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Day: October 31, 2015

Growing up in a haunted house

Posted in Uncategorized

Since it’s Halloween, the internet is full of more scary stories than usual. At this time of year, people love to recount their tales of spooky encounters they’ve had, but you rarely hear stories of haunted houses that are positive.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it on the blog, but I grew up in a haunted house.

When I was born, my mother and I live with my grandparents. Parts of the house we lived in were rumored to be two hundred years old; once during construction on the oldest room in the house (the dining room, which had been a single room cabin), my great-grandfather found a bottle of whiskey with the date 1773 molded into the glass. other parts of the house had been added on over the years, and for most of those my family owned it.

If I’m remembering correctly, the first generation of my family to live there was my great-great-great-grandmother, one Mrs. Euphemia Putman Pickles, famously arrested (well, famously in my family) for engaging in a “fisticuffs altercation” with a Mrs. Knickerbocker over some allegedly stolen hay. As far as I’m aware, she’s not one of the ghosts in the house. I guess she could be, but no one’s ever found themselves on the wrong end of the spectral punch, so I doubt it.

The house is located two miles outside of the very rural town where I still live. For many years, there was an undertaker here, but not a funeral home (there is one now; the family who used to own it gave out full-sized candy bars on Halloween and commended us for our bravery, as they didn’t get many trick-or-treaters). The nearest hospital is twenty miles away, a nearly insurmountable distance before the advent of cars In the early twentieth century. Our little farming community did see the addition of a small hospital (it is now closed), due to a flux of tourism relating to our many pristine lakes and the fact that we were a stop on the now defunct Chicago, Kalamazoo & Saginaw Railroad. The point of me telling you all this is to help explain that for a very long time, people in this community lived in their homes, died in their homes, and were prepared to go to their final rest in their homes.

One such unfortunate soul was my grandmother’s little brother, Tony. During a typhoid outbreak in the 1940s, he contracted the sickness at seven years old. He died on a cot in front of the window where my grandma now keeps her phone. When he was alive, he used to wake up his parents by running into their room, putting his hands on their bed, and kicking his feet up against the wall. That still happens; small handprints on the bed in the same bedroom push into the mattress, and kicking rattles the wall. Tony has also been seen walking around the house by various family members. I believe I’ve seen him once, though I mistook him for my son (who very much resembles him) until I remembered that my son wasn’t with me.

Another family member who’s been spotted is my great-great-grandfather. He’s been seen standing at the top of the stairs. I remember that every night, reliably, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. It wasn’t the creaking and groaning of an old house (when you live in a very old house, those fade into background noise you barely notice anymore), but the sound of a person coming down at a normal pace with weight on each step, exactly as it sounded whenever anyone came down.

When he died, his casket sat in the bay window in the living room, where the Christmas tree goes now. My great uncle was very young at the time, and was found sitting in the coffin with his grandfather, combing his hair. This is a cherished memory in my family, and spoken of fondly.

I swear we are not the Addams family, though I do wish they were somewhat distant relatives.

Another dearly departed family member who prefers to hang around is my great-great-grandmother, who died in the room that later became my bedroom. She loved children, my mother, especially, as she was a toddler during the years that my great-great-grandmother was bedridden, and would run into her bedroom every morning to greet her. When I was a child, I never had a creepy feeling in that room, though as I got older I became inexplicably freaked out by it.

A few months after my son was born, we stayed the night at my grandparent’s house, in my great-great-grandmother’s room. We put our son in a crib at the end of the bed and, because the room could get cold at night, hung a blanket over the end of the crib in case we needed it for him in the night. Sometime in the night, I woke to find my son lying perfectly centered in the crib, the blanket not only folded over his chest, but under his little arms and tucked into the sides of the mattress. The next morning, I asked my grandparents if they’d tucked him in during the night. My grandmother hadn’t gotten up in the night, and my grandfather said that while he got up to get a snack, he didn’t go near the room for fear of waking the baby. My grandmother’s explanation? “It must have been my grandma. There never was a baby warm enough for that woman.”

And that was the matter of fact attitude with which my entire family approaches the house. We all know it’s haunted, we’ve all seen and experienced things there, and it’s no big deal. Though one of my cousins is terrified of the place, and my aunts agreed that I was nuts for staying there alone when I was a teenager, the house doesn’t bother me. I’ve always liked the way it feels like you’re not alone. Being in a non-haunted house is lonely when no one else is there, but you can be the only living soul in my grandma’s house and still feel like it’s a busy house with lots of people in it.

The most recent person to pass away in the house was my grandfather, several years ago. While I haven’t seen him in the house, I do one day hope to. And I hope the house stays in the family for many more years to come. I’d hate to think of our departed loved ones trapped in some Beetlejuice-style scenario with people who don’t appreciate them.