Past Residents in the Attic
“Attic of past residents? Oh, give me a break!” Joyce stared at Gary and with hands on hips tilted her head and looked straight in his eyes. Without thinking about it Gary copied her stance.
“Are you telling me there are past residents of this house who are up there, lost in time? For crying out loud!” She dropped her hands, rolled her eyes up and stomped into the kitchen to start supper. Gary followed, listening to her mutter. “First you tell me about past lives, which shocked me knowing you believe that, now you say it is possible to get stuck in a past life? Come on, Gary! I thought you were more down to Earth and sensible.”
Gary flopped down in a chair at the table. “Well I am! And I never thought much about past lives or ghosts till we moved in here. Joyce, I am not making this up. Not long after we moved into this old house I started seeing apparitions moving around the rooms. They are past residents!” She slammed a cupboard door and placed a large skillet on the stove. “Really! Now you tell me we have ghosts here? Gary, I love this house and plan to restore it to original beauty. Starting with this kitchen! Don’t try to frighten me out of staying here! You were as excited as I was when we first saw this place and decided to buy it. You loved it as much as I did.”
“Well I still do! I don’t want to move out, I am just telling you what I see and feel. Is it too much to ask you to at least listen? I am not crazy.” He got up and started chopping vegetables for their stir fry.
After they ate, Joyce went into the library to study her books and notes on the history of the house. It was a famous historical house, so there was a lot of information on it and many pictures of the exterior and interior. Back in the kitchen, when Gary was loading the dishwasher he sensed Joyce had come back in. He smiled, thinking she was going to apologize for being so harsh with him. When he turned to look at her he saw a woman wearing a long dark skirt and a long sleeved high neck blouse with a small brooch at the top button. She had an abundance of hair which was was pinned up. The woman took a match out of a metal box on a shelf and struck it on the side of the box. Gary twitched a little in shock when the flame flared up. Then she reached up to a gas lantern on the wall and lit it. Gary tried to call out to Joyce, but just a whisper came out, then the woman disappeared.
Gary stared to where he saw the woman, walked over to the wall and ran his hand over the spot where he saw the lantern. Joyce came in carrying one of her books. “Look, honey, these are the type of lanterns I want to get. They are replicas of originals from the 1800s.” She sat the book on the counter near him. “What are you doing?” Gary took his hand off the wall and turned to her. “Oh! I saw a stain there and was just checking it out. See, right here it is a little darker than the rest of the wood.”
“Interesting. That is where I want to put one lantern. There is a picture of the kitchen in one of my books and there was a lantern there when the house was first built and all this wood is original. They had gas lanterns in all the rooms and one by each door in the upstairs hallway. They looked just like this one, but these are electric,” she pointed to a picture. Gary looked and it was very similar to the one he saw the woman light. Then he told Joyce about his vision of the woman. She stared at him incredulously, slammed the book closed and went back to the library.
The next day Joyce went to the public library to find more books on the house and was hoping for some old photos of the people who originally lived there. Her search did not give any more information than what she already had. She saw an elderly lady at the information desk and went over to ask for help, explaining what she was looking for. “I know the house you are researching and there is a lot more information on it at the Historical Society,” the lady said.
Grace Higgins had dedicated her life to history of the town and its historical sites. Joyce spent almost three hours going over the documents, newspapers and journals available on the house. A picture in one of the newspapers stunned her, for it looked very much like the woman Gary said he saw in the kitchen. The photo was small and a bit grainy. Joyce asked if there was a better copy. Grace found the original copy in a large book. It was much more clear and they could see the brooch at her neck. The woman in the photo was just as Gary had described. Joyce felt chills and shivered. “Can I borrow this book?”
“We don’t loan out books, but you can take copies of whatever you like,” Grace said and led Joyce to the copy machine. They spent another hour copying every photo in the book. One photo was of the attic and it really intrigued Joyce. It had been taken just three years before Gary and Joyce bought the house and it looked the same as it was now, full of furniture and boxes covered in sheets. Joyce had not yet had time to explore the attic and now thought maybe she should. It could give her a better idea for restoring the house. “You know,” Grace was staring at the book. “The house had been built and owned by the Swanson’s and passed down in the family till the last of them passed away about six years ago. There have been no other past residents except descendants of the Swanson’s. It had been on the market for quite awhile, but there were not many interested buyers because it was a bit run down inside. And,” she hesitated and looked around the room, no one else was in there so she continued. “There was a silly rumor that if not one piece of furniture ever left the house then not one family member would ever leave the house, even after they died. Their spirits would stay with the house. So, all furniture was stored in the attic when new pieces were bought. And they made sure that if the house was ever sold to anyone outside the family, the furniture was a part of the house and had to stay there,” Grace nodded her head. “Was there a clause like that in your terms of sale?”
Joyce was stunned again. “There was a clause like that in the terms, but I have not been aware of the rumors. My husband will find that very interesting,” Joyce was amazed. Grace was looking through the index of the book. “Here it is, on page 204 there is mention of that rumor.” She turned to the page and copied the text on two pages for Joyce. “Here, you can show your husband that, too. Maybe he will want to have all the furniture taken out of the house and sold.”
On the way home Joyce had mixed feelings. She felt sorry she was so harsh with Gary, yet she just could not believe in spirits lingering all around her home. Spirits or not, she would not give up the kind of home she had always wanted. Besides, none of the spirits have harmed us, so just let them be. That thought startled her, but eased her mind and she wondered if she would ever be able to see the past residents.
Joyce rushed in the front door with her briefcase full of papers. “Honey? Gary, I have something to show you! And I am so sorry.” He came out from the kitchen and hugged her. “Sorry about what?” She handed him a copy of the rumors. “Your past residents!”
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns
Thanks to Lori Colbo, I decided to write another chapter of this story. Please see Unusual Tale of Swanson Manor for chapter two of Past Residents in the Attic. Thank you.