Woman finds stranger living in her attic, hiding in her closet
FOR the first time since she'd moved into her new apartment, Amber Dawn fell ill.
She was sick, and so she called in and took the day off. It was the first time she hadn't stuck to her usual routine.
Much of the day went by without fanfare, until around 7pm, when she heard a loud thump in the bedroom while she was watching TV.
"I just dismissed it because I have animals and they make noise," she recounted to the Criminal podcast.
Later that night, around 11pm, Amber turned off all the lights and drew herself a bath. She lit a candle, undressed and climbed in.
Naked, in the bath tub, in the dark, she looked towards the ceiling.
"Everything just slowed way down. I must have sat in that bathtub for ten-fifteen seconds but it felt like five minutes and I put it all together."
Someone had been watching her every move from above in the attic.
Six months earlier, the bright-eyed 20-year-old had moved to one of the rainiest places in America; the small town of Enumclaw, Washington.
She moved to the tiny town to be closer to her brother and sister-in-law.
The land in which the city of Enumclaw sits was formed by a volcanic mudflow from nearby Mount Rainier, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
From the window of her bedroom apartment, the soaring mountain would beckon before her eyes.
"It was gorgeous," she told the Criminal podcast.
Despite being a tiny farming community, little did Amber know the name of the region derived from a Native American term which translates to "place of evil spirits", referring to an "evil incident" which occurred towards Enumclaw Mountain in 1885.
The apartment was modest, her one bedroom sat on the top floor of a small apartment building; a one-bedroom with a dining room, living room and kitchen. It even included a little balcony.
The first night she moved in, she had been playing music while she was unpacking. As she went to bed that night, she turned off the music.
As she settled in and the room went quiet, another sound began to appear around her. Something ... strange.
"I was laying in my bed and I heard footsteps in the attic. They were very clear footsteps.
"I wasn't quite sure why I would be hearing that, but whenever you move into a new apartment, you start to notice all the different sounds that that particular space makes and so I wasn't quite sure what it was.
"But it sounded like footsteps."
As Amber looked above her bed, she noticed a trap door in the ceiling. It was a crawl space to the attic. She didn't think much of it, though she recognised it pushed up towards the ceiling, unlike the traditional ones we see on the movies.
"I thought, 'OK, that's probably not what it is, I know I have an active imagination so I just fell asleep."
The next day, Amber confronted her landlord about the sounds she heard the prior night.
"I told them, 'I think I heard footsteps up there last night, is there any way that any body could be up there?'
"She told me, 'no, it's probably a squirrel or something'.
"I was like, 'well that squirrel is wearing a pretty big set of boots then'."
Amber put it aside, because the idea that someone might actually be living in her roof sounded as ludicrous as winning the lottery. She convinced herself she was being ridiculous. And so she went on with her life.
But over the next few months, a series of events would force Amber to confront the terrifying reality.
It started with small things; cans of soft drink would go missing along with cans of soup. Things would be moved. She assumed her brother, who had a spare key to the apartment, was secretly raiding her cupboards.
Amber wasn't home all that much. She worked three jobs, administration in an account firm and working at a chemist during the day while working the night shift as a waitress, so she would often second guess herself.
One night, Amber received a call while working her night shift. Her apartment had flooded. She had just bought a nine-week old german shepherd pup, an addition to her growing animal family (she already had two cats).
But her tiny puppy had been left on the bathroom floor, and the news seemed grim.
"I came home, opened up the bathroom door, and my puppy was in the bathroom sink.
"There's no way she could have gotten into that sink. She was a little puppy, the toilet was far enough away from the sink that she wouldn't have been able to climb.
"There was water all over the ground, it was a big mess. But she was sitting in the sink. Someone must have put her in that sink."
When Amber made the discovery that fateful night in the bath, she was frozen with fear.
"I'm in the bathtub and I've got a candle lit, I look up and that crawl space door was open.
"Everything just slowed way down. I must have sat in that bath tub for ten-fifteen seconds after seeing that crawl space open but it felt like five minutes.
"I put it all together, I was like, 'OK the footsteps the first night, the doors being closed when I had left them open, the missing food, my dog in the sink.
"There was someone living in my house with me.
"So I very calmly got out of the tub and got my robe. I put it on. There was only one place he could have been hiding and that was in the bedroom closet.
"I had to walk by the closet in order to get out. The closet were those mirrored doors and that was very scary to see myself in the dark, knowing he was on the other side of that door.
Amber didn't say a word.
"If he would've opened that door, if I would've seen him, I would've lost it. He's been living in my apartment for six months, if he wanted to hurt me, that's not what he wants. He just needs a place to stay.
"He's probably not a bad guy., like he put my dog in the sink. I don't want to freak him out, I don't want to scare him by screaming or yelling because then he might hurt me so that he doesn't get caught.
Amber walked "very quietly" past the closet. Back then, mobile phones didn't exist, so she was forced to walk to the lounge room to call for help.
She grabbed a hammer from a secret stash in her junk drawer and called her sister-in-law from the lounge room and told her "someone is the house".
She grabbed her puppy and walked out the door in her robe with a hammer in one hand and puppy in the other.
"I got to the bottom of the stairs and I was looking at the apartment door and I was like, 'please don't come out, please don't come out'.
"My sister-in-law was there in minutes with two giant German shepherds in tow."
They went back to her sister-in-laws house and phoned the police. By the time authorities got there, the man was gone. In the attic, they found food, a book, and a sleeping bag.
"I don't know how he was getting into the apartment. I left a window open for my cats so he could've gone in and out that way. I had a spare key, he could have taken my spare key and made a copy. He could have lived there before me, I don't know."
Amber filed a police report and while she's convinced it was a man living above her, there's no way to be sure. They never found the culprit.
More than 20-years later, Amber hopes to find the person living in her attic. She moved out the day after she made the terrifying discovery, but upon reflection, she'd like to know who her mystery guest was.
In her next apartment, she made the landlord lock the attic door.
"Not that I want to make every body paranoid, but listen to your instincts. Deep down I knew what was going on but I didn't trust myself, I thought I was just imagining it.
"Since then I've learned to listen to my instincts and if my instincts are telling me that something isn't right, then something is not right."