In the summer of 2016, we continued the process of updating the old plumbing in our ancient house in Ipswich, Massachusetts. We realized we needed to completely replace all the plumbing in our downstairs bathroom, and, in the process, we opened up the floor. We opened the entire floor, including an area under the stairs that apparently had not been touched in hundreds of years. This goat skull was in there:
At least I think it is a goat skull, as its horn nubs are embedded in the bone.
This is what the area looked like when the old wooden floor was first opened:
Along with the goat skull, we found other assorted animal bones and bone fragments. I’ve saved and photographed and documented all of those discrete segments, numbering in excess of 2,300.
It’s not every day that you find over 2,300 animal bones in your bathroom floor. I’ve got a lot to say about this. But not today.
Today, because we are approaching Halloween (also known as Samhain and also known as The Day of the Dead), and because the veil between the worlds is becoming thinner now than at any other time of year, I’d like to talk about my haunted house, in the rant that follows.
Rant Du Jour*
*WARNING: Once you read this rant, you won’t be able to unread it. Proceed at your own risk.
In 2014, soon after we’d bought our old house, I was standing in the entranceway by the front door (that is, the door that opens to the street) and noticed that the hook-and-eye latch to the basement was lifting itself up, all by itself. And then the door swung wide open – fast – and hit the surrounding wall. All by itself. The door unlocked and flung open. All by itself. Like in the horror movies. I’ll repeat that. That door latch lifted up all by itself. The door flung open. All by itself. That really happened.
I saw this with my own two eyes.
There have been other strange occurrences as well. Many times I’ve carefully closed an attic door at night, only to find it wide open in the morning. Or I’ve carefully left an attic door open at night, only to find it tightly shut in the morning.
What exactly is afoot? Are these nefarious influences, resulting from restless disembodied spirits?
The core of our house was built sometime around 1640, and we have convincing evidence that some of our architecture dates to 1634 (the year that Ipswich was settled). Therefore, one must conclude that many people were born here. And many people died here. It is a place of spirit; spirits have arrived, spirits have departed.
And yet… Why would spirits do these things?
It gave me chills to watch that door as it flung itself open. I’d never before seen anything like it.
But, I do recall, at the time that door flung itself open, heavy trucks were passing by outside, about 12 feet from it. Heavy trucks are allowed on this street; they speed past our exceptionally old house. These trucks are permitted to travel at speeds of 35 miles per hour as they make their descent from the nearby railroad bridge. In Massachusetts, 35 MPH means 40 MPH.
When I say “heavy” I mean that these trucks can weigh as much as 127,400 pounds each.
When two trucks weighing 127,400 pounds pass each other going in opposite directions, we’re talking about weights in excess of a quarter-million pounds whizzing a few feet past the front door. This results in seismic vibrations. It is as if our house is experiencing a type of earthquake, which can happen multiple times a day. Every single day.
These vibrations create wind vacuums that cause doors to be flung open and doors to be flung shut. These kinds of vibrations can take a toll on any house, although a modern house is probably best suited to withstand them.
But when you’re talking about our house, which was built nearly 400 years ago, as well as the other exceptionally old houses on this street, what kind of effect would you expect from these incessant vibrations? That is very scary.
Scary, but not nearly as scary as the realization that there is absolutely nothing preventing one of those trucks from crashing into and completely destroying any of these houses (which are really national treasures) at any moment.
I’ve written to the Ipswich Select Board and to our state representative about these problems. I’ve repeatedly talked to everyone in town who I’ve felt might have some ability and willingness to try to help fix these problems.
The Ipswich Select Board finally addressed the situation at their June 4th meeting. Apparently there was some discussion about adding a warning sign, “indicating a dangerous turn,” which, “may be helpful in lieu of changing the speed limit.”
Later I reached out to the Select Board again, and my email was forwarded to the state representative.
This was his response:
“I have been in contact with both the Ipswich Police Chief and Director of the DPW. It is my understanding that the Town is looking at reconfiguring this whole area. I am awaiting further reports and designs before commenting on what is being proposed. However, there may be state grants available to help with what may be proposed.”
I wrote back to the state representative, saying:
“I’ve not heard anything about a plan to reconfigure this area. That would be great, but we really need immediate help. I wrote a memo outlining the problems and potential solutions, and presented it to the Select Board in February, 2018. Essentially, the much higher than necessary speed limits and heavy trucks are creating dangerous risks for the children who walk this route to and from school, for the pedestrians and bicyclists, and for the village of fragile, irreplaceable antique homes that were built in the 1600’s and 1700’s (that is, in the 17th and 18th centuries).”
The state representative did not respond to my request for help.
So, yes, I’d say with certainty that my house is haunted, but probably not by spirits.
My house (as well as my street) is haunted by seismic vibrations, potentially catastrophic truck accidents, and local government dismissiveness.
All of this is scary. Very, very, very scary.
(Happy Halloween anyway.)