From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer
Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t know if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts and many have a strong link to them. There seems to be an overall, yet non-specific agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they’ve slipped their otherwise mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion, era, and ethnic origin.
I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear ghosts. In 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing a degree.
The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and died in it. Not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved. We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies.
The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.
Initially we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half had been turned into a big bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was much bigger and had wonderful light, but we wanted to fix it up first.
Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.
We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor head it. The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.
We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier, like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until us.
At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.
Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.
If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me. I’m still waiting to meet one and I’m all ears.