Rudy Calderon points to writing discovered on the wall in his family’s Phoenix home.
It started with knickknacks being moved around the house. Then it was kitchen drawers being opened.
The haunting experience culminated when Rudy Calderon’s family saw a Yiddish word scrawled on a bathroom wall with what appears to be charcoal.
The word, based on Google translate, means “danger.”
Calderon, 28, thought someone in the Phoenix home was pranking the family with a series of paranormal stunts.
If that’s the case, no one has confessed, even after another, potentially damaging incident on Christmas in which both bathrooms flooded, he said.
Now, he believes it’s supernatural activity.
“I don’t think this is natural, I think there’s a supernatural entity involved,” Calderon said. “But I can’t say one way or another.”
Calderon uploaded the pictures and a video of the ominous images to his Facebook account on Christmas Eve. Since then, more than 450 people had shared the post as of Wednesday afternoon and the video has been viewed 70,000 times.
Dozens of comments have been posted, many of them offering advice on how to deal with troublesome spirits.
It’s no viral sensation, which by today’s standards would require at least a million views within a week, but It’s more interaction than Calderon has ever seen.
“For the past few days our house that my grandfather, aunt, two cousins and myself have been living in has been ‘acting up,’ ” he wrote on his Facebook on Christmas Eve. “We have been hearing noises, objects appear out of nowhere, they move around and yesterday all of our kitchen cabinets were left open. All doors were locked so no one could have gotten in and we tried to blame each other but then things got weirder.”
Various people from across the country have commented on the post offering spiritual suggestions.
To his surprise, most of the comments seem genuinely concerned for Calderon and his family’s well being. He expected more ridicule than what he has received, he said.
“If you have someone pray over your house, the person that prays has to be someone very powerful spiritually or else you will just make it angry,” a Facebook user named Frank Ibarra recommended.
Others insist it’s all some hoax.
‘It’s pretty widespread’
Still, the wave of support that Calderon has received is part of a trend that more Americans believe in ghost stories, professors say.
But those who have these experiences, like Calderon, are left with a lot of questions and few answers.
“The past week has been pretty miserable for us. We’re tired and we’re low on energy,” Calderon said. “We’re stumped as to why it’s happening now. The reason I went to social media is because I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
Christopher Bader, a sociology professor at Chapman University in Orange, California, who researches ghost hunters, said Calderon’s experiences are not unique.
He said that based on his research, such experiences, with the exception of the Yiddish writing, are common and can happen to anyone.
Diane Goldstein, a folklore professor at Indiana University, said she has never heard of Yiddish writing on the wall in the ghost stories she’s researched. However, she agreed with Bader that such ghost stories are common among people, regardless of their cultural, educational background or income.
“It’s pretty widespread,” she said.
Bader, who co-authored the book, “Paranormal America,” also said that TV shows in recent years have helped legitimized anecdotes of paranormal activity.
“You can read this in one of two ways, some of my friends say that this is a negative aspect of our culture and we’re becoming more gullible,” he said. “But other people believe that people are less afraid to speak out about these experiences.”
Bader said he’s heard of ghost stories of people seeing Yiddish writing but it’s rare.
Looking for answers
Calderon can’t explain it and said nobody in his family is Jewish or can write in Yiddish.
He lives in a single-family home in west Phoenix with his aunt, his 14- and 17-year-old cousins and his grandfather, who converted from Catholicism and is now an evangelical.
In 2013, he graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in global studies. A year ago he started his own business that organizes affordable 10-day trips for college students who are minorities who want to travel but can’t afford a full semester abroad.
He said the activities started on Dec. 21 when he noticed a plush Santa Claus being moved from a corner in the living room to his laundry bin in his bedroom when the whole family was out shopping.
Later that day he noticed a box filled with coins he has collected from his travels around the world that was moved from his luggage to the kitchen counter.
Then on Dec. 23, he walked into the bathroom about half hour after her cousin used it and noticed the writing on the wall: געפאר.
He said that’s when the family began to accuse each other of taking the prank too far. The cousin said in an interview she doesn’t know Yiddish writing and didn’t notice the scrawl on the wall.
“That’s what threw us off,” Calderon said.
On Christmas Day, he said, the family found the home’s two toilets and two bathtubs overflowing with water. His aunt called the landlord’s husband, a plumber. He did some maintenance work but found nothing wrong, he said.
On Tuesday night, as Calderon and his aunt began praying, they heard someone banging on the front door. Calderon hurriedly ran to the door and opened it, but found no one there.
“If it’s someone coming in then that’s scarier because they can hurt us,” said Stephanie Garcia, 17, one of Calderon’s cousins. “I don’t know what to think.”
Calderon’s aunt Cristina Torres, 47, said she was “terrified” because she doesn’t know who or what has been doing the sinister activities.
Bader, the California professor, said a common theory among ghost hunters is that teenagers’ energy manifests into telekinetic powers. He added that if Calderon travels a lot and brings back pre-owned souvenirs, some ghost hunters believe that a spirit may still be attached to the item.
Calderon said the family hasn’t called police because they don’t have any proof someone has broken into the house.
“What would we tell the police? Things are moving around?” he said. “We have no evidence of someone breaking into the house. They may laugh at us.”
Goldstein, the Indiana professor, warns not to criticize people who share their ghost stories. She said that she can’t answer if such stories are real or not, but those who experience such events wholeheartedly believe they happened.
“I think it’s very important that with these stories, to take into consideration the people who report them that it’s not always a story that should be taken to attack someone or taken to create a fictional account of something or casts aspersions on a community,” she said.
“It’s simply what they believe happened.”