GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
Now, the next story on our "Campfire Tales" episode comes from a guy you wouldn't want to mess with. His name is Mirko Buchwald. Just to give you a taste of why you wouldn't want to mess with him...
MIRKO BUCHWALD: I came here with a British karate team for the World Games in '89, and I've been here since.
WASHINGTON: So Mirko is a big dude - 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, 5th-degree black belt professional karate master. But his ex-girlfriend, Candy, she knows a secret.
CANDY: For a guy who looks so tough, he was actually scared to go home at night.
WASHINGTON: The karate master scared of his own home. It started with small things - noises, things falling mysteriously.
BUCHWALD: There'd be noise from the kitchen.
CANDY: We would hear things in his kitchen just fall, and then all of a sudden he would go - do you hear that? And I'd go yeah, did you hear it? So we came up with just excuse, after excuse, after excuse for everything that was going on. Large things started to go missing and things so big that you couldn't misplace it.
WASHINGTON: Things like laptops, silverware. All of his cleaning supplies one day disappeared and so did his MP3 player, his passport, his keys, his green card. All the wires in his car were disconnected one morning. Still, all this could be explained away, until one day, Mirko noticed scratches on his walls and light bulbs and furniture.
BUCHWALD: It was like, zigzag scratch marks, and they were on a lot of stuff. They were on - my kitchen table had these deep scratch marks in it. My motorcycle, which I still have, still has the scratch marks on. All the same very kind of linear, like, lightning strike type of scratch marks. That's when I started to feel like, well, this is kind of getting violent. And that's when I started to get a little afraid.
CANDY: He had gotten so scared that he didn't want to be in the apartment by himself.
BUCHWALD: My biggest fear though is that it was a poltergeist. It wasn't something that was happening with the apartment. It was something that was happening with me.
WASHINGTON: And here's the thing with poltergeists - the more you fear them, the more they do to you. Things started getting completely out of control.
BUCHWALD: Sitting and watching TV, I had a tower rack with CDs on it, and I'm watching the CDs just fall off the rack for no apparent reason in front of me. There was no way of me - it had to be something. So it, you know, made me question my whole kind of belief system in a way.
CANDY: When things really physically started to move and fall and toss and - he started to get really paranoid. He had this obsession over the things that were going missing.
BUCHWALD: What I ended up doing out of sheer frustration was - I would sleep with my keys and my wallet and my phone in a Ziploc bag. And I would literally sleep - go to sleep holding this bag.
WASHINGTON: Mirko, who considered himself very reasonable, was starting to act irrational, kind of crazy.
BUCHWALD: You know, I'm not the sort of person that even believed in any of that stuff. I believe in Darwinism, you know, science.
WASHINGTON: But as reality was being shaken, he had to try something. Candy suggested they start with a Buddhist temple.
BUCHWALD: And then we were told by the monk at the temple to go for this process of getting this dead chicken, chopping it up in the living room, take pieces of the chicken and put it around the apartment in different rooms. And I'm not religious, I'm atheist, so that's another kind of extreme thing for someone like me to do. That didn't work. Things were still happening. And, the last thing I tried was taking this, like, big Chinese dagger - it was solid metal. I mean, it's a pretty hefty piece of metal. What I was told was to put that facing out towards the street, and that kind of wards off evil. All that happened with that thing was that it got torn to pieces.
CANDY: And he found the sword on the floor, and it'd been snapped in half. And it was almost like whatever was there that came by and broke it was kind of mocking him for even putting one up.
BUCHWALD: You'd have to have some pretty decent strength. I mean, I probably couldn't have ripped that thing in half. And none of this stuff basically worked.
CANDY: A few weeks later, I was sleeping over at his apartment and woke up in the middle of the night. I see this person passing, and I'm like, there's somebody in the apartment. And it's walking towards the bed. It sits down in the chair right next to me. She was there just to watch us.
BUCHWALD: You know, somebody came in, walked around the bed, sat there watching us - or sat there watching me. I said to her, you know, should I be afraid? And her response was very monotone. It was like, well, that's up to you.
WASHINGTON: So Mirko did some serious thinking about fear. He realized his biggest fear was that this thing that would haunt him for the rest of his life, forever.
BUCHWALD: At one point of this situation, when I started thinking about, well, is this something that's going to keep happening to me? It's a pretty tough thing to go through because you know, you can't talk about it. You can't reason it out.
WASHINGTON: And the only one who understood was Candy, and she wasn't so freaked out because it was clear - this thing was after Mirko.
CANDY: The whole time, I was an outsider looking in, and, you know, I was trying to console him, and only Mirko and myself really can know the feelings that we felt while we were there and the certainty that came along with it.
WASHINGTON: And then one day, the spirit came for Candy in her own house.
CANDY: I go downstairs to the kitchen, and I see something moving from the corner of my eye, and it's a butcher knife. The handle - it's just rocking. None of the other knives are shaking, but the butcher knife handle was rocking. And I freak out. And that's when I realized that the haunted apartment, like - it wasn't about him anymore. At this point, it was about me.
WASHINGTON: Candy left Mirko and told him it was over between them. If the poltergeist wanted Mirko, she wanted to be as far away from Mirko as possible.
CANDY: I told myself that's it - never talking to him again. Like, I felt bad, like I abandoned him, but I wasn't going to talk to him again.
WASHINGTON: Mirko moved out of the apartment. Today, he refuses even to drive by it.
BOOKVAL: I felt really bad for whoever moved into that place. So many times I've felt like writing a little note saying, you know, get out of this place.
WASHINGTON: He doesn't like going to apartments at all of any kind. In fact, today, Mirko lives on a houseboat.
That story was produced by Anna Sussman and Jamie DeWolf. What are you, scared? Don't be scared. We're going to explain everything, when SNAP JUDGMENT, the "Campfire" episode continues. Stay tuned. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.