Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ghosts in the Kitchen; Ghosts in the Attic: Ghosts in the Garden


BY L.J. Holmes

I was eighteen the year I interviewed the Ropesons at their haunted house. It had made the front page in our local newspaper, The Intelligencer. Forty years ago almost to the day, yet I remember it as clearly as if it happened...TODAY!

I must admit, I had not read about their house in the years before I interviewed them, even though their story had been reported every Halloween for three years before I saw the article and requested my current interview.

 I was doing the research for my next Public Speaking assignment project—reporting on an in-depth interview of a current event. Okay, maybe this interview did not technically qualify as a current event if one was judging by the narrowest of definitions, but it was Halloween, it had made the newspaper’s front page, and I’d secured a face-to-multiple-face, on sight, interview. PLUS I was dragging my timid, as in scared out of her size three BVD’s best friend Bobbi Jo along for back up. Who could doubt my professionalism?

The stage was set. The Ropesons, a family of four, father, mother, son and daughter, lived in an old stone house built somewhere in the late sixteen early seventeen hundreds and it sat on the pinnacle corner between two somewhat busy intersecting roads…oh, and it was elaborately haunted by four ghosts.

Bobbi Jo was okay until I turned onto the actual road the Ropesons live on. Under the best of circumstances Bobbi’s bladder rarely allows us to travel more than twenty minutes before she desperately needs me to find a gas station…or a secluded tree.

The closer we got to The Haunted House the more Bobbi’s bladder muscles began twitching. I was beginning to doubt we were going to make it through this interview.

Somehow I couldn’t imagine Bobbi Jo reacting well to having to use the Ropesons’ bathroom where ghosts might pop up,

and scare the bejeeburs out of her midstream.

I may be forced to leave her in my car, I thought. Not a good idea, since Bobbi doesn’t drive, and I doubted she’d be amenable to sitting by her lonesome, in my car, outside a home where ghosts have been known to roam.

A block from the Ropesons, Bobbi Jo relieved her bladder, got back in the car and turned her wide eyes on me. I asked her if she was okay, and offered to take her to the nearby mall where she could browse while I conducted my interview.

For a minute I could see she really wanted to latch onto my proffered escape clause, but Bobbi hates anyone, herself included, thinking of her as a coward.

I put the car in gear and drove the short distance to the Ropesons.

As I have already explained, it is an old stone house, with a long quarry cobbled stone walkway, that has this elaborate archway trellis covered in some kind of a climbing plant I would later learn was blueberries.

Mrs. Ropesons had seen us pull in and stood now at the top of the steps, her slender body framed in the doorway with her young daughter, about eight, at her side, a welcoming smile on her thirty-something face. She beckoned us inside.

We were shown through a spacious farm kitchen, semi-modernized, on into a compact living room...

...where Mr. Ropesons and their son, about ten, were waiting.

Introductions were made all around and seats taken. Removing my notepad from my capacious purse I quickly outlined why I was there and thanked them for being so gracious in offering to meet me, and then I asked them to tell me their story. Oh Boy…what a story they had to tell.

Their home, they told Bobbi Jo and me, had been built back in the very early portion of the 1700’s by a Quaker school teacher.

He could not find work locally so was tutoring for a wealthy family in Philadelphia, only to return home every few months to be with his very young, very pregnant wife. Not that unusual, I learned for that era.

During one of his times away, his wife grew very ill.

He was sent for, but he could not get back before she died. His grief was beyond consolation, and he slipped into deep despair.

In the room the Ropesons’ daughter now calls her own; the closet is several degrees colder than the rest of the room. That is where, their research showed, the despondent teacher took his life.

 Mr. Ropesons took a breath and continued. The teacher, he assured Bobbi Jo and me, is a kind, benevolent spirit. When the blueberries are ripe on the archway, he will materialize and pick the berries too high up for the children to reach.

It was as Mr. Ropesons was telling us this that both Bobbi and I smelled the strong aroma of pipe smoking—although we would not discuss this until much later.

Mr. Ropesons continued his description of the teacher. His family had dug into the archives of this house and tracked down its history. He’d also spent days opening the crates in the attic’s many nooks and crannies.

There he found a small artist’s rendering of the young teacher smoking a pipe with friends, associates, actors in some play?  He could not say, nor could any of the experts he took the rendering to. Mrs. Ropesons chimed in that they often smell pipe tobacco and no one smokes in their family.

Bobbi Jo’s eyes bulged...

...and like a cartoon character, her jaw dropped...

...but to give her credit she didn’t yelp, nor did she run from the place, and her bladder did not fail her either. A MAJOR accomplishment on her part given the provocation.

I was certainly convinced the house was haunted, but of course the Ropesons were just warming up.

Moving ahead to the other three ghosts the Ropesons catapulted us into the 1800’s,  and a farmer dad, mom, and their daughter.

On the fateful last day, mom and dad were having a rip roaring old battle on the staircase, of course.

Daughter, upset by the argument between her parents, tried to intervene, gets accidentally shoved by someone’s thrashing hands and falls to her death. Mom goes berserk, dashes to the kitchen, grabs a knife that she impales dad with,

...realizes what she’s done, pulls her baby girl into her arms, wails for all she’s worth, and turns the knife on herself…and all three remain behind, haunting quite happily, well as happily as a messed up family that doesn’t know they’re dead can.

What do they do? The little girl plays with the Ropesons children. She likes jumping rope best. The husband hides tools whenever Mr. Ropesons gets the crazy idea he’d like to make some renovation, which is why the kitchen is only semi-modernized.

The wife, she bakes bread, all the time, and when Mrs. Ropesons is on the phone telling others about the strange things happening in her home, the wife takes her hands and places them palm down against Mrs. Ropesons’ shoulder and presses inwards leaving visible hand prints for any and all to see.

They’ve had friends witness and be victims of their ghosts. One friend brought his own tools. He got to see his own hammer lift from his tool box, sail across the kitchen and land at his feet mere inches from his sandal exposed big toe.

Reporters have smelled tobacco and bread baking even though they found no one in the kitchen baking, the oven cold, and no hint of a lit pipe, cigarette, cigar or any other explanation for the smell of burning tobacco.

But, Mrs. Ropesons added, her voice lowered a full octave as she leaned closer towards Bobbi Jo and me, the weirdest thing they’d ever experienced had to do with the grandfather clock.

We all looked towards the corner where the antique in question stood quite regally ticking unobtrusively behind us. The ghosts, Mrs. Ropesons explained, liked playing with the clocks chains. Once a month the Ropesons have to get their clock man out to unravel the ghosts artistic work.

They’d done that right before going away for a weekend to the shore this past summer. So it was in tip-top shape when they left. When they got home it was bonging like crazy. They called the Clock Man, again.

Tied in the chains were thirteen evenly spaced, evenly sized knots. No human could have tied two such knots, let alone thirteen. So the ghosts play when the Ropesons are away; just like spoiled pets will play/demolish, when their family leaves them behind.

As we watched, the clock bonged the half hour. It was 7:15.

It’s been forty years since that Interview. I don’t know if the Ropesons still live there or if another family or a bunch of other families have been the hauntees of those four active ghosts.

Of course the ghosts may very well have found their way to The Light, but I know when we left Bobbi Jo swore she’d never go on another College assignment with me as long as she lived, and that’s a promise she’s kept.

I also know every time either of us get a whiff of pipe smoking we both think back to that house and shiver just a little bit in memory.


Heather Haven said...

Perfect Halloween stuff! Scary, thought-provoking. I won't be going on any interviews with you either, kiddo, just in case you ever ask. Bobbi Jo and I will be at the mall.

Lin said...

It as FUN! Where else can you find a Grandfather clocking bonging the half hour at 7:15?

I got an "A" when I delivered my speech.

Killarney said...

Hi Lin, posting for my daughter Twyla, she loved the story then scared the crap outa herself when she won the yell out the video contest! LMAO! Kids!

Lin said...

I'm so glad for her. And tell her thanks for reading my tale.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Great story...
Sends shivers down my spine.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! Would probably have been a good tale for one of those ghost shows running on TV.

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