Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Chase the Unknown?

The longer I spend looking into ghost stories and paranormal cases, the more "looks" I get. Someone years ago warned me about the "looks." Because the longer you stay in the field, the more people start thinking you're off your rocker.

But it's just like anything else. It's a hobby that's become a strong interest. Asking questions--uncomfortable questions--and exploring old buildings is cathartic. To be honest, most of the time nothing exciting happens. It just doesn't. It's not like Hollywood where a ghost hunt is action-packed and gritty. There are no demons that jump out of dark corners. There are no ghosts that materialize in front of you, then have an entire conversation with you.

If that was the case, the world would actually make a lot more sense. Instead, it's ambivalent. It continues to all be out of reach; unknown.

I sat down with a woman over the weekend who claimed she grew up in a haunted house.

Peggy is a down to earth lady. She grew up in a small community west of St. Louis in the late 1960s. The second of seven girls born to two blue collar parents, Peggy says the family inherited the farmhouse after her grandparents both passed away.

She was 11-years-old when the family moved in. They had been nestled into a three bedroom, one bath apartment in St. Louis, so the move to the farmhouse felt like "Dorothy, when she finally reached Oz."

Much of the second floor was in need of repairs, so Peggy and her sister Nancy (a year older) slept in the front parlor on the first floor, while her younger siblings slept upstairs, and their parents slept in a small alcove toward the back of the house.

The first night there, Peggy recalls how quiet the farmhouse was. It was a cool night, but the house was stuffy, so several windows were cracked open. The house had a massive wooden wrap-around porch. During the day, footsteps creaked along the wood from all the commotion. But once everyone was settled, the noise seemed to stop altogether.

"I was so excited to not be in the same room with 4 or 5 other people, so it was difficult to sleep that first night. Sometime later, I remember hearing heavy boots walking along the porch outside. It didn't startle me. I just assumed it was my father."

In the morning, Peggy and her siblings started unpacking boxes while their father started renovations upstairs.

"Nancy and I were so excited to have our own space. There's not much that would have scared us, even being children. There was a great sense of freedom having all that room."

The next night, the footsteps returned. Only this time, Peggy was awake. "I had gotten a glass of water and noticed my mother and father asleep. When I returned to the parlor, I heard footsteps on the porch. I nudged Nancy awake, but by the time she stirred, the footsteps were gone. By daylight, I had convinced myself that it probably just my imagination."

Days and weeks passed. By summer, the upstairs was fully renovated. Peggy and Nancy shared a bedroom. Their youngest sister, Dawnie, described a different encounter.

"Dawnie's room was just across the hall from ours. We were all pretty level-headed children, but Dawnie was a little wild. A little mischievous. So when she came to Nancy and me talking about some woman that was standing next to her bed, we thought she was making up stories."

The woman, according to Dawnie, would stand at the corner of her bed, looking angry and disgruntled. "Of course, Nancy and I told her that she was just dreaming. None of the others in that room saw anyone. We just thought Dawnie was either dreaming or playing a trick."

The woman, over time, stopped appearing to Dawnie. The sisters grew older. But the oddities in the house continued.

Right before prom, Peggy had her boyfriend over for dinner. "It was a big occasion. My parents really liked Joe. He and I got along really well. The dinner was fine. My parents had gone out to get ice cream for everyone, and they asked Joe and I to watch over the younger kids. Nancy was at a school function, and Joe and I were kind of excited to play house...even if it was only for an hour or so."

But according to Peggy, the evening wasn't as smooth as dinner.

"Joe and I had been watching TV with some of the girls. He got up to use the bathroom. Not a minute later, he came back into the parlor, and his face was terribly pale. I asked him what was wrong. He said he had seen a lady standing in the kitchen, just staring at him. Well, Joe knew all my sisters and my mother, so I got up thinking some stranger's just come into the house. But when I got to the kitchen, there was nobody there."

The chilling encounter wasn't over, though. "I came back to the parlor, and Joe said he felt sick...like what he had seen wasn't right or natural. I asked what he meant --  he said he thought the woman was a ghost. Of course, he's saying this in front of the girls, which I knew my parents wouldn't like. But it did give me a fright. Joe was very logical. He didn't believe in that sort of stuff at all."

Peggy said Joe wouldn't come back inside the house after that. The night of prom, Peggy had to meet him on the porch.

"After that happened, some of my sisters came forward and said they had experienced some strange things. Like my sister Patsy -- she said she couldn't find one of her shoes. She looked high and low for it, but she couldn't find it anywhere. She went outside to get some fresh air, and sitting on top of the railing to the porch sat her one single shoe. At first, she assumed one of us did it. But another time, when she was sick and home alone from school, she misplaced a schoolbook. She searched our rooms, her backpack, and even outside for it. She thought she must have somehow left the book at school...then found it laying inside the bathtub upstairs. It was at that time that we all began to realize that we weren't losing our minds. There really was something special about the farmhouse."

As the years went by, the sisters each left the old farmhouse -- either for college or marriage. By the late 80s, Peggy's parents had moved to Florida and sold the house. And in the early 2000s, the house was demolished to make way for a new residential subdivision.

It was a sad moment for Peggy, but she holds the memory of the farmhouse tightly to her heart.

"It's not like horror movies where things reach out to get you." She adds. "It was just a time in our childhood where we were given the opportunity to witness things most people don't see. Some of it might have given us a fright, but for the most part, it was harmless. We have great memories of that house."

So many of these stories are dramatized into terror, but I love Peggy's farmhouse story. I love that, despite potentially being touched by something paranormal, the house was absolutely treasured.

Quite possibly, there are answers to questions that we just won't know until it's our time. In the case of the farmhouse, there is little history known about it. Today, there's no markings or signs that it ever existed.

They say we die two deaths: the death of our bodies, and the death of those who last remember us. Very apt.

As for me, I'll keep talking to folks like Peggy. I'll keep looking for stories. Maybe haunting isn't the right word for cases like Peggy's. Maybe the better term is living with the unknown.


Stay tuned for more!

#hauntedhouse #farmhouse #ghosts