Opinion editorials by Katey LaFrance

as seen in the Liberal Opinion Week and other publications.
Member of the National Writer's Union.

Wrecking ball and the Unseen Tenant

   Before moving back to the West six years ago, we lived on Washington Street, across from the train station, in Mystic, Connecticut. There are only two houses in all of Mystic which do not measure up to the high standards of the old fishing village well-known for its quaint picture perfect appearance.

   Our rented house was one of those two which appeared to be the poor relation of the beautifully restored captains' houses which grace the streets of Mystic. Said to have housed the first telephone company in Mystic, they stood side by side, in faded glory. The one on the corner had a distinctive Dutch gabled roof to it, while ours was a large five bedroom Victorian with several windows outlined in stained glass panels. Ours also boasted a grand staircase in front with a backstairs for "the maid".

   Rundown on the outside, the old house had many, many layers of paint on the inside, covering what must've been beautiful woodwork and hardwood floors. [The general consensus around town was that the owner wanted to tear down the buildings and use the land for a more lucrative business.] While he did repair the porch railing, we often wished he would add a coat of fresh paint to the outside, but it remained a faded, greyish white. In 1991, when Hurricane Bob hit, many bricks were dislodged from the chimney, leaving it like a gap-toothed mouth outlined against the sky, contributing to its careworn visage.

    Gradually, we became aware of a ghost which adored our house, especially the attic. Its presence was made manifest in several ways. One night, when my husband was in Venezuela working, I came downstairs the next morning to find all of the lights on, the birdcage covers removed, folded neatly in a pile, and the front door unlocked. Several times we heard its footsteps upon the stairs. I even caught a glimpse of it one night, as it disappeared around the corner of the upstairs hallway.

    There were two doors one had to go through to reach the attic. Both had latches on them, one in the doorknob, the other a gate hook. Many times, I found these undone, the attic door gaping open. My cats considered the attic their forbidden playground. Whenever it unlocked the attic door, they would sneak up there to play and perhaps be caressed by unseen hands. One of them, in particular, never wanted to come back down. We often had to use an opened can of cat food to entice him down. We never felt the haunting presence as anything but a benign, somewhat melancholy being.

    When we moved away, I was excited, but also sad. Living in the grand old house had allowed me to relive a bit of my childhood when my mom and dad had a similar house in Western Colorado. I had always dreamed of buying their house when I grew up; sadly it burnt to the ground and was gone forever. Now my children had a taste of what I had enjoyed so much as a child.

    I knew the ghost was distraught about us leaving. On our last day there, I went up into the attic. I'd left an old sewing rocker up there as a seeming comfort. I'd always felt the presence was waiting for something or someone. I talked to the dear being, letting it know how sorry I was to go and that I hoped good people would take up residence in the house I'd come to know and love so well.

    Through the years, neighbors have kept us up on the latest concerning the house, always bemoaning the fact that we were gone, along with the fuschias I always hung out on the porch; our old dog who watched over the neighborhood children; and the little flower garden I kept in front.

    Last summer, I visited and was dismayed to see the house was being trashed by a group of young people who were renting it. The side yard with its huge trees and deep grass had various vehicles in states of disrepair as well as a van which was living quarters for one of them. Huge piles of trash filled the porch and yard. The front grass and my garden had been turned into a hard-packed dirt parking lot.

   This summer, my daughter, who still lives in Connecticut, visited our old neighbors for the 4th of July. She called me with the sad news that both houses have been condemned, the young hoodlums evicted, their stuff still visible in the upper windows, the lower windows boarded up. My eyes filled with tears at the thought of those graceful old buildings being so neglected, left to the decay of time. Now, the ghost and its house sit alone and silent, awaiting the wrecking ball and my heart cries out in sadness.

© 1999 by OoBraughLoo Press All rights reserved

Update 2001 - nothing stands of the old house now; nothing to record its existence, nor its passing.