by Michelle Ann Kratts
There are those among us who live in absolute terror. During the day they go about things as usual but they are always mindful of shadows. They watch the clock for they know with each passing moment they are closer. They tell themselves it must be the wind, their imagination, some strange coincidence. And then the sun sinks into the horizon and the moon rises. Darkness spreads like a stain across the sky and instantly they are back within a forest of fears. Once again, like children, they are frightfully aware of the slightest movement of bedroom curtains, they have measured the openings of closet doors. They wait and they wonder. What will the night bring? They never know for sure.
I meet with them sometimes in the library. I am the genealogy librarian for the Jon F. Popkey Genealogy Room at the Lewiston Public Library. They approach the situation as business-like as possible. For what is more grown up than finding out the facts? They tell me they want to know the history of their house. We usually talk first on the phone or message back and forth through emails. At once, I can sense the urgency in their voice, in the hurried words. I always know when there is something more. I tell them to bring their house search—that great goody-bag of information. We sit together and I jot down the names that pop out at me. We look through maps and directories, through the hundreds of files I keep in my cabinet, through family trees and census records, old newspaper clippings. As names and faces present themselves they become more and more wrapped up in the work of putting the puzzle pieces together. This is usually when I decide whether or not it’s the right time to ask: is your house haunted? This is usually when they look back at me, with a bittersweet sense of relief, and answer: yes, my house is haunted.
The following is the story of one woman’s experience as a resident of a haunted house and the strange ghostly encounters that may ultimately have originated from the library, itself. Every part of this story is true. The names and address have been omitted to protect the homeowner’s privacy.
Enter. An old farmhouse on an old country road in Lewiston. It’s just south of the Tuscarora Nation. There are dark forests along the property lines. Some say that there may be those who practice black magic in those woods. Moonlight is spilling over hardwood floors. There is a woman. She is troubled. She is unable to sleep.
It’s inevitable that the whole house will come to life after she goes to bed. She knows this. She paces the floor. She waits.
It was just a few months ago when everything started in earnest. She had lived in the old house for over 20 years and never really noticed anything out of the ordinary. Until this summer.
Our lady of the old country road house is an attractive woman. She seems too young to be retired. Perhaps caring for the farm has kept her youthful. In fact it was a blacksmith that had first mentioned the house. He had been acquainted with the previous owner and thought the house would be a perfect fit. And it was…for over two decades. Of course, there were the times she could swear she was being watched. Or the times she would be looking at herself in the bathroom mirror (through which she could see clear to the dining room) and, out of the corner of her eye, see glimpses of movement—of other entities passing through in a flash. Certainly, we have all experienced such things. And it was only this… until the summer rolled around and it all became too much to bear.
She blames herself for much of what goes on. She has survived several near death experiences. She has recently joined the Catholic Church. Could there be evil spirits tempting her? There are blue lights that often lurk toward the top of the stairwell. She wondered about the significance of the blue lights and found that they could be attached to the presence of an angel. Perhaps even Michael, the archangel. Perhaps he is protecting her from the evil spirits that may have taken over her house.
She feels she is teetering on the edge of two worlds. At times, she says she is putting the house up for sale. At times, she wants to fight for her home.
“I was sent to this house,” she said to me, “and it wants me to stay.”
Perhaps the night that sent her running to her priest was the night she heard him for the first time. She had gone to the kitchen for a drink and there was that uncanny feeling that she was not alone. She went into the kitchen and there he was, an unseen but definitively masculine entity, shouting crudely from behind her in the area towards the window in the dining room, in a guttural German accent : JA! She ran to her room hoping it had been her husband playing a trick on her. But it was not her husband. He was sound asleep. So she left the German lad in the kitchen—telling herself over and over that it was not a dream at all. She was wide awake. What remained of the night was a hopeless attempt at sleep. Her feet were tugged at and when she awakened from a momentary nap she had the distinct feeling that her nose was being touched and poked.
Our lady first came to me in the midst of this wild possession of her home. After admitting that she did indeed live in a house that may contain ghosts, she told me everything that ever happened. Her priest thought it was possible that this entity may want her attention. He told her to speak to it and to say: in the name of Jesus Christ, you have my attention… He also mentioned that he did not believe what was happening was attached to any sort of evil spirits. It was after her visit to her priest, that she decided it was time to find the history of her home.
Following our first encounter, just as she was about to leave, she happened to mention a little incident that bothered her and left her with this undeniable feeling that this whole haunting was somehow rooted in the terrible tragedy of a car wreck. For one day last year (before any of this had begun) her husband rang her on his cell phone—just after pulling out of the driveway. He told her not to open the door…that the strangest looking man was walking up their driveway. He was all in red and odd looking—as if he didn’t fit in our time and place. Something about the man made him extremely uncomfortable. Her husband was so worried he actually decided to do a U-turn and head right back home. She saw no one outside her window. Upon her husband’s return they both checked every possible site for signs of the young man in red, but to no avail. Their most unusual visitor had literally vanished into thin air leaving no footprints. It was as if he never existed. Could he have been a ghost? She could swear that the German voice she had heard in her kitchen was that of a young man and her husband felt that this apparition was that of a young man, as well. He described him as grubby looking with a dark beard. For some reason, she wondered…could it be possible that this young man had been the spirit of someone killed nearby in a car wreck?
So I began my investigation. Although the search (which first mentioned a premises in the early 1830’s) contained Christian names such as “John” and “Frederick” and “William” these were old Germans whose names were actually “Johann,” “Friedrich,” and “Wilhelm.” Ironically one of the first things I found in the old papers, was a reference to the death of a family member by car wreck on that very street. The forty six year old had been crushed to death under the wheels of an oncoming motor truck. It was 1922. He died of internal injuries. When I told her about him she was immediately moved to find his burial location. In fact, she found it on her own and even visited it. She thought maybe things would calm down at the house. But they didn’t. In fact, they only got worse. And one night, while going over the records of the early Niagara Germans who had lived in her house one little name mentioned in an obituary almost made me fall out of my chair. Dated 1914, it was the notice of the death of an old Civil War veteran. At one time, he had lived in this house. He died in North Tonawanda. He was survived by his daughter, Mrs. Fred Plumsteel. I knew that Plumsteel name quite well for it was Jon F. Popkey’s mother’s maiden name. Incredibly, this same house, this farm house on the old country road, was the first home in this country for Jon F. Popkey’s family. The Jon F. Popkey Genealogy Room is our genealogy department at the Lewiston Public Library. It was founded in 2007, following the tragic death of Lewiston native, Jon F. Popkey, who happened to perish in a terrible and violent car wreck on Upper Mountain Road.
Still there was one other thing…there was a little Martha, a young child, who had lost her battle with diphtheria back in 1869. Our lady’s own research revealed that little Martha just may be buried on her property for oddly, she is the only family member without a tombstone at the local cemetery. Could little Martha be tugging at her feet while she sleeps?
Could this haunting have its roots in the early German ancestors of the founder of our genealogy room? Regardless of the root of the hauntings, activities seemed to grow to new levels. One morning she woke up to find that pictures were hanging on the walls on their side. Not to mention her bed had begun this routine of dancing about and rousing our lady out of sleep especially after her husband would come to bed—as if awaiting his entrance into the bedroom. Incredibly, she recently took her bed apart and noticed that the violent movements have actually caused the screws to come undone. There were pokes in her back and this strange new event (which had actually occurred first on and off back in 2010): unexplained puddles of water. She began to notice the puddles of water by the dining room table. There was no leak and no explanation. She also mentioned that back in 2010, the walls had leaked, or “cried,” leaving interesting trails and stains, some of which remain. Again…no explanation. One night after finding her bedroom oddly smelling of “church,” she found her jewelry box overturned onto the floor. It had fallen from a shelf—again, there was no explanation and no reason a jewelry box should jump off the ledge of a shelf. And there were varying odors that concerned her. The smell of pine and that smell of church, or incense. There was also a photograph that revealed what she believed to be the hind side of a horned creature—that she snapped from her bed-- along with many other photographs containing bright large orbs of light—fantastically showing up inside and outside the house at adjacent locations.
We felt it was time to call in the professionals, as my work as researcher was pretty much done. I called upon Niagara Falls Paranormal’s founder and lead investigator, Jimmy Silvaroli. He has investigated many haunted houses and I inevitably turn my people over to him. She was hesitant at first, but she had so many questions that I was unable to answer. An investigation was planned and then called off. Our lady was most afraid that an investigation might stir up more trouble. We all met together at the library one evening a few weeks ago in an attempt to formulate a plan of attack. Investigators Jimmy Silvaroli, Lisa Civisca, Amy Wall and our lady, sat in the local history room and discussed the situation. It seems that previous to the paranormal events our lady and her husband had been to some auctions and were in the habit of bringing old items back into their home. This was when the hauntings began. The investigators came to the conclusion that it is possible that her haunting is a residual haunting. In other words, it is not a dangerous haunting. It is merely a recording of past energy and events. It can come about from contact with objects—probably the objects that had come from other houses.
Since our last meeting she has had her house blessed and she is “feeling braver.” The priest also blessed various objects in order to release any sort of attachment that spirits may have made toward them. She is still taking pictures and noting the orbs, but she has come to an understanding and has learned how to control what is going on. I have not seen her lately, but the last email message she left me was simply one line: the bed did not shake last night.
It seems that this story may have a happy ending. Once upon a time there was a woman who was terrified of her house and she learned about its history, fought those creatures of the night bravely with all the knowledge she could muster up, and in the end she lived happily ever after. The end. Perhaps….