Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Place For A Spirit To Call Home

Is there such a thing as a haunted house? I don't necessarily mean one inhabited by the classic ghost we've seen in the movies. No, I'm thinking about how some houses have a history of bad things happening to the families who live there.

One of the houses I lived in for several years is a case in point. While doing a thorough cleaning of the heating unit, I found some medical records of the wife of the first owner. She developed MS, a particularly nasty disorder that causes nerve degeneration. I remembered hearing how the second and previous occupant, another woman, also came down with some sort of illness that required her to get a wheelchair, but I no longer remember her diagnosis.

After living there for three years, I got sick for an entire year, but even four doctors couldn't figure out the cause. A 5th doc told me I was probably under too much stress. This was plausible, as my son had entered adolescence and his defiance was overwhelming, but still, something felt like it was sucking the life out of me, literally. I couldn't even tolerate sunlight and had to wear dark glasses during the day outside, and had little strength.

Doctor #6 finally found out the reason: I caught Lyme disease from a damned tick bite. This pissed me off because it had crossed my mind when it began, and asked the first three docs, including a neurologist, to test for it, explaining that I went camping sometimes.

I swear those words fell on deaf ears; they couldn't wrap their minds around the possibility of a black woman living in the area catching Lyme. In addition, they ordered as few tests as possible because my now former health insurance plan was strict about this.

The good news is that medicine knocked that out after taking it three different times over two years, but wearing wrap around sunglasses for all that time was a bummer. I can't express how happy I was when I went a week straight and the sunlight didn't hurt, but this didn't happen until after I moved.


It got me to thinking about houses, though. I have always dreamed of them, often of my original childhood, but more often of being in homes I've never set foot in. Some of these dreams are recurring.

In them, I am always alone and exploring one, and it usually has a hidden room. This mirrors my personality. I'm innately curious and have always wanted to see what the magician or others conceal.

One of the most memorable dreams happened in the last house I owned. I discovered a cavern underneath it that can only be described as nightmarish. I didn't see the monsters, but I could feel their presence.

It was message, I think, from my unconscious that something had gone terribly wrong with my family. This was true - my son was descending into a mental hell that he's not quite yet climbed out of.

At some point I decided to move. I looked at other houses with an agent. (Can't do that now, no full time job yet.)

I noticed things that I didn't when house-shopping before, maybe because I had a heightened sensitivity of houses having a story to tell. Sometimes you get a feel for whether the occupants are happy are not. You may be familiar with the study of feng shui. It's an Asian way of thinking about the "art of placement", architecture and decoration to maximize tranquility and success.

(You might do better checking books on it at the library rather than googling, as you'd have to sift through too many commercial sites that are poorly done.)

There is something to feng shui, but there's something else. It's like spirit of the family who lives in a home permeates it. If you've ever walked into a room and felt a sense of unease, you know what I'm talking about. Law enforcement folks like detectives sometimes have this heightened sensitivity. A home need not be sparkling clean, either. Sometimes a too clean house and lawn indicates something ain't quite right.

The weirdest experience I ever had freaked out my realtor when I was undecided about getting another house or renting down the hall from my now late mother. She and I entered a furnished, four bedroom brick colonial.

Something about that house felt inexplicably sad.

I turned to her and said what I said before I could process the thought.

"Did the owner die?"

She looked perplexed.

"I don't know anything about the people who live here," she answered. "Why?"

"I don't know," I said slowly. "It feels like this house is crying."

Now, y'all know this lady must have thought I was nuts. She did exactly what I would have done: nodded her head and said, mmmm.

We walked around the different rooms some more, and in the kitchen, on a counter, there lay one of those folded funeral fliers. It had a photo of the lady who died, too. She must have been in her 70s. Sure enough, her name showed she was the owner of the house.

I was as astounded as she was, but meanwhile the feelings kept coming in waves. It was weird.

"This house misses it's owner," I said. "Don't know why, but I think it needs a big family, bigger than mine, with lots of kids to make it happy again."

I never did buy another house. Instead, I rented an apartment for several years, and last summer rented this house. Despite the moody landlord in the basement, it has a different feel to it, like it was meant for barbecues and company, and except for when Xavier goes bonkers, that's how it's been. Otherwise I like it, but it still doesn't feel like home, in my heart.

I've been thinking "a place called home", which can be a very different place than where a person actually lives. Many of us move so often that our spirits never connect well with the house or apartment we're in. The residence is seen as a temporary place, while it's inhabitants yearn for a real home.

This yearning is often under our radar. Our lives have stress, but I wonder what part rootlessness plays, from the social alienation we see and sometimes feel, to the personal level of something as basic as yearning to love a home that will cry for you when you're gone.


  1. I do think houses can have spirits, my house is almost 125 years old and we have been here 6 years. Yet when I first looked at this house, it had a strange feeling in fact it was actually our 3rd choice house. In the end we bought it but when we first came in after closing I prayed in this house, walked all over and told whatever to get going. It was also just a few months after my Mom passed and I truly felt her presence overtook whatever it was that was not right. Its been all good ever since.

    So no what you are saying makes sense to me.

  2. I am also one to believe that spirits can inhabit and linger in houses. And i am quick to sense things, especially in older places...so much so, that i would hardly ever stay in older hotels, because of their history and the strange feelings and dreams i would have. On dreams. I often have reoccuring dreams of houses i've been in. I know every room by detail, and yes these are some of my most haunting dreams, but because i've been having them for several decades i know when to not let it get out of control. In one particular dream i have a particular, trapdoor hiding space...i never thought about it like you pointed out, but maybe it is my subconscious mind finding me a safespot when all seems to go wrong in my conscious world. Wow, much more to think about. Thanks Kit.

  3. Rootlessness...I can definitely understand that. I spent ten years of my childhood in the same house. We had to move to an apartment after my parents got divorced when I was 13. Since then I've been shuttled between my mom and dad's places, and college dorms have been added to this list for the past few years. It's the reason why the end of a school year is bittersweet for me--those nine months of the year are when I get to spend most of my time in one place.

    Since I'm going away for law school I'll finally have my own place, but I really can't wait to get married and buy a house that I can raise my own kids in. I think that my parents' divorce made my 2 older siblings a little gun-shy about marriage. But I didn't realize until recently that it had played so large a part in my desire to do the opposite, and create a whole household like the one I lost.

  4. I too believe that spirits can occupy a home. If you want to remove that spirit, it can be done in a manner that will free it forever. In a Godly and respectful manner. I also believe that there are spirits who keep watch over us in side of houses as well.

  5. BGIM, You said, "it had a strange feeling... I prayed in this house... and told whatever to get going.

    I've heard a lot of similar stories since sharing mine. Thank you.

    Miz Represent, I've never stayed in an old hotel, but if those walls could talk...

    And about dreams. Psychiatry says some can be classified as anxiety dreams and fears, like riding on a bus naked could indicate social fears of being unprepared, inadequate, or exposed in some embarrassing way. Other times it could be something we saw earlier, maybe on tv. Then there are the ones that are hints for us to consider. Thanks for sharing.

    Brownbelle, Yes, I can see how dorm living would combat that feeling of rootlessness. I so wish you well in re-creating version 2 of your happiest childhood days when you marry.

    Ms Lady Deborah, Sounds funny, but it hard to deny our own experiences. There's so much science doesn't know, from these to why a pet will sit by the door or window when their owner is a mile away and coming home, even unexpectedly.

  6. It's true. My Grandma's house felt like that after she died. Nothing changed in its decor, but it is now cold and sad and empty.
    On the other hand, I ran into homes that felt warm and welcoming, even if someone had died. The first apartment I moved into in college, with a friend, was like that. As soon as I set foot in it, I knew I wanted to live there, even if it was very shabby. The previous owner, an old man, had died in there, but I didn't care, it just felt right. Then a neighbor told me that the owner had been a merry womanizer: "He must be happy that two young, pretty girls are living in here now". I think she was right, I always felt like he was looking after us. I slept (and did other things, lol) for years in the very bed he had died on, and it never bothered me. I spent the happiest days of my life in that place.
    LOL, funny thing: a few weeks after we moved in we found a plastic bag with some audio tapes in it, and listened to them. A couple of them were sex tapes, I still have the best one. The owner had recorded himself doing some woman, and it was hilarious! And then we realized he must have been an informer for communist intelligence, because the entire place was wired (but the wires were no longer active), and we also found some national security maps.

    I'm sure you'll know which house is right for you as soon as you see it. Maybe it's not so much about whether someone died in there, but about how well you fit with what they wanted their house to be like.

  7. Your posts are really exceptional. There are no wasted words or sentences in what you write. It's quite a pleasure to read you, stylistically speaking.

    About your post:

    As i learn more about the true make up of human beings i take it for granted that we leave our energy all over the place, our homes included.

    I once read a Buddhist sutra where Buddha was explaining to a pupil that our minds don't just reside "in" us but also "outside" of us. My guess is that we imbue our personal spaces and personal effects with some of our essence. Seeing the world with more than just one's eyes is a practice all people should take up.

  8. Yes,yes,yes,yes!
    The longer the family lived in the house, the more permeated it seems to be with the spirits of those occupants! I have often thought it was imagination, but no, because the feelings change with each different home.
    It's the same for me when I have gotten furniture or anything antique, or at a flea market. It always gives me a sense of the person who owned/used it.
    I guess that's why I enjoy old things so much.

  9. I wish I could write like you! I'll keep trying haha.

    But that story of you and the realtor is crazy... I'll start trying to listening to the houses I visit now.

  10. I know what you mean, my grandma passed on last year and the house feels sad, like it misses her, I have had the same experiences with my mother, when I was about eight or nine, she had an accident, I cried the hole day without knowing what was wrong even though there were no cellphones. It happened a few years later after she moved to another country and I think she had bad experiences, I had nightmares for months she only recently admitted to bad things happening. We all have this spiritual connection with those we love so it only makes sense that it will hang around what they loved.


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