Unusual Tale of Swanson Manor
This is the continuing story of Swanson Manor where Gary and Joyce Manning live. Please refer to Past Residents in the Attic for the beginning of this unusual tale.
The unusual tale Gary told Joyce about the spirits of past residents lingering and wandering around their old Victorian house had caused a lot of problems. Joyce could not believe that such things could be as he tried to tell her. Through detailed in-depth research with her new friend Grace Higgins at the Historical Society, Joyce began to believe Gary. Once Joyce accepted the fact that Gary could see spirits from the past, life was a lot easier for both of them in Swanson Manor.
Grace had helped Joyce learn that some people just have a natural gift of clairvoyant abilities, where they can see, feel and even hear spirits. After several days of talking with Gary about it, Joyce was almost jealous and wished she had the same abilities. Grace admitted that she was very psychic and clairvoyant. She was often invited over to the house for supper and discussions on what Joyce and Gary could learn from the roaming spirits. Grace was very helpful in telling Gary how to deal with his new found abilities. It also helped Joyce a great deal in learning more about the history of the Swansons and their house, which really pleased her, for she had a desire to write a book. She had no time for that till after the house was completely restored, but she did already have the title which was “How To Restore A Historical Victorian And Live With Its Ghosts”. Gary liked that title.
Joyce’s father was a carpenter. He had restored many older homes to their original beauty and since he did not have a son, he taught Joyce everything he knew. The first thing she did to begin working on restorations was to turn the old barn out in the back part of the property into her workshop. Her Dad helped her purchase all the right equipment and set up the shop the way Joyce wanted it. He customized it to fit her height. She had completely restored the kitchen to its original beauty, got rid of the countertop stove and the whole counter where it was then had the stove she wanted delivered and installed. It was an exact replica of the original cast iron Pennad cook stove popular in the late 1890s. It had six gas burners, a fire box for wood burning and a bread warmer box. Gary teased her about being obsessive with originality, but he was proud of her.
They were sitting at the kitchen table early one evening having coffee with Grace, very absorbed in a discussion on the restoration. A shadowy movement near the stove caught Gary’s attention. He looked that way then suddenly yelled “Nooo!” and jumped up to run to the stove. Joyce was startled and almost dropped her coffee mug, spilling hot coffee on her hands. “Damn it! Gary what was that for?” Grace had her back to the kitchen, but quickly turned to see what was wrong. “No Gary! You can’t help her!” Gary sank to his knees and watched in horror as a little girl sitting on the floor burst into flames. He saw her wreathing in agony, her mouth open in a scream, her face contorted in pain. He could not hear the scream of terror, but knew it was there. She vanished quickly when the flames covered her. Gary covered his face with his hands and sobbed loudly. “Damn! Damn!” he kept groaning. Joyce ran to him, knelt down and hugged him. “Gary, honey, what is it? What happened?” She felt his terror and began to shake. They sat there hugging each other for several minutes till he calmed down and was able to get up. He sat back down, put both arms on the table and lowered his head. Joyce was rubbing his shoulders. Grace was pretty shaken up, too, but sat quietly till Gary looked at her as if to ask for help.
Grace told Joyce what they had seen. The girl had a box of matches and when she lit one the whole box spilled in her lap and burst into flame catching her dress on fire. Gary described in a trembling voice the pain and agony he watched before she vanished. They were all quiet for a long time. Joyce put another pot of coffee on the stove and placed some cookies on a plate. While the coffee was brewing she stared into empty space, feeling sickened by what happened. When she went back to the table with coffee and cookies, Grace poured them all a cup and started talking calmly.
“Gary, what you saw was horrible, I know. I saw it, too. But, there was nothing we could do. It happened in the past, long ago, and we could not stop it. I know how you feel, you feel helpless because you wanted to save her, but we cannot change history. When you have these psychic abilities you have to understand there are some things we do not want to know or see, but we can learn how to cope with it. When someting like this happens we have to look at it as if we are simply reading in a book about an event that happened long ago, because that is how we read. And if it is too much to cope with we just close the book.” Gary listened carefully to her words and felt a little better. Joyce had been very quiet and pensive. Grace excused herself and left the room. She was gone for quite awhile. When she came back she had a book with two pieces of paper marking some pages.
“I found it!” She sat the book on the table and began reading. She read that the little girl, Jessica Annette Swanson, was the first child of Jacob and Elsbeth Swanson, the original owners of the house. Jessica had died in the kitchen when she was playing with a box of matches the cook had left on a table. The box of matches caught fire and the flames caught on her dress. She burned to death before anyone could get there to help her. The mother, Elsbeth, felt so quilty because she was upstairs and did not know Jessica had gone down to the kitchen. She felt it was her fault because she should not have left her child alone. “And then,” Grace turned pages to the next piece of paper marker.
“Then, after Jessica’s funeral, Elsbeth began having paranoid thoughts, getting obsessed over many things. She did not want anything in the house changed or moved so Jessica’s spirit would be at peace in the house as she knew it when she was alive. Even several years later, when Jacob insisted on new furniture for the parlour Elsbeth finally consented to let him do it as long as not one piece of furniture Jessica knew would ever leave the house. That is when the tradition started that all old furniture would be stored in the attic,” Grace was excited, for she found the reason for the attic being so full of furniture and boxes. “Elsbeth even went to her attorney and had a clause put in her will and a “proclamation”, she called it, drawn up that not one piece of furniture would ever leave the house so spirits of family members would always be at peace here! That’s it, Joyce! It is not a silly rumour or just an unusual tale, it is true!”
Joyce was as excited as Grace about finding the truth to the attic. “That’s why all the spirits are lingering here, Gary! That poor woman. That was the only way Elsbeth could deal with the death of her daughter and find some peace.” Joyce shivered. She had a sudden feeling that Elsbeth was near.
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns