The 13th Floor

Recalling a Horrifying Childhood Encounter With THE COUCH

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Childhood fears lurk at the heart of so many viral horror tales — from dark, fuzzy memories of lost TV episodes, to murderous predators lurking in the deepest shadows of the bedroom — and those nightmares sometimes return to haunt us as we grow older.

Such is the case for one anonymous user known only as “Johnny,” who still vividly recalls his own childhood encounter with a barely-glimpsed monstrosity — one which allegedly dwelled within the dark and dusty recesses beneath that most comforting of household furnishings: the living room couch.

Johnny doesn’t remember exactly how old he was when the terror began — he estimates he was probably only four or five years old, the first-born child of a young couple living in Great Bend, Kansas.

“We were a young family, without much money,” Johnny recalls, “and most of our furniture was second-hand.” Among those used items was an old, gigantic, flower-patterned couch, where Johnny could often be found playing.

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One summer afternoon, he was playing with his marble collection on the floor next to the couch… until his favorite red marble rolled beneath the sofa before he could catch it. It drifted so far into the shadows he couldn’t see it — no matter how far he lowered his head to the floor.

His mother was busy, and his father was away at work, so there was no one nearby strong enough to move the massive couch away from the living room wall… so Johnny decided he’d have to retrieve that ruby prize himself by shoving his hand into the dusty darkness.

He recalls making a tentative reach at first, then he got braver and slid his entire arm into the narrow gap between the couch and the floor… but the small glass sphere still evaded his grasp. He pulled his hand back, planning to try again from another angle. The instant he withdrew, he swears a tiny hand suddenly reached out from the shadows toward him.

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The hand only reached out as far as its bony wrist before it darted back into the dark, barely long enough for Johnny to comprehend what his young eyes had just seen… but his mental picture of that moment is forever burnt into his brain.

“It was a slim hand, with tapered fingers,” he recalls vividly. “A woman’s hand.” He also remembers the hand being gnarled and wrinkled, like the claw of a tiny, shriveled hag… and eerily grey-black in color.

Johnny had already begun to retreat from this unearthly visitor when the hand emerged again… but this time it was holding something: a small black plastic box, with a faded logo printed on it he didn’t recognize.


“It waited, as if expecting me to take it,” he continues. “When I didn’t, it pulled it back under the couch and was gone.”

That was enough for Johnny, who went to tell his mother about it… but he also remembers something odd about his reaction to the tiny intruder.

Specifically, he doesn’t recall being particularly afraid… he simply got up, walked to the kitchen where his mother was cooking dinner, and described what happened.

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Even as an adult, he couldn’t really explain that one… but he figured he had no real sense of boundary, at such a young age, between what reality and imagination. His mother assumed the latter when he explained what he’d seen, but she humored him and came to investigate.

She found nothing, despite a thorough search… and when his father came home from work, both parents lifted the enormous, heavy couch off the floor entirely, just to ease their young son’s troubled mind. The red marble was there… but nothing else.

That might have been the end of the matter, and Johnny would have filed the memory away as a strange glitch of his youthful imagination… but for reasons he still can’t explain today, the image of that tiny hand lingered on for years to come.

“I even developed a weird fantasy of little hand-people living under the couch,” he writes… “and believed that they would catch me and take me away if I ever reached into their domain again.”

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But even the darkest of childhood imaginings are little more than dreams… right?

That’s just what Johnny thought, as he grew into adulthood… until one day when the distant memory returned — as it occasionally did over the years — and he recounted the incident beneath the couch to his mother. Surprisingly, she still remembered his story from that summer afternoon long ago… and even stranger, she seemed a bit unsettled by the memory.

Only when she told him more about the couch — things she’d never revealed to him before — did he begin to understand her reaction.

It seems Johnny’s parents got rid of the old couch less than one month after he told them his strange story… when they discovered its previous owner had died on it.

Image Credit: Neil Lockhart

They had purchased the couch at an estate sale, held shortly after the death of the old woman who once owned it. They never knew her name — only that she had died under mysterious circumstances.

But as creepy as that revelation struck him, that isn’t the part that sometimes keeps Johnny awake at night… the image that sticks in his mind now is that of the tiny black box the gnarled hand had briefly pushed out toward him… and the faded logo stamped on the side, which he couldn’t identify when he first saw it.

He knows now what that symbol represented, because he came across it again quite recently — on a similar but much newer and cleaner package, during a trip to the hardware store.

That logo corresponded to a brand of razor-sharp replacement blades for a utility knife.