Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Hoping For More Than Ashes and Dust

Our house... Dear God! Is that a withered old hand I spot pulling back a curtain in the attic?

The very first day we moved into this house a kindly gentleman from around these parts came over to help us hook up our washer and dryer. While screwing screws, tightening bolts and jimmying this hose and that clamp he casually informed me that the place is haunted. In that peculiar Pennsylvania accent that sounds like someone's talking through a mouthful of marbles, he proceeded to tell me about a friend of his who had a couple run-ins with the lady ghost of the manor.

This house is historic in this town. In 1918 the town experienced a disastrous fire sparked from a nearby bakery. No lives were lost but 75% of the town burned to the ground. Charred. Nothing left. The fire burned two churches, every business except the bank, 32 stables and 41 homes. Flames burned every house on Main street (our street) but stopped at our house which makes it one of the oldest in town.

One of the main reasons I like thrifted clothing is that every item has a story. Who wore it? What happened when they wore it? Maybe someone got engaged while wearing this dress, maybe someone else held their dying mother while wearing this shirt... Who knows? But I like the idea, relish the thought that I am linked to strangers from across the years. It helps me feel connected and part of a grand scheme of life on earth in a way that a new V-neck from Old Navy can't quite swing, you know?

Same goes for living in old houses like one finds out here in the country. People give birth and live and die in these kinds of houses. Hard living too. Up with the rooster doing chores all day kind of living. Farm folks who couldn't just hop in the SUV and head to the hospital at the slightest ailment. How many babies were born in the bedroom I sleep in at night? How many people whispered last words before drawing final breaths in my daughter's room? This is the kind of stuff I like to think about in old houses like this.

So word has it the place is haunted. As he was flipping switches and wiring wires and doing whatever it is that one does when hooking up a washer, my neighbor told me about the ghost. It seems a friend of his used to live in this home several years back. (Seems like everyone in town had a grandmother, aunt, or cousin that used to live in this home at one time or another.) This friend claims to have had a run in with a woman who is said to have lived here in the early 1900s. The man telling me the story couldn't remember the woman's name but said that his friend isn't the only one who thinks our house is haunted by her, that several people claim she is still around.

The gist of the friend's story is that he was bathing in our claw foot bathtub after work one day. He was relaxing in the hot soapy water when someone opened the bathroom door. Now, he claims the door was initially shut and latched so who knows? He apparently called the ghost he suspected opened the door by name and kindly told her to give him a bit of privacy while he finished washing up. That's when the door slammed shut.

Even with my bullshit meter buried firmly in the red after hearing that little ditty one still might think the story would raise a few hairs on my neck, especially in darkest of night when the wind howls in the trees next to my window causing branches to drag splintery fingers across my windowpane beckoning me to get up, get up and take in the night. But one would be wrong. Damn but I'd love to run into a ghost. I would be thrilled to run into a ghost, in fact. I don't have to see the full monty, I'd be happy with a door banging open or a chair tipping over, I'm not difficult to impress. I long for paranormal activity on the home front because it would prove to me that something happens after death, even if it's some sad, tormented spirit retreading familiar footsteps it's a sign of something, isn't it? And something, in my deathly scared of death opinion, is a whole lot better than ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

With this house being well over one hundred years old, chances are high that more than a few people kissed their earthly existence goodbye within these walls. Hell, maybe someone was even murdered here. I've got to think one or two angry wives slipped some arsenic in their fellas' dinner back before an autopsy would reveal the truth. And so, instead of fearing the dark basement or the rotting old stable that still sits on this property, I revel in the history that fills each room hoping that one of these days somebody from the other side decides to have a little fun with me.

What about you? Got any halfway decent ghost stories or unexplained happenings? Any spirits ever tried to tangle with you? Do you believe in ghosts or is it all ashes and dust after this?

Reader Comments (22)

I lived with a ghost once. Seriously, I did! I lived in an old home which was converted into 3 apartments. I lived with 3 roommates, but more than once I'd hear someone walking up and down the stairs with heavy boots, and would find none of my roommates home. I checked to see if my neighbors were home, and there was no-one there. My cat used to watch something walking across the room sometimes too. The other roomates also witnessed the heavy boots up and down the stairs, so it wasn't just me. I wasn't sure about ghosts before living there. Now, I'm pretty convinced.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

I also lived with a ghost who we heard regularly. She especially enjoyed the piano playing. Also, I have had numerous visits from my father, one from my mother and even one I believe was from my grandmother. Some were while I was asleep and some awake. At least 4 of my children, my mother, my sister, my parents best friends and my nephew were also visited by my father. He was very good at making contact when we needed him most.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCami

I swear the store I used to work in back home in London was haunted. One time I was upstairs, when I very strongly felt the presence of someone behind me, except I was alone. Another time, a friend and I were working in the stockroom, chatting away, behind the rack of clothes (think two long rails in the middle of the room). We both looked up as someone came in - we could sense movement on the other side of the rack, but again, there was nobody there. The fact that we both saw it/felt it spooked us a little, but I was never actually scared. Maybe the thought of ghostly activities can be scarier than the real deal - our imaginations are very powerful things. I also thought I would be freaked out by being in a house where someone met a violent end. Family friends of ours once rented a house where an attorney was murdered in Seattle. We hung out in the basement where it happened. There was even a scuff mark in the floor where a bullet hit. But it was not freaky at all. In fact, I would've gladly lived in that house. It was beautiful. Not one bad vibe.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZoë

We live on a 90 acre farm in Knoxville, TN. On the backside of our property is a slave cemetery, also my husbands step-mom and grandfather died on this farm. When my daughter was born in 1999 weird things started happening. Like we would put her to bed and not have her covered up and not even have a blanket near her but when we would get up to check on her during the night there would be a blanket in her crib. We started joking saying it was a spook and we even named her Margaret. I went to the cemetery with my husbands aunt one day and there is a grave of a child buried there and her name is Margaret! I just about pissed my pants! We've had experiences like smelling lilac when it is the dead of winter or smelling cigarette smoke over in the horse barn when no one here smokes (husbands grandfather who died up here smoked heavily). I could tell you stories all day about shit that's happened up here!
Love reading your blog BTW!!!!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicki

I have never seen a ghost...and would NEVER want to but I do believe they exist. I have inexplicable things happen to me all the time. My grandmother passed away when I was 15. I believe she still lets me know she is around by communicating with me through dimes...yes dimes. She and I do not share any significance with dimes that I know of. But frequently a single dime crosses my path in weird ways. Like I just happen to stick my hand in a cushion in my bosses office and pull out a single dime. I open a bag and there is a single dime. I lift up a pile of clothes and there is a single dime, etc. I keep every dime i find and have a lot so i dont keep finding the same dime (as my fiancee suggested when this started happening a few years back) I also dont count a dime with other change. Just when a single dime crosses my path I know it is my grandmother letting me know she is there. I love it.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I've never seen a ghost and don't think I ever will. I try to keep my mind open to the possibility but I'm pretty sure they don't exist. The lizard part of our brains certainly can play tricks though.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWendy P.

I've never had a personal experience with a ghost, but was amazed by the story my friend told me. Her adult daughter had cancer, and had been sick for a year when she became gravely ill. She was in the hospital, her entire body was swollen and her mom and dad were by her bedside, as it appeared she only had hours to live.
At first, she was fighting this death thing, but after a while, her mom and dad starting telling her it was OK for her to go~ at this point, the ailing daughter seemed to relax a bit, yet her parents had started to come apart emotionally. She looked at her mom and said, "Mom-- it's OK. Grandpa is here with me, and he'll be with me; I'm not afraid. He'll take care of me."
Her grandpa had died years and years ago. What an incredible experience while being a witness to someone's death. I'm hoping her grandpa was truly there...

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I've never had a ghost-sighting or any other psychic experiences -- except once, and it wasn't the ghost of a person -- it was a ghost cat! We rented this old 1938 two-storey place for a couple of years and one night, my husband was upstairs and I was down in the living-room. I walked into the hall, and saw a kind of dark blur to my right. At first I thought it was a migraine headache coming on -- one of the first signs is a disturbance of vision. But then, out of this blurry spot came a little black cat which ran along the hall and vanished through the (closed) front door. I ran upstairs and told my husband "I've just seen a ghost cat!" He calmly replied: "I've been seeing that around here for a while, I didn't tell you because I didn't want to freak you out."!
I was very happy in that house, and decided to find out who had lived there before. I found out that when the place had been built, the architect's papers had been signed off on October 31 -- Halloween. And an older couple had been the first tenants, for almost 30 years, starting in 1945. Their names were Lottie and Norman, and I really think they came back and "visited" every now and then. My husband always felt a "presence" at a certain spot on the stairs. Me -- nothing. But I love to sing, and whenever I was in the kitchen, I would always have a huge impulse to sing old, old songs, from the 1930s and 1940s and those "nonsense" songs from the 1950s like "Little Slowpoke" and "Looking for Henry Lee." (My mother sang them all the time.) I got into the habit of singing away and then saying out loud: "didja like that one?" So that was my one and only ghost sighting! A few years after we moved out, the house was demolished.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamsin

These comments are AWESOME.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

I've had a few experiences, but last February, I woke up at 3am to nurse my baby in his room. As I walked back to my room, sleepy and in the dark, I had the clear idea that I had just passed my husband's grandfather, leaving our bedroom. I thought it was just a silly/sleepy thought, but I found out at noon the next day that he did indeed die that night, on the other side of the country, right about when I was nursing. I think he was saying goodbye to my husband and then going to say goodbye to our baby... My grandmother is also always nearby, and like the "dimes" above, she shows up with butterflies. I always take the time to acknowledge her, because I want her to keep coming to visit!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCAM/Gush

My wife and I endured a haunted house early in our marriage. Although there was never "tangible" paranormal activity, there was overwhelming feelings of dread, and at times, a threat that was nearly tangible. Whatever gave rise to these feelings was territorial. We found that if we surrendered certain rooms of the home, it would interact with us far less than otherwise. I would caution against the proverbial entreaty for a ghost with whom you may interact. Sometimes the darkness which lurks in the corners doesn't easily leave.


April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlaine

Funny you should mention it...
My family is long time Northern Californians. My great-great-great aunt (you with me?) built a new, two level, home in Humboldt County in the late 20s. Its at the end of the Victorian style; It actually has closets. She came from logging money. Her husband had passed away and she had no children. Nothing creepy, just a widowed woman. The Depression comes along and a variety of family members move in. Two bedrooms and an attic upstairs along with an apartment on the back of the garage. These are no hillbillys. These are regular people who travel, read books, entertain, and have many belongings. As the Depression subsides, the various members move out. Later in the 40s my great-grandmother and her husband move in to care for the elder aunt. They, of course, get rid of none of her belongings, they just bring theirs in. In the late 60s, my grandparents do the same. Needless to say, there is some serious amounts of belongings in the house. Every drawer, dresser, closet, nook and cranny is filled with 'stuff'.
My mom has now decided, of course, to move into the home. She is NOT a collector. Every item in the house is in the process of being sold. There are closets in the attic that I have never been able to see, much less knew exist. This is where the spirits live. Boy, oh boy, is their shit riled up. Able to see much of the house for the first time, I have been opening every door I find! I got to the attic closet that was near where all of our childhood toys were kept and opened that bad boy up. It was as though I had caught someone on the toilet. That man felt his privacy so invaded, I almost felt reprimanded. I apologized (I KNOW!!) and quickly shut the door. My mom kept asking me for details but can't place him. She is thinking he may be the distant cousin who lived there during the 30s. He's not the only one. My grandfather used to hang out with us for a while after he died. My cousins had such a clear sighting when we were around 12 that they called 911. The police showed up and searched the house. My grandmother didn't flinch. She must have known who it was.
I figure that since the house has NEVER been completely moved out of, some of these spirits found a safe place to hang out.
My mom is going to have someone come in and sage the house. Apparently, some spirits need to be reminded how to go or that it is time or something crazy like that. I am pretty adamant that she have it done while the house is empty, before she moves in. Who knows what cranky old spirits can get themselves up to?
Even this last weekend, as I was taking some of my last peruses through the almost empty house, the top step of the stairs would occasionally squeak. The old guy was peering down to see who was in the house. I told him it was just me.

*Dude, I hope you like this one because now it's going to keep me up half the night!*

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShannon B.

I've had a few different paranormal experiences, though none of them with seeing ghosts as you mean per se. The most chilling (in a good way) was after my father died I was connected (by someone who I barely knew) to a medium...she worked (she actually died very suddenly herself in October, less than a year after I 'met' her) for the FBi & Interpol which obviously impressed me to begin with but...when I talked to her on the phone (which was how she conducted her sessions) the very first thing she said--I didn't tell her my dad was who i hoped to hear from--was: "your father wants you to know he has the dog with him." I burst into tears. the dog she spoke of was his great love and she had been left in the care of his girlfriend after he died who i couldn't stand...anyway, she was in very poor health and i constantly worried about her--felt she clearly should have been put to sleep as she couldn't walk and was suffering...about a week before I spoke to the medium she had died. There was no way the medium could have known that. She told me a lot of other things that were quite amazing too. I used to be terrified of death too, but I'm really not anymore as I've done so much research about NDEs and mediums's honestly changed my life not to have that fear anymore. the books that I found most compelling were all written by extremely educated people who began as skeptical scientists...I recommend anything by Raymond Moody, also there's a former ER doctor named Dr. Todd Michael--his book Evolution Angel is fascinating. Children of The Light is as well.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterE.

My dad died when I was 19 and my mother swears he visited her a couple of times. I think she was probably having a very vivid dream while in a state of extreme grief, but it has been 26 years and she still insists it was real. I do wonder if he was around for a while after he died; I felt like he was there a few times. He died in October, two weeks after I had my daughter. On Christmas Eve I was looking for her pacifier and I know I looked in her crib and there was nothing there. I went back a few minutes later and her pacifier was in the middle of the crib in plain sight; there's no way I could have missed it, and no one else had been in her room. I feel silly saying it was my dad who put it there, but he was such a practical joker; it seems like something he would do. I can't say for sure if he visited us; I never really saw anything, but I like to think he did.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

My paternal grandparents' house was built around 1800, and was in pretty bad shape when they bought it in the 1930s. They refurbished parts of the house, but the front hallway and a few bedrooms on the 2nd floor were never redone (and let's not even talk about the steps up to the attic nor the attic itself). Definitely the stuff of nightmares for an imaginative child. Anyway, my dad grew up there with his younger brother. My uncle always maintained that he had seen/felt a presence at various times, but my father, the healthy skeptic, would have none of it.

My grandmother lived there until she was 90, and was (reluctantly) moved into a home. The house contained lots of valuable antiques, so my dad planned to spend several days up there cataloging and moving the valuables out. On the first night, he was sleeping in what had been his parents room (right next to the room where he slept as a boy) when he heard the door latches jiggling (the old doors had latches instead of doorknobs). He would have dismissed it and thought he was hearing things if it weren't for his 100+ pound golden retriever trying very hard to quickly squeeze herself under the bed. Apparently, he wasn't the only one who heard it! After that, he slept with the light on, and, the next morning, told the guy helping him catalog the antiques that they were going to have to finish that day because he wasn't spending another night there.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Once, when I was16 I lived in England. During art class we visited old churches to sketch them. AT one church there were four Pharaoh Hounds in the yard. I had never seen this breed and they were striking. What was more jarring than their appearance was that they were howling and crying. The church caretaker explained that their owner, his wife, had just died recently. So as we move inside the old church with the caretaker and dogs following him he shuts the door. We are busy sketching and all of a sudden the door opens the dogs tails start wagging, and I swear they jump up on their hind legs, resting their front paws in MID AIR seemingly around someone. Their paws are not touching, each other, they just remain suspended like that briefly, then they come back down and are calm again. Could their mistress have come to calm them? I also notice the dog's ears turned a shade of red and I later find out that means the dogs are happy. That happened so long ago that I long to have another ghost encounter. KEEP US POSTED IF YOU SEE SOMETHING. Ok?

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralicia

I agree that animals seem to have a better feeling for anything paranormal. We live in a house from 1909 and I swear the cats see things in here that we humans do not. And this really only started once we moved here (we´ve had the cats for 7 years).

Also, about 10 years back I lived in an old apartment for a while, and had a recurring dream - or whatever - of an old lady stroking my hair with great affection. It was a very lovely experience and not scary at all. The dream stopped once I moved out of the apartment.I like to think that these were not really dreams - it felt different really and I haven´t experienced anything like it before or after.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatrin

we moved into our new house in october and immediately i started having weird feelings. One day while walking from the bathroom, i glanced over my shoulder and saw a face looking in the window. A face i could describe to anyone still. Our house is raised off the ground a bit so in order for someone to be looking in they would have to be 7 feet tall or on a ladder. I gasped and the face was gone.

Another night i was home alone and was walking from one room to another and i heard footsteps run right by me.

We've also heard banging on walls but never just one bang it's always 3 or 5 rapid bangs.

my husband who is normally very skeptical of these kinds of things has also had some creepy feelings at the house.

So yes, i do believe in that kind of stuff. But i like to rationalize the hell out things because i get creeped out.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercharity

Last December I was staying with a good friend of mine in England before the holidays, visiting her and her husband, their 3-year-old son (my godson) and their new baby. They'd just moved into a new house, built around 1910 on land that used to be brick kilns.

For a laugh my friend invited some female friends and family members to her house for dinner and tarot card readings done by a medium-in-training her husband knew from work. It was cheaper to have the novice, and none of us really believed much of it anyway. But when the "senior" medium, the woman's mentor, heard she was coming to this house, she said she had to come along to speak to a spirit that was there.

When she walked in the front door she immediately went upstairs and said there was the presence of a little girl who liked the two front rooms best -- the living room and my friend's bedroom. The medium said the girl was about eight years old and that she'd died in a fire, that she liked having kids around and my friend's motherly aura, and that she liked to play tricks on the family. My friend freaked out at this point, saying the TV had been turning itself on and off, and that many times coming down the stairs she'd ducked, thinking a ball had been thrown at her, only to turn around and see no one there. I thought these things could be explained away, that the TV was an issue of wiring or something, and that my friend was imagining the ball sensation. At that moment her husband -- who is totally no-nonsense and matter-of-fact -- came down from upstairs, where he'd been watching TV in another room, taking care of their baby son, not listening to any of this. My friend told him about there being a presence, nothing more, and he said "Yeah, I've been dreaming about the same little girl almost every night since we moved in."

My friend's mother-in-law was at the party, and upon hearing about the little girl she told us that when her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend were house-sitting, the boyfriend went out for a cigarette late at night and came running back in, white as a sheet -- he swore he'd seen a child playing in the back yard in the moonlight.

The medium also said, completely out of nowhere, "Is anyone here pregnant?" And we all said no. Turns out my friend and her husband had conceived their third baby only a few days before, no one knew about the pregnancy, not even them. She's due in September with their third son!

That being said, I'm really skeptical of these things, and can normally rationalize "supernatural" happenings. In this case it was just all the little pieces from different people who corroborated the story. And of course not all spirits come back, because in the 1970s a teenager hung himself in our barn and we've never heard a peep!

Ps. Monica I love your blog, and have been reading for a while now. F&$* the haters and keep doing what you're doing!

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterS

You want a Ghost story - this is a true one!

In my house there are 4 Ghosts, well 7 if you count the 2 dogs and the cat ;)

Yes, our surname is Ghost!

No we didn't name our son Casper.

Yes my husband does go 'bump' in the night, but I didn't appreciate being asked that question by the waitress when we were on our first ever date, and I was 17!

No you don't pronouce our surname GooArst.

Yes Ghost as in Ghost - this gets a bit boring - No I am not kidding - truly it is Ghost as in Ghost, - what do you mean thats not a real name - oh for the love of all things Purple, I don't really care if your boss won't believe you, Oh, ok I'll tell you what how about we use my maiden name for the reservations, will that do - I suppose I am being abit stressy, but I only wanted to book a table for Dinner.

Yes, I suppose it is a bit 'Spooky'

Yes, I suppose it does mean we never have to dress up at Haloween.

No we don't want to go on any reality cooking show's Haloween addition.

Yes that really is my name.

Yes, Ms Registrar I am absoloutely sure that I don't want my kids to have my maiden name as their surnames. I was asked that one at the registration of both my children, four year gap, different registrars!!

Facebook were a bit stressy, and wanted copies of our birth certificates, marriage licences before we could have our own accounts. I emailed them the same letter every day for two weeks and they caved. (that's an embarrasing admission)

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

Oh and forgot the funniest one - We booked our brand new puppy in for his jabs, it was near halloween, the vet gave us a date (31st October) and time, the husband turned up at the Vet's with our pup, they were really suprised they had thought it was a prank call and wasn't expecting him.

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

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April 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradamsjacob98

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