Our last house showed terribly at first glance. It had sixty-year-old foil wallpaper, smoked mirror dining room walls and the basement that time forgot. But what it did have was seriously good bones; gorgeous worn floorboards, high ceilings, curved crown moldings and arched doorways. In other words, if you squinted just right, it was stunning.
The couple who owned it, we’ll call them the Zuckermans, had lived there for 50 years—happy years, according to the neighbors. The Zuckermans were going condo and hadn’t had much luck selling the old place, so when we put in our offer, it was accepted without much fuss. We quickly learned the Zuckermans had mixed feelings about leaving their home and weren’t happy to hear we’d be changing a few things. Sadly, unexpectedly, two days after moving into the condo, Mrs. Zuckerman died. Two weeks after that, her husband died, too. We moved into our new home with no small amount of guilt. Had we never seen the place, never offered, would the couple still be alive?Our renovation plans were fairly simple; we couldn’t afford to do much. Every change was meant to restore the house back to its original state—strip wallpaper and paint the walls cream, rip up old carpeting and expose the wood floors, install a deep porcelain kitchen sink and historical faucet and restore the basement bathroom to working order.
Enter the contractor. Chris Cowboy stood six foot five with western boots and hat, thick mustache. His bear-sized German shepherd named—what else?—Bear, accompanied him on every job. Chris Cowboy was not the sort of guy who believed in ghosts. Yet.From the moment work began, the house seemed to fight back. Never anything scary or threatening. All otherworldly activity was directed squarely at the renovations. We tried to clean the eaves, but the generator broke. We brought in a second generator, a new one. It broke. So did the third. Chris Cowboy’s diagnosis? We had ourselves a ghost.
The city of Toronto sent in a team to tunnel down our basement drainpipe and scout out errant tree roots using a snake with a video camera head, but the snake broke. The guys waited an hour for a new snake to be dropped off. Worked fine outside, but in our basement, it shut right down. They waited another two hours for third snake—the most technologically advanced camera snake ever made, apparently—to arrive from across town. This snake had never disappointed—it was the overlord. The city guys gathered around as this serpent of all serpents was hoisted from the truck. They carried her downstairs like the hissing goddess she was, set her down on the floor and plugged her in. She hummed to life and then—splat. The goddess was dead. The snake guy’s assessment? Spooks. Power tools refused to work. Shop vacs stalled. We even called in an electrician to assess the problem. The wiring was exemplary. While I had him in the house, I asked him if there was any electrical phenomenon that might be causing our basement TV to turn itself on every night while we slept. Yeah, he laughed. Ghosts.
He wasn’t kidding.
How could we argue? The Zuckermans had just died. They’d lived in the house 50 wonderful years. Where were they going to hang out? At the new condo? Nah…the Zuckermans came home. And they didn’t like what they saw.
So, the renovations were stalled. Not only that, but my seven-year-old son was hospitalized with a serious illness attacking his immune system. As he recovered—and he did make a full recovery—I grew increasingly concerned about bringing him home to a filthy mess of an unfinished house.
I’d heard about a man’s apartment being disturbed by objects moving around when he wasn’t home, and that he eventually halted the activity by telling the apparition it was scaring him and asking it to stop. So, right there, beside my son’s hospital bed, I looked up and whispered, “Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman, I know you’re upset. A new family has come in and is changing your family home and you don’t like it. But we want to make it our family home and love it like you did and you’re scaring us. Stay if you like, but please let us love this home, let us live in this home.”
Nothing strange happened again.