The stories are many – some common, some not so common. The former CP&L lobbyist searching for his money on Fayetteville Street. The children’s screams at the burnt-down orphanage behind N.C. State. The old man rocking his chair in a specific room of the old Plantation Inn. The woman playing the piano in Mordecai House. And plenty more.
Some people call them urban legends, because in most cases, the stories are always from “a friend of a friend who heard this happened.” But what of the untold stories, the ones that might be taking place right next door? We asked two Midtown Raleigh residents – one of whom didn’t want to identify her property – to tell us about their very own ghosts, in their very own words. We hope you find their tales to be as engaging and yes, creepy, as we did…
The garden secret
“Hattie” believes she and her family are being visited by the spirit of the man who built their house more than 80 years ago. She first learned of his presence from a worker who was remodeling the house while Hattie and her family were on vacation. When they came back, the worker confided in her that after he’d torn apart a wall upstairs, he’d seen a ghost there – twice.
Hattie shrugged off the story, but thought it would be fun to tell her two daughters. She picked “Joy” up from school and said, “Tony thinks he saw a ghost upstairs!” She was understandably taken aback when her younger daughter immediately replied, “I’ve seen one there in my dreams.”
Joy explained that the ghost had appeared in dreamed “replays” of things that had actually happened – seemingly unimportant things, like doing cartwheels in the hallway. When she watched herself doing the same cartwheels in the same hallway in a dream, the ghost was watching from the doorway of the former master bedroom.
When Hattie pressed for more information about the ghost in her dreams, Joy described him as a gray-haired old man, wearing “something that looks like overalls with sleeves.” She later asked the same of Tony, who described an old man with gray hair and what appeared to be a flight suit – an outfit that, to a child who’s never seen one, would look like overalls with sleeves. Hattie asked where the ghost was standing, and Tony said both times he was on the upstairs landing – right next to the former master bedroom.
Hattie’s husband researched the house and determined that its original occupant had built it himself in 1929 and lived there for 50+ years. The man’s initials matched the letters embossed on a glass bottle that Tony had pulled out of the wall when he was remodeling the upstairs bathroom – right before the ghost showed itself.
Although Hattie has never seen the ghost, she believes she has heard it numerous times. The house is admittedly old, but she says some of the noises it makes are more than simply creaks from settling. Sometimes she hears doors moving; at other times she’ll walk in from outside and swear she could hear a whispered conversation coming hurriedly to a close, as if she’d interrupted. While I was interviewing her downstairs, we heard a sound overhead like an office chair rolling across the upstairs floor – we went upstairs to investigate, and found nothing out of place. In fact, Hattie doesn’t have a rolling office chair. I might have attributed the noise to an acorn rolling down the roof, but the house has three floors, and we couldn’t have heard anything on the roof from the ground floor.
Hattie was sitting at the same spot in the kitchen when she received my electronic request, writing a letter to her daughters at camp. She thought about the request, sent me her reply, and went back to her letter. She was just writing, “Mr. Bain is coming over to talk about our ghost” when something interrupted her from across the room – three spice bottles fell, in rapid succession, off opposite ends of two pantry shelves. When she investigated, nothing else seemed amiss – no animal in the pantry, nothing on the edge of a shelf. But three bottles in different locations had somehow found their way to the edges of their shelves.
The kitchen is an addition to the original house, and sits atop what used to be the man’s yard. While he has only shown himself in what used to be his room, he seems protective of that yard. Hattie decided earlier this year to plant a small garden for the first time since moving into the house, and she chose for its location a bare patch of land just under the kitchen windows, against the wall. She was working in the garden turning the soil one day when she heard a ruckus that seemed to come from inside the house – as if someone was banging on the windows and slamming the kitchen’s doors. She went inside to see what her daughters were up to, and found them reading upstairs. When she asked what they’d been doing to make all that noise, they just looked at her in confusion, then said they’d been reading the whole time.
Several days later, Hattie was weeding the same spot in her garden, and when she stuck a trowel in the earth again, the same noises started up. This time, no one else was home, the dog was outside with her, and the sounds were clearly coming from inside the house. She stopped weeding, went inside, and found nothing amiss, despite the fact that it had sounded very much like someone was trying desperately to get from the kitchen to the mud room – or perhaps all the way outside. Hattie thinks it might have been a warning, but she isn’t interested in finding out any more. She doesn’t wish to discover an unpleasant past associated with the property.
Not to mention, she doesn’t wish to antagonize the ghost, as he’s been friendly so far. In fact, says Hattie, he seems to have a calming effect. “Whenever I have a problem or I’m worried, if I go and sit in my living room, it just goes away. This man lived through a lot of big problems in this home – the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam. Looking at a small worry from that perspective, he’s like, ‘Eh, don’t worry about it.’ My whole attitude changes, like this is not that big a deal,” she relates. “He’s not mean, and he only showed himself when that bathroom was completely torn up … It’s fine. We left him a note that said he’s welcome to stay, that we like him.”
The cat came back
Equally welcome is the ghost visiting Lisa Stewart – particularly given their loving relationship while he was still alive – but she says she was first visited multiple times by something less welcome. Something darker. Something portentous….
But even before she saw that, the stick had to fall. “It was always a stick in my family,” she explains, “or something like a stick – a tube or roll – that falls over by itself. In my family, when that happens, somebody dies within the next six months.”
In this case, the stick was a dowel, which comes in handy in a house ruled by cats. Lisa and her husband, Andrew Hayden, have lived with multiple cats for years – Lisa has built her business, CalligraphyCats, around them – so they naturally have all sorts of toys stuck in hard-to-reach places. Their solution is to keep a three-foot dowel on-hand, leaning it against a corner when they don’t need it, using it to fish under furniture when they do. One evening in spring 2011, Andrew was in the living room and Lisa was in the kitchen when she heard a loud noise, followed by Andrew exclaiming, “Lise, the dowel just fell by itself – I didn’t touch it!”
“At the time, I wanted to know which cat had knocked something over, and I wondered why he was making such a big deal about it,” Lisa remembers. “But sometimes people say things without realizing why.” She believes this was one of those times. All three of their cats were elsewhere in the house, nobody had touched the dowel recently, and most importantly, it fell forward. It didn’t slide or roll, it tipped forward in the opposite direction from the way it was leaning and fell to the floor – as if someone had pushed it forward. Not long after, the visitations began – and lasted for about six months.
Lisa describes the visitor as a “floating spirit” and a “dark entity.” She had seen one in her house years before, floating in her gallery – about six feet tall, cloaked, mostly black, and hovering, with no discernible feet. Although menacing, the entity posed no threat, and never attempted to communicate. Lisa doesn’t recall that visit foreshadowing anything, but the six months of visits that came years later, did.
The entity always manifested in the kitchen, but never under direct observation. Lisa would be watching TV in the living room, and the entity would appear in a window along the same wall, reflected there with the rest of the kitchen behind her. If she turned to look directly at the relevant spot in the kitchen, nothing would be there – but it would still be in the reflection when she turned back. It was reflected at the correct depth and perspective to be in the kitchen, and wasn’t outside the window. “I tried to relate, ‘Are you waiting for something? Are you trying to communicate?’ but it never answered.”
The spirit watched in silence on numerous occasions, until the mystery of the falling dowel revealed itself as another manifestation of the old family omen. That fall, Bacchus died. Their beloved tabby, Bacchus had a personality that Andrew describes as “larger than life” – even when he was suffering from an idiopathic autoimmune disorder that led to anemia, liver disease, and pancreatic cancer. Despite dropping from 23 to 12 pounds, Bacchus kept up his inimitable mannerisms – quirks that Lisa and Andrew are convinced are still being manifested by his spirit.
In 2004, Lisa knew a dear friend was dying in a hospital, 900 miles away. She sent her friend a care package that included roses, and at the moment her friend died, she knew it happened because she smelled roses all of a sudden. The day after Bacchus died, she smelled them unexpectedly again, which she believes was a message from her friend – Bacchus was safe with her. Lisa believes that Bacchus is now “feeling his way through the phase” and coming to her in moments of calmness.
A few days after Bacchus died, Lisa went outside to the trash can and came back in to see a milk ring – a favorite cat toy – rolling toward her from under the empty table. Neither of the other cats was under there. Later that week, the other two cats were sleeping with Andrew and Lisa when she felt a third one jump onto the bed. Bacchus’ brother Cheshire jumped off the bed in fright.
For the first few months after his death, Lisa would see his likeness “flash” in front of a chair in the living room as she sat watching TV – always at the same location and time. Bacchus used to play in the bathtub, and she’s heard the distinct sounds of a cat playing there several times. Andrew says that while they haven’t heard him lately, now they suspect that Bacchus is acting through Cheshire, who occasionally exhibits some physical characteristics and personality traits that were always distinctly Bacchus. Lisa says they can see Cheshire’s body physically change during these moments of possession. As for why Bacchus would do these things, Andrew has a theory: “I think he liked it here.”
Here’s hoping the dark entity didn’t….
[Originally published in the September/October 2012 issue of Midtown.]