Saturday, October 31, 2009

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! - A True Halloween Ghost Story

Time for a good old-fashioned ghost story, boys and ghouls! Except, unlike most ghost stories, this one is true.

People often ask me if I've ever seen a ghost (me being the ghost writer and all), and the short answer is no. The long answer, however, is I didn't have to SEE a ghost in my house in order to KNOW there was a ghost in my house.

When my husband and I were newly married, we decided to give our blended family of three children a fresh start by moving to a new home. We decided to find a house to rent before we bought one of our own, to give us time to get used to the area. A realtor friend gave us some recommendations, and within a few weeks we settled into a lovely ivy-covered brick home, straight out of the pages of Americana.

The first few months were uneventful, but one day as I pulled my car into the driveway, I noticed an elderly man standing in front of the house. We spoke, and I learned he was my next-door-neighbor’s father come for a visit. During the course of our chat, he casually asked me what I thought of the house I was renting. I told him we liked it very much, at which point he gave me a strange look, and asked if I knew the house’s history. His exact words were, “Pretty gory stuff.” Since I’ve always had a healthy fear of the unknown, I decided on the spot that I did NOT want to hear any more. I didn't ask him what he meant, just excused myself and went inside.

The very next morning, my daughter came to my room and said she needed to speak with me privately 'about the house’. My immediate thought was that the old man next door had said something to her, too, but she had no idea who I was talking about, never having met or even seen him. She then went on to tell me of a hair-raising experience she’d had during the night just past.

Sometime between 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, she woke to use the bathroom. While she was in there, the bathroom door opened by itself. Half-asleep, she assumed it was the family dog nosing his way in, and glanced over, expecting to see the dog. What she saw instead was the ‘outline’ of a man, leaning in as though he had a hand on the doorknob on the outside of the door. Although she couldn’t make out his features, she said she got the impression that he was tall, mid-30s maybe. While she stared, stupified, he seemed to dissolve before her eyes. Convinced she was either dreaming or imagining things, she nervously returned to bed. Unable to sleep, she said she felt like he followed her into her room and was sitting on the bed, though she saw nothing else. The experience unnerved her enough to bring the tale to me the next morning.

Still unwilling to give credence to any horror story the old man may have wanted to tell me, but now understandably curious, I decided to call the realtor who'd found us the house and ask what, if anything, she might know about the history of the place. To my shock, she very matter-of-factly informed me that there had been a murder there, a fact she had mentioned to my husband before we moved in, but never to me. (My husband, being a very down-to-earth type of person, thought it irrelevant at the time.) Unsure of the details of the murder, she suggested I talk to – you guessed it – the neighbors.

I resisted, but several days later, I saw my neighbor outside. Her father was gone, his visit over, but she was happy to fill me in about what happened in the house:

The original owner of the house was a local businessman in his 30’s who she described as a real ‘man-about-town, up-and-comer type’, who was evidently quite the ladies' man. One of his many girlfriends had come to the house in the middle of the night in a jealous rage, shot him in the head and chest, then killed herself on the spot. Not just a murder, but a murder/suicide. She provided me with the man’s name and the approximate year it happened. She also mentioned that no one ever lived in the house very long after that, which is apparently when it turned into a rental property.

I couldn’t leave it alone. I was jumping at shadows and very nervous to be alone in the house, so I decided to do some detective work. We have a very large public library, so I went down and started going through the old archives of our local newspaper. I found the actual newspaper articles (of which I made copies), and learned a great deal more about this tragic story.

Apparently the woman who killed her lover, and then herself, was a ‘good, sweet person’ in her late 20’s, and very much in love – but her lover was far more interested in ‘playing the field’. According to her family, the young woman gave up her two children because he told her that he would marry her if he didn’t have to be responsible for them. When it became clear that he had no intention of marrying her, she took matters into her own hands, buying a gun and then using it to make sure they were together – if not in life, then in death. His body was found in the hallway outside the bathroom door, in the exact spot where my daughter saw him!

And there's more to the story: shortly after finding the newspaper articles, I was relating this tragic tale to my older sister. When I told her the murdered man’s name, she quite literally turned pale. Not only did she remember the incident, but she informed me that she had actually dated the man herself! Never having been to his house or taken him seriously because of his reputation as a ‘ladies man’, she had no idea we’d moved into his home. Then she told me of her own odd experience when she’d stayed with us for a few days about a month or so earlier.

According to her, each time she’d gone into the same bathroom to take a shower, she would open the shower curtain to find that the bathroom door was standing wide open. After the first time it happened, she made sure that the door was latched and locked before stepping in the shower – but each time she emerged, the bathroom door was wide open again. She assumed at the time that it was my younger children (two boys) playing tricks on her, and didn’t mention it because she didn’t want to get them in trouble.

That was it for me. We moved out within the month, but the house is in our general neighborhood, on a main thoroughfare. I’ve driven past it many, many times over the years, and there has been a steady stream of renters in and out of it. Curious as I am what they might have experienced themselves, I’ll never set foot in it again if I can help it!

Any ghostly experiences in your family?


Minna said...

Well, there is this one:
My grandmother's brother used to live nearby, he visited us at least twice a day with his cat -who followed him everywhere- and in order to come here he had to walk past our cousins' summer cottage. He also hated dogs, for some reason. Eventually he died and his cat had to be put down. Now, some years later my cousins who own the cottage told that their son had this imaginary friend, an old man who hates dogs, who has a cat and who passes the cottage with his cat couple of times a day in order to visit my home. They claimed, they hadn't told anything to their son about the old man who used to live near by.

Minna said...

But I wonder if he had with him the black cat he used to have or the grey cat, which was the last cat he ever had.

Terri Garey said...

Minna, this is fascinating: it's called a "residual haunting", which is when an individual repeats the same thing he did in life, over and over and over, almost like a psychic tape imprinted on the atmosphere.

Spooky, huh? :-)

Could've been either cat. :-)

Minna said...

Well, considering he did the same thing while he was alive over and over again, it's nothing new. But he must have stopped to talk to my cousin, as he had found out all that stuff. And I was told my cousin had sometimes wawed him goodbye.