As a paranormal investigator and a folklorist I hear a lot of wild ghost stories from clients, it is one of my favorite parts of the job. Most of the time, the people telling the stories are entirely sincere about the fact that something strange has happened to them. We record their stories and when possible try to prove or disprove whether what happened was really supernatural in nature or not. Most of the time it is just misinterpreted natural phenomena or a trick of the mind. On rarer occasions the incidents do turn out to be legitimately ghostly. But verifiable or not the stories are interesting and important to the people who lived through them and we listen with a sympathetic ear. However, the next series of incidents was so startling and bizarre I would be hard pressed to have believed it if it had simply been related to me and I had not lived through them myself!
I live in a sprawling house on Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts, right up the street from Gallows Hill where the accused witches were hanged. The old structure was built as a mansion for a particular sea captain who ultimately went down with his vessel and left a grieving widow who spent her days pining for his return that never happened. The now desiccated porch was built by Samuel McIntyre the same architect who carved the features of the Salem Customs House on the wharf. Eventually the mansion was used as a grand hotel, and now, in its current incarnation is an apartment building. It has long had the reputation of being a haunted house, and perfectly looks the part. The outside, once the picture of a fine old home has weathered and the inside is a maze of weird halls and dead ends from the various renovations that have taken place since 1706.
When I first inquired about taking up residence here I was warned by former and current tenants that I should reconsider on account of the paranormal activity that takes place around the property. I was warned again and again that if I was not okay with ghosts I should look elsewhere. One of the previous occupants of my current rooms related he was disturbed from a sound sleep by a distorted, spectral woman shaking him into consciousness and weeping. The woman vanished when he called out in fright. The next day he went to the library to research the house and learned of the miserable captain’s widow still waiting for his return. When my friend turned the page in the old book he was reading there was a portrait of the captain. It bore a striking resemblance to him! My friend figured the widow mistook him for her late husband, and he moved out shortly thereafter. Another couple told me how when they were putting in a garden they turned up a buried tombstone that indicated a woman and her deceased child might be buried on the property.
This sounded great. A perfect place to live and headquarters for the Spellbound operation. I signed the lease and moved right in. The location was perfect and the ghosts, if they existed, were a selling point.
Within weeks the strange things started happening. My then wife Jenny was not comfortable sleeping there. She had not yet told me, but she had seen vague, shadowy figures out of the corner of her eye lurking around the doorways. One night I was reading in the bedroom, while she was watching television in the living room. I got up to visit the facilities, and as I walked to the closed bathroom door it flew open with force and smashed me in the face! I called out “Jenny! Be careful!” thinking that she had been behind the door and slammed it open not realizing I was about to enter.
She said nothing. I opened the door, there was no one in there. After checking my bruised face in the mirror I went into the living room. Jenny was fast asleep on the couch. She had passed out during the movie. Our dog Luke was asleep on his chair. No one else was in the house with us. No one could have smashed open that door! I woke her up and told her what happened. Jenny revealed she had been seeing the shadowy figures in the same area I was attacked for weeks leading up to the incident. She ended up staying at friend’s place that night.
Not long after the attack with the bathroom door I came home after a tour and took the dog for a walk. When we returned I unlocked the heavy front door, walked up the stairs, and put the key in the lock to my apartment. As I opened the door a female voice from inside a female voice said “good dog”. Nothing strange about that. I replied, “hello Jenny!” because it must have been her greeting Luke. No answer. That was weird. I opened the door all the way and walked in. The room was empty, no Jenny. Luke the dog would not enter. He resisted at the door frame and I had to yank him through. He backed into a far corner and stared, bristling toward the corner of the room from which the voice had emanated. Tentatively, I said asked if anyone was there. Still no reply. The dog kept cowering in the corner.
I explored the apartment. It was entirely empty. Jenny was out for the night. None of our friends had come over and there was no sign of intruders. I carefully checked if conversations or televisions could be heard through the wall from other units. There was not a sound, just pure, dead silence. The neighbors across the hall did not answer when I knocked, the people downstairs were out for the night. No media was running. Yet something had spoken to us!
Eventually I got the poor dog calmed down, but I was still freaked out. If only I had heard the voice, well, maybe I could be losing my mind, but for the dog to not only hear it but to respond in such a terrified manner was concerning. When Jenny came home later I told her. She informed me she had also been hearing and seeing things, and when I was out there had been occasions when Luke would panic, bark, and snap at the empty air. The fact that it was a female voice we heard correlates with the idea of the captain’s widow, as well as the woman and little girl suspected to be buried on the property.
Like I said before, I would have been highly skeptical of this tale if it had not happened to me! So please, feel comfortable sharing your ghostly stories with us at Spellbound. We will take you seriously; we know what it is like to live in a haunted house!
Postscript- Luke the dog and I still live at this property, it is still the Spellbound headquarters. Despite it being a beautiful historic property in a great location with a low, low rent there is massive turnover in the other tenants. I have caught a few on the way out and inquired why they were leaving and the weird phenomena played a major part in their departure. We have become accustomed to occasional voices and visual phenomena, no one has been hurt, just occasionally disturbed. We have a good friend who is a self proclaimed non-believer in anything supernatural who flatly refuses to visit again because he had an experience he cannot reconcile with his worldview. Major historic and paranormal research on the house’s history are ongoing.