Do you believe in ghosts? I know if you asked my family what I thought about ghosts, they’d say that I certainly believed in them because every time we pass a place that looks like it is over ten years old I loudly proclaim that it’s most definitely “haunted”! I love touring old antebellum homes because I feel they are filled with history and of course…a bit of mystery where the people who once lived in them are concerned. However, when you usually tour antebellum homes it tends to be in the middle of the day and you don’t get to go very far into the more secluded parts of the house.
The book club at Long Branch has changed all that. Our most recent visit for December’s book club meeting may have even changed my Mom’s opinion on whether or not places are haunted. Ironically enough, out of the four of us at Book Club on that foggy December night…I’m the only one who never heard a thing.
|Decorated for a celebration of Christmas Past….|
We arrived at Book Club on that foggy Tuesday night and soon discovered that it would just be me, my Mom and the two girls that run the Book Club – Lizzie and Cassie. They also work at Long Branch and are both founts of information where the house and it’s history are concerned. The four of us settled in to discuss the book for December – A Christmas Carol. When we got to the portion where we were discussing the different spirits that visited Ebenezer Scrooge, I looked at Lizzie and Cassie and told them to level with me; I knew places like Long Branch didn’t always like to make it known that they are haunted but truly, had they ever had anything weird happen. The girls said that an employee who had recently left had some “encounters” – one in specific where he’d heard footsteps walk right up to his desk, stop and then walk away – even though there was no one there. They both assured us that they’d never had anything weird happen and we got back to discussing fictional ghosts….and that’s when things started to get weird.
|Nothing spooky about this…right?|
We were seated around a table in the dining room and my Mom was sitting across the table from me. As we talked about the book, she suddenly made a startled face (seriously – startled does not even begin to describe it…complete shock and disbelief is probably more like it) and said “what was that???” I jerked around to look and see what she meant but I didn’t see anything. She said she’d sworn she heard a man’s voice talking…which seemed impossible since the only people in the house were us four women. I thought she was being goofy and told her to behave; she laughed and said maybe she was just imagining things. We went back to our discussion but only a few minutes later, Lizzie; who was seated next to me, looked around and said “okay…now I heard something” and my Mom said “I knew it – I kept hearing things but I didn’t want to say anything…but then I saw your face!” Apparently they were alternately hearing what sounded like footsteps and a male voice. Cassie and I still hadn’t heard anything, but that was about to change.
|An old WWII uniform – maybe it brought some spirits with it?|
We tried to hunker down and keep talking about our book but then Cassie’s eyes got wide and she announced that she had heard it too – and didn’t I hear any of this? You guys, I never heard a thing! I was a little disappointed but watching the three of them flip out was pretty creepy in itself. Once Cassie announced that she had heard it, Lizzie decided to investigate. She thought that maybe the maintenance guy had come into the basement and just not told anyone and so she disappeared around the corner to check it out (which – she is far braver than I, I would never had headed into the basement alone). When she came back, her face was white as a sheet and she looked…well…like she’d seen a ghost. She said there was no one in the basement but she’d heard the man’s voice again…and it always sounded like it was moving away from her, always just a little ways ahead of her. Once she sat down again, they all three kept looking around and saying they heard footsteps and didn’t I hear anything?? I didn’t.
|A photo op all the way from the top of the house…|
Lizzie and I walked into the foyer because she knew I’d be able to hear the footsteps – they seemed to be coming from that area. I still couldn’t hear anything but apparently they all could. The girls seemed unsure about having to close up the house and cut off all the lights alone, so we decided we’d stay with them while they did it. Cassie then announced with a sign that someone would have to go all the way to the attic to turn off the Christmas lights – it had seemed like a good idea to run the lights into the attic earlier in the day, but now in the dark of night with things going bump – well, it wasn’t such a great thought. I decided to tag along up to the attic because people don’t normally get to go to the third floor of the house…and I still hadn’t heard anything. I trooped along behind Lizzie up the spiral staircase to the third floor and as she crept toward the open door of the attic, she said “when I flip this switch, it’s going to get crazy dark in here”. I positioned myself at the top of the stairs, ready to run for it and she flipped the switch and ran toward the top of the stairs. As we clattered down, my Mom hollered “don’t y’all trip and fall down those stairs” and Lizzie hollered back “if we fall, we’ll get down faster!”
|Lanterns in the alcoves on the spiral staircase.|
We survived the race from the attic and it was time to head out. Of course, to compliment the eerie night the fog had rolled in as thick as pea soup and added another element of spine tingle to the evening. We said our farewells and headed to our car. All the way home my Mom and I discussed what had happened – and we couldn’t really believe it. When we returned on Sunday night for the Christmas Reception, Cassie told us that the maintenance man hadn’t been anywhere on the property on our freaky Tuesday night…so they still had no idea whose voice we had heard. Suffice it to say, I’ll be intrigued to see if anything interesting happens at our next book club meeting. Are those ghosts always there or were they just inspired by our discussion of the ghost of Christmas past?