Happy Halloween everyone! This is my favorite holiday and probably had something to do with yesterday being my wedding anniversary. It’s my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons. Samhain, as it is known on the Wiccan calendar is the most sacred time of the year. The final harvest is gathered and thoughts turn to telling fortunes for the coming year. On this night, the veil between the worlds is believed to be at its thinnest, making it easier for spirit to pass back into the realm of the living and to share with us news of their welfare and our own.
I might have mentioned growing up in a haunted house. The house was built two years before the civil war broke out, and so it was not occupied until the war ended and men came home from the battlefields. The house was built along with five others on a beautiful hill, each surrounded by a stone wall. Half of the basement is above ground making the additional four stories a very tall home. This house was built by a man who had daughters and he intended to give the homes to his daughters as they married, in order to keep them close.
The house I grew up in was occupied by a family I knew, the grandparents of my sisters dear friend. The owner, one of the daughters, told me her sisters had died either in childbirth or from influenza after the “Great War”, and she was the sole living heir. When my parents bought the house, in about 1954 it was in terrific shape but had not been occupied for more than twenty years. My sisters friend said the house was creepy, and she “heard people” inside the house when she knew she and her great-grandmother were alone in the place.
So my parents got a great deal and the house was magnificent. Two living rooms, one of them a formal parlor with fifteen foot high oak pocket doors that allowed the two living rooms to accommodate more guests. An entry way with carved mahogany panels and stained glass windows. Both front and rear staircases, with a formal dining room, a kitchen and a service kitchen. The property also boasted a carriage house, which we initially used as a garage, with some storage in the hayloft. A great place to grow up if you’re a kid with a vivid imagination and a full attic, filled with trunks and . . . junk, there is no other way to say it. Paradise. Because of the amount of room, at any given time either or both sets of grandparents lived with us. Also fun for kids growing up. In the summer my grandparents would sit on the porch, sipping tea and entertaining the neighbors.
One Halloween, by best friend and I had gone “Trick or Treating” all through the neighbor hood, and the next day, the Feast of All Saints was a day when our parochial school was closed. Late that night, after sorting through our treasure Nan and I settled down in my cannon ball brass bed, which was original to the house. The owners didn’t want to remove it, and I loved it, so for the price of polishing it, it was mine to keep.
About an hour after we fell asleep, I awoke to the sound of someone turning the knob to my bedroom door. Shaking my friend awake we huddled, terrified beneath the covers and watched as a man dressed in turn of the century clothing, came into the room, hung his jacket and waistcoat in the closet, settled his hat on the shelf, and proceeded to adjust the gas lamps. Now let me tell you, the house was originally fitted for gas lamps, and the fixtures remained at that time. He finally noticed us and raising a single finger to his lips, he leaned forward by the bed, and said, “Shh!”
We both screamed and bolted out of bed but my mother, who believed we had too much candy was really angry with us and shooed us back to bed. We got a dressing down at breakfast, but my father and my father’s father exchanged looks that made me uncomfortable.
Later that day, my grandfather questioned me closely bout what I saw and treated me like this could have happened. I felt better knowing he believed me. He explained that sometimes spirits get caught up in a time loop and leave a little residual energy behind and if we’re sensitive we see it. Not everyone does, he said.
Several months later, the gas pipes were removed from the house. My mother thought they were an unnecessary risk, and the night they completed the job I saw my “friend” again. But I was alone,this time. So I woke up my grandfather and had him come to my room. When the man left, I along with my grandfather, followed him through the house into our basement. Once downstairs, he accessed a second basement we didn’t know was there.
I was excited to find something out about the house that no one else knew, and felt vindicated in my mother eyes. When I described the man for my sisters friends family, they brought out an old tintype of the man. How shocked was I to learn the man had been a suitor of the young woman whose father built the house. She told me her father had told her he ran off after promising to marry her, but she never believed it.
That day she cried and related the story of their courtship and how unsuitable her father thought the young man was for his daughter. Having found he did not abandon her but remained at the house in spirit, she was relieved and I never saw him again. When my own father died years later, he called to me on my next visit to the house, clearly calling my name and asking if I was alright.
My younger sister also claims to have seen my father at the house after his death. I believe he’s checking to make sure we are okay.
And we’re all happy to know he’s still keeping an eye on us, and yes Daddy, we’re all okay!
So do tell, do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one? Are they family or strangers? After all, it’s Halloween. If you have a ghost story, feel free to share.