"They lie not easy in a grave
Who once have known the sea.
It was the early eighties, before my sister's breast cancer diagnosis. She became my silent partner in the purchase of a large, old Victorian on the northern coast of Maine. It was to have been our family get-away, but a whole lot less expensive than the place our family had on Cape Cod when we were children. My sister still had the faded, gray piece of driftwood on which hung the boathouse key, strung with an old slice of rawhide. Our grandfather's brother had spent one whole afternoon carving BOATHOUSE into the driftwood, trying to instruct my mother in the art of whittling. This may have been when my mother's aversion to sharp objects began to take shape. Well anyway, the compound on the cape was sold when my grandfather became ill in his old age. The money went into a fund for he and my grandmother, and we were sentenced to state beaches for the remainder of our childhood. Hence, the Maine Getaway.
Stamped on bottom OCCUPIED JAPAN
It was a huge house and would take a lot of work as it had been abandoned for quite a while before I spotted the faded FORECLOSURE sign boarded over the fence guarding the driveway, which was off the main road. There were three floors, an attic the size of Alaska, turrets, and of course, a wrought iron widow's walk on the roof overlooking the North Atlantic. The widow's walk was our first priority, and after the wrought iron railings were re-secured, my sister and I spent hours up there. Just watching and listening to the ocean. On a clear day one could see the huge, arc shaped antennas the military used for all North Atlantic underwater communications, jutting out into deep water. On foggy days they took on an eerie value, looking like the sections of a large snake, here and there partially out of the water. Perhaps an American version of the Lockness Monster. At night we watched the waves crashing onto the beach, lit by phospherescent plankton, creating a magical effect in the darkness. And life was interesting and good.
Found hanging in that bedroom over the bureau
There were old, mold covered books, as well as vintage clothes stacked in the attic, along with the usual trappings of rusted bed frames, piles of old newspapers and magazines, even a pair of large ice tongs, intended to lift the huge ice blocks used in the original refrigerators.
Cut crystal vase found in the cold cellar, of all places.
My brother-in-law, who was the assigned
The old vanity set, with the scrimshaw necklace in the talc container.
My brother-in-law, sage that he was, noticed the decreasing level of joy in our discoveries, so he surprised us with a new rule. My sister and I had to 'call it' and flip a coin. My sister won the toss and was told by her husband to pick a number from one to ten. She picked five, middle-of-the-road, she was. Fair Boss that he was, my brother-in-law promptly changed the number to six, explaining we each could pick three items from the house we would keep. My sister's eyes narrowed to those evil looking slits I was so familiar with as a child, and I sensed trouble. So did my brother-in-law. He raised one eyebrow, and murmured, "I smell a sidebar." My sister replied, "Paper items do not count." Fair enough, we had a deal.
Since I had to work, I would spend only my days off there, while my sister stayed for the summer cleaning, and I would return for a week in August. Not only is the weather a dream up there at that time of year, but we wanted to watch the whale migration from the Widow's Walk together.
August arrived and I left for my scheduled vacation. My sister had been working her tail off, the house was beginning to resemble something lived in and live-able. When I drove in my sister ran out to meet me and said, "Come up to the Walk, I have something really neat to tell you."
After making tea and getting cozy in the old Adirondack chairs we had found and
Special effects courtesy of my Dad.
The USS Barque Eagle at sea, 1950's.
"I've been hearing noises, and seeing things at night." "Oh great, do we need a priest?" "No silly, I think its a real widow. It must be a noise that initially awakens me, then I see a white cloudy thing that disappears before I can make out what it is. Soooooo, I went to the town hall and did a title search. There was a whaling captain that originally built this place, which explains the scrimshaw we found in the old bureau set. I wrote down the dates and then went to the library. They have the original newspapers from the area archived in binders. Apparently his ship went down in a terrible Nor' Easter that hit the North Atlantic. Nothing was ever found, no wreckage ever washed up on shore. His widow was described as devastated. The woman at town hall said it was a really old lady that had owned the house forever, after she died in it, here, she died in this house, it was said to be haunted, and has been empty ever since."
What North Atlantic waves are like...
"So, ahhh, what are ya try'n to say? Maybe I should phrase it, What's your plan, cause I can tell you have one." That all knowing smile spread across her face as she went on, "I had Mother and Dad bring up my old Ouija board when they came to visit.
"We're going to have a seance and see if the widow will communicate with us." My sister had a creepy way of forcing the dead to reveal themselves. She had been doing the seance thing since we were kids, nothing ever verbally spoke to us, but really cool things tended to occur. " I researched how to calm the desperate spirit, so we have to gather all the items we found in that bedroom."
She was talking about the bedroom that appeared to be untouched since the widow. Even the old hay-filled mattress had an unnerving indentation in it resembling a human form.
Late that evening, near to the witching hour, we were ready. We used old crystal candle holders, found in a closet, positioned on an antique hand crocheted dining room table cloth, that was placed on the pine floor, at the foot of what we assumed had been the Widow's bed. It was a still August evening, just the slightest breeze off the ocean, just enough to rustle the cutains a bit through the open windows. My sister set up the Ouija board, lit the candles, and we proceeded to concentrate.
That did it. Though we had our eyes closed the entire time, and never would know if the widow had shown herself to us, a sudden, strong gust of wind blew through the house, strong enough to dislodge the small locket on the ringbox, knocking it to the Ouija board with a slight thump. It was over in less than ten seconds, we opened our eyes to near complete darkness, the candles had been blown out, only the moonlight from the window lit the room in an eerie glow.
So that was it. The widow was hangin' out waiting for her husband to return from sea. When recounting the story for our parents, Dad said that many widows wander the coast, and even he - the non-believer - admitted to seeing cloudy shapes fleeting past on beaches all over the world. Our mother said she knew the feeling of what seemed an eternity when she would recieve a call from a ship our Dad was on notifying her there was a man overboard, unknown who, and she would wait. The all consuming energy itself keeping her still, focused, while she waited for a ship-to-shore call from our Dad.
And just because it was our most fun Holiday, I get out my sister's Ouija board every Halloween. I put things she loved on the board, light the candles, turn out the lights, and concentrate. Waiting for the witching hour. She doesn't disappoint, my sister, never did. Something incredibly creepy never fails to occur. And sooooo, as she used to say, with the wind really howling past the house making spooky Halloween noises - What LUCK! - I must go and get our HEAD to sit next to my son and his skeleton, as he hands out body parts, then gather together the things for our seance later.
No eyeballs this year, what a wrench. But you can go htttp://www.patricktillett.blogspot.com
for really cool HEADS.
A CREEPY ALL HALLOW'S EVE TO ALL WHO WISH IT.
In case you missed it, check out this chapel made entirely of human bones...
The Seance Result
All was quiet while we concentrated on calling the ones we missed to let us know they were still with us.
We sat with candles glowing , hoping the cats kept their noses out of the open flames surrounding us as we kept out eyes closed and willed those we love to come forward. At twenty minutes after twelve our self-imposed silence was interrupted by a loud crash. We knew one of the cats had knocked something over; its a usual occurence around here when they are feeling ignored. When we finally ended the session with not one sign, shadow, nor voice making itself known to us, we went to investigate the source of the crash. I found the aftermath in my bedroom. It was what I found that made us both just say, "Awww." and sigh.
My sisters jewelry box, given to her by my brother-in-law, the Grandmother's book that my kids had given my mother, and my Dad's photo I always keep on my bureau, next to the other things, is all the cat knocked over. At least we think it was the cat...