Monday, October 25, 2010

The Man with the Hat

Did you ever have the feeling someone was staring at you? You know the feeling, your neck hairs prickle. Your hands start to tremble. You look around and no one is there. Yet the feeling won’t go away. I know that feeling well.

It all started when we bought our house. I was so excited. This was our first home. It was old house, and it needed work, but it was ours. We got the keys on my birthday. Best birthday present I ever had. My husband, Roger, arranged his vacation so we could do some work in the house before we moved in. After two weeks of scraping wall paper and painting, the day finally arrived and we moved in.

Roger worked nights and the first night he had to go back to work, we put our children to bed and sat down to watch television until it was time for him to leave. That’s when the feeling started. Roger didn’t seem to notice anything. Our dog curled up next to me and seemed quite content. Okay, I thought, must be my imagination. At eleven o’clock, Roger left for work, and I went to bed.

Just as I started to doze off, I heard a noise in the basement. Our dog started barking. I listened for a minute and heard it again. Sure sounded like someone was down there. But how could that be? We were home all day and evening. Again, I thought it was my imagination. Sure the goose bumps broke out on my arms and my insides quaked and my hands shook so bad the whole bed moved. Again the noise came. Okay, that was enough, I grabbed the phone and called my sister, who lived two streets away. Of course she was a little annoyed. After all it was almost midnight. But she sent her husband, Doug, to check things out.

I could tell by the look on his face, Doug thought I was nuts. But he humored me and looked around the house. Of course he didn’t see anything. When my dog refused to come into the dining room, even Doug got a little spooked. She stood in the hall growling and barking, at what I had no idea. She was normally a quiet dog and hardly ever barked. Doug went into the kitchen and called her. She didn’t move. I went into the living room and called her. She just stood there barking and growling. She refused to enter the dining room to come to either one of us. Her gaze focused on something across the room. Neither Doug nor I saw anything. Surely, if it was a mouse, she would have chased it. Okay, this was weird. She had no problem walking through the room during the day.

It was late, and Doug saw my fear. He suggested we pack up the kids and spend the night at their house. I’m sure he just wanted to go home to bed.

In the morning, the kids and I returned home and all seemed normal. All day our dog ran through the house with the kids like usual. Nothing distracted her. No growling, no barking, no staring at a fixed spot.

Night time, however, was a different story. I had the eeriest feeling someone was staring at me. I even looked out the windows. Of course I saw no one. Roger left for work. I went to bed and again the noises started. I hated to do it, but I grabbed the phone and called my sister again. This time as Doug started down the basement steps, he stopped, came back, and took a knife out of the kitchen drawer.

I must have looked confused. "I have an eerie feeling someone is watching me," he said. He checked out the basement and everything seemed normal. The dog set up her spot in the hall and started growling and barking. Like the night before, she refused to step foot in the dining room. Once again, we spent the night at my sister’s house.

This went on for several nights. Doug came over and took us all to his house, not even bothering to look around. He even suggested we just come over at bedtime so he didn’t have to pick us up. It was all funny during the day time. But nights were a different story. The nights Roger was home, we didn’t hear anything and the dog remained calm. No noises to disturb our sleep, and the dog didn’t growl. Roger thought it was my imagination, but Doug confirmed the actions of the dog and the eerie sense of being watched.

The next night Roger went to work it happened again. This time Doug brought a tape recorder to our house and set it up in the dining room before we all piled in his car.

The next day, we played back the tape. Sounds of our dog growling and barking were predominant, but in the background we heard other unidentifiable sounds . Sounds like chains being pulled across the floor, and  scratches and moans.

I’m sure Doug was getting tired of picking us up every night, and I’m sure my sister, although she didn’t say anything, was tired of us intruding on her. I personally wasn’t crazy about spending the nights at my sisters. Besides, we just bought this home and I wanted to stay in it. Waking my kids every night and dragging them out didn't appeal to me either. This was getting ridiculous.   I couldn’t spend every night at someone else’s house, so I made up my mind to stay home. Noises or no noises. I’d just have to get used to it.

Every night when I went to bed, the same thing occurred. Somehow I tuned out the noises, quieted the dog and managed to sleep. After all it was my house and I wanted to live in it.

One day, my  daughters were playing upstairs in their room. They screamed and ran down stairs. “There’s a man up there,” they cried in unison.

I knew that couldn’t be since we had been home all day. But I went up to check out their story to appease them. They pointed to the alcove where they said a man with a hat had been watching them.

Of course no one was there. I explained it was a shadow of a bird going past the window. Although I had an eerie feeling and the room felt cold. Much colder than normal.

My daughters didn’t accept my explanation. They knew what they saw and described him clearly. He was a tall man, in a brown suit jacket and wearing a hat. They couldn’t make out his face, but they said he watched them play.

After that, they refused to play upstairs and I often had a hard time getting them to go to bed at night.. Now it seemed our nightly visitor had decided to appear when it was light out, too.

Roger thought it was my vivid writer’s imagination working overtime. That is, he did, until one day he was working in the basement. He came upstairs, white faced.

“What’s wrong,” I asked.

“I just saw a man wearing a hat in the basement. At first it was a shadow. But as I stared at it, his form became clearer and I could see the outline of his hat.”

This shook me up. When he described the man the same as the kids, I knew we had a ghost.  Roger wasn’t lying and now he realized the noises weren’t my overactive imagination after all.

About a month later, I finally met some of the neighbors. I  told them of my feelings of being watched. I didn’t mention that my kids or Roger had seen a man.

The woman across the street laughed and said it was probably our nosy neighbor looking in the windows.  "When we moved in the woman actually walked in the house and looked around," Donna said.
 I knew this wasn’t the case at our house,  but hesitated to tell her anymore of our experiences. After all I had just moved in and didn’t want people to think I was crazy.

I asked one of theother  neighbors about the people who had lived in the house before us. The house was sold as part of an estate sale. So I knew the previous owners had died.

“Oh, a nice old couple lived there," she said. "The wife died a long time ago. And John lived alone for a long time. He died in the house and it was several days before they found him because he didn’t have a phone. When we didn’t see him for a few days and his newspapers remained outside we called his son.”

Just great. And to make matters worse, she told me John died in the very bedroom I slept in. Eventually, I told my friend about some of the things that were going on, but didn’t tell her about the man with the hat. I asked more about John and she said he was a nice old man, kept mostly to himself. “He loved to work in his garden and yard. Funny,” she said. “He always wore a brown suit coat and a hat.”

So now I knew. John was our ghost. He appeared many times after that. Roger often saw him in the basement, especially when we were remodeling the kitchen. My son said John used to sit on a chair upstairs and watch him play. Funny, my son didn’t feel threatened by him the way the girls had.

I never saw John myself, but I sure heard him and sensed his presence. Sometimes I smelled a sweet aroma, like aftershave and often the room grew cold even in the heat of summer. My skin prickled on more than one occasion. I knew he was there, watching me. John stayed with us for five or six years and  one day he simply disappeared. I figured he must have approved of us and went on to a better place. Either that or the noise from my six children got to be too much for him.


Karen McGrath said...

Cool story, Ro. There's so many things we don't understand like this. It takes some courage to share these things, thank you! :)

Roseanne Dowell said...

Thanks, Karen. We laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn't funny. I think part of what made me stay home was the fact I wasn't threatened. I forgot to mention, I was pregnant with my 5th child when we moved in - the one who said John used to watch him play. After the first couple of weeks, I didn't feel John's presence every night. He only seemed to appear when we started tearing something apart and remodeling. The house was built in 1907 and not at all modernized. When my husband replaced a light fixture in the kitchen, we discovered a gas pipe in the ceiling. The old fixture was attached to it and we had to open the cap on the pipe to get it off. The pipe was still live. Later we discovered gas pipes in the bathroom on either side of the medicine cabinet and in the living room on either side of a window. The fuses in the fuse box were wire like solder. Needless to say we were doing a lot of fixing up and remodeling. It was slow going and took a long time.

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz said...

Thank you for sharing this Roseanne. My MG novel, Ghost for Rent, and the sequel coming in 2013, Ghost for Lunch, are based on ghost sightings in our small community. The spirit world is very intriguing to me. Sounds like you've got the basis for a story there.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your story, Roseanne, both the suspenseful beginning, and then the end when we learned who your ghost was. I'm sure he just wanted to make sure his home was being taken care of by a good family, and when he saw it was, he knew it was time to move on. You definitely have great material for another book :)


Rosalie Skinner said...

We lived with a ghost in two houses. Although he never worrried us, the next tenants and the neighbours didn't appreciate his presence.
I believe it was my Dad. Before he died I said he could hang around with us if he wanted. Perhaps he did want to see his grandchildren grow up.
When we moved the third time, he didn't come too.
I think the kids miss the odd ghostly visit.
I don't know how I would feel moving in on a ghost I didn't know though. That would be decidedly nerve wracking.
Thanks for sharing.

Roseanne Dowell said...

Thanks everyone. I did use ghosts in a couple of my stories. I love good ghost stories. Of coures I don't care for the scary ones. I think John approved of what we did with the house and approved of our family. It certainly was an active place.

Lin said...

What a great true-story, Ro. I am constantly amazed by the power of the spirit.