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A Haunting These Houses Go

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A trio of home-based strangeness from the Valley of Shadows

... Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding the darkness within... walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” - Shirley Jackson, “The Haunting of Hill House.”

I rather feel like Johnny Carson’s predecessor, Jack Parr, when he returned after an unscheduled time away from “The Tonight Show.” His first words when he returned were: “Now, as I was saying...”

Late summer and into the fall is a ripe time for haunted houses. What follows are accounts of real haunted houses, and a house that is apparently doing the haunting itself. That is, the house doesn’t have a ghost, the house is the ghost. See if you agree...

The first haunting is, without being too specific, way past the Dover gravel pit. (I don’t want to bother the current residents... if there are any.)

An older couple was living there at the time I write of, as I learned from my source, a local figure in the retail world, now retired.

The couple had been in the house for a while with nothing unusual happening but for whatever reason, they had not had cause to go down into the basement. One day, with nothing better to do while her husband was off fishing, the woman decided to finally explore the basement.

A light switch to the right of the stairs brought two dusty, barely adequate bulbs to life. Carefully negotiating the unfamiliar wooden stairs, the woman surveyed the basement and its concrete, slab floor. Ceiling high shelves of some vintage lined two of the walls. Several small crates and large, heavy cardboard boxes stood off to the left. A metal work table dominated the center of the basement. A metal storage cabinet stood to the right at the end of the shelves.

Seeing nothing of particular interest, though her husband might appreciate the tools she saw on the shelves, she turned to go back up when something near the metal cabinet caught her eye. She saw what appeared to be fresh, human footprints in the dust, those of a child of maybe ten or so. They led from the cabinet about six feet or so to the outer wall and stopped, as if whoever made them had walked through the wall.

Later, when her husband returned home, the woman told him of what she had been doing and about the footprints. He responded that no one had been down there since they had moved in, let alone a kid.

Going down to see for himself, however, he soon called back up to his wife at the top of the stairs. She went down and over to the cabinet, where he pointed at the floor. “This the place?” he asked. She nodded and looked down. Just dusty cement, no footprints.

The next day the man went down to do an inventory of the tools and glanced over to where his wife had thought she had seen footprints... and there they were; small, bare footprints of a child that disappeared at the outer cement wall.

Not computing for a long moment, the man, for some reason, reached over to the wall where an old broom stood and swept the footprints away.

As it turned out, a lot of the tools on the shelves were old, maybe from the end of the 19th or early 20th century; an antique dealer would pay a lot for them.

The prints reappeared once more as the man made several trips to gather the tools and again, he swept them away. He then locked the door to the basement and never went down there again. There was no reason to.

Perhaps even now, behind a locked door, small footprints march across a dusty floor and through the wall.

Our next little tale took place in Kootenai, not that long ago. A young couple with a two-year-old son moved into an older house, (naturally) and wondered at the odd attitude of the landlord. He seemed hesitant, even apologetic, without actually ever coming out and saying he was sorry about something.

The rent was great. The young man’s wages were not stellar, to say the least, and $550 a month for a four bedroom, two bath house was a dream.

The house was World War I era. Renovated in the 70s, there were nine rooms total and everything seemed great. Until the first day the young father went to work and his young wife began hearing... things. Just “noises” she would tell him when he came home from work. Like... she just didn’t know. Maybe whispering, coming from the walls and attic.

At first, he told her it was just nerves. She was likely imagining things because she was home alone all day with the responsibilities of a new mother. She needed to take the baby out, go to the library or to the newly opened Wal-Mart. Make some friends, whatever.

The young woman loved her man to pieces, but he was full of the old crapola.

A few nights later, the young father got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water; his sinuses had always bothered him. (Snoring dried them out.) And he heard... it, them, whispering in the walls. Voices like they were being screened through a mesh of wires and cheesecloth. He was unable to make out words, but they were human voices all the same.

The young family found a two bedroom apartment in Sandpoint the following month and the landlord of the old house became apologetic once more to another family.

You aren’t required to tell tenants or a buyer if a house is haunted, you see; you must only share whether someone died or was killed in the building.

The one time I went hunting with my friend, “Alex,” was like going hunting with comic Bill Engval. He is fun, and so was Alex.

But the next time Alex headed out, he was all alone. It was late October and he was a few miles west of town when he saw a modest-sized buck through the trees about a couple hundred yards away.

It was a crisp, forty-five degrees. Tree branches—a few birch supporting a few dry leaves that rustled in the wind—framed an increasingly dramatic October sky.

Following an old trail, Alex lost sight of his quarry, but something caught his attention.

Down to his right, in a valley of long shadows, barely visible in the waning light, was a house. “What the F---?” Dark gray, Alex could just make out the shutters of what was apparently the upper floors of a house. But out here, in the middle of the woods? Again, he thought to himself, “What the F---?”

Alex searched briefly for a way down, but there was no trail through the brush and trees. On top of that, the sky was becoming even more dramatic as heavier, dark clouds had begun to move in. Retreating the way he had come, Alex got back to his rig just before a cold, heavy rain started.

A mountain biker, (of which I proudly am one), told me several years ago that in late August a couple years earlier he had seen what looked to be an old Victorian-style house down in a hollow, but when he was on the same trail a few weeks later, he saw nothing but trees. From the description of the location, it sounded like the same trail that Alex had trod. I’ve also heard, second-hand, that two horseback riders saw something similar.

If you want neat, tidy explanations to end a story, rent a movie because this isn’t Hollywood!

See you next time, and we’ll put some milk out for “The Time Traveler’s Cat.”

In the off chance anyone missed this column for the last four months, I’ve had a lot going on, including working on a book version of this column, “My Secret Idaho: Tales from the Valley of Shadows,” which will hopefully be out in the next year or so. For now, look for the next installment of the Valley of Shadows in November... or sooner.

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

Tagged as:

ghosts, Dover, Valley of Shadows, haunted houses

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