At the bottom of the basement stairs, behind a locked door, lived a man named Jeremy. For months, Jeremy lived in secret. He didn’t know his roommates, and his roommates certainly didn’t know him.
So goes the famous story of “The Stranger in the Basement.”
Last year, 10 Ohio State students living in an off-campus college house discovered a stranger living behind a locked door in their basement. They thought the door led to a utility closet, but the door was actually hiding a fully furnished bedroom where Jeremy had secretly been living for months. He never once paid rent.
Jeremy was immediately evicted from the house on East 13th Avenue, and the legal tenants went on leading relatively normal college lives, apart from the international attention they had gained.
“In a very indirect way, you could say Jeremy brought us closer just because it was an incredible situation,” said M.J. Dorony, a fifth-year in journalism and one of the property’s legal tenants last year. “It could have been bad, yes, but to look back on it now, it’s a great story to tell.”
All of the old tenants have since moved out of the house, some to new cities and some just to different parts of Columbus, and a new batch of renters have taken their place.
Ryan Shary, a fourth-year in economics, is one of 15 current tenants. He said he’d seen the stranger in the basement story when it first came out roughly a year ago in The Lantern, but when he signed the lease to his new place in March, he had no idea it was the same property.
“I didn’t know anything about it until a week in (of living there),” Shary said. “I mean, it was funny at first, and then I walked down to the basement.”
Shary said he’s only been down to the basement a total of two times, one of which was to show The Lantern what the room looked like in its current state.
“I mean, it’s creepy down there, especially since some guy was living down there,” Shary said. “It’s just creepy.”
A lot of people — from news media to friends — wanted to see the room where Jeremy had once lived, and Dorony said the old tenants didn’t change a thing about the room since last year.
“It was just something we kind of left untouched,” Dorony said. “We moved into the house that way and so we left it that way.”
The new tenants have left it alone, too.
One of Shary’s housemates, Jack McCauley, a third-year in industrial and systems engineering, said he agrees with Shary — the basement is creepy. Like Shary, he said he tends to avoid the room, adding, “There’s not much reason to hang out down there.”
Despite all the Jeremy drama, Dorony said the old tenants were still able to enjoy the rest of their year together — without Jeremy, of course.
“It was probably the best year of my four years in college just because of the camaraderie that developed between me and my 9 roommates,” Dorony said.
The new tenants said they aren’t concerned about Jeremy returning to the house and even joke about the situation.
“I almost wish someone else would do it again and they’d be really cool and they could be our friend,” Shary said.
Dorony said the old tenants got the majority of their deposit back once they moved out, and said they all turned their keys to NorthSteppe Realty, the company that owns the property.
While most everything ended up being all right for the old tenants, this college story is one that will stick with them for good.
“I can say to a point that basements give me the creeps nowadays,” Dorony said.
NorthSteppe did not return The Lantern’s request for comment Wednesday.