“So,” I said, leaning in to ask my first question. “When did you purchase the house?”
Barbara Lee opened her mouth to speak. I was all ears—that is, until the bathroom light switched on.
Mrs. Lee grinned reticently at me, the corners of her lips turning the slightest bit upward, her eyes blazing an I told you so.
“We have a visitor?” I asked.
She nodded and answered my question about the house. “We bought in 2005, moved in 2006.” She was not ruffled in the least about the bathroom light switching on, even though no one had entered. The bathroom has a sensor light. It turns on when someone walks in or comes very near the room entrance.
“We have a spirit that goes in there all the time,” she noted.
I felt icy upon her remark. The two cats stood just outside the doorway to the parlor, looking at me, looking at Barbara and then back again. Barbara smiled.
“They never come in here,” she stated. “They’ll stand right there and look in. I can even offer food, but they will not enter this room.”
“My other cat, Sam: He would come in. Often he’d jump from one piece of furniture to the other, never touching the floor. Other times, he’d be just fine. But Sam is gone now. He died a few months ago.”
I nodded and wondered for a moment if I should have come at all for the interview—one that a friend of mine from Sneads Ferry suggested. She had warned me the house was haunted; she witnessed its haunting, heard all kinds of noises and seen all sorts of strange things. Nonetheless, I was curious.
So here I was, talking to Barbara Lee, the owner and resident of a very old home built sometime in the late 1800s. She verified eerie stories, and managed to continue smiling—cool and composed like the Southern lady she is.
I, on the other hand, was a bit trepidatious. i wondered if there would be howling, creaking, bumps in the night (or daytime). Would I leave running and screaming from fright? After all, it was my first haunted-house interview.
Oddly, I never felt the need. Somehow, upon entering the home, I felt safe and rather comfortable. The spirits inhabiting Barbara Lee’s home must have been kindly ones. And I know they were there. But there wasn’t a feeling of loneliness or the emptiness. It was quite the opposite—as if I were among friends, several of them.
“It was when we were renovating the parlor that I first noticed a few strange things happening,” Mrs. Lee remembered. “Every day I came here the same piece of wood would be sitting in the middle of the room. I’d move it back by the fireplace, but the next day when I came back, there it would be: in the middle of the room again. That went on for some time. Another time Sam, my cat, was following me and a friend around as I showed off my new project. We just left the upstairs and were in the kitchen. We heard a cat meow from the upstairs and assumed Sam had been left behind in one of the rooms. We heard the meow again and I rose to let Sam out, but there he was, at my feet. It wasn’t him at all—some mysterious phantom cat was locked in an upstairs room. Sam, my friend and I agreed. As for the wood, well, eventually we figured out it did not belong by the fireplace, it was in fact a toe rail belonging in another part of the room. The spirit was just trying to be helpful.”
Barbara’s eyes lit up. She was comfortable living in a house with other people she couldn’t see. She’s grown used to them, even. “I grew up right next to a church cemetery,” she reasoned. “Why should I be afraid of a house?”
When they were younger, Barbara and her brother were part of a parapsychological study group at Duke University, conducted by J. B. Ryan. “I’ve always had ESP,” she noted. “My son David and I communicated often that way.”
No stranger to the paranormal, Barbara is a graduate of Greensboro College where she earned a degree in English and art. She got her masters at Duke and was part of the Medical School Complex. She taught at the University of Pittsburgh, as did her husband, who taught at the School of International Affairs. She’s an educated, well-traveled woman, who is not afraid of what she cannot see and what she does not know.
As any good skeptic would do, I questioned the validity of the strange occurrences. “I had a boarder once, Matthew,” she told. “He heard them. Many of the voices come from the closet. I guess they need some privacy.”
Others have witnessed the voices, the bumps, the lights. I must admit to my own agenda: I took the assignment to verify that perhaps paranormal is very normal and nothing to be afraid of.
He, she or it is reconciled to Mrs. Barbara—she has done as requested and still keeps the old portraits of former families on the walls (to keep the peace). She doesn’t bother anyone upstairs; though, she has heard their quarrels, the flushing of the upstairs toilet, laughter, chamber music, and even gunshots.
As we talk about her life, her husband, her son, David, and daughter, Claudia, the light in the bathroom goes on again for the fourth time. By now I am used to it and realize perhaps the apparition frequenting the bathroom is tired of my nosy questions.
I laugh a bit. I think I like this ghost. It is not obnoxious or disruptive; it simply needs a place to be. Its presence is subtle but still obvious, reminding us there is something beyond the grave. LOL