Land of the Loon
Monthly Archives: October 2012
Built in 1883, the old St Martin’s Academy in Somersworth, NH was converted to an assisted living facility for the elderly in the late 1970’s.
By the very nature of its existence, more deaths have probably occurred in that building than any other structure in Somersworth. That in and of itself wouldn’t qualify it as a haunted site, but there is one apartment dweller in the building of 49 units who has clearly broken the rules by having a roommate.
“Robert passed away in his sleep here in my apartment and I'm the next occupant. Though I've not seen him, he has done many things in my presence,” states the present tenant, we’ll call Jack.
A bit of background about Jack: While doing undergraduate work, he was instrumental in starting a Parapsychology lab. “(We dealt mostly with ESP) But myself and a good buddy became interested in paranormal activity and at one point, we were going to become "ghost-busters" (before there was a term ghost-busters) but found out that there was "no money" for doing paranormal investigation.” Jack’s buddy went on to get a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology; and Jack, a Psy.D in Counseling.
“I'm not saying that the building is haunted but I suspect that there is strong psychic activity going on here. (I wish I had some instruments to verify that),” Jack continues.
“I've experienced such things as: objects falling or being knocked over when there was no reason for that to happen; water faucets being turned on; electronics being turned on and off; objects not being where I left them, only to be found later somewhere else (ex: I had placed a shirt on a dresser in the darkened bedroom and later when I went to retrieve it, it wasn't there, but when I turned the light on to look for it better, it appeared right where I had looked before the light was turned on).”
Indeed, the electrical phenomena has become so common, Jack leaves his television on all the time because it does no good to turn it off. It simply turns itself back on at random.
“I've lived here going on 5 years and Robert's mischief may have started (that I've noticed) the day I moved in. I had a crew of kids that were doing "community service in lieu of jail time" helping me move. Even though I gave specific instruction, things did not wind-up where I directed. (It took me 3 days before I was able to find my daily medication). I know other things also got moved.”
Jack’s housekeeper, Sandra was first to really notice Robert's presence, (turning the TV on and off and turning the water back on in the bathroom and kitchen, after she had definitely turned it off).
But when he grabbed her and she instinctively called out "Robert, stop that!” she quickly realized what was causing the phenomena.
Sandra had been Robert’s housekeeper and had been grabbed by him in the same way when he was alive. His womanizer tendencies had obviously carried through to his spiritual entity.
This wasn’t something that Jack wanted to publicize. After all, he required help with tasks associated with daily living (ADLs in industry lingo) and these were typically accomplished by female assistants. So he kept Robert’s existence to himself.
But Sandra soon got her fill of Robert’s antics and quit, leaving Jack to seek the services of a new homemaker.
Megan enthusiastically stepped in to fill Sandra’s shoes and quickly became an integral part of Jack’s care team. She would scrub Jack’s little apartment until it shined often doing little extras that meant so much to the man who had grown dependent on her services.
She was also the second woman to become aware of Robert’s presence.
One day, Jack had gone down to the cafeteria to meet a friend for lunch, leaving Megan to tidy up. Shortly after Jack left, she was at the kitchen sink doing dishes when the door opened and an image walked by. Surprised that he had returned so soon, Megan followed Jack to the bedroom door to make sure he was okay. But when she called out to him, he wasn’t there. As she turned to go back to the sink, the entity was standing there. As Megan says, “He wasn’t translucent or misty in any way. His body was a solid presence. I knew he wasn’t real, though because he didn’t respond to my voice, yet he wasn’t ‘ghostly’ in a way that is often described.”
When Jack returned from his lunch, Megan recounted her experience. Sadly, Jack replied, “Well, I see you’ve met Robert.”
Nancy was the third female to notice Robert. One day not long after Megan’s encounter she was cutting Jack’s hair in the kitchen when she noticed somebody observing them. She thought Jack had a visitor in the apartment that he hadn't mentioned. She asked, "Who’s the stranger?”
Jack jokingly replied, "Oh, that's Robert, the ghost roommate." (Nancy got the clearest look at Robert). Ironically, Nancy and Sandra are friends but they had never discussed Robert. Following that incident, Nancy mentioned it to Sandra and Sandra confessed that she too, had seen him. When asked to describe Robert physically, Nancy was able to determine that it was Robert watching her cut my hair.”
Megan continues to work for Jack and experience Robert’s presence. Sometimes, objects will move when Megan is near them and believes that it’s his way of flirting with her.
Luckily though for Robert, he hasn’t molested Megan the way he has touched and “felt up” others. As Jack likes to say jokingly, “I have a ghost for a roommate who doesn’t know how to be a gentleman.”
One of the oldest homes in the village, the mansard on the hill was purported to have been a dance hall in its earlier days. Built on a narrow strip of land, the uniquely styled hip roofed colonial was the only house on the street. A meandering brook bordered three of its four sides.
Phoebe’s family moved into the vacant mansard in 1965 and soon all three floors of the rambling old house creaked and groaned as the four rambunctious children raced up and down the grand staircase and around the high posted rooms.
It was as if the sudden activity stimulated the dormant house, because within a month the haunting began.
A devout Catholic, Phoebe’s mother enjoyed music and spent many evenings playing hymns on her electric organ. Situated prominently in the front room of the house, it was a source of family entertainment when she took to the bench and placed her fingers on the keys.
Apparently the old mansard enjoyed the music, too, for after the family turned in for the night the old organ would begin to play. Soft waltzes accompanied the swish of ball gowns as women sashayed around the dance floor and men quietly discussed matters of the day in undistinguishable conversation. Ice tinkled in glasses and occasionally the smell of cigar smoke wafted through the hall and up the long stairway to the bedrooms.
It was the cigar smoke that concerned Phoebe’s parents and each time the phenomenon occurred, they would get out of bed and head down over the stairs to ensure there was nothing burning. Each time they rounded the corner to the front room, the music would fade away and the scent would dissipate. Phoebe’s mother would recite the Lord’s Prayer all the way back to bed.
The children were especially receptive to these unexplained occurrences and found them amusing rather than frightening—until the aura of light appeared.
It happened one evening when Phoebe’s older sister was readying herself for a date. Kris was standing at the upstairs landing about to descend, when a ball of fire raced up the stairway toward her. The light was as bright as the sun on a cloudless summer day and in the middle appeared a lady.
According to Phoebe, “My dad thought it was a calling for her to become a nun. Mom and dad called the priest and he came running.”
“Not from God,” the priest said. “God would not appear to you that way.”
“So what the heck was that?” asked Phoebe. “Kris was scared to death and so was I since we shared a room (and she was going out for the evening).”
Until that point, Phoebe’s family hadn’t discussed the phenomena. As strict Catholics, her parents believed it unholy to acknowledge such occurrences. In fact, each family member was unaware of the other’s experiences until the spirit took direct aim at Phoebe’s mother.
Was it the constant “Our Fathers” or did the spirit simply sense her resistance to its otherworldly existence? No one will ever know, but when Phoebe’s mother awoke one night and attempted to get out of bed, an invisible force pinned her to the mattress. Try as she might, she could not lift her shoulders off the bed. Too terrified to move, she lay there until the entity tired of the amusement.
When finally she was able to regain her strength, she got up and made her way down to the bathroom, reciting the Prayer to St. Michael as she went.
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host — by the Divine Power of God — cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
She must have inflamed the spirit even further because at this point her feet were pulled out from under her and she landed flat on her back where she lay dazed and breathless.
Phoebe feels that there were several entities that occupied the old mansard. Some were benign in nature; others were more malevolent. Such was the case with her mother’s spirit and one they liked to call “Charlie.”
Says Phoebe, “One time when Mom was in the hospital and I was taking care of my little brother, (Charlie) didn't like the tomato soup I was making for us. The pan went flying across the kitchen and soup flew everywhere. We just looked at each other. Just Charlie, I said. We got very accustomed to all the ghosts that were sent our way.”
Phoebe goes on to say, “Many of my friends have told me that to this day when they ride by they see a woman in the window and I do believe very strongly that is where my mom and dad and brother are staying.
About 5 years after my mom’s death, my sister and I stopped to see the house. A woman was outside and we told her that the house was our childhood home. She invited us in... I knew my mom was there; I could sense her presence. The woman told us that the house was full of ghosts and she didn't know if we believed in them.
One ghost was a woman that used to help her sort her laundry. Then I knew for sure. . .
My favorite ghost Charlie would turn the radio off and on, also, my record player and the TV. Doors would open and shut all the time. My brother was very scared, but this house is where my family is happily resting.”
While many old homes enjoy a charm and character all their own, the old mansard on the hill seems to “possess” more than its share of spiritual appeal.
The summer wore on and Jill continued to watch her nephews. School wouldn’t start for another week and Cindy had yet to line up another sitter. She wasn’t too concerned because her mother had volunteered to pinch hit if Jill’s replacement wasn’t found before then.
During that last week, Jill’s friend dropped by for a visit. Together they sat at the kitchen table eagerly pouring over clothing catalogs.
Jill pointed, “I bought a pair of boots just like those.”
Her friend nodded and replied, “I’m glad you told me. I wouldn’t want to get a pair just like…” Her voice trailed off.
Jill looked up to see her friend staring beyond her in utter amazement. “What’s wrong?” she asked as she turned to see what her friend was staring at.
“Is there a wiring problem in this house?” her friend asked.
“Not that I’m aware of, why?”
“The bathroom light keeps going on and off.”
“It’s just been remodeled,” Jill commented. “Maybe there’s a short in the wiring.”
They went to the bathroom door and looked around, but saw nothing amiss. “Funny,” said Jill. “It stopped.”
“Maybe it was just a loose bulb or something. Forget about it. It’s almost time for General Hospital,” Jill said.
With the boys safely in the back yard, the girls each took an end of the sofa and settled in to watch their favorite soap.
The room was small and furniture was sparse by necessity. The television occupied one end of the room and Cindy’s dry sink, located across from the sofa took up the other wall. A rocking chair sat in the corner, rounding out the little room’s furnishings.
They were soon engrossed in the program. So when two of the four pictures displayed on top of the dry sink flew off and hit the floor at the girl’s feet, Jill’s friend became terrified.
“What the heck was that?” she yelled.
Jill tried to remain calm as she picked them up and returned them to their spot. “I don’t know. Maybe the wind knocked them over.”
“Wind?” her friend shrieked. “What wind? They didn’t just fall, Jill. They flew. I don’t know about you, but I’m outta here,” she said as she headed for the door.
Jill wanted to follow, but she had the boys to consider and she didn’t want to scare them, so she toughed it out, anxious for her sister to get home from work.
“Cindy, have you ever noticed anything strange about this house?” she asked that evening.
“Hmm. Not really. Why?”
Cindy listened as Jill told her about the day’s events but when Cindy cast a shrewd eye at the story, she capped it off with Megan’s experience the month before.
“Just don’t tell Mom,” Cindy pleaded. “She won’t let you finish out the summer and I really need more time to get another sitter.”
Jill agreed and no further activities occurred on her watch.
September arrived and as promised, Jill’s mother watched her grandsons for her daughter. Cindy had managed to find a sitter, but it would be another two weeks before she could start. Most days Cindy took the children to her mother’s house, but on this day, one son was under the weather, so Cindy’s mom came to them.
It was shortly after lunch when Cindy got the call. “Mom, is everything okay?”
“It is now,” she replied.
“Cindy, I was scared to death. I thought there was an intruder in the house, so I took the phone outside and called your father to come get all of us. I brought the boys home with me.”
“What made you think there was an intruder?” Cindy asked with a sinking feeling.
“Someone was walking around upstairs. Don’t you go home until Doug is with you.”
Cindy sighed. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the stories. Although her own experiences had been fleeting, she believed her sisters. Why would they make such things up? And surely her mother wouldn’t have imagined the footsteps, especially since Jill had been so careful to hide the summer’s events from her.
On the other hand, Doug was the true skeptic. He was a reasonable man and dismissed each story with the same explanation. The girls just had an overactive imagination. Cindy wanted to believe him. And why shouldn’t she? After all, nothing she could put her finger on had ever really happened to her… until she heard them.
One evening a few months later, Cindy was enjoying a long soak in a hot tub. Admiring her newly renovated bathroom, she reflected on how long it had taken them to reach this point. They had just one room left to do—the upstairs bedroom—and only that week Doug had begun to petition off the knee walls, readying them for drywall.
One such petition was directly above, so when she heard the slow, heavy footsteps above her head, she knew.
She called Doug into the bathroom. Finally she could prove it to him once and for all. But after five minutes of sitting and waiting for the sound to reoccur, he got up and left. “You’ve caught the bug, too.”
But Cindy was convinced. Something—or someone—was in the old house. Although she wasn’t particularly frightened, she was curious. So she turned to the one person who might be able to shed some light on the story.
Cindy’s mom had a friend who once mentioned that she had lived next to the house. The woman was elderly now, but was still in her own mind, so Cindy paid her a visit.
“Ellen, what can you tell me about the house I live in?” she asked the old woman.
Ellen smiled. “It’s taken you longer than I thought,” she said softly. “Her name was Maude. She was the mother of the man you bought the house from.”
Ellen paused, as if reliving that time in her life when she was young and raising her own family. “Maude loved children. I remember she had a beautiful voice. In the summer, she'd sit next to the open window and sing as she rocked her babies to sleep."
“That makes sense,” was all Cindy could murmur.
Ellen looked at her with seasoned eyes. “I expect she loves your children, too, doesn’t she?”
Cindy nodded slowly. “She’s never done anything to hurt us.”
“And she won’t either. Maude was a beautiful lady.”
“I am curious about one thing, though. I wonder why she sent the pictures flying off the dry sink.”
Ellen asked where it was located and when Cindy explained, she smiled.
“Well, I’m no authority on these things you know, but when Maude died, they waked her in the house— in the living room, in fact. Her casket was placed where your dry sink is today. When they took her out of the house, they passed the casket through the front window because they couldn’t heft it up over the stair banister.”
“You know, I always thought the footsteps belonged to a man,” Cindy said.
“They were so heavy, the floors creaked.”
“I told you they couldn’t heft her casket. Maude weighed 300 pounds.”
Cindy and Doug continued to live in the home for several more years but witnessed no further phenomena. Could it be that once the final restorations were complete, she grew accustomed to her new surroundings and found peace once again?
As time went on, Doug was transferred to a day position. That meant more family time, but it also required Cindy to hire a babysitter for the boys. Her teenage sister, Jill was happy to oblige.
Jill loved the boys and they loved her. But they took advantage of their aunt, especially when Cindy and Jill’s youngest sister spent the day. Megan was as mischievous as her nearly same age nephews. So when they nagged Jill to let them go up to the attic to play with their slot cars, she gave in although she’d been told to keep them downstairs.
The three of them sat cross-legged on the attic floor, their fingers glued to the trigger throttles that controlled the miniature cars. They raced around the figure-eight track at break neck speed.
"Hey, you guys, it’s time for lunch, Jill yelled from the foot of the stairs.
“Just a minute,” Megan hollered down for all of them.
“I said NOW!”
Megan sighed. “Okay, guys. She’s getting cranky. We’d better get going.”
They each made a face toward the attic door, but dropped their throttles and scrambled to their feet.
“Don’t forget to lock the door,” Jill reminded them. “I don’t want your mother to find out I let you go up there.”
Megan scrunched her nose toward her big sister and herded the boys down over the stairs. She closed the door and was reaching for the lock when she heard the sound. Slowly she reopened the door.
All four of the slot cars were racing each other around the track.
To be continued…
Convinced that she had been dreaming, Cindy shrugged off the experience. She continued working with Doug and soon their house became a home. Closet space was limited in the old house and they had to hang their clothes in what would someday be their upstairs bedroom. For now, though it was merely an attic.
“Doug, I know we can’t afford to finish off the upstairs this year, but do you think we could at least wall off the area that will be the walk-in closet? I’m tired of the kids playing hide and seek among our clothes when I let them go up there to play with their slot cars.”
Weeks later, a new walk-in closet held their clothes and Cindy was elated. Doug had built the closet large enough to not only store their clothes, but Cindy’s boxes of craft supplies; he even built a little sewing area for Cindy to get away to. It was spacious and blocked off the entire front of the attic.
“It’s beautiful,” she said as she hugged her husband. “I love it, especially my sewing area. Now I can leave my machine set up without the kids getting into everything.”
Doug grinned. “Just make sure to lock the door when you’re not up here,” he said pointing to the hook and eye latch at the top of the door. “We don’t need to heat the attic when they’re not playing.”
Summer turned to fall and with that came evening school meetings. Cindy didn’t mind, though because with Doug working nights it provided her with an opportunity for adult company. It was following one of those meetings that with the boys in tow, she turned the key in the lock and stepped into the dimly lit kitchen.
“Go get your pajamas on,” she said to the boys. “I’ll be in to read you a story in a minute.” Her words were punctuated with crash that startled even the children. Cindy’s mind raced. Was someone in the house? Instinctively she grabbed a butcher knife from the drawer and clasped it to her chest. She waited and listened. Silence. Slowly she walked into the living room turning on lights as she went. She glanced around but saw nothing out of the way, so she flipped the switch to the light at the top of the stairs. The latch was still engaged.
Cindy breathed a sigh of relief. Yet weeks later she still wondered what could have made such a horrific crash from the area of her new walk-in closet for, when she went up to inspect the next day, nothing had been disturbed.
To be continued...
Happy Halloween everyone! This week begins my series on haunted houses. While the tales are true, names and locations have been changed to protect privacy.
The spirit who loved children
Doug and Cindy had been searching for their first home for months. But as was the case with most young couples starting out, each home they looked at was just beyond their means. One evening, they were lamenting with friends at a backyard barbeque over yet another disappointment when their friend rubbed his chin and said, “You know, Doug, the house next door is being rented to an elderly couple and she just had a stroke. Her husband told me last week they were moving to senior housing at the end of the month.”
Cindy and Doug looked at each other and knew instantly that this would be a house they could afford. It was a fixer upper to be sure. But Doug was handy and they could certainly live in it while they did the improvements. “Now don’t get your hopes up,” Doug told Cindy. “The owners may not want to sell.”
“I know, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
It was a disappointed Doug that returned home the next evening. “They don’t want to sell, Cindy. They’ve rented the place to the same couple ever since his mother died and it’s given them a steady income for years.”
But Cindy was determined. “They’ll sell. They just have to get used to the idea. You said they’re older? They aren’t going to want to put up with bad tenants. Why don’t you give it a week and then go see them again?”
Doug was hesitant. It wasn’t his nature to be a pest, but Cindy was right. And he really wanted to sink his teeth into that house.
By the third visit even Cindy was becoming discouraged. But when Doug returned dangling the keys in front of her, they danced a jig in the middle of their living room. “He said to go take a look at the place and then we’ll talk.”
The house was tiny, but solid and before Christmas that year, it was theirs.
Their budget was tight, but with careful planning they began to renovate their new home. “We’ll do one room a year,” Doug said. “We’ll tackle the rooms that need the least amount of work first, and save the expensive stuff like the kitchen, bathroom and upstairs for last.”
It was a good plan and they stuck to it. Cindy learned how to hang wallpaper and Doug shingled the roof, insulated the walls and cut wood for the new woodstove that would heat the little house.
While Doug worked nights, Cindy worked days making it tough to stay connected, but by all accounts, they “were living the dream.” So it was unsettling for Cindy when she woke out of sound sleep late one evening and saw a shadow move across the foot of her bed and then disappear. Always careful not to wake their two boys, she assumed Doug had gotten home from work and had passed through the hall, creating the image on the far side of their bedroom. Satisfied with her theory, Cindy rolled onto her side and glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand.
It would be another hour before Doug was due to arrive home.
To be continued. . . .