My house is haunted.
And yes, I know me writing that and you reading it may cause you to conclude that I am, indeed, nuts because we all know there are no such things as ghosts. Or maybe you have decided that I worship Satan. Well, I’m not a Satanist, and I’m reasonably sure that I am as sane as the next person. So, I will type it again—my house is haunted. You don’t have to believe me.
When we first moved here six years ago, people would ask me if we had a ghost and I would blow them off. “Of course, not. Not every old house is haunted! Geez, what’s wrong with you people?”
And just as often, I would hear, “Your house. It has this feeling to it, doesn’t it? It’s a very happy place. You can just tell that everyone who has lived here has been happy and loved. It’s very inviting and warm.” I’d agree. I might even add, “We’ve always felt that it chose us as much as we chose it.”
But then, things began to happen. I’d hear a voice very close to my ear. I’d feel a hand on my shoulder. I’d hear footsteps or just the rustling of papers in the next room.
The most compelling evidence of other worldly beings came from my daughter who has twice seen people. I write people, not ghosts because she described them as people. Had she used the word “ghost,” I would have been convinced that she had seen too many Scooby-Doo episodes.
The first time she saw someone, she was about two and a half. She and I were in her bedroom, and she looked right past me into the hallway and said, “There is an old man in our house. ” I knew no one was standing behind me. This is an old house and the wooden floors creak–a lot–especially upstairs. No one sneaks up on anyone in this house. Yeah, and no one sneaks out–that’s going to be a real problem for my kids once they are teenagers—unless my hearing is completely shot by then, and hey, considering my age, it might be!
I turned around and said, “Well, he’s not here now.”
“I know! But he was right here!” she exclaimed running into the hallway. “He was standing right here next to your laundry basket!”
And so, I started apologizing to all the people I had previous dismissed as having over-active imaginations. I started with my friend Julie who a year earlier had reported to me that when she and her son were in my daughter’s bedroom, he had seen a ghost. He had pointed towards the open door leading to the hallway and said, “Grandpa! Grandpa!” He was quite young and going through that phase in which all older men are “Grandpa!” Perhaps he and my daughter saw the same old man.
About a year later, I found my daughter sitting wide-eyed on my bed. “Mom, did you see her? There was a lady standing by your dresser and she was carrying tea. But she didn’t spill any.” Phew! I hate it when ghost spill their tea in my bedroom.
“What did she look like?”
“She was a brown person (non-white). She had black hair in a bun and a purple dress.”
I don’t think any of the previous owners were brown, but I do know that the house was once used as an “old folks home.” We live in an area with a large African American population, and it stands to reason that a black woman might have worked here and would have likely carried tea to an upstairs bedroom.
Despite all this, I don’t find anything about my house to be creepy. I would maintain that the house has that warm, inviting, happy feeling that I mentioned earlier, and if you don’t believe me, just ask someone who has been here.
Additionally, my house is a bit of a landmark. When I tell locals that I live in the Peggy Graham House, they all know it. They can usually tell me about one or more of the families who have lived here and they all seem to have wonderful memories. The people here were happy and loved and warm and inviting—just like the house itself!
One woman, who was born in my house in 1937, told me that people always ask her if my house is haunted. “I tell them, goodness no!” she said. “Nobody but good Christian folks ever lived or worked in that house. Their souls are all in Heaven where they ought to be, not scaring the livin’ daylights out of the likes of me and you. I never heard such a foolish question.”
I didn’t share any of my supernatural experiences with her. I didn’t want her to think I was one to entertain foolishness. And I didn’t want her to call my own Christian beliefs into question.
I am challenged to reconcile my beliefs, however. Like most Christians, I believe that when I die, I will go to Heaven. I don’t believe our bodiless souls get trapped on earth, and yet, I’ve had these experiences—in my present home and in other places—that have led me to believe that there are just things about the after-life that defy explanation. I accept that. Faith doesn’t mean having all the answers. It means being comfortable with not having all the answers.
When my mother-in-law first came to live with us, she often said that she saw my father-in-law, her late husband. She would ask me why Bob wasn’t joining us for supper and get angry with me for not setting a place for him at the table. Sometimes, she would ask about the tall man who was with him. I have no explanation for the tall man, but she seemed to see him as much as she saw Bob.
I know that in many South American cultures, people believe that a soul will stay close to a loved one, lingering on earth before going onto Heaven. Perhaps, that is what Bob was doing in my house—just hanging out and making sure that his wife was being well cared for.
After a few months, she stopped talking about seeing Bob. She almost never mentioned him and eventually reached a point where she stopped recognizing him in pictures. That part is sad for me and especially sad for my husband.
Then, earlier this week, she went from being only semi-conscious to being very alert, very talkative, and even somewhat lucid. During those days, I presented her with photo albums and together, we flipped through the pictures. I would narrate and ask her if she remembered my wedding, my daughter’s birth, her oldest grand-daughter’s wedding, a family vacation in Florida. She did remember! And while she couldn’t recall the names of everyone in every picture, she remembered Bob.
“Mom, who is this handsome guy in this picture?”
“That is Bob, my husband.”
Then, without explanation, she slipped back into the earlier pattern of eating very little and sleeping 18 hours a day. When she was awake, she didn’t say much. And she had no interest in the photo albums.
Today, I would describe her as mostly being non-verbal, but at one point, she called me to her, and spoke very clearly. She said, “Bob is upstairs. Go get him.” Deep sigh. “Mom, Bob is not upstairs.” And then, she said the most interesting thing—and perhaps I am reading too much into this—she said, “When you see Bob, tell him I am ready to go home.”
I took her into her bedroom and put her down for a nap, and then returned to the living room to write. As I sat in front of my laptop clacking away on the keyboard, I heard footsteps upstairs even though my husband and children were gone for the afternoon. So, I spoke. “Bob, if that is you, your wife is in her bedroom and she says she is ready to go home.” I felt a little silly saying that aloud because I do truly believe that my father-in-law is in Heaven, and not in my bedroom hanging out with the old man and the brown lady. In fact, I want to believe they are all in Heaven.
It makes me wonder if God allows the deceased to visit Earth—for whatever reason. Maybe they aren’t ghosts, but angels.
In any case, I am not crazy.