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The Dyed-in-the Wool Skeptic


In spite of her experience as recorded in the incident I titled "Mr. X's Story," my mother was a die-hard sceptic when it came to paranormal phenomena such as ghosts. This was the major reason that I kept to myself my experience with the Revolutionary War apparition in the back door of our house in Philadelphia.

However, there was something to which Mom herself did witness, and was never able to explain logically. Moreover, there were two other people with her at the time, and I was one of them.

Like many people, whenever we moved Mom insisted on cleaning not only the place we were vacating but also the new abode. It had to be up to her standards, and this is something I've done myself over the years. I guess you just can't escape that early conditioning.

Anyway, as we were preparing to move to the house in which my brother and I had our odd experiences, Mom was busy cleaning the kitchen.

Now, to fully understand what was going on, I have to include a number of details. One is that we were moving from a house just two streets over from the new one, so it was a minor matter to walk back and forth from one to the other. Another is the floor plan of the house we were moving to: there was a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor (nothing odd there). In the living room were the front door and a set of stairs to the second floor, which had four bedrooms and a bathroom. There was also a flight of stairs that went down to the kitchen (one of the features I absolutely loved about that house). The architectural style was/is known as "railroad cars," because on the first floor the rooms just went straight from one into another.

Now, the kitchen had originally been two rooms. The cooking area was built all the way in the back, by the back door and porch. The adjoining room, between the original kitchen and dining room, was, I suppose, a breakfast room. At some point the house had been remodelled so that the wall between the area with the stove and sink was taken out, a powder room put in (I think that the powder room might have originally been the pantry), and a bar put in the breakfast room. So, by the time we moved in, the kitchen was one large room with the bar as a sort of room divider.

Mom was cleaning the oven. My two brothers were at the playground up the street (their favourite haunt--they were only 7), and I'd stayed at the other house to do something or other. My friend Denise lived a block from the old house, so she had gone over to the new one expecting me to be there. She's always been like one of the family anyway, so when Mom said that I'd be over shortly, it was perfectly normal that the two of them talked until I arrived. Mom was still cleaning the oven when I came in. Denise was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room.

It was a typical summer day, so the front and back doors were standing open. I had just arrived and joined Denise in the doorway, but hadn't yet said anything because I didn't want to interrupt her conversation with Mom.

It was then, before I'd had a chance to speak, that the three of us heard the front door slam, something run across the living room, up the front stairs and into the back bedroom. My mother yelled irritably, "Chris, stop playing around! We've got a lot to do!" Since she was by the oven, with the bar blocking her line of vision, she hadn't seen me come in.

Denise and I looked at each other; we'd heard it, too. And the front door was still wide open.

"Mrs. Laverty," she said, "Chris is right here. She just came in."

Mom stood up. She could plainly see both of us, so she asked briskly, "Well, did one of the boys come in?"

"No, Mom. The door's still open," I answered, just as perplexed as any of us.

"Well," she answered, "let's go upstairs and see what's going on."

Feeling that two teenage girls and a grown woman could probably be a match for anything, we went upstairs. It didn't surprise Denise or me in the least that a search of all the rooms revealed absolutely nothing.

Mom never mentioned it again, and departed this life in an untimely manner a little over a year later.

Denise and I still talk about it occasionally, but still have no reasonable explanation for it. For over 40 years it's been a mystery, and probably always will.

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

libertybelle (14 stories) (207 posts)
15 years ago (2009-08-24)
Mom was a complete original, all right, and a woman who marched to her own drummer, James. It's only in my adult years that I could finally fully appreciate just how unique she was--a single mother in the 1950's, working outside the home and still maintaining an active social life that ultimately led to her remarriage.

More than once after my first marriage went kaput, I'd get through rough patches by reminding myself that my mother had survived similar things, so I could too.

Funny thing, though--she was in a dream I had just last night.

Some background: the day before Memorial Day of this year, I was involved in an altercation with my stepson which resulted in my breaking a kneecap when he shoved me from behind. His girlfriend had to put her two cents' worth in after I'd pressed charges against him for assault, and stood in my dining room (I was in the kitchen) egging me to come over and slap HER face (yes, I'd slapped my stepson's face because for the entire 13 years he'd lived with my husband and me he had done everything he could to express his utter contempt and lack of respect for me and he just said something that proved to be the last straw) and she would then proceed to kick my posterior. I looked at her, thinking that it would prove nothing more than that she, at 19, could beat up a woman in her late 50's. I refused to take the bait, of course.

Well, in the dream I had last night, the scene above replayed itself, only this time Mom was in the kitchen with me. She said absolutely nothing, but glared at my stepson's girlfriend in such a way as to remind me of the old cliche "if looks could kill."

By the way, Mom looked just as she did in her prime--five feet tall and 90 pounds of dynamite.

And as a postscript, both my stepson and his grilfriend are no longer living with us, and even my husband has to admit that things are a lot more peaceful around here! 😁
JamesRobiscoe (419 posts)
15 years ago (2009-08-24)
libertybelle--God bless your Mom! She sounds like quite a gal. If I believe ghosts are plausible, I can as easily consider no waiting lines and a whole list of other unrestrictions on the other side <G>. If your brother recalls anything, maybe he could sketch it? Be a nice keepsake for the next generation, too.
It's always a pleasure to read your well-told tales.
~ James
libertybelle (14 stories) (207 posts)
15 years ago (2009-08-23)
Thanks for all the feedback.

Book_luver123, the very fact that it happened only that one time has puzzled me for the last forty-something years. We all heard it, we know we heard it, we looked for it and found nothing, so the entire incident kind of dissipated and never came up again, at least not with Mom. Denise and I, however, still talk about the weird things that went on in that house.

Glad to hear from you, as always, Surya. As I mentioned above, whatever it was, was obviously a one-time thing, unlike our Revolutionary War apparition.

Speaking of which (whom?), I recently asked my brother to tell me if he could remember anything about him--facial features, did he smile, etc., but he was, after all, only 7 at the time and can only recall seeing him in the back yard. I'm going to ask him next time we talk (pretty much a daily thing) if he felt frightened or anything, though I think if he had, he'd have mentioned it before now 😆!

Well, James, my stepfather, with his Irish temper, might have some objection to Mr. X cutting in on him. And the line would have to form to the right and nclude her first husband (a Canadian soldier), an English pilot who'd been posted here during World War II, and last of all a former German POW she met through one of my uncles--after he was repatriated, he found some wild violets (Mom's favorite flower), pressed them, and sent them to her in a letter (in German, which a neighbor had to read and translate for her) in which he said he'd remembered how she loved violets and these were the first he'd found that spring, and how he'd never forget her.

Gotta love that German sentimentality! ❤
JamesRobiscoe (419 posts)
15 years ago (2009-08-22)
libertbelle--I agree that you wrote the story well. It's certainly not uncommon for a person to dismiss phenomena contrary to what we see as the ones that are common and make the world "work." But rational does not mean ordinary or commonly experienced. Your mother was simply trying to quell imput to keep her mind on all the tasks at hand. I like your comment that she'd enjoy this site (especially with what she knows now, eh?) and that you and Denise are still chums. And I hope your mother is enjoying the company of "Mr. X" now.
Surya (39 stories) (867 posts)
15 years ago (2009-08-22)
Thank you for a smashing story. Very well written. I have to wonder myself why whoever it was never made their presence known again. Your mom, well what to say, mom's will be mom's.

Thank you once again for a fab story.
book_luver123 (227 posts)
15 years ago (2009-08-22)
Weird. For some reason whatever it was never showed up again. But this is a fabulous story. ❤

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