Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Spooky Spirits of McCollum House

McCollum House Circa 1910

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d share some of the spookier tales we have uncovered about the property. Whether it is the Carveth Estate, McCollum Orchards or Grandma Josie’s house, this place has had many names over 180 years. However you remember it, the farm’s legacy and its stately buildings have become an almost endless source of lore. You would not believe how many people we talk to end the conversation saying, “Oh, by the way, I hear it’s haunted.”  

When we first moved in last year, we were greeted with a tale of a ghost sighting in the kitchen. Just a couple years before, the family hired a lady to help clean the house.  All was going well until she started on the kitchen.  The next moment, she ran out of the house to her car, face gone ashen white. Scared out of her wits, she said she saw a ghost.  “There is a woman in the corner of the kitchen!”  Needless to say, she never came back. Later, we found out that great-grandmother Josephine Carveth was bedridden in the kitchen for a long time and passed away there.  Could it have been her?

We have heard about rumors of secret passageways that were used during the underground railroad, buried treasure, and even unmarked graves on the property. Many people might find these kinds of stories unnerving, but I have heard them all my life. 

Music in the basement
Growing up, I spent parts of my summers on the farm alone in the house with just my grandmother. In a big, old house like this, things do not merely go bump in the night. Colds winds suddenly ripped down the hallway, doorknobs turned by themselves, figures were seen in the windows. You swore you heard the faint sound of music coming from the basement or a whiff of perfume as you passed an old portrait. This is on top of the usual squeaks and creaks that you might expect.  My grandmother always chalked it up to “the spooks” (whom she also blamed for misplacing her things).  At night, when the whole house would echo with the sound of shutters banging in the wind, it was enough to keep a young boy with an active imagination hiding under the covers.

Words entwined
We have found that the more we fix up the farm and buildings, the warmer and more inviting it becomes.  The chaos that much of the farm was in made it feel, well, creepy.  It is amazing what cleaning, organizing, and applying a fresh coat of paint can do to make it feel homey again.  But there is one mystery we cannot seem to solve. In the process of organizing the house, we kept finding stacks of books bound by twine.  Some stacks of books would be standing up, some would be on their side.  There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to their grouping, with the occasional library, school or phone book thrown in.  We learned that one of my great-aunts, who lived in the house in her later years, would compulsively tie books together with twine, like a nervous tic.  We did what most people would do and untied the books.  We cut the twine and organized them again.  The strange thing is that we are never done.  No matter how many books we set free, we keep finding more stacks.  It is as if someone goes through and binds them up again.  It became somewhat frustrating, so we just stopped trying and let the house spirits have that one. 
Some of the many books bundled with twine
The love and loss that this house has witnessed cannot be summarized in a single post.  Many people have asked us if we have seen a ghost here. Even though we sometimes catch ourselves looking over our shoulder, I honestly have to say no. This house holds memories of generations who called it home. Their memory is felt in their portraits, books, photos and letters that remain.  If there are ghosts here, they are my family, right? So, the next time you drive by the house and you think you glimpse a figure peeking out from an upstairs window, just smile and wave.  It might be a relative, stepping out of their place in time to check our progress.

Happy Halloween from all of us!


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