Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Haunting of Harris House

It's that time of year, isn't it?
For several years after we moved to the Big City( from a Little City) we rented. Practical but tedious. During that time I dreamed of owning a Victorian horror. I must admit, that apart from such satisfactory archetectural niceties as lots of rooms, basements, attics, balconies, bay windows and claw-foot tubs, the "horror" part had a certain charm, an invitation to challenge the Dark.
Yes, indeedy. Owning a pseudo-gothic, ghost-ridden, disintegrating ruin was a cherished dream.
And lo! During a dull, dark and soundless day in the autumn of the year, we were driving through a singularly dreary residential street lined with huge ancient maples when we came upon a melancholy "For Sale" sign in front of the House. Situated on a slight eminence, it was tall and dark and pointy, and, well, secretive looking.
"LOOK!" I shrieked.
"Dammit, wife, don't do that," my husband said irritably, ramming on the brakes, "I nearly pranged that parked car."
I was sure that a face peered at us from the narrow panes of a third floor window.
My excitement grew when the owner informed us that no one occupied that room.
The owner himself confirmed my rising hopes. He had that type of open, friendly face and easy manner that one always associates with the sinister.
Of course, when we climbed the twisting stairs to that room during our inspection, I was somewhat chagrined to discover it was inhabited - by a litter of cats; but on reflection I decided that anyone keeping that many cats couldn't be all good.
The place even had a widow's walk.
Immediately I imagined a tale of a beautiful young bride, pacing its four by two expanse, eyes peering past the CN tower, yearning for sight of her husband's lake scow, until in despair she cast herself to the paving below, (via a bounce or two on a balcony and porch roof) - who on foggy nights still paces and moans and wrings her hands... My enthusiam suffered a set back when my husband pointed out it was a widow's walk only by virture of the fact it would make me one if he ever ventured his 190 lbs upon it - and it probably was responsible for that wet stain on the wallpaper in the third floor bedroom.
However, my enthusiasm re-gained some momentum when careful and cunning interrogation of several neighbours' children revealed that they always called the dwelling "the Ghost House" because - eyes left, eyes right, lowered voice - a woman that died there one time.
On hearing this exciting intelligence, my husband ( yeah, him again) stated somewhat caustically that he would like to see a house over 50-60 years old where someone had not died in it.
I ignored him. The house had fly-spotted mirrors and rooms off rooms and a massive, dark over mantle above the fireplace. I was beside myself with pleasure. At last. And when I understood that our offer to purchase must be accepted or rejected by 12 midnight, I knew it was a sign.
At first things appeared most propitious and my wildest hopes seemed realized. On certain evenings, when the ancient trees along the street thrashed in sympathetic agony, the house would be filled with a hollow wail that swelled and swelled before it died away to a gibbering, desolate moan.
We heard footsteps outside our bedroom.
"Hark!" I would cry, clutching my husband with delicious terror.
"I have to be up by six," he would say and turn over.
My favourite "cold spot" by the window on the second floor landing turned out to be entirely due to a lack of calking and a storm window on that side of the house.
The footsteps and creaking floors outside our bedroom turned out to be, as my husband so sensibly pointed out, caused by the hot air ducts relaxing after the furnace shut off.
Dark mutterings turned out to be ( you guessed it) my husband stubbing his toe in the dark while navigating unfamiliar territory on his way to the bathroom.
In fact, most of the whole creepy atmosphere seemed largely due to the wool worms residing under every baseboard.
And the moaning, the wailing, that indescribable tormented cry of desolation?
Seems when the wind was from the south west, it set the brass letter slot in the front door vibrating with vigor.
Foiled again.


Orendon said...
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Anonymous said...


Loved this post! Loved it! You've echoed my sentiments exactly. I would move into a house like that in a second.

If your husband is so intent on finding the tedious reasons for your hauntings, then nominate him for all the trips to the hardware store!

Bernita said...

That makes me very glad, Jason.
You do understand though, when one owns an old house,the hardware store becomes your favourite boutique, the moment you fix something up, something else falls down. But it is so much fun.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

It sounds like 'The Money Pit' and it's a movie by the same name. We had a house like that next door when I was a child. It was great fun to imagine all the spooking things, that I'm now sure were part of our vivid imaginations. And then when I was 13, it was sold and turned into a boarding house. It was never any fun after that.

Which house is the present one? The fire one or the spook one?

Bernita said...

Neither, Bonnie. The fire house was a rental. Then we bought the spook house. We've moved and owned two more since then. This house is late Victorian, but with a different...ah... atmosphere.

Ric said...

Ah, yes.
Spooky stories, wanting it to be something scary, and then having to put up with a "practical" husband. No fun at all!

A friend of mine, elected to a judgeship, moved into the Castle, a wonderful old house with round rooms and such. Rumor was that the last four familes had moved out because it's haunted.
I think it is - I have problems just standing in the hallway....
But neither he nor his wife believe in ghosts so they have no problem at all.

Would be a real pain if one KNEW about the ghosts and the other spouse just said, "Yeah, right."

Good story.

ebaypowerseller2006 said...
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Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric. Actually, it's quite true. The only real exaggeration is that my husband was in no danger of pranging the car.

ebaypowerseller2006 said...
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Mark Pettus said...

How you can crank out stuff this funny every single day is beyond me.

Is it possible that the reason your husband found all the rational reasons for your haunting was because it scared him even more than it scared you?

Bernita said...

Products of a mis-spent life, Mark, with an eye towards the ridiculous - especially in one's self - but thank you. I'm happy that you found it funny.
But you are under a misapprehension. I wasn't afraid. Neither was he. Both of us, perhaps, have a medieval neo-platonic mind-set, we are perfectly willing to accept the co-existence of things invisible and immaterial. Sadly, none seemed to be present in that house, or we accidentally exorcized them if they were.