[CA] The Ghost Wore Boots – Part 1

[as reported in Fate magazine, in an article titled ‘Boots’]

I lived in a haunted house in California for five years, and this is my story:

Twenty-five years ago, I still believed that you could wish anything to happen and it would.

So, when I wished for a house in northern California, I was not surprised by the bargain that appeared.

Even in the mid-1970’s, two-story Victorian homes with expansive corner lots did not sell for $15,000, but that was the asking price on this house.

Admittedly, it was a funky house with an odd history. Perhaps I should have wondered why the first realtor refused to show me the house.

The house seemed to call to me, so I persisted.

I contacted another realtor, and he agreed to get the keys.

The house was what they call “carpenter gothic,” with strange attempts at gingerbread trim, and a front porch that tilted in an alarming manner. Inside, the house floorplan was filled with strange twists and turns.

I thought it was charming. My husband’s father made an offer, since he was purchasing the house for us. The deal closed immediately. There were no other offers, and the house had been empty for too long.

I’d heard about the sad, perhaps mad, previous owner. Neighbors speculated that the man had experienced terrible things in Vietnam.

Whatever the reason, he’d slowly added things like spotlights and an alarm system to the house. By the time he and his wife abandoned the property, he’d spent too many nights patrolling the property with a rifle.

Why did he do that? It was a corner property in a very nice neighborhood, on a fairly busy street. A policeman lived next door. The town was safe, upscale and fairly rural.

Why would anyone be frightened enough to install spotlights to illuminate the entire yard, and then patrol the property from dusk until dawn?

We moved in and began to redecorate immediately. I loved the stairs at one bedroom door, that went up and then down again, for no apparent reason. That room had two very odd-shaped closets.

The closet in another bedroom extended within the walls of a third bedroom.

There were clearly sealed-up areas within the bedrooms’ walls, which reminded me of the bad witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel. I could imagine delighted children playing hide-and-seek in those rooms and closets. It seemed wonderful, and I was very happy to live there.

But then, the footsteps started.

Before we remodeled the house, my husband and I slept in the master bedroom on the first floor. The second floor was primarily for storage, and I used one room as my art studio because it was bright and cheery during the day.

Since I needed daylight for my painting, I rarely went upstairs after dark. When my husband and I started hearing unexplained footsteps up there, we became a little nervous about the noises.

However, the house was still a tremendous bargain, and we looked forward to tearing out walls, totally redesigning the interior.

In a way, it annoyed me to be such a “chicken” about the noises.

I decided to be brave, and deliberately used the upstairs at night when I was cutting out sewing patterns. After all, there were three full bedrooms upstairs, and plenty of floor space to lay out the fabric.

Next: Part two of this four-part story

[CA] The Ghost Wore Boots – Part 2

At first, I merely felt uneasy.

I blamed it on the black skies outside the windows in my “studio.” In that rural town, there were few city lights to brighten the sky. When we’d first moved there, I’d loved that: I could see the stars as I never had, when we’d lived in Los Angeles.

I bought window shades and cheery curtains, to make the room feel cozier at night. It helped a little, but I still felt as if someone was watching me. Further, I felt that one of these watchers did not like me.

That made no sense. I didn’t actually hear anything unusual when I was upstairs. It was a warm house, with lovely honey-colored hardwood floors, and cheerful floral wallpaper from the 1940’s in cozy upstairs bedrooms. I should have felt at home.

Then the pattern pieces started fluttering across the floor when I was working.

“They’re light,” I reminded myself. “It’s just a breeze.”

But the problem increased. After a couple of weeks, pattern pieces pinned to fabric started drifting just past my fingertips, where the pieces would halt and not move again.

Then I’d move closer, but the paper and fabric would start dancing across the floor again.

I went to the hardware store and bought draft-proofing supplies. I put masking tape around the window frames. I even insulated the outlets and light switches.

The problem continued. I checked for air currents, using a lit candle. It didn’t flicker, no matter how long I waited.

Then I’d start working and — predictably — the pattern pieces began their nightly waltz just beyond my fingertips.

This continued for another couple of weeks.

“You win,” I finally announced to the walls.

And, after that, I worked on my sewing downstairs. I used the upstairs studio during daytime hours only, for my oil painting.

On sunny and bright days, the upstairs felt fine. But on dark days, or as dusk approached, I again sensed someone in the rooms.

One night, I don’t recall whether my husband or I had gone upstairs to get something out of the storage boxes we kept up there. One of us forgot to turn the upstairs hall light out. I didn’t realize it until the next evening, when I noticed light reflected at the top of the stairs.

I turned the light out, and I swear I heard a funny hissing noise, like someone was angry.

The next day when I went upstairs, I noticed that my paintbrushes were our of their storage container, and wedged so they were sticking out of the studio window.

When I opened the window — which I never opened  — my brushes tumbled out. All of them had been snapped neatly across the ferrule, the silver metal band that attaches the bristles to the handle.

To line them up and snap each of them exactly in the middle… well, that could not be an “accident.”

I was furious. Those were expensive brushes and the damage was deliberate. I was certain that it was retaliation for having left the lights on, that one night. I felt a little crazy thinking that, but in my anger, it made sense.

“Okay,” I raged at the empty room, “See how you like this!”

And I went through the upstairs, turning on every light. And I left them on, with my husband’s nervous agreement.

Two weeks later, feeling that I’d made my point, I turned the lights back off again.

During the time when the lights had been on, we’d heard no noises from the upstairs. The animosity we felt emanating from the top of the stairs was probably just our imaginations.

Nevertheless, my husband–who was 6’3″ and very muscular–was reluctant to go upstairs again.

After I turned the lights off, the upstairs remained blissfully quiet for several days.

But then our ghostly problems resumed dramatically, and not just at night.

Next: Part three of this story

[CA] The Ghost Wore Boots – Part 3

What happened next was the most dramatic event of the haunting:

From the start, there seemed to be two ghosts. Now I was getting a very visual sense of them, though I did not see anything besides their mischief.

I perceived a slender, mournful woman in a form-fitting, slightly gaudy gown, characteristic of the 1870s or 1930s. I could not see the hemline to tell how long the gown was, to tell if it was from the 19th or 20th centuries. Generally, she was weeping. She was in the room with the two strange little closets.

Our other ghost was a man in dusty, dark casual clothing. He wore a shirt and pants like blackish jeans. He obviously wore boots, but I could not “see” them.

Sometimes, I sensed that he was calling on the woman, wearing a dusty, too-loose jacket with tails, and a very slim tie. He was our loud ghost, whose temper was echoed with his footsteps. Usually, he’d storm around the upstairs hallway, or the other two bedrooms.

The louder ghost continued to storm around the upstairs at night. My husband decided to join a gym forty miles from our house. Frankly, I think he was frightened of our ghosts. If he was concerned for my safety, he never mentioned it. When he was at the gym each evening, I was at home, trying to ignore the footsteps overhead.

As our louder ghost became more courageous, his walk became more distinctive. We could hear that ka-thud, ka-thud of a heel hitting the floor and then the sole of the shoe, as if he was wearing workmen’s boots or cowboy boots. That’s when we began calling him “Boots,” to make the reality a little friendlier, as if he was a companion and not a tormentor.

Some nights, I thought I heard the jingle of spurs from the “old west” era. That may have been something upstairs rattling, in response to the pounding footsteps on our hardwood floors.

I was anxious but not terrified. After all, the noises were only upstairs. I stayed downstairs.

Meanwhile, I had begun teaching children’s drama classes for the town. During the summer, I taught the classes in my living room.

One day, the afternoon class went particularly late as we were preparing for a performance. No one noticed how quickly dusk approached.

Then, in a pause during our rehearsal, I almost gasped aloud. I could hear footsteps upstairs. They were faint, but certainly there. How could I have forgotten about them?

I looked around the room, but no one seemed to hear the footsteps but me. I considered the possibility that it was a “personal” haunting, and perhaps no one besides me could hear the sounds. That allayed my fears for a few minutes.

The rehearsal concluded, and we discussed the strong and weak points of the rehearsal. My living room was filled with eager students, ranging in age from about seven to mid-teens.

I decided to ignore the footsteps, now getting louder, and talk to my class as if nothing unusual was going on.

I raised my voice as the boots thudded and almost clang’d, back and forth, angrily striding across the floor above us.

Finally, the footsteps started pacing at the top of the stairs.

One of my oldest students timidly put her hand up. “Excuse me, but is your husband at home?” She tilted her head, indicating the noises clearly coming from the upstairs.

My heart sunk as I replied, “No.” I wished with every ounce of hope that she was the only one who heard the boots, or that the sound would stop.

Another student was clearly baffled, “Um, are there workmen upstairs, or what?”

I knew I was in trouble. I said no, and gulped aloud when I saw the children’s expressions.

Trying to sound as if everything was perfectly normal, I ushered the children to our front lawn, saying that we’d finish the class outside.

To this day, I have no idea what the students thought, or if they heard the angry footsteps storming down the polished hardwood stairs as I closed the front door behind me. I hastily concluded the rehearsal, and held future classes in the town offices.

The group barely held together past the performance. I think the event scared the children, and I know they looked at me a little nervously after that.

Next: The conclusion of this four-part, true ghost story

[CA] The Ghost Wore Boots – Part 4

Our ghost was considerably quieter — but not silent — after that.

Within a couple of weeks, the house was filled with workmen. We gutted most of the house to remodel it. After that, we did not hear the boots upstairs on our new wall-to-wall carpeting.

We began using the new bedrooms on the second floor, and there were no further significant incidents in the house.

However, soon after that our marriage began to fail dramatically.

For awhile, I moved into another bedroom. Looking back now, I realize that I selected the room with the two little closets, but now I was the woman quietly weeping.

Things became worse.  I couldn’t seem to sleep at night, and I turned into a self-pitying shrew, constantly demanding more and more from people around me.

My husband responded to my unhappiness by insisting that he was a victim, too. Soon, he became the man storming around the other bedrooms, and pacing in the hall.

He found comfort elsewhere.

To save our marriage and our sanity, we decided to move out of our lovely Victorian home, leave the town and even leave that part of the country.

My husband was convinced that something, perhaps invisible, was affecting him. That sounded a little strange to me but — at my wits’ end — I hoped a change of environment might help both of us.

As we prepared to move, the ghost resumed activity in the one upstairs bedroom that had not been remodeled. This was the room with the strange closet and unexplained “filled in” areas in the walls.

I’ve often wondered if there was a body in those walls. It’s probably triggered by too many Gothic novels and scary movies.

The windows in the un-remodeled bedroom were funny, each opening like a cabinet door. They swung in, with latching hardware like a medicine chest. Because we rarely used that room after the hauntings started, some of the windows’ latches were stubborn, or still rusted closed.

During the weeks before we moved, our ghost waited for me to go downstairs each day.  Then, he opened the windows, one by one, in clockwise fashion. And, even on windless days, each window would thwap-thwap-thwap against the wall next to it.  It was like a strong breeze was forcing it back and forth.

I’d go upstairs to close the one that had opened, and check all of the latches.

Then I closed the bedroom door behind me, to prevent any cross-draft… although these were always hot, breezeless days.

About five minutes later, the next window would open, thwap-thwap-thwap. I’d go upstairs, close it, and check the windows again.

This routine would go on, with the windows opening in clockwise sequence, for over an hour.

Many days, I’d leave the house just to get away from it. Sometimes when I returned, all of the windows were wide open.  It was never just one or two. Either he opened them all while I was out, or he left them alone. There was no halfway with our ghost, and there was no pattern to this.

At other times, I’d stay at home, running up and down the stairs, trying to cope with the pounding noise of the windows.  Then, I’d hear a low male laughter, and sometimes a woman quietly sobbing, as each window-opening session slowly drew to a halt.

This annoyed me, but it didn’t really frighten me. I can’t explain why.  Something about it seemed logical.  Even when we nailed the windows closed and they kept opening on their own, the experience wasn’t frightening.  Maybe I was numb at that point.

What irritated me the most was that this usually happened when my husband wasn’t at home.  At night when we slept upstairs, the house was as silent as any other older home. There were merely the usual creaks.  I know, because I spent so many nights awake, miserable and too exhausted to sleep.

When I’d complain to my husband about the stress of dealing with the windows, I’m not sure that he believed me.

But, to be honest, I’m not sure I’d have believed my story, except that I was living it every day.

We left that house without looking back.

Within six months, my husband and I had filed for divorce.  The stress of that house had left us exhausted and unable to communicate what we felt.

I have so many regrets about that, yet — looking back — I don’t see any other outcome after what we’d gone through.  Instead of drawing us together, the stress of dealing with something invisible and menacing… it had driven us apart.

Since we moved out, at least two other families have lived in our former home. I’m not sure if they’ve encountered the ghosts. I hope that they didn’t and never will.

Though I miss my lovely home and have terrible regrets from that time, I do not miss the ghosts.

This house was the subject of a true ghost story, “Boots,” by Margaret Brighton, which appeared in FATE magazine in 1981.

[NH] Hollis – Blood cemetery – Just a bug?

This was my second visit to Blood Cemetery (aka Pine Hill Cemetery). I was there just before dusk on Sunday, 17 Oct 1999.

According to ghost hunting tradition, the more time you spend in a “haunted” location, the more likely it is that you’ll go home with ghost photos. These generally include “ghost orbs,” but sometimes other haunted images show up in ghost hunters’ photos.

This was my second visit to Blood Cemetery during one day. These photos were taken with a 35mm film camera. I was taking “ghost pictures” near Abel Blood’s famous headstone , and around the Farley family graves.

bl-2no

About 30 seconds after taking the photo shown above, I thought a possible ghost orb appeared in the next photo. It’s at the far left of the photo, near the top.

bl-2nd

That white orb-shape is too small to be a fingerprint of someone at the photo lab, and the negative had no marks on it.

I was fairly certain there were no insects flying on that chilly night. There was nothing to reflect light at my lens. Among 24 photos taken that evening, this was the only photo with an orb.

However, after reviewing this photo several years (and several thousand photos) later, I think that an out-of-season, disoriented bug flew past me. Most “ghost orbs” are perfectly round.

When one isn’t, there’s usually a good, normal explanation for it.

Though the moment had that “anomaly” feeling to it, I’m at least 99.9% sure the orb-like shape is a flying insect.

(And, for all I know, the real anomaly was going on in a nearby part of the cemetery. It’s another reason to investigate with a team, so the area is well covered, and nothing interesting is missed.)