Not Gone and Not Forgotten

We were asked to investigate a house in Eastern Central MA a bit of years ago.  The people had lived there for about five years and had noticed, what could have been, paranormal activity,  but it wasn’t anything bothersome.  All the noise seemed to concentrate on the second floor of the home.  There was nothing aggressive or frightening about it.  It was just something that was always present and persistent.   It wasn’t until they started talking about doing some renovations to the place that concerning things started to really kick into action.

The most perplexing things were loud, pacing footfalls in the upstairs.  The area around the hallway where the staircase went to the second level seemed heavy and that’s where most of the noise came from.  There was also a lot of rapping on the two bedroom walls.  The people occupying both bedrooms thought the raps were on their specific inside walls.  But, if one person in one bedroom tapped on their inside wall the person in the second bedroom, next to it,  didn’t hear it and vice versa.

We decided to try and contact anyone who could be upstairs. We got a response from the energy who identified he was a man, but he wouldn’t give his name.  He did say he wasn’t happy with his situation and he wanted people to know he was there.  He also said he couldn’t seem to find his way out.

With little else to go on, we started examining the house.  There seemed to be an anomaly in the upstairs space.  It didn’t match the downstairs house in the amount of living area being used.  The knocking always sounded like it came from the middle of the house just above the staircase.  After listening, walking around, and measuring, we came to the idea that how the two middle rooms were situated they really didn’t abut one another.  There seemed to be an empty space between the two bedrooms that was unaccounted for.  Since we had no intention of knocking down walls or breaking holes into them, that seemed like all about we could do at that time.

The owners decided to have an engineer and a construction expert come in and evaluate the house’s structure. Both of them concurred that there must be an empty space between the two bedrooms.  The owners wanted answers and the work began.  The outside wall facing the staircase was taken down.  There they found another room between the two rooms being used.  It was another bedroom.

The oddest thing about it was that it was left just the same as if someone might still be using it.  The bed was made, the bureau had personal items on it and the drawers were full.  The closet was ready for the occupant to get up, get dressed, and start his day.

After getting over the shock of that discovery and taking care of the situation, the owners said the house seems happier now.  And so are they!

—  ashanta

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A Mystic Experience in CT

Mystic, CT draws hundreds of tourists each year to experience its many attractions.  The town is rich in history.  It’s home to Mystic Seaport, one of the best maritime museums in the country,  Mystic Aquarium, and numerous marinas and restaurants.  As in most early settlement locations, Mystic has its share of old cemeteries.  Two of them are quite interesting each in its own way.

Elm Grove on Greenmanville Avenue, (Rt. 27), was established in the mid-1800s by a board of leading families from the area. Their Victorian influence created a resting place that looks like a park bordering the Mystic River.  Streets were laid, plots were planned out, trees and flowers were planted, and benches dotted the area for people to relax during their walks around the grounds – a common weekend activity.

One of the last times we were there, we were on the west side of the cemetery.  The land slopes down to the water and you can look out and get a picturesque view of the Seaport Museum.  There are many boats traveling up and down the river, too.  As I was turning around I saw a woman dressed in a flowing white dress.  She seemed to come from somewhere near the middle of the area.  She floated to a spot on the shore and just stared out to the sea as if waiting for someone.  She remained visible for two or three minutes before fading away.

The woman looked to be in her mid-thirties.  She had long dark brown hair. She looked like a living person and if she hadn’t floated I probably wouldn’t have watched her.  I tried talking to her, but her gaze stayed riveted on what she was looking for.  She could have been residual energy, or just very focused on perhaps finding what she had lost.

Whitehall Burying Ground on Whitehall Avenue, close to the Whitehall Mansion Inn, is quite  stark in comparison to the gracious Elm Grove environment with its artistic monuments.  It dates back to the 1600s.  The stone markers are mostly rectangular and domed and seem to be made of sandstone, limestone, and/or slate.  Decorations run from willows, angels of death, scrollwork, skulls, and other earlier types of art generally reflecting the solemnity of death.

Whitehall seems to host early settlers, sea captains, veterans of wars gone by including the Revolutionary and I think, Civil Wars.  It’s a rather small spot, but larger than the older, widely used family burial plot usually established on the person’s property who once lived there.

You don’t seem to ever feel like you’re alone when walking around Whitehall.  Shadows can even be seen in broad daylight.  Shadows are apparent at night, too, as well as orbs.  Orbs are commonly thought to be circles of energy visible to the naked eye.  Some skeptics call them ‘dust’ or ‘bugs’ and this could be true in some instances, but I find it difficult to believe that in a place as dark as Whitehall is at night, you’ll be watching illuminated, dancing dust particles.  And if you happen to visit in the autumn when dried leaves have fallen, sometimes you can hear what sounds like footfalls crunching them behind you as you walk through that spot of eternal rest  —  or unrest as the case may be.

So maybe next time you’re in Mystic you can add a couple of more places to your ‘have to see’ list.  And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to experience even more.

ashanta

A Beautiful and Haunted Museum

A beautiful and haunted museum sits next to the Connecticut River in rural Hadley, MA.  Situated on acres, amongst farmland, this c. 1752 Colonial-style house has been home to many of the same-family members over the course of a couple hundred years.  In 1949, Dr. James Huntington opened the home to the public and the Porter, Phelps, Huntington House Museum was born.

After such a long history, it isn’t too surprising that the house seems to be home to more than one family member who just didn’t want to leave.  Phenomena associated with the house are doors that open and shut on their own, footfalls walking the halls and rooms,  disembodied voices, and encounters with someone that quickly moves past visitors.  It seems that most of the activity is from a woman or two, and possibly a child who seems to like the staircases best.

Moses Porter constructed the house outside the Hadley village stockade on about 600 acres of fertile land and created a home for his wife Elizabeth and their young daughter Betty.  Things went well until the French and Indian War broke out and Moses was called to duty.  He was deployed to the Lake George area in 1755.  Capt. Porter was killed in battle and buried in New York.  One night, one of the Porter’s servants handed Elizabeth her husband’s sword from battle.  She knew then, he’d never be home again.  Elizabeth never got over the death of her husband.  The house experienced a long period of sadness and emotional distress that continued in a downward spin.

Eventually, the house was passed along to Elizabeth Porter’s daughter Elizabeth. Betty lived in the mansion with her husband Charles Phelps, Jr. and their several children.  After Charles died, Elizabeth hoped her son, Charles, would bring his family and come to the house to live with her.  He never did.  After Betty’s death, the house went to her daughter, Elizabeth Whiting Phelps,  who had married Dan Huntington, the parents of Dr. James Huntington.  The House is now managed by the Porter Phelps Huntington Foundation.

It has been purported that an impression in the bed can be seen in the front bedroom that belonged to Elizabeth and Moses….the place where Mrs. Porter got the devastating news her husband was dead.   We’ve toured the property on several occasions and on one of them a definite shape could be seen in the bed.  We’ve heard knockings, and there are definite shadows that can been seen out of the corner of one’s eyes.   I understand that the family themselves, and only among themselves, knew some of their relatives never left the property.

Who is the woman there?  It’s up for grabs.  It could be either Elizabeth Porter or Elizabeth Phelps.  They both seemed to have reason enough to stay on.  Maybe if you go and visit you can determine the source of activity…..and experience it for yourself.  There’s a prominent feeling of being both watched and followed.   I don’t think you could ever feel like you were alone in the place.  And the child?  Maybe one of the children who never reached adulthood and left this world at a very young age.

It’s worth a visit to this museum for it’s historical, architectural, and aesthetic value alone.  But, if you’re fortunate enough to have a family member visit you while you’re there – it’s an extra treat.

–  ashanta

ashantaofthelema@gmail.com

A Most Haunted House

One of the most haunted houses I’ve ever lived in was in the Agawam, MA suburb of Feeding Hills.  I was so happy to find this small cape away from a lot of traffic and noise.  The yard was large, had great trees, and the neighbors were few.  I didn’t understand why this place had stayed empty for so long, but it didn’t take long to find out why.

We moved our things in and got settled.  My small daughter was in her new room fixing things up when she flew down the stairs and announced that she didn’t want to stay in that room.  She looked rattled.  So, I asked her why not.  She looked at me and said, “Because I don’t like the looks of that dead woman lying on the floor.”   Well,  alrighty then…  So, we went back upstairs to investigate.  There were no bodies to be found, but I do have to admit the energy in that room was far from peaceful feeling.

We agreed she could stay in my room, across the hall, for the night.  After being in bed for about half an hour, there were no bodies appearing on the floor, but the large black mass of a blob that entered the room and stood by the bed wasn’t comforting, either.  It was darker than the darkness in the room.  I commanded it to leave.  It responded by moving out the the hall. It retreated to the hallway, but stood in the doorway of the room.  I turned on the light and the blob suddenly disappeared.  Deciding to leave the light on for the rest of the night, we tried to get some sleep.

About half an hour later there was a series of loud bangs that sounded like someone  bashing their fists on the wall all the way down the stairs.  This was followed by footfalls throughout the downstairs.  Upon investigation, nothing and no-one was found in the house.  Needless to say, not much sleep was gotten that night.

Since there was an extra room downstairs, I decided to move the sleeping quarters into that room.  The upstairs obviously wasn’t very receptive to company.  The noises didn’t stop.  I left a hall light on and the bedroom door open.  You could see a black amorphous shape pass by the light  —  and cast a shadow!  It didn’t come into the new bedroom but it was never far away.

The activity in this house didn’t restrict itself to nighttime hours.  Things happened whether it was dark or not.  Objects would be moved.  Cupboard doors would open.  The doorknobs would turn. Footfalls could be heard everywhere. Lights would turn on and off by themselves.  And, the knocking and rapping up and down the staircase didn’t stop, either.

One day I was outside doing something in the back yard when a neighbor came over to talk.  She asked me if I liked the place.  Then she said, “You don’t sleep upstairs in there do you?”  I asked her why and she just said that from what she had heard she wouldn’t even want to go inside.  How neighborly and comforting!  That was all the information that she was willing to share.

Another day when arriving home from the store, we parked in the driveway to take groceries in through the side door that entered into the kitchen.  When we got to the door we couldn’t get in.  The refrigerator had been moved from a side wall to the side door.  It blocked entry, not allowing the door to open enough to get through.  That was the last straw.  I made arrangements for our things to be moved out – asap – and we stayed with my mom until we found a new place to live.

While we were there, I did try to find someone who would do an exorcism, but didn’t have any takers.  The place remained vacant for years until someone finally bought it.  The house was gutted and re-built.  Sure hope for them that did the trick!!

–  ashanta

 

A Haunted Museum – Wistariahurst

Wistariahurst Museum is the magnificent homestead of silk manufacturing mogul William Skinner. It is nestled in the southern Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts and houses a wealth of history. And – it’s haunted.

This 26-room historic mansion has been situated in Holyoke, MA since 1874 after being moved, piece by piece, from it’s original site in Williamsburg, MA. The Skinner’s lived there until 1959 when the youngest of their children, Katherine Skinner Kilbourne, deeded the homestead to the City of Holyoke for philanthropic purposes.

The first incarnation of the Skinner estate, “Wistariahurst” as it came to be known (and spelled in it’s German variation), sat across the street from the Skinner’s first three-storied brick manufacturing plant on the Mill River, which supplied its power. When the Mill River Dam broke in 1874 it brought death and financial ruin to mill workers and owners alike. William Skinner, finding himself in almost complete financial devastation and mill-less, accepted an offer from the Holyoke Water Power Company to move his silk business and family home to Holyoke. A deal too good to refuse, Skinner accepted and the house was moved from “Skinnerville” in Williamsburg to the city block it now occupies in Holyoke.

The house was built large after the fashion of any wealthy manufacturer of its time. It was made larger,and more magnificent by Ruth Isabel “Belle” Skinner, a spinster daughter of the silk industrialist. Money was no object and Belle didn’t mind spending it – especially if it made her look even better in the society to which she had become accustomed.

Many stories have been written about the family, the house, and their history. Nothing, yet, has been mentioned about the peculiar activities that happen on the premises when the visitors leave…and before they arrive.

Formerly, I worked as a volunteer for the museum and was responsible for preparing the house to open for visitors and closing it down when museum hours were over. I’ve been throughout the house on many occasions and have had a number of experiences that weren’t ordinary and cannot be easily explained.

I was on the second floor of the house one late afternoon turning off lights, closing displays, and getting ready to lock doors when there was the sound of a door banging loudly. Could it have been another volunteer or administrator coming in? I called out, “Hello! I’m closing up, up here. (Listening) Hello?.. (Listening. Walking toward the noise.) Hi, where are you?..” No reply. Nobody. No closed doors.

I found the other staff and volunteers downstairs and mentioned the noise. All present said they had heard it, but none knew where it came from.

Other things seen and unseen:

Moving shadows out the corner of one’s eye.

Plugs and extension cords thrown into the middle of hallways.

Footfalls.

Doors closing behind you when you enter a room.

A few of the former servant’s quarters have been closed to the public for one reason or another, but those are the places where a lot of the activity takes place. Perhaps that’s why they aren’t opened that frequently.

On another occasion I was on the second floor locking up one of the servant’s areas. There was always an uneasy feeling in these rooms, like you were never alone. I made sure everything was secure and locked the door. As I was walking down the hallway toward the back staircase when the space between the door and the jamb rattled violently and then slammed shut again. It had been closed when I left it moments before….

Sometimes I had to go to the third floor where the head housekeeper had her bedroom and office. Her name was Hulda and she was like a member of the Skinner family. You never feel alone on the third floor. There are footfalls that follow you and doors will close behind you – even when you don’t want them to.

While the servants quarters seem to be the most active areas of activity, some of the family members also still remain – at least during some parts of the year because you can hear them. And – sometimes see them.

I’ve seen Kittie, the youngest of the Skinner children, at the top of the wrap-around staircase from the main hall. She was elegant in her long, champagne silk gown starting her descent along the suspended stairs. When she got to the landing overlooking the great room she vanished. Her hair was swept up in a loose twist and she wore a string of pearls.

Although Wistariahurst now offers candlelight tours around Halloween time, their actors and effects cannot produce anything like the real thing!!! Seeing and hearing are believing. Artificial presentations don’t produce the same phenomena as the real thing does.

– ashanta