This is a long post. Get yourself a cuppa.
I’ve been seeing dead people all my life. But the most intense contact I ever had with those of the afterlife was when living in a house in Gleeson Street in Hermit Park, Townsville.
My dream home!
I bought this house in 1993. Being an older part of the city, the house was possibly built in the 1920/30s. It was originally a two bedroom cottage with a wide veranda down one side and across the front. The veranda had long ago been built in, creating a lot of extra space in what was otherwise a fairly medium sized home.
I bought the house from a very old man, Mr Brown, whose wife had died some years earlier. His children had grown up in the house and now had families of their own, and had decided it was time for him to go to a nursing home.
My heart jumped with glee when I saw 16 Gleeson Street for the first time. I knew it had to be mine. There was an odd welcoming feeling. It was as though the house chose me, not the other way around.
The floors were covered with 1950s vinyls, and the kitchen and bathroom fittings were in their original state. The tongue and groove wall and ceiling boards were all either rosewood or silky oak, languishing away under layers of discoloured paint from the same era.
I got to work straight away – tearing away floor coverings, painting cupboards, walls, ceilings – every inch of the old paint was scraped away and replaced with my own palette of muted greens and creams to brighten up the home.
The hard floors underneath the old vinyl polished up magnificently , and the internal Oregon pine doors were stripped back to reveal their majestic grain. Both bedrooms had silky oak stained-glass French doors leading out to where the veranda once began, and once they were acid-bathed, they were the envy of all. .
Although the house embraced me from the outset, the neighbourhood wasn’t flash. There was a block of flats directly across the road, which housed the street’s undesirables. At least once a week, there was either loud music, smashing bottles or the piercing screams from domestic violence. I saw this right from the beginning, but I was drawn to this house in a way that I was not going to let party people keep me away from it.
So, considering I was on my own with two young children, one of the first things I did was install steel grids across the windows that stopped anybody from climbing in – whether we were out or at home. It was a good idea, too, as there was more than one occasion where I belted an arm coming through the window next to the front door, trying to open it from the inside. I had also installed deadlocks on all external doors, so they wouldn’t have gotten in any way.
I thought all the security that I had installed was the reason that, every time I came home to this house, I felt my children and I were extremely safe and secure, and we could relax and enjoy our home undisturbed.
I was so wrong on that point.
The Children Know
Although I loved our new home, admittedly there had been a few things going bump in the night that unnerved me. Several times I had heard the back door shutting firmly in the wee hours of the morning. My son was a sleepwalker, thus every time I heard the door closing, I leapt from my bed and raced to his room to check on him. I started double checking the deadlocks every night. The door was always closed, and the deadlock always on. I would go back to bed, and hear the door shut again within half an hour.
Some mornings, the kids would get up before me, and prepare their own breakfast. I considered this was the reason why all the kitchen cupboard doors were left open by the time I got up.
One day I asked them, “Would it be too much to ask you guys to close the cupboard doors after you’ve been in them?”
They looked at each other and shrugged, “They’re like that every morning, we figured you were leaving them open to get rid of the paint smell or something …”
Before it became the TV room, the original second bedroom in the house was to be my daughter’s. Although she never said anything, she always seemed nervous as I tucked her in. Within a few weeks, she started wetting the bed. Somehow I knew something was frightening her. So I moved her out to share the enclosed veranda room with her brother.
In fact, a friend of mine slept in that room, in my daughter’s bed, whilst my daughter was staying at her father’s place one night. My friend also wet the bed. She apologised, and said she’d had the most disturbed, sleepless night of her life. I thought she’d just had far too much to drink.
There were two antique silky oak bed frames left in the house. They certainly fitted into the décor that I was establishing there, and the design of the bed incorporated framing for mosquito nets. They were perfect for my children. In previous homes we had always had insect screens on the windows, but here we didn’t, as the windows were all casement. The kids seemed to like them, particularly the novelty of the mosquito net on the bed. My daughter settled back into a normal sleep pattern, with no incidents of bed-wetting, now that she was only a few yards away from her big brother.
One day, by now a few months after moving in, I was hanging out the washing in the back yard, and my son was playing nearby with his toy cars. He watched me hanging up the clothes.
“Mum, where’s that nightie that you wear when you come to check on us every night?”
“What nightie?” I asked, scanning the line for this item of clothing. “This one?” I pointed to a sleep shirt that I used to wear.
“No, that long white one, that goes down to the ground, with sleeves had come down to your hands, and it comes up to your neck.”
It was not me checking on them. He was describing the kind of nightdress that an old lady would wear.
I got rid of the silky oak beds.
The Cleaning Lady Quit
There was a really sweet young woman who used to come and clean for me on Wednesdays. One day she came to see me at my work, looking a little pale.
“ I am so sorry about the broken plate in the lounge room. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m happy to pay for it.” she told me.
“ That’s ok,” I said, “ the plate belonged to the kids’ paternal grandparents. It was very old – a Royal Doulton piece – so I doubt we could replace it even if we wanted to. I’m really curious, though, as to how this plate was broken. It wasn’t left near an edge at all.”
The plate had been sitting on the top of a large rosewood entertainment unit, standing against the wall. The unit was around 80cm from front to back, so it couldn’t have fallen over the front of the unit by itself. I figured she had moved it for dusting, and somehow dropped it in the process. At the time I was renovating the room, and there was no carpet on the hard floors.
She went suddenly green around the gills, and looked at the floor, avoiding my eyes.
“Look, I really don’t want to say this, because it sounds stupid, but … I think your house is haunted.”
She told me she had been dusting in that room, and moved on to my bedroom. As she started dusting the dresser, she heard a crash and went to investigate. The plate was lying in the middle of the wooden floor in two pieces. It had somehow jumped from its position at the back of the entertainment unit out to the middle of the room. She had tears in her eyes from fear, and told me she felt she was being watched the whole time she was there. She heard things moving in other rooms as she worked, and kept thinking someone else was in the house. I assured her she wasn’t crazy, that I was aware of a presence in that house also.
She didn’t want to clean my house any more.
Meeting Mrs Brown
Instinctively, I knew that the being moving around in my house was Mrs Brown. Something told me she was connected to one particular room that would have originally been a bedroom, but which I was converting into the TV room. I finished the renovations in that room –the walls were painted a lovely muted avocado green, the ceiling was painted fresh cream, and new pale green carpet was laid down. All the furnishings were red – I had a special couch and arm chairs made to fit into my colour scheme. I called it my ‘Rose Room’. Although I had spent a lot of effort (and money) on the decor of this room, after the kids had gone to sleep at night, I couldn’t sit there and watch television alone. I read a lot of books in bed.
In my experience, spirits generally attempt to contact me just as the light is changing at dusk or dawn.
One Saturday afternoon, after I had finished cleaning the house, I lay on my freshly made bed in my very clean home, and fell asleep.
Something woke me. I opened my eyes a little. The sun was setting, and the cool evening was surrounding me. I heard footsteps in the dining room, coming towards my bedroom door. I was lying on my side with my back to that door, facing the French doors leading out to the old veranda area. I shut my eyes again as I heard the soft steps of someone creeping up until I felt them standing inches away behind me.
The first thought that came to my mind was that I had left the back door open when I fell asleep, and now some murderer or rapist was about to attack me. I kept my eyes closed, and despite my panic tried my best to appear to be breathing slowly as if I was still asleep. I thought if I didn’t move, whoever was would leave me alone, take my wallet and go.
As my intruder moved closer, I both felt and heard a buzzing/humming sensation along my back. They were now standing over me, and I felt eyes peering down at me. I was breathing very shallow, tears welling up under my eyelids until they found a leaky corner to pour out of. I waited for a hand to grab me, for some weapon to hit me. Seconds seemed like minutes. But no attack came.
Instead what I felt was the buzzing/humming move closer and pass through my body, as a spirit walked right through me. I felt my body rock, as the electrical being actually pulled on my soul as it passed through. As it let go, my body snapped back like an elastic band.
Then, in an instant, it all stopped. I opened my eyes, and blinked away incredulous tears, with full awareness that Mrs Brown had come and tried to communicate with me. She had watched me, waiting for some acknowledgement that I was aware of her presence. Finally she gave up, and moved as if I wasn’t there, through my body and out the French doors.
I will never forget this experience for the rest of my life.
The Boys Show Their Faces
I started a relationship not long after this, with a young man who very quickly moved in on my life and my home. He stayed over at nights, and as he started work very early in the mornings, he was usually gone by 5.30 AM – just on daybreak.
One morning just after he left, I was awoken by two young men sitting at the on the end of my bed – one on each side. I sat up in bed and spoke to them.
“We don’t understand – why is he here? ” one of them asked.
“Yeah, WE look after you, not him. You don’t need him! ” the other one implored.
“Guys, I know you take care of me, and I really appreciate it. But you’re dead, and I’m alive. I’m a flesh and blood human being, and there are certain things he can do for me that you can’t.” I tried to reason with them.
The radio alarm switched on beside my bed, and I woke up with a start. I walked around in a daze all day after that.
It was too real to be a dream.
One day, a few months later, I was at my nail technician’s salon, and she asked me how the renovations were going, and of course how my new relationship was unfolding.
I told her about Mrs Brown, and the disturbances, which had been increasing of late. She told me that another client, sitting a few chairs away having her hair done, was a clairvoyant. She told the clairvoyant only that I was having problems with a ghost in my new home. The woman came over and, without asking any questions, requested that I give her something of mine to hold. It had to be something very close to me. I gave her the gold chain with the theatre masks that I had been wearing around my neck for the past eight years or so, which I never took off.
She held the chain for a few minutes, moving it between her fingers and nodding slowly. Finally she said:
“You have three spirits in your house. One of them is an old woman, and she’s not happy with what you are doing with the house. There is one particular room that she always loved, and in that room is something pink. This is what is bringing her back. Get rid of the pink thing and she will leave. The other two spirits are young men. They are not the sons of the old woman, but during their life they were very well known to her. They are protecting you. They watch over your children.”
I suddenly had tears in my eyes, and told her about my dawn meeting with the two young men at the end of my bed. I told her about Mrs Brown, and about the TV room that was so unnerving.
She told me to go home, do some white light therapy, and tell Mrs Brown this was no longer her house and she had to move on. She said the boys were waiting for someone, and when the time came they would move on of their own accord. She said as long as I was comfortable with them around, there was no harm in them staying.
The Mystery Revealed
I went home, and was thinking about her words as I watered the garden down one side of the house. An elderly woman who lived next door came to the fence. She was a lovely old lady, who had knocked on our door a few days after we moved in to give us a cake she had baked to welcome us into the neighbourhood.
As we spoke, she could see I was troubled, and asked me what was wrong. I felt really awkward talking about ghosts; nobody ever believed me. But I found myself saying to her:
“I don’t know how you feel about the subject, but if I was to tell you that I think Mrs Brown is still in my house, would you believe me? ”
The old woman laughed. “Of course I would, she loved this house. It was her pride and joy! I have no doubt she is reluctant to go!”
I asked her where Mrs Brown had slept. As I suspected, it was in my Rose Room; where my daughter and my friend had both slept so fitfully. In fact … my neighbour believed she actually died in that room. The ceiling of that room had been painted pale pink, Mrs Brown’s favourite colour.
So I asked her if she knew anything about the two young men. Her face went white, and for a second I thought she would pass out.
“Oh, my goodness!” she exclaimed, “Of course, yes!”
She was so shocked, she had to hold onto the fence to steady herself. She then told me that Mrs Highett, who lived on the other side of my house, had lost two sons at an early age. One of them was killed in a car accident, and the other one – she couldn’t remember exactly what – had had some sort of illness that claimed him in his early twenties. Both boys were always at the Browns’ house playing, and were apparently very close to Mrs Brown.
They were there. Watching me. Watching my children. They had told me that morning. It wasn’t a dream at all. They were waiting for their mum to join them from next door.
Life Goes On …
I didn’t know whether to cry or to feel sick, or both. I went inside the house and stood in the Rose Room, and looked up at the ceiling. My freshly-cream-painted ceiling was … pink. The colour underneath had leeched through my new paint.
I repainted. The colour came through again. I did the white lighting, several times, and begged Mrs Brown to move on. But I don’t think she ever did.
A year or so later I was transferred to Brisbane with my job, and I rented the house to friends. They left within months. The place was creepy, they said. I put the house on the market, and it sold quite quickly. I heard several years later that those owners, also, left due to the eeriness of the place.
Apparently the next owners didn’t mind. Or perhaps Mr Brown and the boys’ mother had also gone to join the lost souls in the house, and they’d all gone to a better place. Either way, they kept the house for a long time – even going further than me by cutting out walls. I bet Mrs Brown didn’t like that at all!
Still every time I visit my home-town, I’m tempted to knock on the door and ask if they, too, had met their otherworldly guests.