A Ghost Story

We bought our house in Ohio in 2000, not that long ago it seems.  We've had nothing but good times since we moved in.

 The history of the house was not that old.  The house was built in 1980.  We're only the second owners.  The couple who bought this house when it was built came from Cleveland, and it was their retirement home.  It sits elevated from the river, on a large hill that provides a lovely overlook of the river. You can walk down the hill to the river and sit on the bank, very peaceful and lovey.  It's a wooded lot; it makes the perfect cabin in the woods.  It is a drive to town; not that far but far enough to make it rural.  It was in a lovely resort area and was to be the retirement home of their dreams.

 The builder was a crook, as that story is told.  He built many homes in this area on speculation, in the real estate boom of the early 1980s. He abandoned the project during the housing crash, leaving many homes incomplete. Many of them had been bought while the homes were still in the building phases, and many owners were left holding the mortgages and deeds to incomplete homes while the builder went on permanent vacation in Florida.  A couple of companies who were providing supplies for these homes also were left holding large debts and it resulted in one or two going bankrupt.

 Back to the couple who bought this house.  He was an immigrant, who worked as a carpenter all his life in Cleveland. She was a housewife, a mother, who was diabetic and now had some serious medical issues because of it. But she seemed to be quite happy about it all.  She was the one we bought the house from.  She was a lovely lady, very pleasant and she remembered the house fondly.

 Their house was not finished when the builder took off. The husband went to work finishing the floors and putting in the kitchen.  It is a custom kitchen, with a lot of cabinets and counters, all Formica finish, as was the style of the day.  Same with the bathroom; he installed it all and finished it.  He also helped his son start to finish the lower level, which was not even half done when we saw the house for the first time. Neighbors are quick with stories about these two.  It seems they were well liked, and some neighbors remained in touch with her.

 They lived there from 1980 to about 1998.  The son was supposed to move in, back in 1993 or so, but suffered an accident, and ended up staying in Cleveland where he could be taken care of.  It was a very tragic story that becomes worse. In 1995, the husband was taken ill with cancer.  He passed away that year. 

 That left this poor woman alone in the woods.  She was legally blind and diabetic. You need a car to get anywhere. The driveway is over 300 feet long, just to get to the road and the mailbox.

 As we were told by her second son and by her at the closing on the house, she lived there for about two and a half years after her husband died.  She then had a bad accident that left her unable to walk, and her second son finally came to take her back to Cleveland, where she lived at the time with her two sons.

 When we bought the house, the bedroom had a chain lock on the inside.  She must have been that scared when she lived there alone, to have a lock like that on the bedroom door.  There was what appeared to be a burn mark on the kitchen rug.  (Yea, the kitchen had this nylon rug.) It appears she had a hot grease spill that burned the rug.  For those two plus years, she had it hard. 

 There were many things that went wrong with the house that she obviously could not fix on her own.  Some of the appliances had broken; the house was not cleaned or maintained.  The back deck, which was never painted, and appeared to be made of materials that were not treated, was in bad repair.

 The house remained empty for the next two and a half years.  She could not part with it.  Too many good memories for her.  She refused to sell.  Till about three months before we saw the house.

 As we drove up, we could not see the house.  The property was overgrown, and from the driveway, all you could see were trees and bushes that hid the house. As I said, the driveway was 300 feet long. The property, about 4 plus acres, and it was a jungle.  You could not get to the river; trees had come down, even one on the house, which they had to fix before it went on the market.  At that point, the son finally talked mom into selling the house.

 I am a witch.  Most of you know that.  When I saw the house, the natural state of the property, I thought - wow, this is fabulous.  And I also thought – wow, what a mess.  I’m a city girl.  While I like natural, I also don’t like clean up.  But the price of the house was more than reasonable, and we decided to purchase the house.

 Now, there is nothing scary so far.  Unless you count the cleanup. It took us a couple of years to get the house to where we wanted it.  But we are happy with the efforts we have put into it.  The reason I went into this is that you need the history to understand what happens next.

 The first night we are in the house, I do a cleansing.  Witches do that.  Salt on the floors to remove the energies of the previous owners, to give the house a neutral feeling.  Yes, I could feel the old owner here.  The husband was still here.  He never left. I could understand that.  He put the last years of his life into that house, and I am sure he loved it enough that he could not part from it.

 I did a formal cleaning the next few days, washing down the house, cleaning it, we did some painting.  But we could feel the husband there, wandering around, brooding.  Yea, he was brooding. I could tell he was not happy someone else was in the house.

 He wandered around the house, making the floorboard’s creek.  He took to turning lights on and off.  We originally thought it was a short and called the electrician.  Well, ok, there was a dead chipmunk in the circuit breaker panel when the electrician opened it up, but that only explained why some circuits didn’t work.  It did not explain the lights going on and off. 

 You could hear him wander around on the deck.  We didn’t go out on it much; the boards bounced and was no longer able to stand up to much weight.  But he wandered around the house, upstairs and downstairs. 

 I got fed up with it when I got up one night and bumped into him in the bathroom.  Damn, scared the living daylights out of me.  I was half asleep and didn’t expect to find him in the bathroom. Enough was enough.  I decided right then and there to banish him. 

 This was our house now.  He didn’t like the wallpaper coming down in the kitchen and messed with the lights in there for weeks afterwards.  He didn’t like my taking the lock off the bedroom door and messed with the lights there as well.  Mind you, he was not malicious, just a pain in the butt.  Annoying.  I didn’t mind him around, but I also was tired of bumping into him all the time and the lights going on and off at all times of the day and night.  Got to the point where I would yell Cut it out, old man and give it a rest and the lights would return to normal for a bit.

 Now back to the bathroom.  Enough was enough and the next day I sat and had a talk with him.  This was our house now.  He had to deal with it.  His reply was that he was staying.  Damn, a very strong-willed spirit.  OK, can we compromise?  If we’re home, he is outside.  When we leave, we don’t care where he goes, as long as he does not touch anything.  Stop messing with the lights. I am a light sleeper, and we work.  Lights on and off disturbs my sleep.  You worked once, how would you like to go to work tired every day.  Besides, we are fixing the place up, he should be happy we are taking care of it after all this time.  Compromise, and it can work.

 Well, he kept it for the most part.  He did spook a few of our guests, who spent time in the downstairs guest room.  I figure he was roaming the lower level while we slept.  One guest ran into him during a nightly visit to the lower bathroom. She was, of course, startled, but being a witch, she also told him to go wander somewhere else, she wanted her privacy.  He seemed to wander off.  A couple of our witchy friends ran into him as well. We did not make it a point to discuss him till AFTER they would encounter him.  No sense upsetting our guests.  Most of them shrugged it off anyway, they were used to it. Or laughed and were delighted we had a spirit in the house.

 Well, we had come to a kind of understanding of a kind.  However, the lights in the lower level always seemed to remind us there was someone else wandering around.  We adjusted. 

 Several years come and go, we have settled into our home and become used to the little reminders that he is here.  We peacefully co-exist.  He messes with the lights in the lower level, and I don’t run into him in the bathroom anymore.

 We had a wicked winter one year. January was filled with heavy snowstorms.  Lots and lots of snow measured in feet, snowing several days at a time. There was always fresh powder and it was bitter cold that year. We had the fireplaces going all the time just to heat the house. The furnace couldn’t keep up. One of the worst winters we had there.

 I am an early riser, usually up just before the sun to put more wood on the fires.  That’s how hubby and I did it.  He is the night owl and he stacks the wood before he goes to bed.  I am the early bird; I start up the fires in the morning. 

 It was an early Sunday morning in mid-January, and it had stopped snowing after a particularly bad storm. It was promising to be a beautiful morning. The sun had just started to lighten the winter sky. I put the wood in the fireplaces and decided to get the laundry done.  Down the stairs I go, over to the laundry room.  As I am taking the clothes out of the dryer, I hear a woman’s voice calling down the stairs.  It was not loud, I couldn’t quite make out what she said, but it startled me.  Who would be over this early in the morning?  What’s wrong?  I walk over to the stairs and call up the stairs.  No answer.

 I’m hearing things.  Okay, back to the laundry.  Just as I get to the dryer, again, a woman’s voice calls down the stairs again.  OK, someone is here.  Back to the stairs, and I’m calling up the stairs who’s here?  No answer.  As I get to the top landing, I hear only my husband snoring in the bedroom.  I checked around the house.  No one is here.  The front door is locked.

 OK, this is weird, but what’s going on?  I wandered past the back door to the deck, and now I see two people wandering down the back end of the property to the river.  OK, who are these people and what are they doing wandering around the place in this cold and in the deep snow no less.  I watched them for a minute in the light of the rising sun trying to see who they are.  They appeared to be two older people.  I wonder if that’s a neighbor.  I don’t recognize them, and that snow is no place for anyone to be walking down that hill.  Damn, these people around here don’t have a lick of sense sometimes.

 I got dressed and put on boots, grabbed a coat and went out the back door.  I stood for a second to see how far they got, and I don’t see anyone. I started to look for their tracks in the snow, to see where they went. There were none.  Only my own tracks to the edge of the hill going down to the river.  There were no footprints down the hill. 

 I stopped for a second.  This was weird.  The property is not that big that they could have gotten that far in the few minutes it took me to get dressed.  And what’s with the no footprints thing.  This was totally weird.  Almost spooky.

I spoke to the husband when he woke up.  He thought it was a play of light, maybe a deer or two wandering through the property.  But the no prints were very puzzling. We let it go for the time being.

 It was a while before we found out.  Once everyone could get out of their houses we ran into a neighbor.  Did you hear that the woman who owned your house passed away? When, I asked.  Oh, Sunday passed two weeks ago, she says to me.  Sunday, early in the morning.  She was in the hospital for a week before she passed. 

 That was the Sunday morning after that bad snowstorm. The morning I was up at sunrise.  The calling down the stairs.  A woman’s voice.  The husband that had been wandering around the lower level.  Strange, but the lower level had been very quiet, but then again, I only go down there to do laundry and clean.  However, it had been quiet.

 She came back for him.  It would make sense that she would call down the stairs for him.  So, that’s why he stayed here. He had been waiting for her all this time.

 And they took a final walk down to the river together.  Duh! Silly me.  Why hadn’t I figured that out. 

 I still have an image of the two of them walking hand in hand in the snow down to the river at sunrise in my memory.  Something that still amazes me.  A love like that is rare.

artwork copyright enona via istock

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