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Haunted houses are a staple of paranormal lore. Abundant in horror movies and stories, it is perhaps easy to believe that dilapidated buildings frequented by the once living are simply the stuff of fiction. According to the anonymous author of the following story, this is far from the truth. Haunted houses, or in her experience haunted mansions, can be very real.
Editor’s note: The following account has been edited for grammatical mistakes and increased clarity of information.
“Until living in the mansion, I’d had no surety of ghosts”
In late August of 1997, I moved to a big house in a small town in Vermont. The house was an old family mansion. I was moving there to run a ceramics business from its converted garage, and would live there for just under a year. I’d heard dark rumors about its inhabitants but nothing about the house itself. In the times I’d visited, its ramshackle charm and beautiful woodwork made it appear a once-loved, if somewhat strange and spooky, place.
Strange and spooky places don’t deter me. My parents had been Spiritualists. From the time I was six years old I’d attended séances on a weekly basis. Those long nights sitting in the dark served to make me think spirits and those who called them up were frauds and fools. Still, there were rare occasions when something entirely unexplainable happened – a pair of scissors flying off a table in front of my eyes was one – so I kept an open mind to the supernatural. I also have a love of what we don’t know, and paranormal phenomena fall into that category. I can’t say I’m a hardened skeptic but I can’t say I’m a moon-eyed believer. I know what I’ve experienced and that there was no known cause for those things to have happened. Most people aren’t satisfied with standing questions. I like leaving the big question right in the middle of the room, pointing at it and saying, “See? You don’t know, I don’t know, nobody knows. If somebody says they know, they’re lying.” Until living in the mansion, I’d had no surety of ghosts.
The family had built this version of their home in 1913 and lived on the land for generations. They owned the wood mill behind the house. It must have been a showcase in its prime, with a good piece of land attached and a lake just across the road.
By 1997 only one family member remained there and the house was a dilapidated mess. Years of neglect and a leaking roof buckled and bellied ceilings and walls on the upper floors. Of its twenty-seven rooms and three full stories, only nine rooms were habitable in the first and second floors of the main house. On the ground floor, the gutted living room, dining room and kitchen had been carved out of several smaller rooms and left unfinished. Bare beams and exposed laths detracted from the beautifully crafted woodwork and hand-tooled window frames. One small bedroom and filthy bath off the dining room housed the last of the family to live there. On the second floor were five rooms and a bath, each in varying states of decay. Four of those rooms were in use as bedrooms. The fifth had been the bedroom of a man murdered in the house a decade earlier. When I moved in, it was used as storage, and a passageway to the shambolic two-story, 7-room apartment above the garage area. The third floor of the main house held the large “ballroom”, where the family had entertained back in the glory days. Doors opened from there into three smaller rooms, and a tiny interior room with an original square zinc bathtub in wooden housing. Boxes, papers and clothing littered the floors. The only furniture anywhere was a rusty bed frame. Dropping from the floor of the east-facing room ran a small steep staircase that led down to the apartment over the garage. The second-floor door that opened onto the main staircase to the ballroom was locked with a bolt from the outside. That staircase had a pronounced pitch to the left and it was a trick to keep your balance while climbing or descending them. Above the third floor was an attic and above the attic a cupola that gave a grand full view of the lake and surrounding grounds. My bedroom was in the rear of the house’s second floor at the end of the hall, below the ballroom.
The first night there I was exhausted from the move. After a shower I went to bed, and within minutes heard sounds coming from the ballroom above. Footsteps and voices. My housemates, I thought, and went out to the hall to ask them to keep the noise down. Passing the top of the main staircase I heard them all below in the living room talking while watching television. It must be old house noises and acoustics, I told myself, and went back to bed. Then the music started, and furniture dragged across the floor directly over my head. “There’s no furniture up there,” I said to the ceiling. Determined not to look more like a weirdo even to myself, I pulled the covers up and tried to ignore it. Eventually I fell asleep.
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The next morning at breakfast I told my housemates about it. Nonchalantly they said, “It happens when someone new is in the house,” and that it would stop in a week or so. They were right, it stopped about a week later. For a while afterward, nothing out of the ordinary chaos of living there happened. Life went along with the ceramics business, my three odd housemates, and four dogs in the big drafty house. My widowed stepfather came to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us and stayed in my room while I bunked in the front bedroom. He reported hearing the active ballroom every night he was there- music, voices, dancing, furniture dragging. Being a Spiritualist, he thought it was wonderful.
By that Winter, I’d fallen in love with the old house and its poor condition bothered me. Two of my housemates went south for the holidays and then on to Florida, leaving the last family member and me there alone for several weeks. The ceramics shop closed for the Winter, so I began undertaking projects to stay busy. With the help of a friend from town, I tore down two bedroom ceilings and hung new ones. We stored the materials in the unused fifth bedroom. One day I was dragging sheetrock out of that room while trying to keep the dogs from running the passage to the apartment beyond. Irritated, I said out loud, “If you want to help me, you could open and close these doors for me so I don’t have to struggle with the dogs!” The door in front of me opened wide. I quickly pulled the sheetrock through, and the door closed behind me. The dogs were standing still at the top of the stairs. All my hair stood on end and my bravado fell. I left the sheetrock there in the hallway and ran downstairs. That night I slept on the couch in the living room.
Over the months that I lived in the mansion I saw and heard many unexplainable things but my housemates didn’t want to talk about them. My curiosity was dismissed every time I brought up the subject. Meanwhile, the events kept going on, often when it was only myself in the house. At night, I heard a string of notes from the piano when I had put the keyboard cover down. While eating breakfast, my dish moved away from me; I watched it slide from under the newspaper I was holding and across the table. I’d hear footsteps on the stairs in front of me when there was no visible person to make them. Faint big band music played- “Begin the Beguine” most often- while cooking in the kitchen. I could never tell what direction it came from. A voice here and there, most were murmurs, but I distinctly heard a woman’s voice say, “No, not there,” while I was reorganizing a pantry. When I was painting the second floor porch I heard a man clearly say, “That’s nice.” I turned and looked through the doorway down the hall but there was nobody else in the house. As these things became an every day occurrence, I’d just say, “Okay…” or “Hello!” and carry on with what I was doing. Whoever or whatever was around me seemed to mean no harm. In fact, once I slipped at the top of the main staircase and what I can only describe as an air cushion stopped me from falling. I was often spooked in that place, but never felt threatened. One can grow used to living in a haunted house and I did. I even liked it.
I left the mansion in 1998 and haven’t been back since. The last family member to own the home died some years later and his inheritors sold it to a couple who wanted it for a bed and breakfast. They called in an investigative team, to find out what was going on around them as they renovated. The investigators captured several “EVPs”- electronic voice phenomena. One of those voices captured sounded uncannily like the family member I knew. Others seemed not as friendly as those energies I encountered. From the photos on their website, the house looks lovely now.
All these years later that house stays in my thoughts. From my experiences, and now the captured evidence, I’ll swear the mansion is genuinely haunted. The things I witnessed there were far and away more tangible than anything the Spiritualists I knew ever witnessed. It’s a house Shirley Jackson would have loved. Whatever walks at that mansion does not walk alone. There are too many of them.
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