Basement Poltergeist or Mystery Screwdriver?

A suburban horror story

Source: Wikimedia Commons

From our basement emanate occasional clinks and clanks, loud and urgent, like the chains dragged by Jacob Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol. There’s a boiler room where, behind closed door, loom all the different pipes and mechanical doodads that do who-knows-what.

A few weeks after we’d moved into our house, I was on the main level around 8 PM. It was dark outside, and with just the kitchen lights on, it was dim throughout the adjacent dining and living room areas. My husband was upstairs putting our daughter to bed.

Suddenly, I became aware of a rhythmic growl, sucking in and out, like a snoring Tasmanian devil. It was coming from the basement.

Filled with dread, I stood at the top of the basement stairs, wondering what dangerous creature had breached our walls and taken up residence in the bowels of our house. Too frightened to go down and investigate myself, I stood and waited far longer than I would have liked for my husband to join me. He brought a baseball bat, put on shoes, and went to find the source of the spooky gurgling.

I waited with my finger poised over the emergency call button on my cell phone, fully expecting my husband to come bursting back up the stairs pursued by the undead. When he didn’t, I feared he might be gone forever.

It turned out that our monster was in fact an inanimate object— a screwdriver had gotten wedged in the sump pump. Struggling to operate, that dreadful sump pump — a gaping hole connecting our basement to the depths of the earth — was the source of the hair-raising sounds. The Achilles heel of our house, this pit is a welcome sign to rodents, snakes, spiders and who knows what other ghoulish fiends might feel inclined to crawl up the pipes into our basement.

The unanswered million-dollar question was: where did the screwdriver come from? It wasn’t ours. With no answer to this mystery, I popped a Xanax to decrease my anxiety. I wasn’t cut out for homeownership.