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Historic Haunt

 

Way back in 1972, I was involved in a Summer Co-ed Work/Job Training Program that was set up through the High School, Willoughby South High, that I attended. I secured a position at the historic Garfield Home Museum in Mentor, Ohio, as a tour guide.

I had been to that museum a couple times growing up, but I was thrilled to actually be working there showing visitors through that lovely home. It was purchased in 1876 as a home/farm by James A. Garfield, before he became the 20th President of the United States. It housed himself, his wife, Lucretia, his mother, Eliza Ballou, and 5 of their 7 children. 2 died very young. Medicine wasn't what is it now, and there were many infant fatalities at that time period. Garfield needed a good sized abode for his large family. When he became president-elect in 1880 he gave a speech on the front porch of that very house known as the 'front porch speech'. The reporters called his residence by the name of Lawnfield. He had served in the Civil War prior to that, and was the second president in history to be assassinated after Lincoln. He was shot by Charles Giteau, a disgruntled lawyer, and writer who believed that he had helped Garfield win the election, and felt that he deserved a consulship. He shot Garfield on Sept. 19th, 1881 at a railroad station. He shot him twice. Once in the arm, and once in the lumbar spine.

By today's medical standards, the wounds were non life-threatening. However, the doctors back then did not practice the sterile procedures that are commonplace in todays society. He, more, or less, died of the infections obtained after the bullet was removed due to unsanitary conditions that existed back at that time.

The house is Early American with some Victorian accents that give it an enthralling quaintness and charm. There are gingerbread accents here and there.

Personally, I loved the architecture. I was always attracted to Early American, Italianate, or Victorian structures. I always thought houses like that had such personality. Now that I have supplied the background on the house/museum, on to the narrative.

I worked there for a little over 2 months after which I had to go on a vacation with my family to California to visit relatives. I met the secretary, her name was Becky, and the Curator of the museum, Mrs.-I forget her name. I was introduced to the other kids I'd be working with. We were all from area High Schools. We were aged 16-17. Two other girls were from Mentor High and one boy was from my rival school, Eastlake North. However, we weren't at a football game, and there was no rivalry there.

We all, immediately, clicked. We were given some pamphlets to study and memorize to be efficient tour guides. We had so much fun together. We girls would roam into the back store room and ogle over the beautiful gowns that were worn by Mrs. Garfield. Satins, silks, velvets, and for Summer wear, cotton dresses.

The one boy, Tom would join in with us exploring. He told us that when we were first together, that he felt outnumbered, but after he told his buddies that he worked with three pretty girls, that his friends were jealous of him. After he told us that, we sort of fawned over him a bit. We also got to enter all the rooms that were roped off to the public when the janitor had to unlock the gates to go inside. We were actually TOUCHING pieces of HISTORY. We got such a kick out of it.

There was the entry way into the office/gift shop that was under a stairwell that went overhead to the 2nd floor. On the 1st floor there were three bedrooms, a parlor, off of the parlor was the living room near the front of the house, and the dining room on the side of the parlor. In the parlor near a landing with steps going up to the 2nd floor was a very large brass dinner bell hanging from a heavy rope. Mrs. Garfield, or the cook, would take a long broom handle and wring that bell for the farm-hands, and family to know when it's time to eat. We were required to give the broom handle to the children of families touring through, so the kids could bang on the bell, and bang, bang, bang they did. It was akin to listening to a gong. Ouch!

Once you mounted the landing to the stairs they ascended to the 2nd floor that contained a large parlor/library full of bookcases/books and the most beautiful antique furnishings. Wow! The upstairs contained 4 more bedrooms, also. Along the walls were glass display cases with all sorts of items from the period. Some of them from the family, and some donated by museum committee members. There was a very large glass display case around the corner from the smaller ones that housed a large, tall case containing mannequins wearing the dress, suit, and shoes of the president and his wife. He was enormous. A little over 6 feet tall, and his wife was 5 foot nothing with a 20 inch waistline. Yipes! Talk about Mutt and Jeff. His shoes were size 14. Gun boats. We all mused over that. Across from that was another display case with medals, and various items from the civil war against a railing that led around the corner to Garfield's private study. His study contained a highly unusual chair that was designed just for him. It had an arm on the left side, and a lowered arm on the right side because he liked to hang his leg over the side of the chair when he read. He had it designed for his personal comfort. Before the study, however, was another set of stairs that led up to a 3rd floor. They were, originally, more sleeping space for his children, but the museum turned it into another sort of museum for the Lake County Historical Society.

There was an antique pump organ with stops that you had to pull out to change the tones, or keys. We would play with it. One of us would be at the bottom of the stairs and invite the customers to go upstairs to peruse the artifacts. Before we sent them up we told them that it was haunted. Meanwhile, the three others were up there with two on the floor pumping the bellows while the last one played eerie music on the organ. Four teenagers (look out world.). The customers got a kick out of it, and we got some pretty good tips as well.

Across from the president's study was the last stairwell that we'd unlock so the visitors could descend to the 1st floor and the gift shop, lol! We had to behave ourselves when the curator was around, but when she wasn't we went back to normal. Don't misunderstand. We knew the material and were very good tour guides, but we were kids, too.

The 3rd floor upstairs museum is where something happened that rather scared the bejeebers out of me and another girl. I'll call her Amy.

I imagine that when we were goofing around with that pump organ and telling people ghost stories that someone, or something took offense to our shenanigans, and set out to teach US a lesson.

Amy and I were on a break. We went up there just to look around at the antique toys, instruments and furniture. We were just gawking around when an old wooden play riding horse with wheels for, possibly, a toddler, rolled from around the corner, completely unassisted, toward us. Amy let out a soft 'eek'. I was startled, but began trying to rationalize. I told her that the floor must be uneven, or slanted, and that's why it rolled on it's own. Maybe the vibration of our walking caused it. However, Amy was right there with a snappy, and logical, comeback. She pointed out that it came from AROUND THE CORNER. So much for my rationale. That went out the window, and we beat a hasty retreat. We didn't mention it to the other two tour guides for fear they'd think we were smoking something that we shouldn't have been, or just being dramatic.

A few weeks after that incident, I had just finished giving a tour to a couple College guys (cute ones too!), and was about to follow them downstairs when out of my periphery I thought I saw a large man sitting in Garfield's special chair in his study reading a book. Of course, I did a double-take. There was a man sitting there reading. I was about to ask him how he got in there when, poof, he just disappeared in front of me. I had to stifle a shriek. Naturally, I flew down the stairs and fetched Amy to bring her up with me to the study. I told her what I saw. She was curious. Especially after what happened to us on the 3rd floor. She didn't doubt me, but she wanted to see the study with me. There was a small table next to the chair that contained a humidor and nothing more. However, sitting on that small table was, in fact, a book that wasn't there before. Amy asked me if I was in the room, and grabbed the book. I answered that I would never climb over a locked metal gate. In a mini-skirt no less. No way did I go in there. She turned a bit pale. I was, too. I may have actually seen the former president. That's probably as close to seeing a president as I'll ever get. He looked very solid. I didn't detect his ethereal nature until he vanished.

That didn't frighten us away however. If anything, it intrigued us. It also made working there far more interesting knowing that the former family members still had something of a foothold in their former home. Maybe, they even enjoyed the tours that we gave to the visitors from all over the world. I like to think that we did them justice in the long run.

I lost touch with the other kids after that, but it was a very enjoyable time for me. It was before I got married to my 1st husband. I still had a year to go before graduating.

The Lake County Historical Society no longer operates the Garfield Home. The State operates it now. It's not quite as enjoyable to tour it now as it was back then, but those are the breaks. I wonder what the ghosts think about it. I think they LIKED the way WE did the tours way back then, lol! Thanks for reading!

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Comments about this paranormal experience

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, Linjahaha, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Linjahaha (24 stories) (138 posts)
 
1 month ago (2024-04-23)
lwgrn4real: I'm glad that my account was enjoyable to you. I REALLY did enjoy working there despite the paranormal incidents. If anything, it intrigued us kids all the more. It was truly fascinating to actually touch the artifacts. It gives you so much of a better picture of the actual historic figures that resided there, & were such an integral part of the forming of our Nation.
I enjoyed reading your accounts, also. Thanks again!

All the Best! 😁 😁
lwgrn4real66 (6 stories) (51 posts)
 
1 month ago (2024-04-19)
Wow! The feelings you must've felt when you were literally touching the history! What a connection! I bet that was a really weird feeling.

I think I'd be too chicken to get that deep into the spirit world. If you're a history buff, that'd be a dream come true job! As a child, we lived on south Travis street just a couple of houses away from where the Historical district houses started on the street heading south from our old smaller home. Our home was haunted. My sister had a friend that lived in one of the 2 or 3 story looking Victorian style homes. It was supposed to be haunted as well. It had a basement, which they always called a dungeon. I never went there but my sis and her friend that lived there would talk about the hauntings alot. Amazing experience! Thanks for sharing!
Linjahaha (24 stories) (138 posts)
 
1 month ago (2024-04-16)
Zander: Sorry, but the book was placed on the table in such a way that we could not see the title, & neither one of us were going to climb over a metal gate. Especially in our mini-skirts.
However, the book was lying on the table next to the humidor. It wasn't there previously. All the books were in the bookcase. Thanks for reading!

The Very Best! 😊 ❤
Zander (7 stories) (146 posts)
 
1 month ago (2024-04-15)
WOW! That was him, surely! Just curious ~ do you happen to remember the title of the book that had shown up by the chair? Another great story! ❤
Linjahaha (24 stories) (138 posts)
+2
2 months ago (2024-04-07)
Tweed, Thanks for sending the link for the virtual tour. However, there are some items they didn't show. Like the display cases with the mannequins wearing the clothing, & the other artifacts. Maybe they rearranged them. I assure you those things were out when I worked there, but the State is running the show now as opposed to the historical society.
To everyone else: I'm so glad that you enjoyed the post, & even got a little history lesson in the deal. Like my former history teacher, Mrs. Kaji, would say-"How do you know where you GOING, until you know where you've BEEN?". She was a good teacher. Thanks to all for reading!

The Very Best! ❤ 😁
Rajine (14 stories) (798 posts)
 
2 months ago (2024-04-06)
Hi Linjahaha

This definitely qualifes for being creepy, seems like the spirits you encountered are earth bound due to their mortal attachments.
The_Lost_Voyage_11 (7 stories) (246 posts)
+2
2 months ago (2024-04-06)
Another fascinating read Linjahaha, I enjoyed the history as much as I did the ghost encounters!

It sounds like you could easily slip back into this job as a tour guide at this place without needing any kind of refresher! I believe being a tour guide is much smoother and fun for people who really have an interest in the history of the place for sure! I've always thought it would be a blast to be a tour guide for the Titanic Museum on the other other side of the state, as I wouldn't really need any prep for that 😁

I enjoyed the bizarre encounters you relayed, especially the sighting in the study, I can only imagine you sighting a ghost in such a casual setting, as lounging in a favorite chair reading a good book! Tots normal!

Still amazes me what the older homes had. (I enjoy Victorian architecture as well, and also always loved the houses with towers on the side!) Nowadays you rarely find a home with a parlor anymore, unless it's historic!

All in all an incredible experience, so glad you shared!
Linjahaha (24 stories) (138 posts)
+3
2 months ago (2024-04-06)
Crimson, & Tweed: Thank you for enjoying the post. I, personally,
DID ENJOY working there.
It, literally, brought history to life in a whole new perspective.
The history books, back then, were rather boring, but BEING there, & touching those gorgeous gowns that Mrs. Garfield wore, touching the furniture, & actually feeling the atmosphere brought them to life. I loved the dinnerware, also, in the dining room. Beautiful Wedgewood, & Cloisenne China adorning the grand dining table, & cabinets. Wow!
That dinner bell was the only rub when little kids of the touring families began banging on it. Ouch!
I'm glad that I worked there It was truly a fascinating experience. If you have teenagers, encourage them to work as a tour guide in an historic setting. It's a terrific learning experience, & a great way to encounter people from, possibly, all over the world. I met families from Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Japan, & China. Just to mention a few. It's something that they won't forget. I sure didn't. Thank you so much for reading!

The Best
As always!
😁 😁
Tweed (35 stories) (2501 posts)
+3
2 months ago (2024-04-06)
Oh man dream job sign me up! For anyone curious check it out (remove spaces if need be)

Https://artsandculture.google.com/story/virtual-tour-of-james-a-garfield-national-historic-site-national-park-service/SAUB32zjG_SSJw?hl=en

Thanks for sharing Linjahaha, this was a real joy to read!
CrimsonTopaz (1 stories) (239 posts)
+1
2 months ago (2024-04-06)
Linjahaha,
What a learning experience it was reading this story.
You have so much knowledge on this museum, I reckon you can go back and pick up where you left off.

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