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.