graduate black robes and miter. What… ? Wait? An elderly man in a 19th-century gown and hat is creeping up a pile of old supercomputers and random detritus from alchemy experiments in the backyard and tapping at the window? And no one sees this except her? I quietly talked to others in the house and alerted them to be on the lookout for a stranger. Close the doors. Be on the lookout for strange people. I doubted that this was a professor but just a regular criminal stalker.
A few weeks later, while the house was mostly empty due to the gap in terms and the landlord away visiting family, I got a knock at my door. It was Simone. “My room is on fire.” What? “My room is on fire!” I dashed upstairs, and a fire was covering the foot of her bed. Not smoldering, but full lashing flames. I am not sure how I knew this was the right idea, but I picked up the burning comforter and folded it on itself and took the burning pile and tossed it into the tub of the bathroom next to her room and turned on the water extinguishing the fire. Apparently, this was the work of the professors.
Not surprisingly, she and the landlord had a falling out, and she was asked to find another place. She was glad in a way to leave since she wanted to find a room that did not have a landing or other way to get to the window. She found a spot down the road and was very happy since unlike the crazy boarding house, her new apartment was in better condition and had more typical (aka normal) roommates. She was happy for a while, still complaining of strange occurrences on campus, but it appeared that she was safe at home. Then, she called asking me to come over and investigate the lock on the front door. She had put up with it for too long, she said, but her roommates never lock the door and leave it open when they come back at night. I investigated the lock. I am not an expert so… I don’t know what I was looking for. Simone just wanted someone to verify that it was in working order. Just another opinion since the roommates, all seemingly reasonable women, were increasingly angered by her unlocking the door, leaving it open, and blaming them.
Then the whispering outside her door started. She said it was the professors at work. The voice of the whispering was that of Professor X, as well as a few others. Somehow, these professors stole in and out of her apartment without a sound and never woke her roommates. She was horrified that Professor X, a man with a family, a wife, and kids, could get away with this and she was sure she wasn’t his only victim. He had to be stopped. She wanted proof she could bring to the police. She felt that if she didn’t have proof that the police or whatever authority would just brush it off as a young woman claiming a powerful and connected group of men.
While I understood that she was not alone in feeling powerless against the powerful, especially the track record of police not taking complaints from women seriously, this new floating professor tapping at her door was the last straw. I was no longer convinced that there were professors stalking her each and every night. Even if Professor X worked in tandem with some dark cabal of sex addicted faculty, there was no way they were jumping up on rooftops, starting fires, or picking locks to whisper through bedroom doors. I told her I thought she was haunted. She didn’t believe in ghosts. She said I was being ridiculous. I felt bad about mentioning my doubts. How stupid and disrespectful for me to claim supernatural origins of this series of crimes.
She moved again. This time to another larger old apartment house still close to where I was. For the past few weeks, she would show up to the house when the landlord wasn’t about and hang out with the other roommates. While she had been banished from the house, she still had the keys. Again, I got a knock on my door in the middle of the night. It was Simone. She needed to say the night. This is interesting. I let her in wondering just what was going on. She did not elaborate on her situation other than she didn’t want to spend the night in her place and then set about placing small elephant statues about the room and pouring salt on my windowsill. She was obviously frightened. I asked her what was up with the elephants. She laughed it off as her aunt was still a devout Hindu and while it was superstitious foolishness, she would place these here and there according to some old advice. She was serious about the salt. The salt was there to see if anyone had come into the room. They would disturb the salt. I had an early day and slept on the floor giving her the small bed, and in the morning she and the elephants were gone. The salt was still there. Undisturbed.
Some time passed, and I got a phone call from Simone. Could I come over and spend the night? I was getting frustrated. She would not go to the police yet I had less to act on that she seemed to have. These shades she saw about Harvard, the tapping black robe figure, the whispering, the moving about of objects, the fire, and now it was footsteps outside her room late at night and more tapping at her window as if someone wanted to get in. It would take a ladder to get to her window, but again, this is not outside of possibility. I went to the hardware store and bought bars for her window and then installed them. I changed the locks on the door to her room. If someone is coming for her, they’d have to break down the door.
Yet, she called me to come over and spend the night. I am not sure why I went over, but I went. She had made a spare bed for me on a travel mattress, and I slept right up against the door. This was the only way the professors would not get in. They’d have to step over me. I went to sleep and was awoken in the night to heavy footfalls pacing the hall outside the room. I saw the shadow of movement under the door. This was just roommates. Graduate students come home at all hours; this was nothing. I threw open the door expecting to startle some innocent drunken scholar. But, there was no one in the hallway. I checked down the hall and about the stairs. Maybe I had just had a dream. After all, Simone has been drilling into my head the stalker professors story.
I spent the next few nights sleeping in this arrangement. I could not tell anyone. How could I explain that I was sleeping on the floor of a woman who had no amorous attachment or interest and that I was doing so to find evidence on stalker professors of Harvard? I had a job and a life. I would have given up, but each night I was awoken by footsteps and moving shadows and yet no one in the hall (when people came in they made a din of merry drunkenness). I couldn’t take this anymore. I told her she was haunted. I begged her to see a therapist, an exorcist, a Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic priest; they would know what to do. I was told this was nonsense. She did not believe in ghosts. These were professors intent on gas-lighting her, on harassing her, and ultimately making her submit to their wishes.
I refused to come over anymore. This ghost was haunting her. She didn’t believe in ghosts, and I didn’t believe in her predatory professor.
Then I got a call at work in the middle of the day. A desperate and shaking voice was at the other end. I need you to come over! I have proof! I have Professor X on tape coming into my bed! A chill ran down my spine. I couldn’t believe I thought it was ghosts. She had the perpetrator on tape. Something she could now act on, to bring to the police, to put this long drama to an end. I told my boss I had a family emergency and had to go home. The entire commute back my mind pounded. What had she gotten on tape? Would this go to court and I have to testify? Where was I when such-and-such happened? What should I say to the police? Would I have to admit I was spouting all this ghost nonsense? I got to her place, and she opened up her laptop breathlessly excited, frightened, and angry. He was here and molested her. She now had proof. She had been using a program on her laptop to film herself as she slept. She opened up the video, and for some time I watched her toss and turn in bed. She didn’t know how to use the scrub slider to get to the moment the perpetrator entered the room, and for some time I was just there, sitting on her bed with her, watching a video of her under a sheet tossing and turning. Was this just another strange situation I had again gotten in to with Simone? Then.
She yelled out, here it is!
Time-lapse footage showed her in her bed. Night lights lit the room, and the video was in grey tones. The clear sleeping figure of Simone lay under a thin sheet. Then, as if lifting up out of the mattress, the fabric described a large head seeming to grow out of the mattress. This head moved up followed by shoulders and torso that suggested a large man. This figure of a man was situated between her legs and hovered for a moment. It moved about a little up and down for a few moments. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the figure melted back into the mattress. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I reviewed the tape again. It was clear where her arms and legs were. This was not just some fold in the sheet, or a pillow tucked in a different direction due to tossing and turning.
See, he slipped in under the covers! How did he get in? He must have picked the locks. I checked the bars on the window (the window sill had salt on it, and the elephants were placed about the room). I reviewed the tape again and try as I may, I did not see the figure slip from the foot of the bed between the sheets as she claimed, but clearly this monster lifted directly up. You need to show this to someone! You need to tell your family! She said that later in the day she would go to the police with this tape as well as call her family. I kept my thoughts of ghosts to myself. I could not see this as other than a phantom. People don’t just get into locked rooms and then lift up out of bedding. But, I encouraged her to go to the police before night and show this tape to others – still not knowing if her story would be believed.
I returned to my apartment and later that night phoned her to check up. She answered and said she couldn’t talk. Deadpan, she said things were taking a turn. She said things were moving quickly. She could not talk. Things were happening. The next day I followed up in the morning with a call. Her phone rang but did not pick up. I was distracted by my work and just assumed after all this she would call me with an update, but this did not come. By the end of the week, her phone was turned off. After work, I went over to her place, but she didn’t answer the door. I asked my roommates if they had seen Simone and they had not. I didn’t have any other contact information, so I emailed her, called other numbers, reached out to people to see if they had seen Simone. When I next went over, she had moved out, and no one knew when or had seen her make the move. It seemed that she had vanished. Whatever spirit or spirits were after her seem to have won. I am not sure if they were ghosts or professors or both. But, I have not heard from her again.
While the author attests to the reality of this story, it is assumed by this blog that all characters and actions are fictional and any resemblance to persons, places, or ghosts are purely a work of fiction and coincidence. Photos are of Detroit. And maybe Boston. Maybe.