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The House on
Nikitski Pereulic

by James L. Choron
James L. Choron
*Since some of the people in this particular story are, at the moment, still in their country's service, all family names have been omitted at their request.

Nikitski Pereulic is a tiny side street that leads away from Tvrskaya about two blocks North of the Kremlin. It is a quiet, residential street, surprisingly isolated from the hustle and bustle of one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, lined with beautiful old houses and apartment buildings, most of which date to the end of the last century. At one time, it was an "elite" section of town, whose dwellings were reserved for high ranking Party Officials.

Today, the most prominent building on the street is the Tunisian Embassy. Built in the late 1880's, it was once the private home of the mistress of the (in)famous Count Orloff. Seized by the State in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, it then became the residence of a number of prominent Party bosses from a multitude of Departments and Commissions. Finally, in the 1950's, it was given over to the newly independent Tunisia for use as an embassy.
The House on Nikitski Pereulic

Photo courtesy James L. Choron
Nothing of note happened for years. The Embassy of Tunisia went about its normal, everyday business. Personnel came and went, and a series of Ambassadors returned to their native land with wonderful stories of this ornate house with it's oak paneling, rich, deep carpet, gold plated toilet fixtures, walk in closets and bath tub, and solid mahogany Victorian Era furniture. Uncounted diplomats told of how they strolled the lush grounds, behind the ten foot brick fence, and enjoyed the quiet and serene evenings so peacefully, yet so close to the heart of the city.

All of this stopped in the early spring of 1998, when, all of a sudden the house became plagued by not one apparition, but several, and of the most astounding and disturbing kind. It all seemed to begin when a work crew from the City of Moscow arrived to make repairs to the hot water line leading into the building. Now, for those of you who do not understand, in Moscow, hot water is provided to each building from a central plant which services an entire block. It is carried to the buildings by insulated pipes which are laid approximately seven feet underground in a sealed, cement lined conduit. The entire length of these massive pipes are not routinely serviced. They are subjected to a pressure check by forcing compressed air into them, and if a leak, or loss of pressure shows, only then are they dug up and repaired. Such was the case in May of 1998, when a leak was discovered in the hot water main line leading into the Tunisian Embassy. The leak was located within Embassy grounds, in a section of pipe that had not been disturbed since it was laid in the summer of 1949. Since the work crew did not know exactly where the leak was located, they began at the compound wall, and started digging toward the building, checking each segment of pipe as they went. The problems began almost the moment they sunk their first spade.

That night, the Ambassador's startled wife was on her way to the second floor toilet, when running down the hall toward her, she saw a naked young girl, screaming silently as she ran, seemingly oblivious to her unclothed state, a look of sheer terror on her face. Needless to say, the Ambassador's wife, a devout Moslem, was shocked, startled, offended, and scared out of her wits as she watched the figure simply vanish at the end of the hall, after running past her with a bone-chilling blast of cold air.

She returned shakily to her bedroom, and the next morning, told her husband of the startling event. The girl, it seemed, was blond, very pretty, and about fourteen to fifteen years of age. She had long hair, which was done in the traditional-style Russian braids, and she was completely naked. The Ambassador took the story in with somber consideration, and decided that his wife had simply had a nightmare.

The next night, in a completely different part of the house, the Military Adjutant, Colonel Mohamed Fisal B-----, encountered a similar apparition while walking down a first floor corridor, in route to his office to do some late-night book work. This apparition was also a young girl, probably about the same age as the other, and completely naked. This young woman also ran screaming, quite silently, down the corridor toward the front of the house, disappearing just as she reached the front door. This girl was a brunette, with short, wavy hair.

There were four other occurrences over the space of the next three nights. The Embassy cook managed to encounter two naked girls at one time, as she made her way to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

Moaning and crying began to be heard throughout the house at night, along with faint but obviously pleading female voices crying for mercy and for God to help them. Some called out for their mothers.

Needless to say, the entire Embassy was in an uproar. Local employees refused to report in for work. Tunisian employees began to go on "extended holidays" in the country. The Ambassador and several other senior employees. and their wives. devout Moslems all, began to drink rather heavily. One such occurrence could possibly be written off as too much rich food followed by a bad dream. This was six of them within a span of less than a week. Word was spreading, and the Embassy was beginning to receive a certain amount of telephone calls and, even worse, the curious were beginning to gather on the sidewalks outside and gawk at the building.

Meanwhile, the City Water Department carried out its task. The five-man crew showed up for work each morning at seven am.. right on schedule. In five days of digging, they still had not uncovered the leak that the City of Moscow was convinced existed. There was only one more section to dig up, and that was the one leading directly into the house.

On the morning of May 16th, 1998, the work crew removed the cement cover of the last segment and found their leak. They also found the cause for the apparitions in the Embassy. Laid out along either side of the hot water pipe, and covered with a substance that medical examiners later called a "caustic substance" were six sets of human remains. They were, according to the medical experts, those of young girls, approximately between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Each had been shot through the base of the skull, and they were, judging from the lack of artifacts found accompanying the bodies, naked at the time of interment. No identifying articles were found. The medical examiners estimated that the remains had been placed alongside the conduit at the time it was laid, in the summer of 1949.

At the time the conduit was laid, the house on Nikitski Pererulic had been the official residence of Lavrenti P. Beria, then Soviet Minister of Internal Affairs, and Director of the NKVD (Secret Police). No one involved was terribly surprised by the find. The remains were removed, the leak repaired and the conduit replaced. No further reports of sightings have been forthcoming, but, on the other hand, that is quite understandable. The Tunisian Embassy moved into it's new home, located on the other side of Moscow, approximately one month after the bodies were discovered. The beautiful house on Nikitski Pereulic is currently unoccupied.
James L. Choron
"Letters from Russia" October 3, 2004 Column

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