Staying over at Haunted Places— (or: If the place was really haunted, they probably wouldn’t tell you.)

Living room at the Haunted Chamber--the guest quarters at the House of Trembling Madness, in York (UK). Yes, the taxidermy is real.

Living room at the Haunted Chamber–the guest quarters at the House of Trembling Madness, in York (UK). Yes, the taxidermy is real.

A recent stay-over at a purportedly haunted house in York, UK was a disappointment—it was wonderful, cozy and very nice. The place was beautiful in the Morticia Addams-kind of way: taxidermed small animals were everywhere, the floors were creaky and pitched, the bed was huge, and the woodwork was obviously hundreds of years old. But no ghosts– just three wonderful, restful nights in a delightfully quiet spot in the center of bustling York during high tourist season. (York is to the UK what Colonial Williamsburg is to the USA—an intersection of overblown quaintness and precise historical reenactment, topped with a large dollop of swarmy high-kitsch tourism.)

The Haunted Chambers, at the House of the Trembling Madness-- York (UK).

The Haunted Chambers, at the House of the Trembling Madness– York (UK).

That’s okay. It’s better to be sold on ghosts and not run into them, than to actually stay at a place with a serious otherworldly presence. Likely if that AirBnB, or HomeAway rental property had real poltergeists dwelling within, the owners would flat out deny it, and they’d badger the guests to please remove any ghosty comments from their online reviews.

If you *must* stay over at a haunted place, you should check out 18XX Magazine St, in New Orleans. (Sorry about blocking part of the address out. This house is often on the real estate market, and they have enough trouble— but if you want to know where it is, I’ll send you the information by email.) This place was so haunted, that after spending over $100,000 on kitchen and bathroom renovations, the owners couldn’t stay there— instead they ran it as a vacation rental for a couple of years, where it regularly appeared in HomeAway and VRBO. Less than five years after purchasing it and doing some extravagant improvements, the place was put up for sale again. It listed for $800,000, but wound up selling for less than $600,000 several months later.

The Haunted Livingroom, where the curtains kept moving.

The Haunted Livingroom, where the curtains kept moving.

Our little family group (me, wife Meg, Mom and Dad and their little Schnauzer Annie, Mom’s sister Bee, my brother Rob and his girlfriend Carolyn, and Mom’s friends Cyrille, Allie and Annie) spent an unforgettable week there. Was it really haunted or not? You decide.

First off— we all got very sick, likely a Norovirus case that that my dad acquired prior to arrival. I spent two days flat out in bed in the middle of the trip, and Meg was feeling pretty ill on the last day when we got on the Amtrak train home. Being we were to sick to sight-see, it would have been nice to watch television there, but the TV set stop working about an hour after we arrived. Secondly— in a strange freak accident, my brother Rob’s girlfriend Carolyn appeared at the breakfast table one morning looking like a boxer after loosing a prizefight—her eyes and nose were swollen and bruised. She explained that, in the middle of the night she had fallen out of bed, but it looked more like she had been shot out of a cannon and landed face-first on the floor.

The bed that Carolyn was possibly, purportedly thrown from.

The bed that Carolyn was possibly, purportedly thrown from.

“Ghosts? Do you think that Carolyn tripped by herself? She was pushed!” my brother Rob recalled. Rob and Carolyn stayed in the master bedroom at the back of the house, and neither of them got much sleep over the days that they were there. “We had to go into the bathroom four times and turn off the faucet for the bathroom. It kept turning on on its own.” Carolyn also complained that she heard loud tapping many times while trying to sleep. If there was a ghost in the house, it was intent on making sure the two of them would do no sleeping.

My Mom’s friend Allie (a professional trainer of guide dogs for the disabled, a very sensitive person–and also a believer in ghosts) had a lot to say about the events of that week. “Even with the AC off, there were many breezes downstairs. The curtains in the downstairs rooms would start swinging on their own,” she recalled. “At one point I was I was in the living room talking with Cyrille, and this breeze blew between us. I said to Cyrille, ‘did you feel that?’” Cyrille agreed with her, but insisted that they not say anything as they didn’t want to upset my mom by telling ghost stories.

Allie said that she felt that were were actually several ghosts in the house (“at least five,” she recalled) with each one having their own room. The one upstairs in Rob and Carolyn’s room had a mischievous streak—she believed that Carolyn was tripped by the ghost while getting out of bed, but didn’t think it was done out of meanness. The downstairs area was haunted by two separate ghosts— the living room spirit that liked to cause breezes, move things around. (Allie recalled that pair of shoes Cyrille left on the floor moved to two different locations over a period of a few days). The living room ghost had the ability to prevent the television set from working.

The kitchen had a friendly ghost that according to Allie, was fond of us.

The kitchen had a friendly ghost that according to Allie, was fond of us.

“The ghost in the kitchen was friendly and sociable, for a couple of nights, she sat there and happily listened to our stories,” she observed. According to Allie, Annie the dog could see her, and would sit staring at her with her ears cocked up.

My wife Meg and I slept in the bedroom next to Rob and Carolyn in the middle of the second floor. Neither of us saw any direct evidence of ghostly activity, but strangely, after a day or so, Meg gave up using our bathroom. There was something with it that she found creepy–she felt strange being in there alone. The downstairs bathroom a much more peaceful place to take a shower. Meg also noticed that Annie the dog did not want to go upstairs at all. This was unusual–she slept with my parents in their bedroom at home; she spent her nights sleeping alone downstairs. For two days there, I ran a 102 fever, and slept a lot, but I had no problems sleeping in the old four-poster bed in the middle bedroom.

Mom and Dad's front room overlooked Magazine Street.

Mom and Dad’s front room overlooked Magazine Street.

My mom and dad didn’t report anything unusual either. Dad was sick too for a couple of days, and Mom spent her days at home with him—they spent a lot of time in the front bedroom which overlooked Magazine Street, and a well-kept row the Antebellum houses directly across the street from us.

Aunt Bee didn’t see anything either. Recalling the visit in an email, she wrote: “I honestly did not think for a moment that the house in New Orleans was haunted nor did I experience or observe anything that would lead me to that conclusion. I do remember a few mishaps which included Rob acquiring a tummy bug, and Carolyn falling out of bed, but I don’t feel or think the place was haunted.”

My Aunt Bee was haunted by the visit in a different way. Ghosts didn’t keep her up at night, but spending a few days in New Orleans did–the sense of the awful destruction visited on the residents on the night that Hurricane Katrina struck her hard. “I could imagine and picture the dreadful reality of that night when the storm hit. The French Quarter was fascinating and beautiful, it evoked all that my childhood day dreaming had longed to see in reality; the old Parisian style shops, the Afro-American jazz players, and the blended culture–all a showcase of the American dream. My sadness struck as I walked on and realized the very beautiful, and sometimes very young women in the doorways were prostitutes. Perhaps I could say in a figurative way that that sight did haunt me for a long time.”

4 comments to Staying over at Haunted Places— (or: If the place was really haunted, they probably wouldn’t tell you.)

  • very interesting story. I believe it is possible the site was haunted. Too many people had too many experiences. I especially like the layout of the photos and the captions underneath. I felt like I was reading a chapter out of a book “Ghosts of New Orleans”.

  • interesting story….. i enjoyed my time in New Orleans and would have loved to go to a haunted house……. it is interesting what they don’t tell you on the site where you are renting the space………

    • Tom

      Given this was an upscale house on Magazine Street in the Garden Discrict, I’m kind of inclined to think that the owners didn’t want stories to get out. If it was a funky house in Bywater, it might have added to the charm.

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