[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.