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Haunted Time

The observance of time is a peculiar thing. The animals and creatures of this world mark its movement by the change in the seasons, the tides and the rising and setting of the sun.  Our ancestors also observed time by this natural phenomena and created sun dials and remarkably advanced calendars to observe its forward march. Today, we watch its passage almost religiously, counting each moment that elapses, always hoping for “more” of the intangible. We check our watches and cell phones to make sure we arrive “on time” and our homes and appliances have clocks everywhere, keeping us mindful of its progress . But sometimes time stands still, caught in a perpetual loop of otherworldliness, where the past meets the present and back again.  This is a tale of one of those times.

I knew there was something different about the beautiful mantel clock the moment my husband brought it home. It wasn’t just the fact that the clock was manufactured and presented in 1930 which placed it in the same era in which our home was built, or that it was made of a very distinctively grained wood. The clock had a presence, an aura about it that said “Notice me. I have secrets to tell.” And it began to tell its tale the moment it was placed on our mantel.

The clock was found by my husband in the crawlspace under the home of his best friend’s mother, (He neglected to mention, until much later, that it had been shoved way  back into a corner, by itself).  His buddy was preparing to move his mom to an assisted living facility and they needed to clear out the extensive collections of antiques, memorabilia, and plain old junk she had built up over a lifetime before they could sell her current home.  One of the items she collected was clocks.  Now, for as long as I can recall my husband had always wanted an antique mantle clock but the cost was usually more than our budget would allow. Consequently when he came upon this clock and the price was free – just the labor he provided to assist his best friend – he was absolutely thrilled. Finally, he had the clock he’d always wanted.

Once home, he dusted and shined up the clock. He gently polished up the brass plaque which proclaimed:

Presented to Second Officer T.H.C. Timewell on the occasion of his marriage, August 9th, 1930 -By the members of the Totnes Corporation Fire Brigade and Friends

Carefully he tried out the key he had found in the house, among several other keys, hoping that it would fit correctly, and when to his surprise it did, wound the clock for the first time in years. It had a lovely, if a bit odd, Westminster Chime which rang out at the quarter, half, and top of the hour. Nothing seemingly unusual or out of the ordinary – yet. However I felt as if the clock now seemed “awake” almost as if it had been waiting for us to bring it back to life.  It pulsed, not just with each swing of its internal pendulum, but with subtle waves of energy that reached out and spread through my home. It felt warm, not frightening, so I let it be.

I first noticed the clock singing a few weeks later.  Yes, singing. It was midnight, and I awoke, startled.  The mantle clock was bonging, but over the chimes I heard a baritone voice singing.  I could not make out the words, just the beautiful melody. The song was happy, loving. At first I thought I was dreaming but it continued, ceasing when the chimes did. I fought the urge to giggle nervously. I didn’t want to wake the hubby, so I sat there, waiting to hear anything else. When nothing further happened, I went back to sleep.

Fast forward a week or two and again, I was abruptly awakened by my clock singing.  But it had changed. This time it was a female voice in a clear, high soprano. The melody was similar, a call to a lost love.  I lay there, listening, trying to make out the words but could not.  The lyrics continued to be illusive and as before, the voice faded with the last strike of the hour.

These voices became more and more frequent.  Now they could be heard during the daytime as well. My husband never seems to hear them but does acknowledge that the chimes often sounds different. My son hears the songs but shrugs it off, used to the odd and different events that always seems to be part and parcel of any home we’ve ever lived in.  He has admitted though, that he has seen presences around the clock.

My husband reached out to the Totnes Corporation Fire Brigade in England (isn’t the Internet wonderful!) trying to find out more information on its origins and former owners. Unfortunately most of the old records were lost in a fire long ago, squelching any hopes of finding answers. How it came here to the States, we will never know.  We are just happy it found its way into our home.

As for me, I am sure the voices are that of the Second Officer Timewell and his bride, singing to each other in the afterlife.  The songs continue, not every night but frequently. I also find that when I am alone or late at night, Mr. Timewell has taken to whispering in my ear. I have yet to fully understand what he is saying but the voice and message are pleasant, comforting. Maybe one day he will tell me his secrets.  Until then, I will continue to enjoy their songs, listening to the chimes of Haunted Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Haunting on Estates Drive

In the spirit of the season and all things that go bump on a Halloween night, I wish to share one of my own personal ghost stories.

It all began simply, with a house. At first glance it was intriguing, and completely run down.  Overgrown bushes and trees obscured the floor to ceiling windows at the front of the house.  Built in 1979, it epitomized its somewhat tacky and bold era. Stone clad sides and entryway, large, carved double doors and an opulent three car garage impressed the onlooker. Even in its semi-dilapidated state you could see the potential.

Inside was even worse.  The roof had gone bad years before and a gaping six foot hole marred the otherwise inviting dining room.  Gold and silver foil wallpaper hung in tatters in the entrance and the sliding glass door leading to the huge covered patio hung crookedly from the frame.  Hideous gold fringe hung in nearly every window and metallic wallpapers and gold-veined mirrors seemed to leap from every available surface. Elvis, it seemed, did not die but moved himself and his decorator to Turlock.

A large, well laid out kitchen sported solid oak cabinets covered in green and black mold. Many of the finely crafted joints had “popped” from the excessive moisture caused by a broken water line to a missing icemaker.  The carpeted floor squished as you walked, courtesy of the same icemaker. The grout on the countertops showed years of neglect though the tiles covering them were beautiful.

The wall next to the sliding glass door in the spacious family room had mushrooms, yes mushrooms, sprouting from the drywall.  Burnt orange shag carpeting, covered in layers of dirt and grime, literally cracked beneath our feet.  The house did have one saving grace, the beautiful double sized fireplace flanked by built in bookcases in the family room.  This fireplace (and the four large bedrooms) is what sold me on the place. Despite the dirt, water and smells, I was home.

Cleaning began immediately.  It took my husband, with the assistance of myself and our two young children, nearly three weeks of scraping, scrubbing, and repairing for the house to be habitable.  The beauty of the place began to show through the layers of old cigarette smoke and dust.  It also began to reveal to us its hidden inhabitants, those entities that silently shared our space.

It was little things at first. Noises in the night.  Strange feelings in the hallway and family room. A cold spot here and there. Items missing then showing up on top of your pillow.  Then the “old man” would visit. We learned from the neighbors that the original owner of the house had died in his front room watching a football game. He was revived by paramedics but later succumbed in the ambulance.  It seems that this house was his pride and joy.  So he didn’t leave.  Every time we began a new restoration project in the house we would smell cigarette smoke – none of my family smokes.  Then my daughter would tell us that the old man was sitting in the chair again.  None of the rest of us ever saw him, but that wasn’t unusual.  One of my daughter’s gifts is seeing the spirits around us.

He wasn’t our only visitor though.  At night or in the early morning hours when all was quiet a small shuffling could be heard way down at the end of the lengthy central hallway.  At first I thought we had a mouse or some other rodent.  However when the kids asked me to make the shadow man stop appearing at the end of the hallway, I knew another ethereal inhabitant was about. It felt very harmless, almost protective, so I told it that it may stay in our home, but to please refrain from manifesting at the end of the hallway and scaring the bejeebers out of my kids.  Kindly spirit that it was, it stopped appearing, but we could still feel its presence.

I can still recall the first time I was awakened in the middle of the night, the hackles standing at attention on the back of my neck.  Some one, some thing, was standing next to my bed watching me.  I could feel it.  It was tall, my daughter said, about 7 feet or so. It would just stand there, watching me, she said. It really bugged the shit out of me.  I don’t believe it meant to do me any harm, it was just annoying.  Those nights when I just couldn’t ignore it anymore I would say out loud “Go away.  I’m trying to sleep here.” Nine times out of ten it would leave. Definitely manageable, just irritating.

All of the little quirks, annoyances and eccentricities that went with the new place were manageable. You learned to work with, instead of against, our spectral housemates.  We even interacted on occasion. If something went missing, we would stand in the center of the house and ask that it would be returned.  A chilly breeze or a noise would indicate that the missing comb, hair ties, or pen would have been placed on our pillow or a few steps away from where we were.  We talked to them like friends or roommates. Yet, there was something else in the house, something that made the other entities nervous.  A being that did not feel benevolent, friendly. Instead, it felt cold, dank, old, and spiteful. And mean.  Downright mean.

This was the entity that would cause a cozy reading corner to go from peaceful to panic laden in moments.  Colds spots, areas of anger and agitation, smells of damp soil, a metallic odor like copper, these were its calling cards.  It didn’t seem to manifest often, but when it did the entire house felt wrong.  Our other visitors would seem to vacate and not return for a day or two, as if they were hiding from some evil.  It never seemed to stay long, but its impact lasted for weeks.

Then one night, I was curled up in a cozy chair in the family room reading a book.  The kids were in bed and the house was settling in for the night.  I was totally enthralled in my very cheesy romance novel when the very air around me seemed to shift.  A general eeriness descended and I suddenly realized that I was no longer alone.  Raising my gaze from my book and towards the open kitchen I saw it. An emaciated being with long stringy white hair stood looking at me.  A feeling of pure hatred  seemed to ooze out of the being.  He looked incredibly old, like it had belonged to the land way before this house was built.  He was dressed in a shiny black suit that seemed to hang loosely over his skinny frame.  Then he smiled showing rotting teeth. I sat, transfixed, afraid to take a breath.  It then raised a bony finger at me and wagged it as if to admonish me, for what I didn’t know.  I blinked, and he was gone.

Who was he?  I never did find out. I just know that it didn’t want my family there, didn’t want anyone there. It was if the land had belonged to him in life and he wasn’t giving it up even in death.  I do know that after the sighting we began to have some extraordinary bad luck and eventually decided to sell this house, our dream house.  It was a hard decision yet once it was made it was if the house sighed in agreement. The day we moved out I took a final look back, and spotted him standing in the window, wearing that creepy, evil grin.

Those that lived in the house after we left seemed to share in the misfortune of the place.  The house was bought, foreclosed on, and sold twice after we moved out.  The third owner still seems to be hanging in there. I’ve often wanted to knock on the door to see if the owners have experienced any of the things we did when we were there. To perhaps go in and thumb my nose at the greedy selfish ghost who tried to frighten me  away.  To give it a final “up yours” before I turn and leave it to forever haunt the house on Estates Drive.