For some reason, a house that my friend Lori and I used to clean back in 2005 has been on my mind lately. It was one of those quaint old two story houses that look smaller on the outside than they are on the inside; an illusion given by the fact that being basically rectangular shaped, the narrow end faced the street. It was situated at the edge of town, sitting in the middle of an expansive lawn populated by all manner of trees and a very impressive large circular drive paved with cobblestones, complete with lawn jockeys.
The inside of the house was no less impressive. We always entered through the back, carrying our cleaning supplies through the mud room and into the kitchen. I'll try and give you a bit of the layout: the kitchen held three doors, one led to the basement, the other to the back or servant's stairs, which were narrow and steep, and the pantry. The third door, was a swinging door which allowed access to a hall. On the left was a formal dining room, if you continued in that direction beyond an arched doorway was the living room, another arch and you were in the foyer. That foyer was the size of most bedrooms! It was dominated by a sweeping staircase that led to the second story. You could cross the foyer and you found yourself in another hall, with rooms along one wall. The first being a library/study (I'll be coming back to this room), the next was a half bath, followed by the kitchen door.
Upstairs were bedrooms and two baths. One was in the master bedroom, the other was situated between two of the bedrooms and had adjourning doors. Across the hall were three guest rooms. At the end of the hall were two doors, one leading down the servant stairs, the other to the attic. Our services were not required for the attic. Almost every room boasted a fireplace, both upstairs and down, and was ornately decorated with antiques.
As was our habit, Lori and I quickly divided the cleaning chores. I would start with the upstairs, and she in the kitchen. The following events did not transpire all at once, but the accumulation of them quickly led me to believe that the house on Prairie Street was not only haunted, but very active.
Week one, our first day:
I had already cleaned the first bedroom and the adjoining bath. Heading into the second bedroom I noticed I had left my duster in the first room, so I went to retrieve it. Entering the room, I stopped mid-step, because there on the bed was laid out a woman's outfit: an old fashioned skirt and high collar blouse. I frowned because I know darn well it was not there before. As I was puzzling over it, I hear Lori yelling for me and nearly broke my neck hurtling down the stairs, calling her name and if she's alright. I can hear the soft strains of old dance music playing, and she is pointing at the radio. "It turned itself on!" she gasps the words. The radio is one of those ancient affairs from the 30's, and I'm amazed it works at all. I suggest she accidentally turned the knob or something while dusting it. She insisted she hadn't touched it. "Maybe it's modernized - motion activated or something," I say as I start checking it out. I note it isn't even plugged in, but say nothing about it, "Nice music though." I extend my arms, "Care to waltz, my dear?" I say in an effort to alter her fear, and don't mention I'm getting that cobwebby, electric feeling all over me, indicating a presence. I flip the music off, and we decide to go out for a smoke and a quick break.
By the time we come back I have her laughing and calmed down. I tell her nothing about my experience upstairs. Which was a good thing, because when I went back up to finish the cleaning that outfit was nowhere to be seen. *Note: the radio played daily for us, although the owners told me that all their antiques were authentic, and not modernized in anyway.*
Other activity I witnessed over time upstairs was: a figure walking down the hallway back towards me in an old fashioned maid's outfit, a male voice saying 'excuse me' in the servant's stairwell. I saw colored lights in the hallway, but that may have been the result of sunlight playing through the stained glass windows that were abundant throughout the home. Now and then my cleaning supplies would be moved as if someone had picked one up to read the label and sat it on a counter instead of back in my basket. I often heard children playing, and the sound of rocking coming from the old nursery. Now days, it was one of the guest rooms, but it 'felt' like a child's room.
On going: the library/study
This room both fascinated and repulsed me at the same time. The people who owned the home were a lovely couple. She was a lawyer and he an archaeologist, who also taught history at the local college. This room held some of the items from his digs, I suppose, as I lack a better explanation for someone having a mummified baby on display. Entering this room I would be bombarded with emotions, as I am quite adept at psychometry (readings from objects) and an empath. The infant brought great sadness, even though it was under glass. I'd dust the pottery, arrow heads, bits of broken hieroglyphic tablets, and assorted ancient reminders and catch glimpses of times long gone, feel emotions, some good, some bad of others, that I couldn't quite sort out. Even the books that lined the floor to ceiling shelves were antiquated. Many I suspected were first editions. It seemed to me that this room was more or less a personal museum. Now and then I would catch the odd smell; a lady's perfume, pipe tobacco, another the odor of rotting meat, and some I couldn't identify. Occasionally, I would get voices. Once, I had picked up this glass vial, a lovely ruby color, and I clearly heard 'poison', and there was always a feeling of not so much being watched but observed, as if I might be derelict in my duties. I always finished that room feeling quite drained.
Lori experienced things as well, and I always strove to offer a mundane cause, mostly because well, Lori and the paranormal did not mix well, and I didn't want to lose my partner, or this account. For one thing it paid really well, the clients were thoughtful (they'd always leave us a note saying to raid the fridge, or leave a bonus if they felt there was extra mess or they wanted a bit extra done) and my biggest thing was I really did not feel we were in any danger. I tend to look for rational reasons anyway, and in this case I pushed the envelope a bit, because I knew friendly or not, Lori would not work in a haunted place. Some of the things she experienced were phantom touches (muscle twinges, I'd say), things not being where she knew she left them (getting forgetful in your old age, Lori?), feeling she was being watched (this one is good- rich folks, Lori, maybe we're on a nanny cam or something. I knew we weren't, I'd already looked for such devices).
We had been cleaning there weekly, for about 6 months when something happened, I couldn't quip away. Lori had asked for my help in putting the dining room chairs up on the table so she could give the hardwood floor a good going over (they'd had a dinner party). I said sure thing, just let me put my basket in the foyer. We were both in the dining room at the time, she figured to fetch the water while I was in the foyer. We came back to find every blessed chair already flipped up onto the table! I'm pretty sure my face mirrored hers, mouth open, eyes wide, as we stood in the puddle the bucket made when she dropped it. In a heart beat Lori had turned and fled out to the car with me only a step or two behind. "THAT was NOT my imagination!" her voice cracked and slid up an octave."That was not me being forgetful! How the f*** do you explain that!?"
I had to admit I couldn't. Not in any conventional way. I pointed out that never, ever were either of us ever harmed, or threatened, but as hard as I cajoled, or argued with her I couldn't get her to come back in. Not even after I pointed out that it was actually being quite helpful. Nope. So, I went back and finished by myself. I got the impression that whomever the spirit was, it felt bad about frightening her, and the rest of the day was uneventful. I worked there another six months solo and never saw another display of energy like with the chairs again. The owners didn't seem surprised when I told them it would be just me for awhile.