While I love ghost stories and tales of the unexplained from all over the province, I do have a special fondness for tales from downtown St. John’s, where I live. There seems to be no shortage of haunted houses, and I’m forever getting stories from people about the buildings they live in.
One good example of this is a tale which was told to me by a man who had grown up in the downtown area of St. John's. He and his family had lived on a street running off Military Road in the centre of the city. Several members of the family had felt a presence in the house, and the matriarch of the clan had even felt the eerie sensation of being bumped into by the resident spirit.
The dwelling was an old house, three storeys high, and typical of those in the downtown core. Up on the top floor of the house were a couple of spare rooms which the family did not use a great deal.
One of the rooms was quite large, more or less empty, and was used for storage.
There were seven in the family, and with that many people in one house, empty rooms did not stay empty forever. When he got into his teenage years, one of the sons commandeered the top floor room for his own use. The son experienced nothing out of the ordinary in his time spent there. Later on, the mother decided she was going to use the room as a sewing room, where she could sit and sew, and do the ironing.
Unlike her son, she began to realize she was not always alone in the room. On many occasions when she was in the room, she felt something of a presence. Whatever it was, it was always unseen. The spirit and the sense of discomfort it lent to the top floor always caused her to feel more than a little uncomfortable in the space.
One day, while doing her ironing, the wife was nudged, pushed by an invisible figure. The woman put down the hot iron, backed away from her chores and said “OK! I’m going!”
The couple who owned the house were both skeptical people, and were known to be very down to earth sorts, especially the father. He thought his wife was crazy, and decided to check it out for himself and spend some time in the room. He was not one who had any time for nonsense, and wanted to put the rumour that the house was haunted to rest.
To prove there was nothing supernatural in the room, the father spent a bit of time there, reading and whatnot. Finally, one night, he came downstairs looking rather white in the face.
“I’m going to tear out the ceiling in that room,” he exclaimed.
When questioned, he said nothing. Something frightening had obviously happened, but the man refused to tell the rest of his family what had transpired in that mysterious room.
He was, however, quite serious about tearing out the ceiling. Always the skeptic, he felt that there might be a rat or some other flesh and blood creature moving around above the plaster.
True to his word, he hauled out the ceiling, stripping away the laths and plaster. Carefully, he investigated the newly opened space. Much to his chagrin, he found absolutely nothing. There were no signs of rats or other beasties, and nothing to account for whatever he had felt, heard or witnessed in the room.
The ceiling was repaired, with new plaster and paint. Before long, the room was back to normal. Or, as the case may be, back to the paranormal. For no sooner was the ceiling replaced, than the family began to feel the same eerie sensations yet again. The ghostly presence was felt for years afterwards, and eventually the family moved elsewhere.
For all we know, the phantom could be there still.
Dale Jarvis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.