IT ONLY TAKES "ONE TIME"--- TO MAKE YOU A BELIEVER.
Determined to distance myself and my children from Arkansas and from my mother, I accepted an offer from New York City’s oldest Public Relations Agency-- Dudley, Anderson, and Yutsy-- to be a spokesperson for its largest client, The Chocolate Industry.
Unable to afford housing in New York City, I began searching possibilities in nearby New Jersey. The bookkeeper at D-A-Y sent me a Realtors’ page describing an historic captain’s cottage for sale in Red Bank, New Jersey. I immediately contacted a Realtor to see the property. Unfortunately, the cottage needed serious renovation which meant more money and time and—I had neither. The Realtor drove me past other available properties in the nearby areas of Red Bank, Rumson, Shrewsbury, and Little Silver. We were on a street called Sycamore Avenue in Shrewsbury, when I spotted “my house.” I learned the house had been for sale for more than two years and Mr. Forrest Smith-- the attorney who owned it--was anxious to sell.
The minute I walked through the front door, I seemed destined to live in the house. Words can’t explain why I felt a connection with the house. Elegant and traditional furniture dominated each room giving the impression the house was presently occupied but I soon learned otherwise. The Realtor explained that a caretaker visited daily, keeping the house in pristine condition. It seems the owner never went inside the house after losing his wife.
Built in the twenties, the impressive home sat on three acres of formal gardens and beautiful trees. On one side of the property, retired race horses ran, galloped, and played in a spacious pasture with peaceful solitude. Although older, the house’s classic design included a heated garage. Above the garage and off the kitchen, an enclosed staircase led to the maid’s quarters with a spacious bedroom/ bath. Heavy French doors on either side of a traditional fireplace connected an elaborate screened-in porch with the home’s formal living room. The second floor had four large bedrooms and two baths. But, most impressive was the home’s wiring system. Every closet, bathroom, and cabinet door was wired so, when opened, the opened door automatically turned on an inside light. The attic of the house was fully-floored while the home’s basement was tastefully finished. The stately home was located in an historic neighborhood known for its century-old homes. It was more house than I’d ever seen; it was more house than I needed or could afford yet—something kept telling me: “This is your house.”
The asking price for the house was well-beyond my budget. On impulse, I made an offer. The Realtor, accustomed to selling properties worth millions, forced a smile and said “Perhaps Mr. Smith will consider your price as a starting point. Being an attorney, he will know how to negotiate without insulting your offer.” I quickly jumped in and said “There’s no room for negotiations. Explain to Mr. Smith—this is a take it or leave it offer.” The next day, the Realtor called to say Mr. Smith had accepted my offer. I now owned a beautiful, historic home at 451 Sycamore Avenue in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.
After purchasing the house, I made arrangements for the big move from Arkansas to New Jersey. Opening the door of my new home for the first time, I marveled at the clean and empty spaces. There was absolutely nothing left from the previous owner; even the toilet paper had been removed from every roll in every bathroom. The house was bare, wiped clean, except....for one very small item left in the kitchen. The movers and cleaners had apparently overlooked the item or—had they?
On the counter next to the sink, I found a small strip of brass, maybe two inches by four inches, engraved with the name “Harriet”. Days earlier at the house closing, I remembered seeing the name Harriet on the home’s original deed; Harriet was the name of Mr. Smith’s deceased wife. Even today, writing about the experience, I feel chills running through my body, just like before. At the time, it seemed odd that a completely-bare house with thousands and thousands of square feet—had been swept clean—except for one insignificant piece of brass, bearing the name: Harriet.
Our first night in the house, I woke shortly after midnight to the sound of wind chimes. The outside air was still, not a branch moving. There were no wind chimes hanging anywhere—outside or inside—the house yet, each time I tried to sleep, I heard wind chimes. One by one, my daughters came out of their rooms complaining about wind chimes.
The next morning, I went downstairs to fix breakfast. The closet door under the staircase was standing open. The inside light revealed everything in the closet and there, lying on top of sealed boxes, was a set of wind chimes. I’d never seen them—they didn’t belong to me—I’d never owned wind chimes. When I showed the wind chimes to my daughters, they looked faint. Neither of them knew anything about the wind chimes. The surprising discovery left us all—speechless.
Over a period of months, many unexplained happenings took place at the house on Sycamore Avenue. To list them all, I’d need to write another book. I recall being alone in the house, late one night, and seeing a blurred spot of light moving up, down, around and across the dining room windows. On closer inspection, the light appeared to be traveling inside each pane of glass—not on the inside or outside of each pane—but inside the glass itself. It was beyond frightening.
Another night, unable to rest, I moved to the bright and happy atmosphere of the spare bedroom. Because each night seemed more and suspenseful, I decided to create my own little world of security by closing the bedroom door. Feeling myself slip from reality to a timeless realm of sleep, it was, at that moment, when I both heard and felt the voice whispering deep inside my ear, “Help me, Help me, please help me....I need you to help me!” It was a woman’s voice and—I heard it as well as felt it. The voice seemed to travel down an unseen wire which was being pushed deeper and deeper into my ear and it hurt. The wire felt hot, my ear and neck ached; the panic in the woman’s voice sounded frighteningly real. Her message, playing over and over inside my head, wouldn’t stop; it gripped me with both pain and fear. I felt death and darkness surround me. Like watching a large TV screen, I saw and heard the woman’s voice reaching out, begging me from a deep grave. I pictured the woman buried alive, frantic for me to free her.
I had to get away. Jumping up, I ran to the bedroom door and grabbed the doorknob. Nothing moved—the door’s handle refused to turn either way. Everything around me appeared locked, frozen; the moment was a nightmare but I wasn’t dreaming—I was completely awake and the woman’s voice kept begging me to help her. I struggled with the door. Then suddenly, like magic, the door popped open and everything seemed back to normal. The voice ended and I stepped into the lighted upstairs hallway.
The final straw came when, feeling ill, I decided to stay home from work. Almost asleep, the home phone rang beside my bed and, the only one home, I answered it. There seemed to be no one on the line except—I heard someone talking on the downstairs hall phone. Concerned, I raced down the stairs to discover the downstairs phone was off the hook. When I picked up the phone the line was dead. I hung-up the phone and immediately heard a woman’s voice talking on the upstairs phone!
Crazy-scared, I ran out the front door and across the street to the only neighbor I’d met on Sycamore Avenue, a woman named Dolly. Luckily, my neighbor was home. She agreed to follow me to examine the problem. When we returned to the house, every phone receiver—upstairs and downstairs—was off the hook. Completely unnerved, I stood near the front door while Dolly placed every receiver back on the hook. Speaking very matter of-factly, Dolly asked if she could contact an acquaintance-- a clairvoyant friend named Bea from upper New Jersey. Ready to try anything, I quickly said “Yes! Please see if she can come today!”
(After 1pm today... read about Bea, the clairvoyant, and...the end to this story).