We had now been living in the "horror house" for about three years. I was a Senior in High School and looking forward to graduation and attending UCSC afterword.
The house was complete and it looked amazing! My mother and I had researched the property extensively, and with the help of the historical society and county archives, we had been able to track down a photo of the house immediately after construction. They had also put us in touch with the descendants of the "original" Butler family who had the house built. From them we were able to see photos of the interior of the house, as it was during their family's residence. Although the furniture was different, we decided to position it as closely as possible to what we could see in the photos. We also set to work returning the house's landscaping to its original appearance which was quite a chore in itself.
My sister, who had visited only once since we had moved in (with discouraging results), was interested in returning now that the activity in the house was fading. We had been able to invite several visitors over for events, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas with no spontaneous loss of electricity and no phantom music or apparitions. We felt her return now would be a good idea, and were hoping if it went well that she would begin visiting regularly. It turns out, she was more interested in stirring up trouble than simply enjoying the house during its "quiet" period.
During our research, we discovered the house had a sad and "unlucky" past. Multiple people had died there during its long existence, although not due to the house so much as the various troubles that plagued its occupants. Since about the end of the first World War, the house had gained a reputation locally for misfortune. The first three families to own the house up to that point had endured tragic losses with deaths in the family. The house had sat vacant and left to vandalism at times in the past and children would use it as a "dare" or as part of a right of initiation.
After moving in, while getting to know people locally, we would tell them where we lived and would often be greeted with looks of shock or horror. Most of this was caused by rumor, speculation or all-out lies told through the years. One person informed us the house had been used during the 30's as a hospital and that unnecessary surgeries had been conducted in the basement. Of course, the house's "basement" was a tiny room which originally held a gas fired boiler for heating the radiator system. There was also no record of the house ever having been used as a hospital. We would tell people this, but they would counter with comments such as "the rest of the basement was filled in later to hide the evidence." Regardless, the myths surrounding the house reached my dear sister who took it upon herself to seek rest for the "troubled spirits" who she was sure occupied the house.
If you have read my prior stories, you know that my mother and I never felt troubled in the house. We never felt that anything in the house was disturbed or trapped... My sister nagged at my mother constantly for months before finally getting her to relent and allow a seance.
My sister lives in San Francisco... San Francisco has no shortage of professional mediums and psychics, or no doubt of people who claim to be professional psychics but have no experience or talent. So, with all this potential to draw from I don't know how my sister came up with "Madame M" as I'll call her here. Madame M was local to us, which was convenient as she charged by the mile for visits to psychic readings. She claimed through her pamphlets and advertisements to have experience in seances. She was also able to provide a number of "testimonials" from past clients who were completely satisfied by her skills as a medium.
Prior to her visit, she had a very specific list of requirements which had to be strictly followed. No outsiders were allowed into the house until her visit (although outsiders were encouraged at the seance itself), all crosses or religious icons had to be removed, and we were instructed to send her something that was original to the house, which she could keep with her until the day of the seance. This was to help her build a "connection" with the house even before she arrived.
We did as instructed, although neither my mother nor I had any expectation that it would do any good. We sent her a hand-made nail which had been recovered from an iron eagle which was attached under the eves on the western side of the house. My sister arranged payment, and we began the long wait for our enlightening psychic reading to occur.
The night of our seance finally arrived. Halloween, October 31, 2001. The date was my sister's idea, who was encouraged by our medium to select a date of "psychic significance." Madame M arrived just after sundown and led us on a tour of the house. She stopped in several places, put her hand on her forehead and claimed to "feel" the presence of some spirit or another. She called out several names, none of which matched the names that we had uncovered during our research. Stopping in the kitchen, she stated that she could feel the presence of someone who had died there. Their name was "Rick, Rich, Richie" or, "Robert, Rocky, Ren, Ronald"... I'm not sure how many names she mentioned in the end, again none of them matched a name that came up during our research. She didn't mention feeling anything around the stairs, nor around the front parlor (which had been the most active locations in the house). After moving through the house, she brought us back to the "living room" which we had converted back into a drawing room. We sat around a table holding hands: Madame M, my sister, my sister's friend, myself, my friend, and mom. The medium then took the nail we had sent her and placed it on a piece of paper in front of her. Asking the "spirits" to guide her hand, she began writing on this sheet, from swirls to letters and finally to disjointed sentences. We all watched in fascination as she began to recount to us many of the various RUMORS and WIVES TAILS that were widely circulated about the house. She didn't provide us with a single confirmable name, beyond that of the family which had the house built, the Butlers. She mentioned a dark energy coming from below the house and asked if we had a basement, and if anything tragic had occurred there, this was a "no". Actually, we had to answer "no" multiple times to the questions she asked; both during the seance and before, while on her tour.
After several minutes of well orchestrated fairytale psychic writing, she claimed she needed time to rest and asked to be led to the parlor where she could meditate. She was gone from the drawing room for no more than thirty seconds before we heard a loud scream from the room Madame M had just entered. We all jumped up and ran toward the parlor, upon arriving we found the room very cold and pitch black. The electricity had failed suddenly while she was in there "meditating" and from the expression on her face, nothing like this had happened to her before. We asked her if she had "felt" anything at that moment but she was in no mood for answering questions. We walked her to the drawing room and gave her a glass of water, interested in resuming the seance now that the house was showing signs of activity. Madame M seemed less interested in resuming and began to mention how late it was getting and suggesting it was perhaps time to end the session. My sister was adamant that we resume, considering the medium's fee, the family hadn't gotten what it had paid for and sis was very vocal about it.
When the reading finally resumed, Madame M seemed distracted and wasn't able to continue writing as confidently as she had before. She began to write once more, recounting another story which we had heard as a rumor locally, when she stopped abruptly and looked in the direction of the front hallway. She stared for about a minute and grew quite pale before standing, grabbing her coat and excusing herself. She dug through her purse feverishly looking for her car keys as she walked toward the entrance, dropping papers as she went. Even my sister had to concede to the hoax as the papers turned out to be notes regarding the rumors Madame M had discovered and used in her seance.
To this day we don't know what Madame M saw in the hallway or what had happened to her in the front parlor. She continued to offer her services locally for a few months after the seance but suddenly closed up shop and moved on. Local rumors say she was under investigation for fraud, but you know what they say about rumors...