Our Haunted House

Mpepper/ February 8, 2024/ Writing

The house we moved into after our first child was born was haunted. We didn’t know it when we bought it, but it became clear not long after. It was a split-level ranch, which on its own probably should have alerted us. When you walked through the front door, one flight of steps to the right went up and another on the left went down. To what would have been the basement, except the previous owners had turned that space into two “bedrooms” (not legally called that because the windows were too high up), a bathroom, and a laundry room. A separate room held the massive oil tank to heat the place. I’d say, upon reflection, I miss the ghosts more than that tank.

Our first clue about the ghosts was that our baby boy, who was six months old when we moved, would look up into nothing and laugh. Well, he was our first child, and plenty of kids laugh at seemingly nothing, so we didn’t think much of it. Though it did appear as if our baby was looking at something—or someone. The intent stare at a spot in the air where, if someone had been standing there, the face might be.

And sometimes his swing would move on its own. You see, I’d often put him in the swing for a couple minutes but not turn it on, and yet… It would go. Manufacturing defect?

I began to have dreams about a woman named Deborah. Late teens, early twenties, with dark hair. She was dressed in the fashion of the late 60s or early 70s, and I had the impression she’d died in a car accident. She’d been a preschool teacher, or maybe studying to become one, and I think she liked children. To be fair, though, I often have vivid dreams, and I never tried to find out more about this person.

In any case, Deborah was not the only ghost. There were two (maybe three) men who would murmur at one another. At first, I thought I’d left a radio or television on elsewhere in the house. I would walk around, trying to find the source of the sound. But no matter where I went, the sound stayed the exact same volume and seeming distance away. I’d think it was upstairs only to go up and then hear it as if it were downstairs where I had just been. It occurred always around the same time of day: late afternoon or early evening. And it never lasted more than a few minutes. A low but intense conversation happening on some kind of time loop.

The babysitters noticed these things, too. One mentioned that the kitchen cabinets would sometimes open on their own. Not while she was watching, but she would leave the kitchen, then come back and find cupboard doors open. The kids (we eventually had three, all of whom Deborah dutifully played with) were far too small to reach these upper cabinets. The babysitter would close them and later return to find different ones open. In fact, there were times we’d find them open, too, after she’d gone for the night, even though we’d just been in the kitchen and they’d been closed.

I had strange feelings about the kitchen in general. I actually liked it—such a large, farmhouse-style space—but the energy in there was definitely strange. Not uncomfortable; in fact, it was welcoming. But also a little weird. I think the kids noticed it, too; they would actively seek to play in the kitchen rather than in other parts of the house.

At some point, we discovered the house had been built on the site of an older farmstead that H.P. Lovecraft had visited. For all we know, his was one of the muttering voices we used to hear. The house never felt dangerous or scary, just strange. We lived there for almost six years, and it wasn’t the ghosts who drove us away. The icy weather did that. And that oil tank.

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