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My Great-grandmother's Secret And The Ruby Necklace

 

My maternal great-grandmother was by all accounts a kind, but very unique, woman. She had an aversion to the sun, believed in Old World superstitions, and washed my infant grandmother's hair with lemon juice to keep bad spirits away and, of course, to preserve its infant blondness. She was fiercely loyal to those around her, even confronting one of my grandmother's childhood bullies in the classroom in the middle of instruction. Now, parents could not get away with this, but we all applaud her for taking a stand

According to my great aunt, she also had a secret she hid from our family and from the world. I would only discover it by chance on a day that, forever, changed my life. Until that day, I never believed in the paranormal. I was not prepared for one experience I had, however, while researching my great-grandmother's life and our family history in my great aunt's house, the house where my great aunt and grandmother grew up with their parents in the 1930s. The house remained in our family since, and only one other family lived in it before ours.

Built in 1890, this house is a two-story folk Victorian with patterned trim around the top evoking a gingerbread house. The front of the house faces the street, and is built upon a hill, such that the back of the house appears far taller than the front. Every room has multiple windows, the sides of the house are pointed gables, and most windows are draped with old-fashioned curtains. It has not been painted in years, and is a sickly beige color with chipped paint. There is a porch in front which is falling off the front of the house, caved in where people stand while waiting for the front door to be answered. From both inside and out, the house would give anyone the creeps. Approaching the house from the front, one might swear they see the curtains swaying even when the windows are closed, and dark shadows fluttering by.

The day after Christmas in 2016, while dropping my great aunt, now in her 90s, back home after visiting us for Christmas, I decided to spend some time in her home, searching for old family photographs and heirlooms. There were significant gaps in our family tree: I knew little to nothing about my great grandmother's family. All I knew was that she had three siblings, one of whom died very young of tuberculosis, and that their mother was sent back to Portugal from Ellis Island because she was ill with a communicable disease for which there was, at the time, no cure. I had never seen pictures of any of these people, but I wanted to. According to family legend, she spoke two languages: Portuguese, and another language whose name was lost in the sands of time that her husband and children could not understand.

When you walk in the front door of the house, you enter into a dark, spooky hallway, with a stairwell to the right that curves leftward and the hallway to the left, which turns a corner. Immediately to the left of the front door is a boarded up door leading to the living room, and there are piles of papers, boxes, and other assorted items of little significance scattered against the walls. My elderly great-aunt, clearly, does not throw anything away. Upon walking down the hallway in front, one comes to a door to what was once a nice dining room, but now there are papers piled up on the old dining room table such that it is no longer recognizable as a table. Off the dining room is the living room and a kitchen, as well as a door leading to the back stairwell. The second floor is nearly a replica of the first, given that the house was originally built for two families. There is no telling what items exist in the house from time immemorial, and I couldn't wait to find out.

Still, I stared up the front stairs, feeling dread and foreboding. The upstairs hallway was so dark that I could barely see anything until more than halfway up the stairs. I was instructed not to turn on any lights in the upstairs hallway, for the wiring had not been replaced in decades and the light switch at the top, a push-button switch from the 1950s, would produce a sharp electric shock and, possibly, ignite. I climbed the dark stairs, feeling as if something was watching me and would jump out at me. With dark wooden doors on all sides, slightly cracked open, and a cold draft coming down from the attic, I felt as if there was a malevolent force convincing me to turn around and head back down the stairs. I kept going.

I came to a small room with sickly yellow walls and boxes upon boxes of old photographs and documents. The room was brightly lit, in great contrast to the hallway. For a moment, I felt safe. I went through box after box, finding nothing of interest. After initially believing that I would need to go up to the attic to find any family photographs, I found a box with nothing but a large photograph in an old-fashioned frame, facing downward in the box. I picked it up and turned it toward me. The photo, dated 1905, showed a young woman with a face both familiar and strange. Her hair was tightly curled and pulled back, and she wore a cinnamon-colored brown dress and a ruby necklace. Her facial expression was serious yet serene, and I saw something of myself in her face. Based on the name on the back of the photo, I recognized her as my great-great grandmother. In the back of the frame slipped out a second photo that almost seemed purposefully hidden there, of this same woman sitting in a chair holding a small child. In this photo she looked different, and clearly darker skinned, as was the child on her lap. Her coarse hair was styled upward, with an old-fashioned clip to pin it back. The photo resembled ones you see from old Louisiana. This was not a photo of an early twentieth-century European immigrant family.

If only I'd always known that one of the great horrors of history, the legacy of one of mankind's cruelest sins against humanity, coursed through my mother's veins and, ultimately, my own.

I instantly realized what my great-grandmother had been hiding. Details about her life that had once seemed insignificant and were easily brushed off with no second thought came back to me and fit together like puzzle pieces. Now intrigued, I began to search the rest of the room for old photographs and heirlooms, but first, I needed to put this photograph back. I snapped a photo of it with my iPhone camera, which I still have to this day, and placed it in its box. When I bent over to the box, I saw something that caused me to gasp. Sweat poured down my face.

My great-great grandmother's ruby necklace, from the photo, sat at the bottom of the box. I knew it was NOT in there five minutes prior. I was afraid to pick it up, and everything inside of me told me not to pick it up. You can guess what I did. I picked up the necklace and studied it in my hands. It looked perfectly preserved after all of these years, shiny and beautiful, as if it could have been new. I initially intended to bring it home as a present for my mother, and to see how it might look, I picked it up and placed it around my own neck. Over the course of the next minute, as I studied the necklace around my own neck, the sky outside turned to clouds, and the once brightly-lit room got dark and foreboding. Out of nowhere, I hear a hissing whisper coming from behind me, followed by the words "It's a lie!" The voice was sinister and deep, and I could only distinguish that it belonged to a woman.

My heart racing, I placed my head in my hands, refusing to turn around. I did not know what I would see if I turned around and stared into that dark, creepy hallway. Part of me expected the attic door, previously slightly cracked, to be wide open and something to jump out. All I knew was that I needed to take this necklace off.

I tried to take the necklace off, but as I tried to lift it off my neck, it suddenly felt like it weighed ten times more. I grabbed the back of it, but it just would not be easily lifted. It did not dig into my neck or cut me, initially, but when I clasped it in my hands to lift it up, it was as if its weight increased exponentially, to the extent I could not lift it up from behind. I do not know physics, but this seemed impossible and defied the laws of gravity. I picked up the ruby in the front and it was light as a feather. I finally gave up and searched the back of the necklace for a clasp, my heart racing and sweat pouring down my face. I wanted nothing more than to be out of this room and back in my car. There was no clasp to be found, and the necklace now felt as if it was getting tighter and tighter around my neck. It took every bit of strength in me to not scream.

The harder I tried to pull the necklace off my neck, the harder it weighed down on the back of my neck. I knew when I looked in the mirror, there would be scratches there, and I gasped out in pain.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the necklace bounced upward and I was able to grab it off my neck, removing it as easily as I put it on. I threw it into the box, under the photograph of my great-great grandmother, and ran out of the room as fast as I could. As I reached the landing of the stairs to head downstairs, I heard the same grumbling voice, belonging to a woman, that said "Just go! Go!" My feet, likely, did not touch the stairs as I flew down them and into the kitchen to tell my great-aunt what had happened.

When I got downstairs, I asked her about the secret, and expressed that I finally figured it out. She confirmed to me that I had, indeed, figured out what my great grandmother had been hiding, and that as seemingly insignificant as this secret was to me, it meant a great deal to our family that no one found out. I wanted to tell her what happened to me upstairs, but I knew that, even being a superstitious older woman, she would never believe me. I simply told her I found a ruby necklace that I also saw in an old photograph of her grandmother.

That was impossible, she claimed. No such necklace existed in the house. The necklace was brought back when my great-great grandmother was turned away at Ellis Island, and was buried with her in Portugal. When she arrived, she was deemed unfit due to her illness, and her children were allowed through, to be looked after by a related family that immigrated at the same time. They never saw her again. She, along with all of her belongings, were sent back, so there was no possible way the necklace could have been upstairs. She loved that necklace, and died with it around her neck. Her remaining family overseas, knowing how much she loved that necklace, could not bring themselves to remove it from her, even in death.

I insisted that it was upstairs, and conquering all of my fear, ran upstairs as fast as I could to grab it. I lifted up the photograph in the box, but the necklace was gone. There was no trace of it anywhere. It was as if it had been a figment of my imagination, or had vanished into thin air.

As I turned around, the attic door began to creep open, as if pushed open by a draft. It could have been a draft, but it still sent me running back down the stairs. I did not turn to look behind me. I said my goodbyes, and ran out the front door, never to return. When I pick my great aunt up at the holidays now, I remain in my car, remembering the experience I had upstairs. To this day, I have nightmares about being strangled to death in the attic.

I woke up this morning to find a photo on my "Your Memories on Facebook" of my maternal great grandparents, which I uploaded exactly two years ago to this date. I had decided to publish this story last night, but didn't have time to write it until today. The photo appeared on my timeline today.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by yourghoststories.com. Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, virulentpeach, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Cups (7 stories) (150 posts)
+1
10 months ago (2018-08-08)
Oooooh, I love this story also! More, please! It vaguely reminds me of a secret my own maternal great-grandmother kept for many years... She had gotten pregnant with my gram before she had wed. Very scandalous in those times, so what did she do? Lied about my grandmother's age for decades. If I remember correctly, the news came out in the 90's when my grandmother applied for a passport for a trip to England... Having to dig up a copy of her birth certificate.

Family secrets of those days are fascinating. Imagine the things we still don't know about...

Loved this story. ❤
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-04-06)
[at] Paranoid_believer: My great grandmother was a mixed race woman who tried to pass herself off as being just white. In her era, anyone with any African ancestry, if discovered, would have been discriminated against and considered to be black.

[at] AnnieLouise: An imprint on my neck as if it had dug into my neck (think if you pressed something onto your skin for a few seconds with some force and then let go), but no scratches and it did not bleed. The necklace felt heavy as if it was pressing down on my neck.
Paranoid_believer (1 stories) (35 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-04-01)
Sorry I'm kind of lost on this. I don't know what's wrong with my thinking faculty at the moment, I'm trying to figure out what your family secret is, please can you spell it out for me?

Thanks in anticipation!
AugustaM (4 stories) (841 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-26)
I just reread my last comment and realized there was something I didn't catch when I proofread. As it seems to disrupt the overall point, allow me to apologize and insert here that I had meant "fettered" not "bettered".
AnnieLouise (1 stories) (7 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-24)
That sounds very frightening. Did you ever check for scratches on the back of your neck? And was the necklace just really heavy, or was it almost like it was attached to your neck?
CuriousDee (8 stories) (630 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-24)
Very interesting. I too, wonder why your great great grandmother would act aggressively? I have a thought (or theory?); Could it be possible that it wasn't your great great grandmother? Perhaps a different spirit interacted with you? Just a thought.

Thanks for sharing 😊
AugustaM (4 stories) (841 posts)
+2
1 year ago (2018-03-24)
Agreed, for whatever reason I feel like while earth bound, spirits are rather incapable of evolving emotionally. Imagine being suddenly shut into a windowless bunker in the middle of a hurricane. If you were never allowed out, how would you ever know the storm had ceased? I think this inability stems from the same issues that bettered them in life and kept them from ultimately finding peace. Part of moving on, then (i.e. Going towards the light) would involve someone taking the time to explain to them how things have changed for the better.

Again, these are just my opinions - not fact - just how I see it.
Elizabeth62 (14 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-24)
Hello, Maybe if you are able to go back into your aunts home, you could maybe explain that you are sorry for her not getting to stay and that there is no longer shame in races anymore. That she has nothing to be ashamed or feel any disgrace anymore.
And the grandmothers photo is beautiful! Thank you for your story.
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-24)
[at] Spockie:

I don't think she was trying to choke me to death but to get me to not meddle.

Though I don't understand why her spirit is not at rest and happy I'd be trying to rediscover (and connect with!) her heritage. I would think that it would help her find her way to peace in the afterlife after living such a tortured life. Maybe it is because in her day, the only people trying to uncover her secret would have done so to do her harm.

I wonder if spirits do not recognize (or know about/understand) social and political changes from the time they lived to the present. If they don't, it makes sense she would not understand that in the 21st century, having African heritage is not a source of shame.
BeautInside (3 stories) (323 posts)
+2
1 year ago (2018-03-23)
Virulentpeach,

Yes Cape Verdean is also a dialect, makes total sense. Sorry for misundertsanding the origin, but I thought she inherited a continental dialect which was also common at the time and still is now-a-days.

AugustaM, that's exactly what I think! I believe that agressiviness has something to do also with the way she was sent away. After all, she was away from her family in a moment she needed them the most...

God bless. ❤
AugustaM (4 stories) (841 posts)
+2
1 year ago (2018-03-23)
Perhaps the great great grandmother sees the side of the family that was able to stay in the US as having abandoned her. She may have grown resentful. (Explaining why she was a bit aggressive towards you) As though when she was sent back to Portugal they were able to cleanse themselves of the inconveniences of her lineage and move forward as though they were just like everyone else. That ruby necklace might have been something she wore to remind herself and others of her own importance and worth in the face of such prejudices. Racism can have surprising psychological effects on those who are targeted - perhaps, by way of distancing herself from the trauma, she learned to deny her own ancestry hence the "lies" whisper.

I hope one day the house can be saved and all the documents and photographs chronicling your family's fascinating history can be put to order. Sounds like there could be a tremendous novel in the offing. I hope too that the spirits of the grand ladies of your family have found peace.
Spockie (8 stories) (189 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-23)
I, too don't understand why your great, great grandmother would try to choke you to death with a necklace. Maybe she is angry that you are delving into your family history, huh?
L_Melb (214 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-22)
If I had bothered to check the comments I would have seen the photo! I can see what you mean about "cinnamon" colour. Lovely photo, take care of it as these things are treasures
L_Melb (214 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-22)
Sorry, I may be missing something, but you say the photo you found was from 1905 but you talk about the colour of items in the photo. I didn't think they had colour photos at that time.
Thanks, L
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-22)
[at] BeautInside:

The second language was Cape Verdean Creole, a Portuguese-based creole language. It is very similar to Portuguese in vocabulary but the grammatical structure is very different.

What is interesting is a lot of Portuguese American families in the US have assimilated Cape Verdean ancestry, and Cape Verdeans "passing for white" who could convincingly do so in the 1800s and early 1900s was common. I have met many others with similar family stories.

And thank you for the kind words!:)
BeautInside (3 stories) (323 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-22)
Hi Virulentpeach,

Beautifully written, this is the kind of account that makes me lose track of time... Thank you for sharing it! ❤

I am Portuguese and perhaps the second language your great-great grandmother spoke was a dialect. We can find at least 3 different dialects in Portugal: one coming from an Island named Madeira, then one from a city in the interior of the country called Mirandela, and then there was one maybe more common in the 1900's that still lingers to these days, which is Castellano (I believe it is some sort of mixture between Portugese and Spanish or vice-versa).

Anyway, I can understand your family keeping that secret, what intrigues me is the behaviour of your deceased great grandmother... Even if she was trying to keep that secret "safe", that agressive attitude sounds, to me, a bit too much. Could it also be because of the way she died? Maybe she felt like she was abandoned as she was sent away to die?

This is just me thinking... 😊

Thank you for sharing the photograph, and allow me to say that your great-great grandmother was indeed a beautiful woman!

God bless. ❤
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
+2
1 year ago (2018-03-22)
If anyone had wanted to see some family photos to make this more "real", here is the photo I found that day, over 100 years old.

Https://i.imgur.com/l3FgEgr.png
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-22)
[at] Elrond: My impression was that the spirit was of my great-grandmother, considering she is the one who actually experienced American life, and had the greatest incentive to prevent anyone from finding out about the family secret. I feel bad for her because she lost one of her children as a small child (hit by a car) and it was clear that her goal was for her family to assimilate into mainstream American culture and leave their heritage behind. HER mother, who owned the necklace in question, barely spent any time in this country and did not understand the dynamics of racial tension in the 20th century.

[at] catleyablu: I think the voice said "lies" because she wanted me to believe that I had not discovered the secret and that someone had lied to me, misleading me into believing it. What is interesting is I had already begun to suspect it because my great aunt indicated that she had an uncle who looked nothing like the rest of the family. I also had discovered we have cousins also living in Massachusetts who, even today, do not exactly "pass" as white, who are descendants of that same uncle. My mother ended up doing a DNA test and based on the result, we could infer that my great-grandmother should have been 1/8 African, and her mother, the owner of the ruby necklace, 1/4. As for how my great-grandmother passed away, she suffered from diabetes in her older age and is said to have passed away peacefully in her sleep.

[at] msforgetmenott: The house is in Hudson. So not far at all! As for my great aunt, she does not take care of the house and it is falling apart. The roof is caving in upstairs and there is plaster everywhere. I am honestly afraid the house will one day be condemned, because it would cost far more than the value of the house itself to bring it into a livable condition or one in which the house could be sold. There have also been gas leaks. I also am concerned about the integrity of the electrical wiring. Neighborhood children do believe the house is haunted because they see lights turn on and off, but my great aunt never leaves the house.
msforgetmenott (16 stories) (309 posts)
+3
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
Hi virulentpeach,

Your story was well written and has kept me glued, reading to the last word. You see I also live in Massachusetts, and for those readers that have not visited this State, there are many thousands of houses identical to the clear way you discribe this home. Springfield, Worcester, Boston and old neighborhoods in most towns.
I have to say, although it was not your intention, I feel bad for your elderly Great Aunt. Living into the 90s is remarkable, but along with age, it gets hard to pick up and to clean. Clutter can have been a hint, that she was having a hard time coping. Your story is discriptive, saying her sight and hearing were not very good.
It was nice that you drove her to and from during holidays, why didn't you think to ask if she might like some help from you. Pride can be all that the elderly have left sometimes.
You have an interesting family, I hope you have come to realise, family is to be treasured. Did you ever find the heirloom you were wishing for.
catleyablu (17 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
Wow, how interesting... In my opinion I believe this spirit was trying to inform you of the "lies" within the family... I just wonder why she would choose to say "lies" if she didn't want you to know?

The aggression may have come from how she passed? That is what I think / comes to mind, although I could be totally mistaken. Maybe the "just go" part was because the spirit knew that the interaction / experience for you was a little overwhelming (since you were already on your way out of there)...in any case it's cool that you were able to learn about your familys' history. I hope everything is well with you!
Elrond (3 stories) (38 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
Virulentpeach - your story was beautifully written. It seems clear that the appearance of the ruby necklace, an enticement, was intended as a warning to not pry into the family secret. I have a similar family secret on my father's side, which has a long history in Appalachia. It's a shame that people internalize such prejudice, apparently even beyond death.
lady-glow (11 stories) (2358 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
Vpeach - thanks for the additional information.
It's sad that your g-g-grandmother's spirit still worries about those issues, though, I imagine, spirits must not take notice of the social changes happening after the moment they departed this plane. 🤔

Still, it would have been nicer if she had just hidden the pictures from you instead of frightening the way she did... Just my opinion. 🙄

Thanks for sharing.
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
 
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
I do have a photo of my great-great grandmother if anyone wants to see it, but it is not the one I saw that day. I found this one in my grandmother's basement in an album.
virulentpeach (4 stories) (15 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
[at] Lady-glow:

My great-great grandmother lived a very sad life. She died very young and didn't get to see her children grow up in the US, as she was sent back at Ellis Island. Additionally, her husband (my great-great grandfather) left her for another woman, who was very nasty to all of the children. This was alluded to in the story but not stated explicitly -- we found out later that she, as well as her children, were mixed-race and attempted to "pass" for white, a common practice in their era for people who wished to avoid racial discrimination. They immigrated from Portugal but they traced back to Cape Verde, and were descended from African slaves.

My mother believes that these ancestors were not trying to hurt us, but that they were trying to prevent me from learning our family's secrets which were not spoken of when they were alive.

My great aunt claims that she has never had any ghostly encounters in the house, but her eyesight and hearing are not great, so she could just not be perceptive. To this day she insists the necklace is in the ground across the Atlantic.
lady-glow (11 stories) (2358 posts)
+1
1 year ago (2018-03-21)
It's a good thing you didn't get to meet your great-great-grandmother, just imagine what she could have done to you in real life if her ghostly necklace was trying to strangle you several decades after her passing!
I find it odd that g-g-grandma would try to hurt one of her descendants... And hope she never does any harm to your poor, old great aunt living alone, or not so alone, in that grandiose mansion.

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