Bucks County has a very rich history starting from the early settlers through the Revolutionary War and beyond. Needless to say there are many hauntings and haunted houses. Being born and raised there it was not unusual to hear of the many ghost stories - and there are several published accounts -- but it wasn't until I started at the county college and met some great new friends that I lived some of those stories. Here's one that includes several sightings:
A guy I met in class, Sam, became a fast friend. He lived with his mother Louise in an apartment which was an addition on an old stone farmhouse in mid-county. They had just recently moved there along with their tabby cat, Beans. It was a small estate with some acreage and a few out-buildings including an old carriage house and barn; and there was a small in-ground swimming pool which was great fun in the summer.
The owner of the property, Esther, lived in the main house. She was an older, unmarried woman, an intellectual and retired agriculture professor who collected antiques, books and art while maintaining the little farmette on the property; she also fostered old greyhound dogs of which there were at least two at any given time. Upon her retirement she chose to do some travelling. She was seldom ever there and Sam and his mom were in charge of the property when she was gone, feeding the dogs or the chickens, cleaning the outbuildings, and mowing the grass. It was part of their rental agreement.
The place had all the colonial charm of many old estates in Bucks County: the towering oak trees, the gravel drive, and an old root cellar that flanked the edge of the yard. The house was build in the 1700's - there was a "cornerstone" with a date but I can't recall the actual date (and I can't name the property out of privacy and respect for the current owners) -- with the typical stone façade and shuttered windows painted in old colonial blue. Even the apartment was antiquated and was probably living quarters for the servants in days gone by: a first floor kitchen with a spiraling narrow wooden stairwell that led up to two adjoined rooms and a bathroom.
There was the front door to the apartment and an adjacent back door off the kitchen that led to the backyard and the fields where Esther would plant a small crop of corn or tomatoes each season while she was able. There was also an access door from the apartment's kitchen to the main house downstairs. Sam's mom, Louise, was really cool, a hippie of sorts, and she let us have the run of the place most weekends while she was out with her friends. It was great to be invited there.
Upstairs, from Sam's bedroom was another door that led to a short hallway which also led to the main house. The door from Sam's room would warp in more humid months and would not completely close to the latch, but there was another door at the end of the short hallway that was always kept closed. There was an "in-between" solitary guest room in that short hallway, a dusty and somewhat tilted room: that entire pathway was kind of crooked as if it wasn't properly aligned when they constructed the addition of the apartment to the main house. The doors were always kept shut to prevent Beans from wandering into the main house which, if he succeeded, would naturally rouse the dogs to a barrage of barking. This would upset Esther so the doors were kept closed, but they were never locked.
When Sam started telling me about strange happenings in the house it was always in stride, jokingly even, but eventually the events became more frequent and more frightening. The first was in late summer. I was on my way over to see him just as this was occurring. He had closed the back door of the kitchen and went upstairs for something. When he came back down, the door was wide open and he saw a young girl standing just inside the doorway. Thinking he was being robbed, he froze in confrontation, but the girl vanished as quickly as she was seen.
When I arrived, he was very flustered; he told me about the girl kept repeating he could see the screen door right through her. When I pressed, he described her as being about yay-tall, approximately age 7 or 8 wearing a short petticoat and an apron and she was holding something, perhaps a doll. At the time I wasn't sure whether or not to take him seriously as he tended to laugh nervously as he told me, and I really didn't know him well enough at the time of how truthful he was being.
Sam seemed a rather mischievous fellow and I thought maybe he was just trying to entertain me with the thought that he and his mother had moved into a haunted house, but then weren't all of Bucks County's old houses haunted? We laughed it off. To be on the safe side, however, we searched the house and grounds over. No one was there. When we told Louise later on, she said it must have "just been our imaginations."
Soon, little "anomalies" began happening.
Sam had bought a brand new pair of designer jeans at Macy's that he couldn't find. For weeks he searched for those jeans, positively sure he didn't leave them at the store or in the car or anywhere but where he originally left them in his room. He was sore on this because they were expensive. Also, there was an old dresser in Sam's room from where atop it occasionally odds and ends would go missing, including small amounts of money. Some of the things - buttons, receipts, a comb, a wristwatch would be found in other parts of the apartment but not all showed up, and never the money.
When Louise was doing work in the yard or the barn, she would always wear an old field coat which hung on a hook in the old carriage house. Often she would inadvertently wear it back to the apartment, but the field coat would always be found back on the same hook at the carriage house. Louise would always say, "Oh, darn -- I forgot the field coat in the carriage house again!" It wasn't until later when she confessed her own experiences that we realized the coat moved on its own. The other constant oddity was it was impossible to keep paintings hanging straight on the walls. They would always end up crooked again after being re-righted over and over again. Finally they just gave up on it. Many of these incidences were just "silly" and seemed to need more proof before being called hauntings.
Both Sam and his mother were readers and crafters and seldom watched TV; but they had an old small black and white set that they would often trade off, bringing it downstairs or taking it to their respective bedrooms. It usually sat unplugged in a corner of the kitchen on a small table. One night in early September when Sam came home after dark, he saw that his mother had the TV on because he could see the blue light emanating from her upstairs bedroom window when he pulled into the drive. He saw her standing at the window that night and he waved up at her. When he entered the apartment, the house was dark, the TV was in its usual place unplugged in the kitchen, and Louise wasn't home!
That was the night he called me in terror and begged me to come over. I couldn't. I had no car or hadn't any gas to get there if I did, a good 20 mile hike from where I lived in lower county. He called me again near one o'clock in the morning, in tears and pleading. I told him I would stay on the phone with him until dawn...
Through that fall, I began spending more weekends with him at the farm. Louise was working on restoring an old lake cabin in north New Jersey which she had inherited from her mother. She was away a lot on weekends and sometimes she would stay away the entire week and commute from there to her regular job as a teacher. Esther on the other hand, would take long trips to Europe and would often kennel the dogs so we were there alone most of the time.
Autumn is a wonderful time in any part of New England. The days were warm, but the nights were cool, and one night after I had helped Sam do some work in the barn, we lit a fire in the fireplace in his bedroom, and shared some wine and stories. It was Indian summer and the cat nights began when Beans was frisky and restless, often sneaking through the warped door off Sam's room. We would often hear him in the middle of the night meowing from behind the door and we would have to retrieve him from the creepy hallway or the tilted bedroom.
That very night, to prevent Beans from escaping the apartment, we moved the old dresser against the warped door. Sam slept in his bed, and I took to the floor near the fireplace with a sleeping bag and extra sheets and blankets. Back then, I used to wear a silver chain with a medallion of the Virgin Mary that was given to me by my aunt. In the middle of the night it was yanked from my neck. In my grogginess I recalled feeling the tug, but disregarded it and went back to sleep. In the morning, the chain and pendant was in pieces mingled in the bedclothes. But that was no surprise - I could have tangled it in the bedcovers myself. What was a surprise in the morning was that the doorknob of the old warped door was completely dismantled and sitting on top of the dresser!
We had several parties at the house having met many new friends at school. Louise didn't care - we all just hung in the kitchen listening to music and having some beers and laughs. One of Louise's lifetime hobbies was a large dollhouse that had an open end filled with miniature furniture she had collected since she was a young girl. It was propped against a wall near the only bathroom upstairs just off her room. A few times Louise would find some of the pieces scattered out of the display and on the floor. She was angry that Sam's party guests, perhaps a little tipsy, would brush against the open end of the dollhouse and accidentally drag some of the pieces out of it when visiting the bathroom.
It was dark up there when you had to go pee, and the light switches in these old houses were usually outside the bathroom and often people would fumble to find them, hence bumping into furniture, etc. So to avoid any damage to the dollhouse, Louise turned it around so the open end now faced the wall to prevent the small items from being bumped out of it.
One party night a few of the gang, including some girls, stayed over. We all vied for bunking somewhere. Nobody knew where anyone ended up until morning when we all moseyed back to the kitchen to fry up some breakfast - college life, you know. But that night there were screams from Louise's bedroom. One of the girls woke to see a child, a girl, weeping in a chair at the now-inaccessible dollhouse. She also saw the face of an older woman floating over the bed!
After this event was when we confronted Esther who confided that yes, the house had "special friends." As a matter of fact, Esther nonchalantly explained that the farm was completely haunted by two ghosts in particular: a young girl and an older woman who seemed to be her guardian. Louise, who had hidden her own experiences - she thought she was losing her mind over the field coat --, finally came forward and was astounded by our stories as well.
Esther told us that one of the previous owners, a wealthy family who owned a prime car dealership in the county bought the estate but sold it off quickly: they entered the house to find all their belongings flying around the house in a seemingly indoor tornado. It scared them so badly they immediately sold the house at a loss. She also told us that a popular ghost-hunter who wrote a series of books about Bucks County's hauntings offered her a large amount of money to investigate and include it in her books. Esther declined the offer. Esther also disclosed to us that she was battling terminal cancer and would soon have to sell the property: her trips to Europe were for seeing doctors.
Soon we all agreed to have a medium come in and "assess" the hauntings. During that "séance", candles flickered and the kitchen would go cold to where we could see out breaths. As he channeled the spirits, I recorded the findings. The medium said that the little girl was "afraid of boys" and would only appear to the women or female guests of the house. This explained why the girls we invited saw the little girl at the dollhouse. Louise then confessed she was seeing the little girl and the woman A LOT and was why she spent more time up at the cabin or with her friends.
I was so intrigued with what we learned that I started doing some of my own investigations. I had gone to the county courthouse looking for deeds of previous families who lived there when the house was first built in the early century. I deciphered zoning maps and also found birth and death records, one of a little girl named Alice who died of influenza at the age of nine. Her maternal grandmother Elizabeth was also listed as dying around the same time from the same virus. Much of the hauntings actually made sense then and it was a wonderful ghost experience overall.
When Esther -- now quite ill -- and her sisters started the process of selling the house, they had a huge yard sale of antiques and artwork. One painting dug out of the attic of the main house was a portrait of a stout, matronly woman. Esther said it was there when she bought the place. The painting had been damaged and apparently an artist friend of Esther's attempted to restore it but had failed. There was a large streak through the face of the woman portrayed. She gave this painting to Sam. He took it to another restorer. As soon as that painting of Elizabeth was removed from the house, the pictures on the walls stayed straight when they were righted; and on the final day when Louise and Sam left the farm, Sam found a pile of loose dollars and change shoved in the back corner of his closet.
The blue jeans were never found.