Saturday, September 20, 2014

Accounts from our personal #X-Files: Living in a #Haunted House

Our latest project, investigating and writing about haunted hotels, seems a natural enough extension to our earlier experiences -- writing paranormal comedy-adventure novels. (Not to mention our involvement with the Mutual UFO Network as field investigators.)

But there's a personal side to our experience we've never shared: We lived in a haunted house for nine years.

We'd rented a 900-square-foot, two-story log cabin, which sat on ground that was the first site occupied by the frontier mining and ranching community of Doyleville, Colo. Nowadays, the only remaining evidence of that settlement are a few foundations, the original stage stop (now a storage shed), and the berm that supported the 1800s narrow-gauge railroad tracks.

A hundred years ago, most of the bustling little "town" of 2,000 residents consisted of haphazard assemblies of tents with occasional wooden false storefronts for local commerce. These days, Doyleville is a ranching community of around three dozen families scattered over a hundred square miles.

Only after our family (two adults, two little girls) had been in the two-bedroom cabin for a couple years did a neighbor mention that the first burial was on our place -- an unmarked grave. Interesting to us, but more as a historical curiosity.

It wasn't until one night, when Kym asked Mark to go downstairs and retrieve a pop from the fridge and learned he didn't want to go down the stairwell, that the two of them talked about how both sensed that spot in the house was, well, ... creepy. In fact, we both had noticed it since we'd moved in but felt too silly to mention to the other.

We shrugged it off, even laughed about our separate if coincidental impressions. But then our girls mentioned they'd each seen a man dressed in old-time clothes in the hallway near the stairwell -- and why they didn't like to go to the bathroom down that hall in the middle of the night.

That seemed a bit much for a coincidence.

On two occasions, different friends came to visit (each later confessed they were "sensitive" to paranormal phenomena) and each told us there was something in the stairwell -- a presence. One of these friends refused to come inside the cabin. In both instances, we hadn't mentioned previously our "in-house" secret.

It was time to clear the air, in a manner of speaking. So one evening we sat in the stairwell  and had a little chat with our extra resident, suggesting we all try to get along since we were all, ahem, living under the same roof. That seemed to do the trick. We felt better about it, and neither of us minded going down the stairs after that.

Did the feeling of a presence go away? No. It just felt less creepy. And by then we quit worrying about the pranks that continued to happen -- lights going on and off, the satellite TV changing channels, the water facets turning on and off. (Did we mention? The cabin wasn't old; it was built as a summer retreat just a few years prior and turned into a rental. So no old and creaky plumbing, etc.)

One odd thing that happened, though, occurred when we returned from a three-day trip. Our downstairs had a half-bath/laundry room: just a shallow sink, a toilet, and a washer/dryer. We kept the cat box on the far  side of the dryer and well away from the sink, and Kym emptied the spoiled litter into a garbage bag, returning half a minute later with fresh litter. She found the emptied cat box full of water. But the cat box was too large to fit under the faucet in that narrow little sink. No way any of us could have done the deed in so short a time.

Cute trick, Mr. Ghost.

Eventually, we needed more than two household bedrooms as the girls grew up, and we moved, not once mentioning our extra resident to the landlord.

We later learned the next two consecutive tenants lasted only six months each, and each complaining that the cabin was haunted. One even walked away from a lease and had to keep paying not to live there. In neither case had either of the tenants heard about the resident ghost ahead of time.

Finally, the landlord retired and moved in. But his wife wouldn't stay there -- too many odd and creepy things going on for an idyllic retirement, we guess.

We moved out 17 years ago, but the experience gave us an open mind. Or at least a greater level of tolerance for unannounced roommates.

In some ways, we're kind of surprised it's taken us this long to bring our journalistic talents to bear on a book about ghosts.

But here we are now: researching, investigating, and writing about ghosts. Other people's ghosts.

You can join us on our next investigation -- the notoriously haunted courthouse in the frontier mining town of Virginia City, MT, along with a stop down the street at the old morgue under a current restaurant -- by following us on Twitter. We'll be live-tweeting these and all our visits over the next few weeks.

Check for updates at our Facebook postings and Twitter feeds about the when and where.