Considering my previously professed passion for Sci-Fi Channel's Ghosthunters, it should come as little surprise that when we were househunting last year, one of the criteria we actually discussed was the likelihood of a given house being haunted. Lacking the equipment of the TAPS team and absent a category on the real estate listings web sites*, we had only the age of the house to go on. We figured the older a place was, the more souls that were likely to have passed through it and, therefore, the more likely it was that one or two of them had hung around.
Ghosty geek that I am, the higher our chance of sharing a place with ghosties, the more ready I was to sign a lease. In fact, on Daughter-Only's first tour of this house as we came to the bottom of the stairs with Hubby right behind us and I said, "And the best part is that it was built in 1900 so it stands a pretty good chance of being haunted."
Daughter-Only had just enough time to roll her eyes at her mother's dorkiness when we heard a long and loud noise from the room above us--a room we had just left and which, as far as we could tell, was empty.
The nature of the noise was a matter of much debate among the three of us. Hubby maintained that it sounded like a pinecone rolling down the roof--theoretically dropped by one of the gazillion squirrels we'd seen outside. Daughter-Only and I argued that it sounded more like someone dragging a dresser or some other heavy piece of furniture across a bare wood floor. It was too long, too loud and too close to have been a pinecone bouncing down the roof. Hubby countered that it must've been a branch scraping the side of the house. Daughter-Only and I put this notion to rest by pointing out that though the house is surrounded by large trees, the closest branches were several feet from the house. We generously granted that a strong wind might bring the smallest branches into contact with the house but it was a calm day outside and the noise we'd heard couldn't have been made by the twig-like branches that were closest to the house.
I've learned from Ghosthunters that it's best not to jump to conclusions--and from Jason in particular--to use the "h word" sparingly (almost grudgingly) so I told the boys not that we were haunted but that we might have some "activity."
The first few weeks we lived here seemed to support my theory with reports coming from all the family members (except of course Hubby, that party pooper)--jiggling doorknobs, a computer that repeatedly connected itself to the (dial-up) Internet, weird noises and, most notably, the shower coming on in the middle of Daughter-Only's bath. Since most of these things could be explained by normal, as opposed to paranormal, explanations, the boys and I continued to withhold judgment--and the "h word."
Daughter-Only was a little less reserved in her assessment. Along with Oldest Niece, she had found a trunk full of keepsakes in the attic. They belonged to a man named Bill--our best guess is that Bill's father built this house. Bill was apparently quite a player--there were photos of several women in a wallet and dates on letters from at least two of the women overlap.
In any case, Oldest Niece and Daugther-Only became convinced (half-jokingly) that Bill was responsible for all the mischief around the house. This despite the fact that there was no evidence whatsoever that Bill was even dead. In fact, based on dates they'd found, Bill was probably around 71 and statistically just as likely to be among the living as to be taunting my family with silly pranks barely worth mentioning.
Daughter-Only rejected that possibility and began telling everyone she knew about our ghost, Bill. Once, she even called home from a friend's house and left a message on our answering machine for Bill.
When it came to preserving Bill's reputation as a bona fide spirit, Daughter-Only was not above helping Bill out a little. A common tactic was to conceal one accomplice (friend or cousin) in a closet while telling a wide-eyed story to the others about all the knocking and tapping she'd heard from Bill. Cue knocking and tapping and, more often that not, screaming and giggling.
Though no one had seemed traumatized, I warned Daughter-Only that she was going to end up really scaring someone someday. Maybe she would've actually paid attention if she'd realized the traumatized person would end up being her.
Early in the spring Daughter-Only was deathly ill and had stayed home from school. She was there alone with the dogs and ferrets. She called me at work, speaking barely above a whisper, clearly terrified. "Mom, um, I was feeling better? And, uh, I put the dogs outside so I could kick my soccer ball down the upstairs hall? And my ball bounced all the way down the stairs and into the dining room and I was going down to get it when Son-Two's bedroom door started rattling really, really hard--like someone was trying to get out of it!"
I asked her if she was okay and where she was. She was on the sofa hiding under a blanket. I asked her what she thought it was--did she think it was an actual human being? She did not. She knew it would've been virtually impossible for someone to get to the second-story bedroom without alerting the dogs.
I told her I'd be right there and that she could bring the dogs in for company and protection if it would help. I even said,
"Remember, whatever it is, it can't hurt you."
She said, "I know, but it's still scary."
I hung up and explained to Cranky Boss Lady that I needed to go home--to my haunted home--because Daughter-Only was (apparently justifiably) completely freaked out.
Just then, it hit me that Son-Two had told me that morning that he had slept with his window open the night before. It was incredibly windy that day so obviously--mystery solved.
Needless to say, Daughter-Only was nowhere near as amused by the episode as I was. It probably didn't help things that the main reason she was so terrified was that she had swallowed her own paranormal propaganda whole.
In the case of Son-Two, who had his own experience a few months after this one, there was no propaganda swallowing, whole or otherwise. Stay tuned next time for that story.
*For example: Bedrooms: 5, Baths: 1 1/2, Lot Size: 1.08 acres, Spooks: 2, but they mostly keep to themselves.
3 hours ago