Monday, January 19, 2009

Bumps in the Night

This is part of the series, The House on High Street. The entire series is indexed here.

The spooky back hall

Living in a very old house is good for your nerves--if they don't get absolutely shot by the goings-on, they just get stronger. Night time was especially interesting for us, and we had some odd experiences that first summer on High Street.

I already wrote about this first incident in a post last year called Beehive Ovens but, because this is my blog and I can do what I want with it, I'll just tell you again. Feel free to skip this part, if you've already read about the incident of the great crash in the night.

We were charmed by the four fireplaces in the Kelley House. Each of the fireplaces had a metal crane, hinged at the side of the firebox so that they could be swung out over the hearth. You could hang your iron pot, if you had one, on the crane and swing it back over the fire.

The biggest fireplace of the four was in the old original kitchen, the room to the right of the front door as you faced the house. Next to the fireplace opening was a small wooden door, covering what we supposed was a box for holding firewood. We struggled to pull that door open but just couldn't budge it. Several weeks after we had moved in, we heard a great crashing downstairs in the middle of the night. Because so many other "interesting" things had already happened to us since moving in, we chose to pull the sheets over our heads and wait until morning to investigate.

The next morning we cautiously came down the narrow curving "captain's staircase." We were amazed to find that the little door, jammed so fast the last time we had seen it, was now all the way across the room and up against the opposite wall. It was just as though the house was inviting us to look at what the door had been concealing.

What we saw were two openings, one above the other, built into the brickwork next to the fireplace and running back along the depth of the great chimney. The top opening was a much-coveted beehive oven and the bottom one revealed a storage space with all the old iron pots to hang on our empty cranes! We were thrilled to find that we owned a further bit of history. Research at the local library (in those pre-Internet days) showed that the Colonial housewife would build a small fire in the oven, close it up with a hinged iron door until the whole thing was thoroughly heated, rake out the coals and brush out the ashes with a long turkey feather, then do her baking. A good oven could hold as many as 17 pies, and could certainly bake up a quantity of bread and baked beans.

We searched around the property for years for the missing iron door to cover the oven but we never found it, although the hinges were there

On another night later that summer, I was awakened by what sounded like someone getting out of bed in the attic (we had no beds or family members up there), walking across the floor, and coming down the attic stairs. The footsteps stopped at that point. I was lying there, thinking about what I had heard, when I realized that Beez was awake, too. Whispering back and forth, we confirmed that we had both heard the same thing.

And then we heard it again.

As good parents, we knew that we needed to get up and check on the kids, but neither of us (I'm ashamed to admit) was very eager to do so. After a lot of poking and shifting around and a whole lot of "you go first," and "no, you go first" that made us sound like two of the Three Stooges, we managed to make the rounds with the flashlight, finding all the children safely in their beds and fast asleep. With a minimum of jostling and shoving to get through the doors and back to the bed, we hopped in and pulled the covers up over our heads--a common response to night time adventures that summer.

And then we heard it again.

We knew what we had to do and we weren't happy about it. We had to check the spooky back hall, because that's where the attic stairs were and that's where the sound was coming from. We went back into Two Stooges mode, stepped out the back hall while jockeying for position at the back of the line, and the flashlight went out. Mad scramble, back to bed, heads back under the covers.

And then we heard it again.


Judy said...

These bumps in the night might have been more than I could stand. I am sure you had some very anxious moments in that house.

Akkire said...

I never heard this one before! How creepy.

Akkire said...

ps. did you ever feel like these happenings were...malicious in intent or docile?

clairz said...

Erikka, we always felt welcome in this house. There was never any bad feeling connected with the place. After the first summer we lived there, everything seemed to settle down and we weren't bothered with any more strange happenings.

Rebecca Zarges-Joy said...

Mom- a slight correction- I do know of one more incident.(You had told Erikka that after that summer things settled down and there were no more happenings.) A few years after moving into the house you adopted a 9 year old little girl- ME!!!!- When I was first living with you as a foster child, my bedroom was the "little room" off the back hall. From what you told me (apparently I slept through the whole thing) this is what happened: It was summetime and there was a coffee can"stuck" holding the window open. (I say "stuck" because the house had VERY HEAVY windows and when you put a can in the window to hold it open,the can isn't going anywhere) from what you told me, in the middle of the night,(naturally) a loud bang or crashing sound awoke you and dad. You got up (I now know you did so as the two stooges-Lol)and went into my room to check on me. You were quite surprised to find that the sound had been the coffee can somehow "removed" from the window and the window slamming shut. I could not have done it simply because I wasn't strong enough and, somehow,I had managed to sleep through the whole thing! Seeing as I was the new person in the house, I had not been there for the welcome you all had,so I figured this was my welcoming... Do you remember this?

clairz said...

Isn't it funny how we all remember different things? No, I have no memory at all of the coffee can incident, but I can't rely much on my memory any more, lol.