Montauk at night is eerily mystical. Fog horns, sounding in the distance, can conjure images of abandoned boats rocking back and forth on deserted bays, or empty streets lit by a solitary lamppost, or even lonely hearts waiting by their windows for their long-lost loves to arrive. Yet the mist that fills the night air, although haunting, is also intriguing. It piques one’s curiosity just enough to make them want more.
No matter where you’re standing when in Montauk, you could hear the waves rushing to the shoreline. They carry a peaceful hum during the day, but in the dark, the sound of the waves almost seem menacing.
In the dark is when it all happens.
The sandy lanes just off the ocean are quiet at night. Nothing seems to move except for the dunes. They loom larger than life—sculpted into pristine pyramids that glisten through the hovering fog. And if you stare at them long enough, you can almost see the shadows of those who hide during the day, now coming back to life.
James, Drew, and I headed down the sandy narrow path toward the apartment. On the way, James set the scene on what transpired there a few years earlier.
It seems that before James took over the motel for his aunt and uncle, he stayed down the road in an apartment also owned by his aunt and uncle. This group of efficiency apartments was occasionally used by guests when the motel filled up. And people didn’t mind staying there because the apartment had beautiful amenities and was less than a minute’s walk to the beach.
James began his story by telling us that when it was only him and his little girl, he stayed in one of the apartments. Before moving in, he had heard the urban legend about a man, who had lived there back in the 50s, who had shot himself. James, being a young dad at the time, wasn’t affected by the story and didn’t think it was reason enough to not move in, so he did. Well one night, while giving his little girl a bath, the sudden stench of fire tickled his senses. He poked his head through the bathroom door and panicked at the sight of huge flames spreading through the living room and kitchen. He pulled his daughter out of the tub, wrapped a towel around her, and ran through the smoke and out the front door, onto the street. As he stood on the side of the road with his daughter in his arms, waiting for the fire department to arrive, he witnessed the apartment going up in a blaze.
After an investigation, it was determined that the cause of the fire was faulty wiring within the heating system. It had been turned up to its highest setting, although James explained that he never touched the heating thermostat as it had been summer. After the apartment was rebuilt, James reluctantly moved back in with his daughter, but because of an eerie feel within the place, moved out and into the main motel where he took over for his aunt and uncle.
Drew and I listened quietly as James continued his story.
“Ever since then,” he said in a hushed voice, “whenever I have to go into the apartment, a sense of dread surrounds me.”
“Surrounds you how?” I asked.
“There’s someone in there, and I know it’s the guy who committed suicide. I know he set the apartment on fire. He had to. Crazy things were going on in the apartment before the fire, but I kept dismissing it as mind over matter. That fire was deliberate. He wanted us out, and he started the fire hoping to kill us or force us to leave.”
His story set off scary images in my head, and soon, I began having second thoughts about going in. Did I want to venture into a place where a negative entity lived? “I can’t believe he set the thermostat to its highest level,” I said, shuddering at the thought. “The fact that an entity can literally manipulate physical matter is freakin’ scary.”
He nodded slowly and said, “I know. It’s damned near frightening.”
We were now standing in front of what appeared to be an abandoned motel, consisting of three apartments on the ground level and three above—all dark, all empty, and all freakin' creepy looking. “So, we’re going in the apartment?” I asked, hoping he’d change his mind.
“Yep, we are,” he said, looking up at the top apartment. “I want to know if you feel anything—if someone else can detect its presence. There’ve been plenty of people over the years who’ve stayed here after the fire, and I never heard of any bad incidences or complaints.”
“I see,” I said, staring up at it. “And that’s why you think the fire was meant for you. This entity hasn’t bothered any of the guests, and because of that, you believe you were targeted for some reason, correct?”
“Yes, absolutely correct,” he whispered.
“How long ago did this man live here?” I asked. “These apartments look relatively new.”
James shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he calculated the timeframe. “Well, it was back in the late 50s when he killed himself. My aunt showed me pictures of what this place looked like back then. It was a small boarding house, and this guy lived in the corner room—the same room I lived in a few years ago. It’s hard to tell as it’s been renovated a few times over the years.”
He cast his eyes back to the apartment, which now looked even more hauntingly forbidding than before, and looked back to us.
“Ready?” he asked, letting out a long courageous breath.
I looked over to Drew. “Ready?”
Drew glanced up at the dark, empty apartment, shaded by the groping branches of an overgrown pine tree, and said, “As I’ll ever be.”