Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Ghost in the Attic

When we were dating, Excy used to call every night around 11:30 or midnight to say goodnight (we are both serious night owls). He had his drafting desk in the attic of his family's old house in MD, a 13,000 sq. ft. 'summerhouse' that had been built and lived in by his family relations since 1863. One night as we were chatting away I heard a scuffle, the phone drop, and a few seconds later, he got back on the line and stammered, "I gotta go."

The following day he told me he had been sitting on his drafting stool, doodling as he always did when we talked, when a wicker chair that had been pushed to the far side of a wall rapidly slid all the way across the room towards him. He had thought it a good time to leave the attic. In the morning he went back up and the chair was in the same spot as where it had stopped that night. He shoved it back to the side. He said it was heavy. He switched his studio to the old tool shed shortly afterwards.

We lived in the house -- called Burnside, in Stevenson, MD -- for two years. His cousins had one end of the house and we had the other, and we shared the old kitchen, laundry room, two front parlors and the dining room. We got married in the old cutting garden and had our reception on the wrap-around front porch and terrace. Everything in the old part of the house was from 1863, and it was like walking into a time capsule. I loved it, having grown up in a Frank Lloyd Wright-like house my dad designed and built in 1963. I loved the integrity of the place, the high ceilings and walls, the dark wood floors, the old wavy glass, the marble, the old fixtures -- nothing had been replaced. While we were at Burnside, I actually saw one ghost, and had experiences with two others. But they were all in the family, and I never felt threatened or very scared -- it was just shocking and eery, and your mind is busy processing that the experience is happening but you're not prepared for something so extraordinarily outside the realm of 'normal.'

No one replenished the family fortune and unfortunately Burnside was given equally to two remaining sisters - one cousin, who lived in the house, and another who just wanted to sell it for money. So after 130 years as the family home, it was sold to strangers. We couldn't bear to see it and the front pastures sold off, and we moved away. We have been back -- family still live in houses converted from former buildings -- Burnside also had been a working diary farm -- so the bowling alley, trunk house, laundry, and 'honeymoon' cottage still are homes of relations -- and it's still bucolic and wonderful, but when we lived there it had the feel of almost a commune serenely buffeted from the outside world, and it's not the same.

As we get closer to Halloween I'll write about the ghostly encounters. Halloween memories are on my mind and I'd like to share a few....

22 comments:

Molly said...

That's so sad that the house was sold! Sounds like a beautiful place for your wedding. I started following you so I can hear more stories.

My Mom's house is over 100 years old, she's lived there for over 30 years. I saw what I think is a father ghost standing at the window. My sis and son have seen a teenage boy. The windows close on their own, the microwave turns on and off, and a chair has moved. None of us are freaked out about it, which makes me think they're good ghosts.

Tater Tot Mom said...

I have always been fascinated with ghosts but have never seen one before.

That is so sad that the house was sold after being in the family for so long. :(

I Wonder Wye said...

Thanks Molly and Tater Tot -- yes it was very difficult...I wrote an article about the history of the house in local Baltimore mag. before we left as a 'going away' gift. When I pull out all our wedding photos and video, I do feel nostalgic....I'm just glad to have shared that place.....

Lynn said...

See my blog "Encounters With Spirits"
You can get to it via the bottom of my main blog.

Erin Bassett said...

Sounds like a beautiful (but freaky) place!

Helen McGinn said...

What a beautiful post. I've had encounters in an old house I stayed in, in Glasgow. Here is the link to the post I did about it:
http://feedingfiveforfifty.blogspot.com/2009/08/monday-memories-and-baking-bread.html

You make the house sound amazing, I feel I can almost picture it in my mind. What a shame it was sold off, sometimes, people don't have anything but the here and now in their mind. It's such a shame.

Love your blog! x

adrienzgirl said...

Thanks for stopping by today! You have a way with words, I enjoyed your post!

S.E. Sward said...

I have never had a first-hand experience with a ghost myself, but my sister claimed to have heard someone calling her name a time or two when she was alone in the house. The house had been built just after the turn of the 20th century - ca. 1909, maybe 1906. It was very plain on the outside - no fancy gingerbread work or porches. But it did have some of the original glass that was wavy and thicker towards the bottom of the frame, high ceilings, beautiful molding around windows and doorways and wood floors. We lived in the house for seven years when we were growing up. My sister was around 7 or 8 the first time she heard a voice calling her name.

The best thing about ghosts are their stories - the stories that give insight into why they might still be hanging around a given place, why they can't let go and move on to the 'other side.'

staceyjwarner said...

I love ghost stories...it's the perfect weather for them. It has finally rained in LA.

much love

Krimmyk said...

Love the story, I should get some of my spookiness up on the blog.

Katie said...

oh my. I am terrified of ghost stories; they are intriguing, however...

Thanks for stopping by my blog:)

Eva Gallant said...

Eerie...ghosts in the attic. must have been a rush!

Deborah said...

Thanks for visiting my Paws and Pray sight. It is getting alot of views, so I have faith that Scat-Cat will be prayed for.
Your ghost story reminds me of my ghost stories, I grew up on a farm in New England, probably close to 300 years old now and we have ghosts, still do! My mother still lives there, but we have many ghost stories we could share! Thanks!PS I also just started blogging this summer and I am not a writer LOL I just like to chat!!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Ghostly encounters? I totally want to hear about that! I've never seen one.

Lisa in Oz said...

OMG I'm creeped out now - I'm such a big chicken lol.

Sometimes I think that the place we're living right now might have a friendly visitor - there's a closet door that always mysteriously opens (it's on runners, not hinges, so it's not like it's just hung crookedly), and the other day, a window that I KNOW I opened was mysteriously shut a few minutes later (I was alone in the house, and it's the kind of window that slides side to side, not up and down, so it's not like it closed itself). Weirdness!

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Aleta said...

I was falling in love with the house as you described it. How beautiful. It would break my heart not to have it in the family. Looking forward to reading about your ghost experiences.

SPEAKING FROM THE CRIB said...

i love old houses too - i grew up in a turn of the century farmhouse that had been a gift to the previous owner from president mckinley - no ghosts though

Aunt Juicebox said...

Oh, I'm looking forward to hearing about it. My Aunt lives in a haunted house, that has been in her husband's family for years. It's creepy but awesome.

Tabitha@ichoosebliss said...

I'm from Louisiana, so ghost stories are right up my alley. :)

Thank you for visiting me on my SITS Day!!

Melissa aka Equidae said...

I never seen a ghost! ahh seemed such a nice home

Rook No. 17 said...

Whoah! Too cool! What a neat experience to have lived in a house with so much family history. It sounds amazing and I'm glad that the ghostly encounters were of the benign variety!

Jenn @ rookno17.blogspot.com