Date: Sun, 9 Aug 1998 16:53:12 -0700 (PDT)
Its been a long time since this happened, but it still scares me to relate this story. I've had some other experiences since this happened, but none where so much happened. Rarely have I been able to see the ghosts or spirits or whatever you wish to call them. But when I was five and living in a huge old farmhouse in southern New Hampshire, I saw and experienced too much.
From the time I was an infant, my family and I had lived in Dover, NH;it is on the seacoast near Portsmouth if you care to know details like that. I hated it--too many people, a tiny backyard, the train ran right through our backyard. So when my parents located a new house for us to rent in the country, I was so happy. I ran around the house with my older brother, chanting "Thank you, Mr. Brown!" (Mr. Brown was the landlord--I had never met him, and when I finally did he scared the bejesus out of me...Creep.) Shortly after we received the good news, off we went to our new home in Strafford (small town in the middle of nowhere, mentioned as part of Larry's walk in the unabridged version of Stephen King's The Stand).
It was a huge white farmhouse, kind of run-down looking, with a big empty barn and a huge yard. It sat back from the road a ways, and in the front there was a huge overgrown pond garden, leafy and mysterious. The minute I saw it I hated it. It wasn't that it was too big or outwardly scary looking. It was just a feeling I got. I remember looking at my older brother; and I knew he was thinking the same thing that I was.
Anyway, my family had rented the upper two floors of the house; what had been the original family sleeping quarters (2nd level) and servant area (attic rooms--very tiny and stifling). My brother and I each had our own room on the west side of the house in the attic. Neither of us liked the attic room on the east side of the house--it was directly over the pantry area on the converted second floor, and scared the heck out of both of us (again, just a feeling...) There was a relatively wide landing area at the top of the staircase, and where the ceiling slanted downward, there was a large square hole leading to an under-eaves storage space (this wasn't unusual--most old homes in New England have them). It looked black and scary--of course, this could be chalked up to the fact that I was a kid and didn't particularly like the dark.
The rest of the house was okay, in terms of features (no scary holes, etc.) The stairs from the attic led down to a large landing with an alcove complete with window seat. To the right and left of the landing were too large rooms--one on the left was the family TV room, the one on the right was the "playroom". As you followed the hallway as it bent to the right, my parents room was in the northwest corner of the house, then the bathroom and then the kitchen with attached pantry on the east side of the house.
The stairs continued downward to the first floor, which for a long period of time was uninhabited. Below that was the old hand-dug basement, where the fuse boxes and water heater were located. The basement was locked both from the access point from the first floor of the house, and from the outside root cellar access by big solid clasp locks. The keys were entrusted to my dad, who kept them in our kitchen.
Now that you are familiar with the layout of our house, which I assure you is very important for the purposes of this story, let me share with you some of the occurences which I experienced.
Mainly, these espisodes involved strange lights floating up the stairwell to the attic and passing through the door on the east side bedroom. Sometimes, it would stop at that. Others, the light would be simultaneous with hysterical barking by the family dog who was shut up in the pantry below at night. Or my brother would wake from a sound sleep screaming that someone had grabbed his feet, or taken the blankets off of him suddenly and roughly. Other times, the light would hestitate at the top of the landing, and then continue around the corner and go into my brothers room. He would always begin screaming then, too. Once, the fire detector at the top of the stairs, hung on the east wall, went off four times in the night--even after my dad had removed the batteries after the first time!
One night, I woke up from a sound sleep, feeling as though I had just had a bad dream. Sometimes, as all kids do, I would yell for my mom before I became fully awake. So when I sat up and saw someone in my doorway, I assumed it was my mother. My mom had a dark robe, and the hall was dark, so all I could really see was a paler blur of face and hands in the midst of a black figure. I began to talk to the figure, telling my mom about my bad dream and being scared. Oddly, my mother didn't come into the room, like she always did, to comfort me. Finally, I said something like "Mommy, I need a hug!' And the figure stepped into the room, and was lit by my night-light. It wasn't my mom--it was a strange man, dressed in black, and he was huge. He just looked at me, and exuded a very menacing air. I stared at him for a minute or two, and when I glanced down and could see my trusty nightlight shining THROUGH his leg, I freaked. I screamed and screamed and screamed and hid under! ! the covers. I wouldn't come out until my dad assured me the man was gone and wouldn't be back.
I dimly remember having a few other experiences in the attic rooms later, but I also remember screwing my eyes shut and ignoring everything, willing myself to sleep through tugs on the bedsheets and noises shuffling around. The last and most scary experience occurred a month or two after the man appeared. I think whatever it was wanted to convince me that I couldn't deny its presence any longer with shut eyes. I awoke from a dream, feeling slightly scared. I also felt tickly, like something was crawling on me under the bedsheets. Curious, I peeked under the sheets, and immediately started to scream. I was covered with huge black wasps. I shut my eyes and screamed! My parents came and flicked on the lights and then the wasps disappeared. I was hysterical, and still really hate bees. My brother, just recently as his experiences frightened him so that he choses to not discuss them, told me that just before the wasps appeared, he woke up to find the mysterious light hove! ! ring over his bed. It hesitated, and then passed through the wall into my bedroom. A minute or two later, I began to scream. Coincidence?
Not all the incidents in the attic occured to my brother and I--my mother would use the landing area near the under-eaves space for ironing. Once, she heard the sound of crying coming from the space. Knowing that my brother and I were at school, she assumed it was the dog, stuck during one of its infamous explorations. So she called the dog to come out--and was surprised when he bounded up the stairs from the second floor. Periodically, she would hear crying again--and calmly turn off the iron, leave the clothes, and go downstairs and turn on the television to drown it out.
On the second floor, things would occasionally go wrong. I can remember strange conversations while playing alone in the playroom with someone--my mom was convinced that I had an imaginary friend. I kept telling her no, the woman would only come sometimes and help me braid my doll's hair, but the man didn't like it. My mother was able to dismiss this--although I wonder how.
Periodically, the main power switch in the basement would be pushed to off, or the water lines from the basement would be turned off. My father was convinced that it was the work of the landlord's teenage sons, but a search of their things revealed no key to access to basement. I remember joining dad and the landlord in the basement on one of their expeditions to determine what was causing the shut offs. I also remember being banished quickly when I asked them why they didn't just ask the grey lady who was angry in the corner to stop playing with switches.
The one Christmas we spent there, we came down on Christmas morning to find our tree which had been set up in the alcove completely flipped over. Of course, you may suspect the dog, but when we checked he was sound asleep shut up in the pantry.
The house was not alone in strange experiences. One day, I decided it would be a great idea to take my Powder Puff big wheels into the barn and ride it off of the 2 foot raised floor platform onto the ground level floor beneath. After a half dozen spine jarring slams on the floor (accompanied by giggles, hoots, and one badly bitten tounge), I was just getting ready to make the launch again when I heard a distinct male voice say "Now stop that. Get out of my barn!" I didn't even bother to look around--I knew no one else was in the barn with me. I just sat back on my big wheels and rode the hell out of Dodge.
The pond at the bottom of the hill had a sad and strange history, too. The landlord's daughter had drowned there when she was five. Sad, true. But the very strange part of the story is that from all accounts the little girl was terrified of water and refused to go near the pond...that is, until the day she was discovered floating in it.
Anyway, my family only lived there for a year. Talking about it now, my parents deny that anything supernatural ever happened, but do acknowledge that they never felt comfortable there. Even now, none of us can look at the house when we drive by--its almost as if we're subconciously afraid of whatever was there may wave at us as we go by. A family moved in shortly after we were there, and proceeded to do some major remodeling projects. As I've never heard any tales of their experiences (and trust me, in Strafford you hear everything), I have a feeling that the changes they did to the house may have chased away the spirits that haunted my family.
As an aside note, a couple of years ago I did some casual research at the local historical society and found that the farm house was built by the original founder of Strafford. And from the unofficial reports, he wasn't the nicest of men--domineering to his wife and family, and cruel to his servants. Makes me glad I only lived there a year--the wasps were plenty of warning!
I've got a couple of other experiences which I'll relate later. Hopefully, you'll all enjoy my story.