The Monster Under the Stairs

| October 17, 2017 | 4 Comments

I lived in a two story house when I was about four years old. The staircase was exposed, or “open.” I imagined that a monster was going to grab my ankle as I went up. Until I was about 10 or 11 this fear manifested while going up or down any “open” stairwell. There was a Monster Under the Stairs.

Last weekend The She Shepherd and I completed the Armed Movement In Structures class taught by Craig Douglas of Shivworks. This gave me an opportunity to see how others interacted with creepy, dark spaces.

AMIS is about navigating a structure by yourself, and dealing with any problems encountered along the way. One of my favorite exercises started off as hide and seek for grownup-ish people, and culminated in “someone in this dark ass building is going to shoot you if you don’t see them first.”

Attendees divided up into groups of four or five people. One person went into a room or hallway and counted while everyone else hid.

I got to hide a lot, and my favorite spots were creepy crawlspaces underneath the building’s stairs. Everything about them was off-putting. One crawlspace had a vault door for an entryway, which is already Pretty Damn Weird™.

Once inside, the ceilings got progressively lower. Pipes were on the floors and ceiling. The floor was a gritty mix of dirt and spent Simunitions casings, and spiders. Spiders everywhere.

I liked hiding in these spaces because it took advantage of Reluctance. It combined many things that people were reluctant to expose themselves to:

  • Darkness
  • Confined space
  • The high probability of hitting your head
  • Moving while in a vulnerable position, such as on hands and knees
  • Spiders and spiderwebs
  • Getting hands / clothes dirty

Most students were unwilling to go more than halfway through the crawlspace. I cleared only enough spiderwebs to make sure they weren’t in my face while I waited. Three students failed to find me at all. A different student found me, but was so distracted due to compromised posture and haste that I “won” the exercise by seeing them before they saw me.

This crawlspace goes back another 3 feet on the right. Few went far enough to check the back.

Navigating these spaces successfully required a willingness to persist in a weird environment, as well as the physical capabilities to do so safely.

I was able to duck crawl / squat the majority of the crawlspace. This allowed me to hold my handgun with one hand, and a flashlight in the other. I ran one exercise with my Airsoft vSBR AK47 trainer, and had to pie the smallest spaces using my elbow and knees as pivot points — a position I shot from the weekend before at the QSI Training advanced rifle class. I practiced moving out of the stairwells quickly by using the hip escape techniques taught to me by Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives, and by my Jiu-jitsu coaches.

Increased fitness has paid off in my self reliance training in many unexpected ways. I never thought that traversing a cobweb-infested crawlspace would be one of them.

I liked becoming the Monster Under the Stairs.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

4 Comments on "The Monster Under the Stairs"

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  1. CR Williams says:

    Creepy stairwells and crawlspaces?

    Reconnaissance by fire.

    It’s the only way to be sure.

    (Just kidding.)


  2. Sardaukar says:

    “This crawlspace goes back another 3 feet on the right. Few went far enough to check the back.”

    Hmmm,I believe that’s why grenades were invented. 😉

  3. Robert says:


    Did this class 1.5 years ago in an abandoned school in Pittsburgh (AAR on our blog, of course). Being diminutive in size, I hid in all sorts of places people assumed no one could fit in: under-sink cabinets, in hallway lockers (thankfully, no one locked me inside one, as might have happened once or twice in Junior High!), in a corner of an office between two sets of bookshelves that only appeared to fill in that corner, etc. I ended up covered in paint chips, probably asbestos dust, and all sorts of webs. The hiding part WAS fun. The searching part, however, was one of the more nerve-racking things I’ve done, even in daylight. Learned a lot in that class, and I could definitely see myself repeating it as time and money allow.


  4. van der linn says:

    living the dream man! Good for you.

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