One of the first questions people ask is if I’ve seen a ghost on the property or in the old house. Although there have been some unusual occurrences over the past two years, I can’t really say that anything has been a definitive experience. But interestingly, the house does come with a few ghost stories, passed down from generations of past residents. Here are two just before Halloween.
The Ghost Party
One of my favorite stories is of the ghost party at White Plains, as passed down through the Walker family, and finally to me over a cup of coffee in a Washington, DC cafe.
Alex and Caroline Walker stumbled across the listing for White Plains, an abandoned property from the colonial days. The manor house had been vacant for many years, passed between transient owners and developers that never found enough interest to fix up the place. Rumor has it that the house was used for cattle feed storage during the mid 1930s, a time when many of the windows were broken, the original weatherboard siding was falling off, and the roof had begun to collapse.
Having a personal interest in old houses, Mr. Walker hired a realtor to view the house for the first time. He and Caroline toured the grounds, entering on the first floor. After viewing the upper rooms, they proceeded to the basement. As they travelled to the east room that would later become the basement dining room, they heard people shuffling around in the upstairs living room just above them and the faint sound of voices. Confused that someone else would be in the house, they rushed upstairs to find an empty floor. Although further confused, they returned to the basement to continue the tour. In the same east room, they again heard the shuffling of feet on the floor above, this time it sounded more like dancing, rhythmic and strong. And there was the faint clinking of dishes and glass, as if a party were being had in the space above them. They rushed a second time to the upper floor to find, again, no one in sight, but they left with a few goosebumps.
Were there ghosts in the house that day? The remnants of a party from the 1700s? Did it unnerve the Walkers, we cannot know, but it certainly didn’t deter them from buying and renovating the old house at White Plains. In fact, it could have been Caroline Walker’s inspiration when she drew and designed their first party invitation for their new home. The photograph below is of an original invitation created by Mrs. Walker for parties during the 1940s. I am grateful to have been given one by her grandson, who told me this story.
A Death in the Attic
The second story that I’ve recently heard, and perhaps the more chilling of these two, is set in the attic. Renovated during 1940, the Walkers made the attic into a livable space. The children would sleep upstairs during the summer when the weather was warm. You can still see drawings along the fiberboard walls from probably the 1940s and ’50s where children used crayons when they were bored.
One of the Walker’s daughters recalls that she and her siblings were all quite afraid of the attic space, despite spending a lot of time there. The windows were over thirty feet off the ground, catching any extra moonlight that wasn’t swallowed by the trees. One night, the daughter awoke to see, outlined in the corner of the west room, the figure of a dressed woman hanging from the rafters. The story goes that the daughter remembered and told this story often.
Have I seen any ghosts swinging from the rafters? No, but I also don’t go looking for them! There is no doubt that many layers of history, experience, life, and death have filled these rooms. Some may find that unnerving, but I find it inspiring. If only these walls could talk.