If anyone had asked me a few months ago if I believed in paranormal activities such as ghosts, I would have, without hesitation, said "no." I consider myself to be a realist, a down to Earth kinda guy, which finds a plausible reason for unexplained events. Call it the law of Parsimony. I've always held with the more logical and feasible assumption. Such as "a slight tremor knocked that book off the shelf and made it skid across the floor." I often scoffed at strange accounts and easily reasoned the one telling the tale had quite the vivid imagination or perhaps acquired some illegal pharmaceutical that caused temporary hallucinations.
It was not until I experienced such inexplicable phenomena first hand that jabbed my very core that I began to have a paradigm shift toward the possibility of apparitions.
In the predawn hours of post Halloween eve, Missy, my golden retriever, and I were ready to call it an evening after hours of shows and local news. Using my remote I clicked off the TV then noticed my camera sitting on the coffee table. Realizing I had not reviewed my photos that I had taken at the old Jones Homestead earlier that day, I grabbed the camera then sat back down to take a peek. Photography is a passionate hobby for me, so I was quite anxious to view what my lens had captured.
Before I continue with my experience, it is important to explain the happenstance of the day.
My wife and I had always planned to purchase an older house, a fixer upper. Through much searching and the help of an online agency, fate seemed to lead us to what we thought was the perfect place to realize our dream. After evaluating the real estate information, we agreed this one sounded most promising. It surprised us that we both were instantly drawn to it, so we decided to check it out. It was Saturday, October 31st. There was a light chill in the beautiful autumn weather, ideal for taking a drive out to the country and inspect this gemstone of a farmhouse.
The old house was even more than we had imagined. A white Colonial built in the early 1900's. Though there was not one thing fanciful about the old wooden three-story structure, it stood majestically at the end of a long dirt drive, secluded and nestled among large centurion maples. Smokey Mountain Boxwoods lined the walkway. Resplendent perfumed dogwoods flanked its North and South walls. Intrusive but stately weeping willows adorned the vast and lush back yard. Everywhere there was a kaleidoscope of leaves adding to the outside decor.
The roof was shingled in Carolina red tiles while on each end of the house there stood a majestic rock chimney. It boasted twelve rooms, a wine cellar and a spacious attic.
We stood in awe as we gazed upon this treasure. The hands of time and neglect had turned its white coat to a confederate grey. Obviously it just needed some tender loving care.
After some time exploring and taking shots of the verdant grounds and aged exterior, I decided to check the door. To my delight, I found it open. I motioned to my wife and we moved anxiously inside. Both of us felt as newlyweds, discussing what we would do as we moved from room to room. We were giddy at the thought that this could indeed be our dream home. So, in my elation, I continued to take shots.
Characteristic of old houses, the floors creaked eerily but expectantly. A damp musty aura permeated the stale air; cobwebs draped the windows and dangled in every corner and nook.
Eventually we made our way to the second floor. Our first discovery was a spacious room that we surmised was the master suite. The beautiful herculean window beckoned my attention. I walked over, taking a birds-eye view of the backyard. The weeping willows were just as awe inspiring. Just beyond the tree line was a small pond near what appeared to be a boat house. I raised the window, breathed in the good country air, took a few more photos, and then turned my attention back to the room.
An old tapestry throw rug rested in the center of the floor, on it sat a dusty antique trunk. Intrigued; I shot the scene from a couple of angles. A few pieces of obsolete aged clothing hung in a cedar closet, and a vintage rocking chair lounged in the corner. The flocked dilapidated walls displayed a few dated and faded photographs, to which I was curiously drawn.
I stood transfixed at the images, and could only assume were of the previous owners. One, which was obviously a family photo, appeared to be taken outside in the front yard of the house. Two were portraits, one of a man, the other a woman, which I assumed to be Mr. and Mrs. Jones.
As a passionate photographer, it felt natural to me to be enthralled by a different era of photography. Though technology in film and camera has come such a long way, these were still excellent shots. The photographer captured the beauty of this old farm house in its stunning youth and charm astutely.
"Did you see that?" asked my wife in a startled voice
My wife stood rigid with a perplexed frightened look on her face.
"Look! The rocker is moving."
I turned around quickly, just in time to see the old rocker rock once and then abruptly stilled.
"Must have been the wind, or the old house shifting, houses do shift...or something."
"Wind my foot!"
Just then, there was a sound above us, obviously from the attic that sounded like someone had rolled a softball across the floor.
"What was that noise?" She whispered, with a look of shock on her face.
"It's probably an old cat or a large mouse or something. Would you like me to go up and check it out?" I asked.
"No! Don't you dare!"
There was a few seconds of silence and then she walked over, grabbed my arm and said, "Let's get out of here. This place is gives me the creeps."
"Now come on baby, you aren't afraid of ghosts, are you?" I said smirking. "Maybe old man Jones will appear and show us around... woo." I raised my hands, "Boo!"
"You're not funny at all! I suppose you don't believe in ghosts," she shot back.
"Not me. "Ghosts are for the movies and for weak, fearful people."
She snapped back, "Well, if I do or if you don't, I still feel a little odd being here... it's like we're intruding or something. Anyway, I'm ready to go!"
At that moment I knew my wife was serious. Reluctantly I shrugged my shoulders in agreement and helped her down the stairs. We closed up the old house, and then headed back home.
The drive home was silently awkward. I knew I had upset her by making fun of her fears and dismissing the genuine terror she must have felt. I gently reached over to take her hand.
"I'm sorry. I was wrong to make light of your concern and an be so inconsiderate. I believe you really felt you saw something, besides, we both heard a noise. I shouldn't have made fun of you. It was insensitive. Will you forgive me?"
She managed to smile back at me in one of her endearing ways. "It's ok; I'm just a little edgy and maybe a little paranoid."
I knew, after all these years of marriage, not to speak or nod indicating I agreed.
Through the excitement of the day, we almost forgot it was Halloween. We stopped at the grocers to stock up on this festive eves candy supply. The years had taught us that we can never predict the trick-or-treaters that ring our door.
The eve was finally upon us and the costumed menagerie of children shouting "Trick-or-treat!" and vying for more candy went on for a few hours. This was one of my wife's favorite times of the year. She was just as excited as the little ghosts, goblins, wizards and witches.
The eve eventually became quiet and my exhausted wife had gone to bed. Events of the day had taken their toll. I decided to grab a midnight snack and catch the news and maybe a movie. I could not get the old farmhouse out of my mind. I loved it. I felt it was so right and just the one we had long dreamed of. But how could I persuade my wife, especially after our earlier experience? How could I convince her that her fear of ghosts was simply unfounded?
I took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. "Ghosts... how absurd!"
As I previously stated, I was ready to retire for the eve, but before doing so, I was anxious to view the photographs I had taken of the old farmhouse. I poured another glass of ice tea, then with camera in hand sat back to study the shots. One by one, I viewed with such intensity, totally absorbed in this charming colonial. My imagination began running wild, as I thought of how each room could be remodeled. I even found the perfect room that would do nicely for my office.
Then, on to the next shot, as I pressed the lever, I began to question my eyes. Perhaps I was really tired, for this photograph appeared to be the ghastly face of an aged man. How could this be? The only photographs I had taken were of the house and landscape. Who was this person? My wife and I were the only ones in that house.
I shuddered, stood to my feet, and then tossed the camera across the room onto the sofa. Chill bumps ran up and down my spine as the hair on my arms began to rise. A cold air rushed past me and seemed to move the curtain. Trembling, I could feel my heart pounding like a drum. I wanted to run, but I just stood there staring at my camera. Surely I was just tired, that was it. Simple explanation. Reaching for the camera, I closed my eyes tightly, then opened them, hoping the image would be gone. To my horror it was still there, imposing, baronial, chilling. It seemed to morph as I stared.
The photo was not even close to one I would have taken. The light, the positioning was bad. The face, it was pale, void of any expression except two piercing eyes that resembled coals of fire.
I swallowed hard. Could this really be an apparition? "Oh my God, what is happening? What is this? Could it be Sam Jones, the long deceased Sam Jones?"
I locked the camera away, and quickly headed to bed. Sleeplessly and far into the night my mind reeled over what I had seen. I felt quite perplexed and uneasy, but I dare not tell my wife. I didn't know how to explain it anyway. After all, what could I say, for I had made a big deal about not believing in such things? Besides, it would only worsen her fear of ghosts and she would never let me live it down.
The next morning, I apologized again to my wife for making light of her fear. Once again in her sweet endearing voice, she assured me all was alright.
"Honey, it's ok, but I hope you do not have your heart set on the house. I don't like it. I feel that there's something evil about it. I don't think I could ever be happy there. I'm sorry."
I pretended to be disappointed, though inside as much as I hate to admit it, I felt she was right.
"Oh well, it's not the end of the world. There is another house just waiting for us to put a bid on and transform. After all, it is your comfort that is most important to me. We will just keep looking."
"I know you fell in love with that old place. Thanks for considering my feelings, comfort and happiness. As usual, you are so thoughtful."
From that point on, we never discussed or entertained the thought of that old farmhouse again. Perhaps it is my manly pride, or maybe having to accept a reality that left me shaken, but I decided to keep that riveting experience of that Halloween night my secret. Even though I have thought about it a lot, I chose to never pursue the matter of the old man's image in the photograph.
The jury is still out on whether I believe in ghosts. How about you... do you believe?
© Loyd C. Taylor
I was sitting down one evening around Halloween and sifting through my photos. One such pic was of a friend of mine who's image looked like a ghost. I later thought about the story above, searched high and low for the perfect house, took the shot above for the story.
Now I wish to share it with you. I do hope you enjoy it, Loyd
A special thanks to Jimmie L. Savell for her great help and thanks also to Siona Robertson, Robert Sprigg and Edith Ragan.