Winter storms in Michigan have drastically changed since I was a little kid in the late 1950s and 1960s. It was normal then to get frequent snowstorms with 8 to 10 inches or more of snow each time throughout every winter. One winter blizzard impressively caused a huge snow drift to pile up on the north side of our house all the way to the roof and me and my two brothers had so much fun making tunnels like moles all along the whole back of our house.
Our house in Flushing Township was custom-built for us and we (Dad, Mom, me, my two younger brothers. Keith and Eugene, and our cat, Frisky) moved into it in late November, 1965. Our new house was out in the country with our meadowed five acres adjoining many other meadowed acres behind our few neighbors’ homes and behind those meadows were deep woods. There were no street lights and very few yard lights. It was very quiet at night and so unlike our city-noisy and well-lit house in Flint. But it felt safely secluded…at least for a few months.
In January 1966 my mom gave us 3 kids a rare treat. She allowed us to stay up very late one snowy Saturday night, eat popcorn, and watch a scary movie called “The Haunting”. It was in black and white so we had turned off all the lights for the properly spooky atmosphere.
My 2 brothers were lying on the floor in front of the TV that was in the left front corner of the rectangular living room and my mom was in her La-Z-Boy recliner in the diagonally opposite corner from the TV. I was allowed an extra treat of sitting in my dad’s recliner which had the “command” position in the living room. My dad was asleep which is probably why I was allowed to sit there.
His recliner was the nearest chair to the TV and it was also directly opposite the wide front picture windows. His recliner also had the only chair-view of the front door which was about five feet to the right of the windows.
My mom had special-ordered a black-rose etched design in the long and narrow glass panel on the left side of the front door. It was really pretty but it must have made my dad a bit insecure or something because he had asked my mom a few times if she was going to put up a narrow curtain so that nobody could look in. But my mom said no, that glass is too pretty to hide and because we live out in the middle of nowhere, who would ever be looking in the front door window?
So from my dad’s recliner I could see the snow gently falling as it had been doing all day and now most of the night. The movie was terrifying me and my occasional glances outside at the falling snow would reassure me that all was right and okay with the real world.
But at one particularly frightening scene, I glanced over at the front door and I felt my heart skip a few beats because I saw a man leering at me with his scruffy face jammed up against that glass panel. If you saw the scene in “The Shining” when a creepy Jack Nicholson is crazy-eyed peering through that splintered wooden door, then that is a pretty good idea of what I was looking at.
I hurriedly glanced back at the TV because I was really hoping that it was just my imagination trying to scare the shit out of me, but when I looked back at the front door, nope, the scruffy man was still there. Then he began craning his neck around to see who all was in the room with me while I just sat there, too petrified to move and feeling close to fainting. Then the scruffy man started jerking on the door knob just as a woman began screaming on the TV and then I began screaming too while I shakily pointed at the front door.
My brothers didn’t move a muscle, just told me to shut up, while my mom told me to hush, it’s okay, it’s just a movie and I started yelling louder, “No it’s not okay, it’s not okay! There’s a man at the front door trying to get in!!”
My mom and my brothers quickly jumped up as the scruffy man then disappeared. And while my mom went to the front door, turned on the porch light to see out of that glass panel and my brothers peered through the front window drapes to see out onto the porch, I just sat there in my dad’s recliner, crying and babbling over and over again, “There was a man out there, there was a man looking in, there was, there was!!” But he had disappeared and now nobody believed me.
Because of all my yelling and screaming, my dad woke up, cranky, demanding to know what the hell was going on. My brothers started smirking at me because they thought, “Oooh, Jeneane’s going to get into trouble!”
I told my dad exactly what I had seen but my mom told him she hadn’t seen anybody out there and my brothers, of course, chimed in and said they hadn’t seen no scruffy man out there either. So he ordered us to turn off the TV and go to bed and maybe that would teach my mom to not let us watch scary movies so late at night.
My brothers grumbled how I had spoiled the fun and I was wondering if I really had let my imagination go wild. But that scruffy man’s face had seemed so real and so creepy that I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep that night.
The snow had stopped falling shortly after that and the next day we woke up to a shiny, sparkly world with about eight inches of fluffy new snow. I now felt dumb and stupid because I must have imagined that that scruffy man had been looking at me through the door window. And I felt worse after my brothers kept teasing me about being so scared of just a movie.
But at breakfast our dad told us all something very interesting. He had awakened before the rest of us and had opened up the front door to walk down to the end of the driveway to get the Sunday paper. He saw shoe prints in the snow on the front porch right outside the door so dad followed them. Dad then told us to hurry up, eat our breakfast, and then get our coats and boots on so we all could see what had happened the night before.
The scruffy man’s shoe prints were at the front door and they showed that he had stomped around in the snow while he had been trying to jerk the door open. But there were also shoe print stompings in the snow in front of the locks on the living room picture windows as well.
My dad pointed out where the shoe prints showed that the man had stood against the front porch wall between the door and the front windows. That is where he had hid when my mom and my brothers were trying to see him. Then the shoe prints tracked around the rest of the house, stopping at each of the basement windows, and then stopping at our back patio and garage doors. The shoe prints were clustered around in the snow like he was trying to break in at those places as well.
The shoe prints then continued around the attached garage and then down the driveway to a car that had been parked on the shoulder of the road. The car’s tire tracks clearly showed where it had pulled over and parked and then had driven off. There were also shoe prints that came from the car from the passenger side and those tracks went down the ditch and up to our front porch.
That meant that the scruffy man had first come up to the front door where he knew I had seen him and sounded the alarm but he had still blatantly gone around the whole house after that trying to break in. That really bothered me the most. It was like he didn’t care that I had seen him and that there were other people in the house besides me. He was apparently quite determined to try and break into our house. The positioning of the shoe prints and the tire tracks also meant that there was someone else in the car waiting for him to do something evil.
My brothers were weirdly impressed that I had seen a “bad” man but I was shaking all over again and wishing at this point that the scruffy man really had been just my imagination and now not so plainly real.
My dad asked me if I could describe him but I was only 10 years old so all I could say is that it was a man who looked scruffy and unshaven, like a hobo, and I couldn’t tell how tall he was or how much he weighed or even what he was wearing besides a black or dark brown coat. So my dad decided it wasn’t worth calling the police with the little bit that I could describe of that scruffy man.
This safe and quiet country life now seemed more dangerous to me than living in the city and so I had several weeks of sleepless nights and a couple of nightmares about that scruffy man’s face leering at me through the door window.
But within a week there was a long and narrow curtain hung over that front door glass panel and all of the doors and windows locks were carefully checked each night as well. And it was also a very long time before us kids were allowed to stay up late and watch scary movies again.