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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Mystery: The Swirling Basement Thing

Here's a creepy image of basement stairs and someone poking their head out. So scary.
It’s a new year —and a new decade. Just like last year, I’ve come down a really nasty upper respiratory infection. As such, I’ve swapped two stories around. Today, we’ll be discussing a story that was intended for Decemystery last year. Known as the Swirling Basement Thing, this thing is a lot less strange than it may sound Let’s dig in.

To Every Staircase, Turn, Turn, Turn: The Mystery of the Swirling Basement Thing

For starters, I’m pulling information from a book. You can view the specific entry here. Google Books is a heck of a thing.

Now then, I cannot find a specific date for this story; the aforementioned book doesn’t give one. It does give us our main player though: a 28-year-old woman named Charlotte. A self-proclaimed atheist with a minor degree in psychology, Charlotte had a weird experience in the basement of her apartment in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I Googled the location and it’s still standing it seems; no reports on if the weird entity-thing is still lurking.

Anyways, one day, Charlotte went to retrieve a basket of freshly dried clothes from the basement when she encountered something enigmatic: a large cloud of pitch-black shadow that swirled in the basement of the apartment. As she stood there, dumbfounded, the cloud began to engulf her. An overwhelming sense of dread began to fill her as she screamed at the top of her lungs until the cloud retreated into the corners of the basement. Not desiring to be anywhere near the entity, Charlotte rushed out of the basement and ignored her laundry.

Three days after this event, the apartment manager asked Charlotte if she was going to ever get said laundry. In response, Charlotte stated that something terrified her down there. The apartment manager’s response to this was:

“The black thing?”

Adding to this, the manager stated that an upstairs tenant had also seen the black cloud of spookiness. A few months after this, Charlotte moved out, not desiring to be in the same building as the strange entity.

To date, this is the only report I’ve found of the thing that’s known as the “Swirling Basement Thing”. It’s far from the most mesmerizing thing and it’s far from the most fascinating. Though there are some theories as to what it was.


1. It was a demon

Given that Charlotte said that the presence of the cloud filled her with dread, I’d say that it stands to reason that if this thing was real, it definitely wasn’t a normal ghost. Ghosts seldom—if ever—tend to fill someone with dread when in their presence. Malicious spirits on the other hand do.

Demonic entities have been said to sometimes take the form of a smokey, black mass or even cloud that vaguely resembles a humanoid. As such, the description that Charlotte gave is close in nature to that of a demon (or poltergeist if you aren’t spiritual).

2. It was a hoax

Our second theory is that Charlotte made the entire thing up. When it comes to faking ghost stories, they likely rival UFO reports for the most commonly fabricated report of something mysterious or unknown. Given that this is the only report I can find—and the fact that the apartment is still standing, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this theory is the truth or not.

3. It was tunnel vision

Tunnel vision is, as a quick Google search tells me: “defective sight in which objects cannot be properly seen if not close to the center of the field of view.”

Or in this case: Charlotte (along with presumably the others who saw this thing) merely had their eyesight betray them and they saw something that wasn’t there. This happens a fair bit more often than one may think when it comes to people who say they saw something paranormal or supernatural.

My Take

As fun as it would be to say that a story with a title as silly as this one is real, I think it’s complete nonsense. I’ve heard people say in the past say that because a witness is either a skeptic or atheist that it lends more credence when they say they saw a ghost or demon (or a UFO is they’re a major skeptic in the realm of UFOlogy).

Newsflash: it doesn’t.

Any average John or Jane can fabricate an account if they have the proper skills to craft a believable story or simply try hard enough. Just because someone is of a certain belief (or lack thereof) or is a skeptic doesn’t mean that their word has more weight to it. There’s more than one way that people see ghosts; some see them as manifestations of energies we don’t understand while others see them as pure hallucinations. My point is when discussing a story like this, I hold everyone to the same level. Their word[s] have to have something to back them up.

In this case: Charlotte’s word is all we have. There’s no corroborating stories, no one backs her up, it’s all squarely on her and her alone. While I did state that encounters with evil entities can be seen as shadowy, almost smoke-like entities, that’s not some broad stroke. Again, anyone can make up a ghost encounter. Heck, I could if I wanted to. I was half tempted to do so with this to give an example, but I’m sick and more than a bit strung out.

Over all: no, I don’t think this story is legitimate. While I have said remained skeptical in the past about some much sillier stories, this one simply isn’t crazy enough to be almost too ridiculous to be fabricated. A story like Alan Godfrey’s abduction is so absurd that I have to stop and wonder if someone could realistically make something up like that. This one is of a spooky scary ghost in the basement that did something hundreds of other ghost witnesses have claimed.

I ain’t buying it.


Basement’s are creepy. They can be dinghy and hide creepy crawlies. Likewise, they’re a popular setting for ghost tales. The Swirling Basement Thing is but one of many I’ve heard of and it’s far from the last one we’ll be discussing in 2020. 

I’d also like to say that I’m deeply sorry if this entry is weak compared to others. I said I’d post something on the 7th of this month and I wanted to keep that promise no matter what. Given this was an easy to write one, I figured it’d be better to at least finish it rather than let it sit and break yet another promise and get this year’s writing off to a bad start. Hopefully sooner rather than later, I’ll feel better and will write something to make up for it. Until then, I’m going to lay down and try to get over this nightmarish illness.


  1. I'm with you on this, it's nonsense, at least in part. (Also, sending you my well wishes). I'm saying this was tunnel vision, really.

  2. I was just wondering what the source of the picture you posted in the entry was. I found it a couple of days ago and I've been searching for any sort of backstory for it but unfortunately haven't found any.

    1. Apologizes for taking so long to get back to you on this; it's been a very hectic past week (personal health and whatnot). I'm sorry to say that I'm unable to say what the history of it is, let alone the origin. It's as much a mystery to me as it is to you. If you ever happen to discover what it is though, I would love to know!

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