What is the most haunted place you have visited? Or lived in? For me, it was, ironically, the most modern of townhouses. My husband and I were young, in love, but broke, living in a rundown little house we’d rented for a song. I kept it as clean and tidy as possible. Unfortunately, it was one of “those” places that should have been torn down after World War II. The mice wouldn’t even stay. When an ad appeared in the paper for a bookkeeper, I applied and was hired over the phone, the woman telling me she could tell I was perfect for the job. Little did I know that she and I would become best friends for the rest of her life. Anyway, on one of the coldest Saturdays of the winter, she paid a surprise visit to our unheated derelict, managing not to run screaming from it after stepping foot inside.
Over coffee she informed me that she had this townhouse she had bought as an investment and just couldn’t seem to rent it. She told us that if we would move in, it would be doing her a favor, since she didn’t feel good about it sitting vacant. We didn’t even have to pay rent until we were on our feet. She even offered to help us move. And we did—that very weekend—in the worst ice storm the area had ever seen. With her help, I had everything packed, loaded, and on its way in one day.
I was in heaven as I stepped into a brand new three-bedroom, one and a half bath townhouse, with a little patio and tiny back yard. It even had a laundry room. There was a huge living room in the front and a kitchen/dining room in the back that was more like a great-room. The stairs rose up along one side to a landing, turned, and rose on up to a large foyer, off which were three bedrooms and a bath. The master bedroom took up the whole back of the townhouse, with a walk-in closet and a storage room. We suspected that the storage room was supposed to be a bath that was never finished.
By bedtime, we were all settled in, having shared pizza with my friend and her sons, as we placed furniture just so. It looked wonderful. My family heirlooms filled the large living room, giving them the perfect backdrop. We even had a sitting room/dining room set up in the back. It felt like we were meant to be there.
I woke in the middle of the night, hearing a noise downstairs. I woke my husband. When we got out of bed, the room felt like an icebox—much colder than that unheated claptrap we’d just left. Shivering, we crept down the stairs, leaning over the half-wall that served as a railing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure dressed in a dark grey cloak move down the hall toward the kitchen, where a reddish glow emanated. Baseball bats in hand, my husband and I quietly followed, ready to defend our territory. But, the figure had disappeared. However, all of the stove burners were glowing—bright red.
I saw Mr. Grey (not a very original name, but appropriate, given his manner of dress) many times after that, generally right before something happened. Like the time I heard the guest room door slam upstairs and went up to find the window fan laying in the middle of the floor, it’s sides crushed in. Or, the time I was coming down the stairs and felt someone shove me. I took flight and, right before I crashed headfirst into the wall at the bottom of the stairs, something lifted me over the half-wall, dropping me none-to-gently in the living room.
However, the most extreme was when I fell asleep on the loveseat in that little sitting area we’d created in the kitchen. I’d been up all night writing, and after my husband left for work, I crashed. I dreamed of Mr. Grey trying to comfort me, only I couldn’t understand his language, it being sounds I’d never heard before. Anyway, I woke to find my full coffee cup on the floor, not a drop spilled. I glanced at the clock. I’d only been asleep 15 minutes and, being terribly groggy, I decided a shower might help. As I stepped into the front room, I stopped. It was empty. I immediately looked at the door. The chain lock was in place. I walked straight out that door and called my friend from the neighbors, waiting for her on the stoop. She arrived, police in tow. I explained and the police went in first. They returned and, seeing the worry in my eyes, took me inside. I found my furniture in the upstairs bedroom. Every piece of furniture I’d had in the living room was now deposited in the middle of the room, which we had vacated because of the cold just days before, sleeping in a smaller guest room. All the exterior doors had been locked—and no, I am not superwoman. Someone or something had silently moved a sleeper sofa, hutch, chairs, and filled bookcases up winding stairs in fifteen minutes. (It couldn’t have been easy, because getting it down when we moved took four guys and a whole day.) Unfortunately, they didn’t have a good sense for decorating, leaving everything piled on top of each other.
This being the best house I’d ever had, I was determined not to be driven out. I read up on the paranormal. My friend and I tried communicating with “it”, making a recording of our little séance. When we played back the cassette (yep, that long ago), about twenty minutes in, we heard a garbled “kill the tape.” Finally, out of desperation, I stood in the middle of the kitchen and begged for a truce. We left the furniture in the master bedroom, turned off the circuit breakers every night, and kept all interior doors closed. And, I tried not to piss it/him/them off. My efforts, for the most part, seemed to work because, over time, things calmed down—or, I made peace with whatever it was.
Oh, there were other instances. They loved to rearrange my papers and move my clothes. I found a sweater I really liked, but they apparently didn’t, in the pantry on top of the paper bags we used for trash. They rearranged a magazine layout I’d done. (I kept it and it turned out to be one of our best issues.) The instances became fewer after I started writing Capricorn’s Child, a novel about a woman with paranormal abilities who doesn’t want them. The manuscript, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, had put me on my path as a fiction-weaver.
On the day we moved out, having finally made it to the position of buying our first home (ironically, a fifty-year-old spirit-free colonial), I found a goodbye present. On top of the kitchen cabinets were three small piles of fresh wheat. Where they came from, I have no idea, but I know they’d never been there before. I’d tried putting displays up there only to take them down when I kept finding items on the floor—unbroken—but moved, nevertheless. I was grateful for the wheat, since, when the next tenant left (which only took a week), they found three piles of maggots.
Moral of the story—don’t piss off your ghosts.
Oh, one last comment. Decades later, when a publisher asked me to pick a pen name, it didn’t dawn on me that choosing “Grey” was anything other than it located my books eye-level on most bookstore shelves and was easy to sign. It wasn’t until after my friend passed away and I received a box of mementos from her estate, that I found the true answer. Upon opening the box, I pulled out a sketch she done of the cloaked figure and realized my choosing “Grey” might not have been as random as I’d thought.