Picking up where we left off from Barrieland: Ghosts, Ghouls & Other Things (Part 4).
Disclaimer: This is Part 4 in a Series. Please read the Full Disclosure Disclaimer on Part 1 before proceeding.
And then, if you haven’t read them yet, please read the previous posts before continuing to gain full context:
- Barrieland Part 1
- Barrieland Part 2
- Barrieland Part 3
- Barrieland Part 4
- Barrieland Part 5 (You are here).
When I first moved in, Rhonda at one point invited me up for a drink on their patio. But, given the fact that I had given up alcohol and was already growing tired of explaining this to people who knew me and continuously still tried to drink with me, and given the fact that I really am fairly apprehensive about meeting new people, I declined the offer; As such, and as I mentioned previously, I have never actually been upstairs at this house.
Knowing this, my landlord on more than one occasion had tried to encourage me to go up and do just that, you know, to be civil and good neighbours or whatever.
On one of the eldest child’s visits (of which there were very few, which, again, I did for my own protection really, and also just because I think it’s straight up weird for a strange 30-year old to be hanging out with children under 10 that are in no way related to her), he noticed my Wyze camera.
I moved this camera around the suite at various stages, but often times, it both wasn’t plugged in and it certainly wasn’t recording.
I received this Wyze camera from my former landlord and given how bizarre he started acting quite early on, I felt uncomfortable using it. But I do know one thing about security systems: often times, the most important part is just letting people know you have one.
The boy: Why do you have a camera?
Me: It’s good to have cameras to keep an eye on your things.
That was the end of that conversation.
I found it funny but also a little bizarre the type of questions this boy would have. It didn’t take long for me to start wondering if perhaps his parents had been in some way coaching him, or at bare minimum were asking him to try and learn some information about me. So generally, I kept our conversations as brief as possible and a little vague while also trying not to undermine him; he’s a smart kid.
There were a couple other things that happened about mid-way through my-living in Barrie that also stand out to me as relevant to this story.
There was the time I came home to find that the boy who had dyed his hair pink had dyed it again; now he was a blonde.
Then there was the time I came home to have “Rhonda” and “James” approach me and try to talk to me, except, they didn’t quite look like Rhonda and James, they looked like people that were supposed to look like Rhonda and James though.
That might sound confusing so I’ll try to explain, but I don’t have any pictures to verify this.
I had obviously met Rhonda and James several times by this point, and on this day, “James” was a little taller, a little more muscular. And “Rhonda” was not quite so large, a little more fit.
You could chalk this up to them having lost/gained some weight and wearing maybe some heeled shoes, but, a few days later, they looked like the old “Rhonda and James” again. Also, just the way the came up so quickly to start talking to me, which is not at all like “Rhonda and James'” normal behaviour.
And then there was the time I came home to meet a little girl who looked a lot like the eldest boy.
I didn’t know much about this family, but after taking a second look at this girl, she is almost definitely super related to the eldest boy, and it seemed to me she must live with her father. She had the exact same facial features as him; They could almost be twins if she wasn’t clearly so much younger.
And speaking of their father, he came over again one day. I didn’t speak to him, but he had brought his dog and this troubled me again.
I was downstairs at the time and outside with Dakota who was off his lead, as normally if I was outside with him I didn’t need to keep him on it. When I heard this dog, my first instinct was to bring Dakota inside, but I hesitated, and instead moved us under the porch and just listened instead.
At this point, I was trying not to let myself get ahead of myself or worry myself any further than I was, and I was at a point where I was deciding that I didn’t want to be afraid of being in my own home no matter what people said to me.
But this dog sounded mean as hell.
I never saw him, I don’t even know what breed he is, or if he’s even a “he” at all, but it sounded incredibly aggressive.
The father even seemed to say something about him, the way he acts, as they went inside.
My biggest concern in that moment was whether or not this dog was on a leash and whether or not they’d let him down into my yard, so I did end up moving Dakota inside.
Prior to this, one of my other minor annoyances with Rhonda and the Gang was that they’d let their little dog out and she’d shit in my yard, often times on the concrete; Not very well trained. I mentioned this to my landlord, too, and afterwards the shit magically disappeared a couple days later.
While I listened to this dog as the father collected his children to take them, wherever, I pieced together in my mind that if these children were being abused, and if this dog was a mean dog, this scary looking dude might also be pretty bad news.
Of course, these are just my assumptions.
And then there was still the issue of the snakes at this time.
On more than one occasion, Mr. James would bring these up to me. On one in particular was when he told me about how they were entering the home.
On another, as I stood outside and they, upstairs by their door, he whisper-called down to me.
James: Jaimee…. Jaimee….
A whisper, legitimately. And frankly, kind of creepy, with the tail end of my name lingering off of it, as though there were 4 e’s and not 2.
I peered up at them and walked up the steps wondering what these people wanted this time.
James: There’s another snake.
I don’t care.
And he pointed to the little water drain area outside my bedroom window.
James: I keep finding these; they’re harmless, and I move them.
On one day, I watched as he easily carried one out and down into my yard, throwing it over the fence, almost showing it off to me as he did it. Not sure if this was to impress me or to comfort me but I required neither.
Me: Yeah, I know about the snakes.
Again, this wasn’t the first time we’d spoken about them, but this was the time he mentioned that he saw them go into a little hole in the side of the house which I told our landlord about.
Me, walking away from the weird family: I’ll let Mark know.
At some point these people also let it slip to me that they actually had snakes. Their own, not the garden snakes, or whatever they were.
I found this odd, in that they told me well after we began having a snake problem.
Then something else strange happened, a few times.
One day while I was walking in the woods with Dakota I came across the craziest sight, and I’ll preface this by saying, I’ve been to Reptilia (the world’s best organization for education on reptiles) and I’ve been around snakes before, even seen them be fed, but not like this.
When I looked down at the trail, there was a snake feasting on a frog. A pretty big adult frog, and a pretty big adult snake.
It was disgusting, with the lil’ froggy legs sticking out of this snakes’ mouth as it slowly ingested it; Its lil’ snake throat getting bigger and smaller with every lil’ gulp.
So disgusting that I stopped and watched for a solid minute before I couldn’t stomach it anymore; I really was not expecting it. I didn’t take a picture or video because it was THAT gross.
I don’t do well with things like that.
Lil’ froggy legs twitchin’.
Not long after this was when James mentioned the snake in the water drain thing that you can see pictured above.
And not longer after THAT, I started to catch frogs sticking to the window as they tried to escape it.
The timing, in retrospect, seems ultra weird, some may even say, suspicious.
And one day, on a rainy day where I was holed up inside again and sitting in my bedroom (that’s the window you’re looking at up there, from my old bedroom), I watched as a garden snake “fell” into the drain area.
It fell in such a way that it seemed unintentional. Snakes are pretty good at slithering along things, even when they’re headed down vertically.
I climbed up on my storage chest and peered through the window to find, you guessed it, that snake feasting on a little frog not much bigger than the one I snapped on the window.
Lil’ froggy head in its lil’ snake mouth. Lil’ frog leggies twitchin’ outside of its mouth waiting to be devoured whole.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying Rhonda and James were putting frogs and snakes here to try and scare me, but what would you think when you saw something like that?
I’m sure it was just a coincidence.
Does caffeine at a young age cause memory problems?
On the last visit that the eldest boy came down to my apartment, he told me that his sister played piano, and he was learning guitar.
Until that moment, I actually thought they didn’t have any instruments. Like I said, these walls were thin, and I have what you might call a particular ear for this sort of thing.
I heard him one day trying to tune his guitar sometime after he told me this, but that’s the most I ever heard from him.
It was sometime in June, I believe, when the eldest mentioned he had a birthday coming up.
The boy: It’s almost my birthday. We’re having a party.
I had already noticed for a while some birthday balloons in the garage that you could see through the window, but the only number I recognized appeared to be a blown-up number 3.
Me: Oh cool, when’s your birthday?
I still didn’t know how old he was.
The boy: Sometime in July I think. Or November.
Me, internally: What?
We’d have another conversation at a later date where he reiterated this and it floored me; how can a child this age not know his own birthday and have both dates be so off from each other? They’re not even the same seasons!
Again, something was seriously wrong with this family, that just doesn’t make any sense.
Me, audibly: When’s the party?
The boy: Like the 14th I think (or a date around then).
Me: How old are you turning?
The boy: 10, I think.
No concept of time, no concept of age, and yet so smart otherwise…
It was a few weeks before this that I had posed another question to Rhonda over text message that basically said, “Hey, wondering when the kids are in school? I don’t want to make noise when they’re in class.”
Her response: They’re in school from 9:40AM until 3PM (or so – a full day).
I found this odd, too, given how often the kids were outside playing and very much not on their computers or tablets. And also because, being someone that works in the Ontario education system and having a certain level of understanding of how education had changed for so many kids, I just did’t buy it.
I had actually heard them a few times when they were doing their classes, even listening to their teacher ask them questions.
These kids were absolutely not doing a full day of school on any day whatsoever. But, sure, thanks for the info Rhonda.
On one day, the eldest boy approached me outside: Hey, the internet is down so I can’t do my school work, can you teach me some guitar?
Me: Sorry, I’m busy working.
Him: What do you do for work?
Me: I’m sort of on-call. It’s complicated.
He’d ask me questions like this when he caught me outside trying to thaw out in the sun.
Sometime after this (I think, it could have been before, because again, I wasn’t documenting any of this) I got a text from Rhonda on a Tuesday or Wednesday: Hey, our internet is down and the kids need to do their school work today. Can they use yours? It would only be for today; we’ll have new internet hooked up by the end of the week.
Me, being ultra polite as I am: Sure. In fact, assuming I don’t get hit with any charges (I had unlimited internet), you guys can use it (I didn’t quite believe that they’d have sorted out a new internet set-up within 2-3 days, it often takes at least a week if not longer), they can keep using it.
I sent her the network and password (I had never changed it from the set-up day, but you really should do this for privacy and security reasons) knowing full well that if they were going to be up to doing anything weird, it would all be traced back to their IP’s and not my own.
She thanked me but assured me they’d have new internet by the Friday. I never checked my TekSaavy account for usage, and my bill remained what it was.
Sometime after or before this (again, who can keep up with all these super normal and not at all strange interactions), Rhonda and James had gotten a Ring doorbell.
I can’t remember if it was me that asked about it casually or if they offered the information up outright, but basically what Rhonda told me one day was: Yeah, we got one from the government as part of a program for low-income housing/people on welfare.
I know nothing about such a program and I’ve never looked it up, but this seemed bizarre to me.
They also got new camera’s for the front of the house over the garage door.
Again, I’m not an expert, but if the government were giving these types of things to low-income homes, I can’t imagine at all that it was out of the kindest of their cold dead government hearts.
And surely, way more people in low-income housing situations would want to acquire these then, if true, right? Since crime is more likely in these areas?
I mentioned this one day over the phone with my landlord.
Me: Hey Mark, do you know anything about the government giving out cameras to people in low-income situations?
Mark: Uh, no, what do you mean?
Me: Well, Rhonda has a new Ring doorbell and says that’s how she got it.
Mark: No, I don’t know anything about this.
The ring doorbell seemed to be very useful for Rhonda as now, when I received packages, she would just text me and tell me they were there and I’d retrieve them.
That conversation with the eldest about the cat? That’s on the Ring doorbell.
Some time after this I came home one day to find that the eldest boy had another new haircut. Strange, so many in rapid succession.
He had shaved his head.
He didn’t mention it to me, not like when he had dyed his hair pink the first time.
He didn’t mention when he dyed it blonde, either.
In fact, it seemed these days, the eldest was avoiding me.
And sometimes I’d hear Rhonda talking to him: Don’t talk to her!
She was talking about me, and I certainly wasn’t the one trying to start a conversation. He wasn’t either.
I suspected the drugs.
At a certain point, every time Dakota and I would head out for a walk, and James and Rhonda, or one or the other would almost always be in the garage now, the boy would purposely turn around so that he wasn’t looking at me. I suspected he had gotten in trouble for trying to talk to me a few times.
The little girl, however, who is very sweet, I’ll add, would still gleefully pipe up: Hi Katie!
It seems insane to even me that I haven’t mentioned in any detail about how I long suspected people were entering my apartment without my consent during all of this.
Now, what did I mean by that, you might be wondering?
My routine varied from day to day since I simply wasn’t terribly busy with work e-mails and was always operating on the assumption that as long as I completed all my work as it came through in a reasonable amount of time (usually same day, but if not, by the morning of the next) that I could go about my errands and walks as I pleased.
Generally Dakota and I would go out first thing in the morning before it got too hot for him, and then I’d normally run any sort of errand I had around mid-day, depending on my workload.
I always liked to be home by “dinner time” (5-6PM or so) because I still kept to a pretty strict 9pm-ish bedtime.
What can I say, it’s exhausting waking up at 5AM every day even when you have no where to go.
When I’d come home I started to notice many things that I know with certainty weren’t my own doing.
For example, I always turn off all the lights in my apartment and lock the doors, close the bathroom door so Dakota can’t get in the garbage, and so on.
Sometimes when I’d come home, the lights would be on, and different lights all the time. Sometimes it was the one by the front door, but often times it was the one by the stairs that led upstairs.
And often times, I’d notice things were being moved around all over my apartment.
My memory is pretty sharp and I am a creature of habit, so I know where I like to keep things as to not misplace or lose them. When I started noticing these items being moved around, I started moving them around myself as well and taking mental note of where I put them.
This is also why the Rottweiler and Cookie Monster lived on the stairs; I had begun McCauley-Caulkin’ing my own house, specifically by the stairs. I’d place many different items here over the course of a couple weeks and moved the gate up and down the steps with some regularity.
And I’d started to take note of things like where the curtains rested when I left, sometimes even leaving them open an extra inch or two to see if they were still in that place when I got home.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Often times, yes, even the curtains were out of place.
Which bothered me for several reasons but most of all it bothered me because Dakota was in the house and this meant that someone had been in the house with him without me being home.
Dakota had started to act strange: lethargic at times, more than he should be, or other times very hyper-anxious.
I had stopped smoking weed but I’d also notice that my weed seemed to be going down despite this.
And I wasn’t at all sure what to do about any of it.
I’d tell people these things were happening but nobody had any practical advice.
I started taking other measures, like one time I put Dakota on his lead in the backyard and then I went walking solo in the woods, far enough that I wouldn’t be seen but close enough to keep an eye on my backyard. Unfortunately my stakeout ended early because Dakota is so perceptive that he spotted me; I ran back to him, jumping the fence (super easy to do) and took him for a walk instead.
And then of course there was the Wyze, but I knew it was unsecure.
So when I’d go out, to the grocery store for example which was a short walk for someone like me, I’d check in on the Wyze.
And when I opened it up one day, and turned on the audio, I confirmed it for myself: people were in my apartment. Dakota was still sleeping though. I didn’t know if he’d been sedated or drugged or who the people were, they weren’t on the camera.
And it wasn’t set up to record video so I had no way of tracking it.
I headed home.
Dakota and I needed to move out, and fast.