I have always loved history. Though I struggled with a few subjects in school, I always excelled in any kind of history class. Of course, I am not fascinated by every aspect of history. Wars, for example, I know the basics on many wars, especially American, and the theories on why they began, but I'm at a loss to recall specific battles and strategies. That's the kind of stuff that fills action movies, and nothing will turn my mind off quicker than an action movie. I'm not very interested in how someone won this battle or that, but I do love hearing personal stories. I could listen all day to what sort of struggles a specific Revolutionary War solider overcame or succumbed to, and I am enthralled with how the families of soldiers survived. I love to hear what lies beneath, under the surface, the personal struggles, triumphs, and failures that you don't hear about when learning who won and who lost a battle. The personal, everyday struggles of everyday people and how those struggles and experiences formed a patchwork, interwoven with the struggles of those around them, to eventually change the course of history captures my mind like nothing else.
Naturally, because of this unquenchable love of history, I was drawn to having an old house of my own. You never know whose history you're moving into, and when that history includes many generations, you are moving into layers of history, emotion, deaths, births, marriages, love, and loss. You are moving into layer upon layer of stories.
Sometimes old houses are a little spooky because, well, because of their oldness, and because of what past (i.e. dead) generations have left behind. Even with reasonable explanations, there is a creep out factor to certain discoveries. After we moved in to this house, we discovered a little door in our kitchen floor that when pulled up, leads to a ladder that leads to a cellar, and in that cellar is a very old water well. Wells are just creepy! And if you've seen The Ring, I'm sure you'd agree.
And here it is, the well under my kitchen floor! The stuff that nightmares are made of, am I right? Old houses can do that to you. They can play with your mind when you see remnants of a forgotten past, something so foreign to our modern sensibilities. It makes you think that something was left behind, something possibly very terrifying. You never know what lies beneath. The mystery of it all can lead your imagination to some scary places. It seems when your mind is left to its own devices it will wander down deep, dark paths.
Soon after we moved in to this house, and before I had come to really know this place, its quirks and quiet, dark corners, I was down in the basement and came across this photo, left behind and forgotten.
Looks to be some sort of grouping of people, most likely family, around the turn-of-the-century, and the centerpiece of this sad lot is a woman who appears to be in the last stages of life. Dying, perhaps, of tuberculosis or some other wasting disease (I do not think she's quite dead yet because her eyes are opened and seem to be focused). When I first saw this picture, fearful panic filled me for a moment. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think it's because this photo is so mysterious and the very nature of a mystery is that it is an unknown, and that's where the fear easily creeps in. Perhaps it was the thought that some of these people may have lived in my house. The woman may have experienced a lingering, painful death in my house. I don't know. But I believe this put a face, as it were, to the past of my house. It puts a possibly very sad story with very real people into my home. Now I don't know if any of these people had anything to do with my house at all, or if this was simply left behind recently by someone unintentionally. But it is an intriguing part of the mystery of my house. After the fear left me, I just stared at the photo, imagining the story behind this. Was this a family gathering to say good-bye to a beloved member? Is the girl in front the dying woman's daughter, about to be left motherless or even completely orphaned? So many stories can be conjured just from looking at this simple, old photo. So many stories lie beneath, just out of grasp.
Though this photo doesn't cause fear in me anymore, it has still left me a little anxious about finding more, possibly much more frightening things in this house. My attic is full of possessions of many eras, left behind, and even though I've been here nearly a year, I still haven't brought myself to go through any of it, but at some point the potential stories up there will overcome my trepidation. It is just too compelling for it remain forgotten. As I said, I am a woman who loves a good story, and better still if it is historic. Now if my pesky imagination would leave me alone and not lead me to thoughts of a hostile ghost hiding, waiting for me, or a body left to rot at the bottom of my well, then I could get to exploring.
However, the problem is that I've had experiences in this house that I can't explain rationally. I will have to write a post detailing all of my experiences here someday, perhaps around Halloween, but when you hear the distinct sound of a woman weeping many times in your home or when lying in bed alone at night, you hear someone walking very loudly right above you, and all that is above you is an empty attic, the fear of what you may find doesn't seem so absurd anymore. That being said, as I have become more acquainted with this house, and as I've come to know its unique quirks, I don't truly feel anything in this house is evil or bad. There is a really good, positive feeling about this place. And if truth be told, if I moved into an old house and I didn't find it to have past, ghostly residents wandering the halls I'd be a little disappointed. After all, my favorite kind of story is a mystery; and that's what I got, an old house full of potential mysteries and intriguing stories for me to ponder.