Portsmouth, NH – Real Ghosts, private home


It was too easy. In the early 1990s, I placed a notice on a bulletin board, looking for a “nothing down” house to buy near Portsmouth, NH. Several people called within the week, but one house seemed almost perfect: a house within walking distance of downtown Portsmouth.

The owner was eager to leave. Perhaps too eager, but I believed her when she said that her reduced salary (since being disabled) left her unable to pay the mortgage on both an in-town house and her summer home. Also, the two-story in-town house seemed too large since her divorce.

The house was near downtown, in an area that was either on its way up, or continuing to descend into… well, the kind of neighborhood I wouldn’t raise my three children in. Betting on the former, we decided to take a chance. We had nothing to lose, since we were renting on a trial basis first.

The owner was out of the house within three days, and we moved in. I remember how gleefully she laughed as she drove away. It seemed odd, but I thought maybe it was just her relief, since she’d finally rented the house.

The house needed work. Right away, we covered the black, half-finished floor in the kitchen with a white-and-gray vinyl flooring, and painted the yellowing walls and cabinets shiny white. It looked brighter then, but not quite right.

In fact, for the next year we continued to paint, remodel, redecorate and upgrade the old house, but it remained unwelcoming. It wasn’t anything specific, just the feeling that no matter what we did, the house would always need something that paint and wallpaper couldn’t fix.

Maybe the angles weren’t quite straight at the corners. Maybe the floor wasn’t quite level. I should have measured these things, but instead kept redecorating, trying to solve the problem. I had the idea that a vase of flowers here, and a fresh coat of paint there, or a new throw rug, would finally lend a sense of ease to the house. But nothing seemed to make this house a “home” for us.

Still, we continued on a “rent to own” basis, planning to take over the mortgage as soon as we accumulated the down payment.

There were odd noises during the afternoon and towards dusk, like footsteps on the second floor when no one was there. The faucets, particularly in the upstairs bathroom, would turn themselves on. I said to myself, “Older houses have these quirks, especially when temperatures drop in the evening. It’s okay.”

One night, I stopped making “logical” excuses:

It was about four in the afternoon, and the sun had not set yet. It had been a sunny day, and I was in a cheerful mood as I prepared dinner at the stove. It was a jambalaya dish, all made in one skillet. I was sauteeing the onion and sausage when I left the spatula in the skillet, and stepped across the room to get rice out of the cabinet.

I picked up the pink-trimmed Tupperware container of rice, and turned around just in time to see the spatula make a mid-air twirl as it flew across the room and landed on the floor at the opposite wall.

Always choosing the rational explanation first, I decided that a slice of sausage must have cooked in just the right way to release a burst of air and propel the spatula. And to prove it to myself, I washed the spatula and put it back where I’d left it, and then hit the handle with my fist to deliberately send the spatula into the air.

It rose about two inches and then fell on top of the stove, next to the skillet.

I repeated my experiment about fifteen times, trying to find a way to replicate what I’d seen when I’d picked up the rice. Different angles. Different ways of hitting it. Nothing worked.

Still dismissing the obvious poltergeist answer, I continued cooking. Once again, I stepped away from the stove for more ingredients, and again, the spatula was airborne. This time it landed about five feet from the stove.

I resumed my experiments to make the same thing happen, but couldn’t figure how to do it. Nothing seemed to work.

I continued cooking, feeling very uneasy. The rest of the meal was without incident, but I told my (mechanical engineer) husband about the flying spatula, and he said there was no logical–or scientific–way it could happen.

He wanted to believe me, but my story didn’t make sense.

I thought about this, and decided not to make anything of it.

Next, in part two: The ghost makes an appearance