In my twenties, I had many different jobs. For years, I worked as both a real estate agent and a bartender.
On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a region with a long and legend-saturated history, a real estate agent is certain to eventually encounter a home with a reputation for being haunted. Not having been a Realtor for many years now, I don’t know the legalities of such a challenge in this more complicated world we live in, but back then, my sister, who was my mentor/co-agent, and I would say something like, “Look, ha-ha, we don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but you know, ha-ha, we feel obligated to tell you that, ha-ha, somepeoplehavesaidthishousemightbehaunted.”
Once we said somepeoplehavesaidthishousemightbehaunted to a couple who were looking to invest in a Grasonville rental property, a simple late 19th century two-story box colonial, and the lady replied, “Oh, we know! We saw her the first time we drove up. She was out by the bird feeder. And upstairs there’s a Civil war veteran who wakes up from his nap every afternoon and says, “Hello…hello…hello?”
We said, “Oh, okay.”
This same couple told us that their home in Anne Arundel County, on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, was inhabited by a poltergeist. This spirit had a name I can’t remember, but for some reason ‘Henry’ sounds right. This couple told us that Henry would sometimes wait for the neighborhood kids to get off the school bus, and then follow one home. The neighborhood moms would call and say, “You’ve got to come get Henry,” and the couple would get in the car and go pick up their friendly little poltergeist.
We said, “Oh, okay.”
One time, we had another old two story for sale on Kent Island that was also a rental property, but was being vacated when my sister and I went to do our primary inspection. The tenants, as cooperative as one expects evictees to be, said the house was haunted. They said they heard voices when their family was asleep and saw strange shadows flit across 100-year old plaster walls at three am. The tenants’ spiel was rather lackluster and had a sour-grapey flavor. My sister and I were relieved they were leaving so they wouldn’t have much opportunity to interact with potential buyers. We did not take their deadpan declarations of supernatural spookiness too seriously.
But then we started talking to friends and friends of friends who had lived in the house. There were consistencies in their stories: An edgy presence. The unearthly whispers. Objects flying across the room.
Now, as a side-note, and it may come as a surprise, but the staff members of all your favorite restaurants stay out late. If you’ve ever wondered if the waiter pouring your morning OJ or the line cook behind the brunch buffet has been up partying all night, the answer is yes. Always. Yes. They were up all night last night, and there’s a good chance they might be up all night again tonight too, after a nap.
So, I was at this late-night after-work party. Late-night as in: the start of the day for local Chesapeake watermen. In another couple hours, the alarm clocks of even the regular nine-to-fivers would be ringing. Late late.
And a girl said, “You know that house in town you’ve got for sale? We just went by there and the front door is wide open.”
No one would come with me.
I stood under a dim streetlight. The house stared down at me. No light burned from inside or out, and, in fact, all the neighboring homes were equally dark and quiet. I stepped up, up onto the large front porch with the painted wooden floor and ceiling, and just as sure as pumpkin pie, the front door, which swung in, not out, was, in fact, wide open, and looking like a portal into a place from which, if I were to cross it’s threshold, I might not ever be able to shake myself loose.
To grasp the door knob, I had to reach, head and shoulders and to my far left, into the house’s large front room. I held the door frame with my right hand and leaned in without moving my feet from the porch. I squinted my eyes to avoid looking too hard into any dark corners, whether they be simple architectural features or metaphysical cracks into a netherworld of horror.
The hair on my arm stood straight up.
Then, just as I touched the doorknob with the tips of my fingers, an invisible pair of hands wrapped around my wrist, and I swear all but the last nine words of this story are true. In all honesty, I grabbed the doorknob with the intense anxiety that a ghost talon would snatch me from out of the shadows, but it didn’t happen. Heart a-pounding, I grabbed the knob, slammed the door shut, made sure it locked behind me, and burned rubber getting out of there.
A few days later, I was with a group of co-workers at the real estate office, looking at a batch of photographs of the homes we were advertising for sale, including the Kent Island house that everyone was now well aware had a haunted reputation. We were discussing the house and that reputation when the broker strolled past, pointed at one of the photos, and said, “There she is.”
We all laughed, then looked where he pointed, and stopped laughing.
In the upper right-hand, curtain-less window of the ‘unoccupied’ house there’s an image nobody had to work hard to see. The glass is dark, but in one corner, looking out of, and filling two thirds of that side of the window, is a hazy grey figure that appears feminine and stout, with one arm down and one wrapped across her torso. Her features are vague but she does not look happy.
For years after, I knew exactly where my copy of the photo was stored. Dozens of people can attest to having seen it. Yet, when I recently went to locate it for sharing, its place in the photo album was empty.
No one seems to know where the photo went. No one I’m able to talk to anyway.
And that’s my Eastern Shore Halloween story.
HEAR MORE EASTERN SHORE GHOST STORIES THURSDAY NIGHT AT CENTREVILLE’S CREAMERY CAFE BISTRO WITH CHESAPEAKE GHOST WALKS’ DEEDEE WOOD!