4.03.2013

What Lies Beneath

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.

16 comments:

  1. I was going to volunteer to help you go through the items, but that was before I got to your "ghostly" encounters. But, I would still help. I LOVE that kind of stuff. I'm fascinated by old photos also and history.

    Tracy

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  2. Tracy - Hahaha! Yes, as soon as actual experiences happen, then it becomes a little more scary. You are a girl after my own heart, we love the same things!

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  3. Oh my, I can't wait for you to go through your attic! Have you ever asked, whats wrong when you hear the women crying? When I lived on Ft.Knox I would hear walking and sometimes what sounded like a ball bouncing in my bedroom. I could only hear this when sitting in the living which was under the bedroom. At first I thought I was hearing things, but my two kitties would run to the stairs and look up it. At that point it confirmed I wasn't the only one in the house. There came a day when I was in my bedroom changing and felt someone in there; you that feeling when you sense someone is with you, looking at you or simply the chills? I had a slight panic moment; I swung my bedroom door open and demanded that who ever was in there to leave while I was changing and told them,they're being rude. I will admit that in that moment I was really happy no one was there to look at me crazy for "talking to myself"!! Lol
    I still heard the ball bounce every now and then but I no longer felt like someone was in the bedroom with me while changing.

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  4. Boy this house is perfect for you! If I lived closer, I'd go through it with you...but then neither one of us would sleep!

    When we made our new kitchen, we found old boots from the 1800's....then we had nothing but problems with the building...we still think we stirred up history....

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  5. I'm not surprised your favorite subject was history. I love how you look at your home like an archeologist.

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  6. I got goosebumps seeing the old well under your kitchen, The Ring traumatised me a little so I blame that! I think it's fascinating that you have so much history in your home (I am a history nut too). If you ever do go through your attic, I would love to hear about what you find - including any more info relating to that creepy picture.

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  7. Oh my gosh, I love this post! I wish there were a "psychology of history" major. I'm more excited than ever to see you and your house this summer. I want to see the well! And I can't believe there are old things up in your attic waiting to be explored! Wow. And the things you've heard in the house? Love it!! You should call TAPS. ;) Can't wait to hear more.

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  8. Once I heard loud stomping noises in the attic of my parents’ house and I was quite terrified... but when I told my dad, he just started laughing… this was a marten, he said :) After that I heard the noise in many houses attics and yet I could never fully understand how these featherweights can make such loud noises, as if someone heavy is jumping around.

    A well would probably also scare me, although I can see the advantage in earlier times - not having to go out in winter to get water must have been very practical.

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  9. Thea - we don't have martens in our area, I looked into it. And the sound I heard was very loud walking around, not jumping, in the stride of a human being. And if this happened all of the time, I would assume an animal. What I heard happened only once on a very specific day and after a lot of other activity. I'll definitely write about this specific day in another post! :)

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  10. I have heard critters in the walls and in ceilings, and I've always known they were a mouse or something. Or raccoon or some other small animal that gets into attics, etc. This was definitely different. :)

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  11. Whoa - how really cool, but nerve-wracking too. I love old photos, stories and history too, but I can see how the experiences you have in your home could leave you a little nervous about exploring the attic.

    A few years ago my mother lived in an old house in New York. There were lots of cool hidden spots and creaky places. She even had some odd things happen. A candle lit on the table that she didn't light. The sound of footsteps. One thing I thought was pretty cool was that there were black crosses painted on the moulding above each doorway - I guess the rooms had been blessed by a priest or something to ward away evil?

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  12. I LOVE this post - you write so well and it's such a pleasure to read. I live in an old house too and I understand about things that go bump in the night! I also would be happy to help you clean out that attic ...

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  13. Ok, everyone who posted here is going to meet at your house to see your attic :) ha ha....what fun! Alyson, you attract those of us who are much like you but not so brave! I'm scared to death just thinking about your attic! :) We are about to rent the main level of a 2 story house built in 1850. Our part includes the basement, which I think I will be too afraid to go down to do our laundry...guess husband will have to do it! The house we are renting isn't updated or beautified like yours and many others...it's in rough shape, pretty beat up...I've never lived in an old house with uneven warped floors and over a century of history. I LOVE OLD, but am usually drawn to old and beautiful...am a bit nervous about our place but excited to get in and see what we can do.

    So about the stuff in your attic and spirits wandering around...maybe there is family history work up there for you to do! No doubt there is! :)

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  14. I'll totally come up with to the attic! I love digging through old stuff ;) maybe this fall??
    That photo is so strange and fascinating. It is a bit creepy, but there is also something so curiously wonderful about it. Most old photos are so stiff and purposeful and emotionless. While this is still a bit staid, there is obviously a story and emotion going on behind it. It is also an artifact of illnesses that were so common then, but usually unseen now. To help calm your fears, I would consider this a rare relic of a really important moment in time for this family, and perhaps you, with your curious and compassionate nature, was meant to find it? And...how in the world did Lady Sybil end up in the photo? ;)

    I'd love to hear your ghostly tales. I have a ghost story myself of a stay at a haunted hotel. I am anxious to get into our 'new' old house, although it isnt as old as yours-- the idea of all that history taking place within its walls just makes me giddy with excitement. The thought of someone sitting in my dining room reading about the Armistice or listening to a radio about the declaration of WWII....just thrills me! Cant wait to join the 'old house' club!

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  15. Hi, I am new to your blog. You have a lovely place here. I love your blog layout and all your photos and of course, your words. I'll be back:)

    Lesa

    www.everydaynotesblog.com

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  16. Oh Alyson, if you hadn't already won me over with your love of Boston and New England living, this certainly would. I don't know how I missed this post. I just saw it as I was showing my step son and his wife (who are on their way to Boston) your blog. I find this very fascinating! Can't wait for your "detailed" post on your experiences.

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