I bought the old house in Smithfield, Virginia in the fall of 1976. Smithfield was a colonial seaport town on the Pagan River -- a tributary to the James River -- about 15 miles downriver from Jamestown. The house is a Tidewater Colonial of Georgian design the oldest part of which may have been built in 1752 and the "newer" section built about 1820.
Today the entryway floor slopes slightly to the left giving it great character, no doubt due to 250 years of foundation settlement. There are three very old and massive beech trees in the large front yard which is bisected by an ancient brick walkway leading from the sidewalk to the front door. It is known as the Wentworth-Grinnan House.
The first owner was Samuel Browne, a sea captain who sailed from Smithfield to the Caribbean trading tobacco, hams and other local goods for products in these islands. His sailing ship was moored on the Pagan River at the foot of the hill behind the old house. When he died in the late 1800's his storehouse, located in the cellar, included barrels of molasses, rum, sugar, ham, wheat, coffee, salt, and allspice.
In order to help pay my mortgage and other expenses, as well as to avoid living in an old house by myself, I took on several housemates, Mike, Henry, and two pit bulls which Henry owned. They paid a portion of the mortgage and we split the utilities.
One afternoon I was with my girlfriend, Anita, upstairs in the old second floor dormer section. My roommates were away for the weekend. The house was completely silent and still. We were watching TV when we were surprised by the very distinct sound of heavy footsteps, perhaps boots, outside my closed bedroom door. The footsteps stopped. A few moments later was the creaking of the staircase as they slowly descended the open stairway leading to the front door. They stopped again. The front door opened and slowly shut.
We quickly got up and peered out the dormer window which looks onto the brick walkway, beech trees and driveway. Nothing there -- just my car. I stood up and walked to the bedroom door and reluctantly opened it. I called out for Mike or Henry. No one, not even the dogs were home.
What was the reason for the footsteps? Was it our imaginations? Was it the ghost of Captain Browne or one of the many residents of this house over the past two centuries?
Since that day no other sounds have been heard except for squirrels in the fall and rain on the tin roof of the back porch despite a series of tenants after Anita and I moved to the Washington, DC area in 1980. I still get down to the house and stayed there nearly all of this past August fixing it up for my new tenants but nothing out of the ordinary to report.
So that is my story. We heard the footsteps of an unknown visitor once -- and once was enough for me.