True Ghost Stories: In Her Father's Shadow
Never Say Goodbye
Margaret Wilson grew up in a small community in West Virginia, not far from the one in which I was raised. A client of my sister's, she recently contacted me regarding a house that she inherited from her father.
Margaret knew that I had some knowledge of the paranormal and hoped that I could help her with some issues that she couldn't resolve on her own. She explained that, although her father had died, his spirit had remained behind in the house she now occupied. Over the course of several meetings, Margaret shared her story with the expectation that, together, we could find a way to send her father off on the journey which awaited him.
Margaret's father, Harold, had passed away in March of 2016 at the age of 82. He had suffered from congestive heart failure for several years before finally succumbing in his sleep. A lady who had been hired as his caregiver had discovered his body when she arrived for work one morning.
The weeks that followed Harold's passing were a blur of funeral arrangements, lawyer meetings, and housecleaning. Margaret is an only child, and since her father's only sibling had preceded him in death, it was determined that she was the sole heir of his estate.
Margaret had known little about her father's financial status in the years leading up to his death. She would learn that he had been fairly well off at the time of his passing. Margaret inherited the brick home that her father had owned along with all of its contents. She had also received a sizable sum of money when all was said and done.
For someone who had struggled much of her life to make ends meet, the inheritance had been life changing. Margaret would soon move out of her cramped rental home and into the house she now owned outright. She admits that she felt guilty that it had taken her father's passing to put her on the right path, but she was grateful for the new beginning.
Margaret had decided from the start that she would make the house her own by doing a bit of remodeling and decorating. Harold had kept his home unchanged for decades and it showed. He had thrown little away over the years; including a collection of old console television sets, none of which were in working order.
It had taken several weeks to clear out the old to make way for the new, but Margaret had made great progress. The only room that she had chosen to leave untouched was her father's bedroom. Although the rest of the house had been transformed to Margaret's tastes, she felt that she should keep his room as a sort of tribute to the man who had made her new life possible. It hadn't exactly been her taste, but she couldn't bring herself to change it; not yet anyway.
Harold had been a war veteran who had taken great pride in having served his country. His bedroom had been an everyday reminder of his patriotism. The quilt that covered his bed was hand-stitched in red, white and blue. The curtains that hung from the only window were designed in a matching stars and stripes pattern. Framed photographs of Harold in his uniform were sitting on the chest of drawers and on his nightstand. Margaret had since added the folded flag that had been draped over his casket to the collection of flags that adorned the room.
As Margaret was going about making the much needed changes to the home's décor, she felt that something wasn't quite right about the place. The first ones to confirm her suspicions were her two Maltese dogs, Ginger and Honey.
Margaret is the first to admit that her dogs are a bit high strung, but they had always been generally well behaved. On the first night in their new house, she remembers finding Honey sitting on the kitchen floor with her head tilted all the way back as she watched something moving across the ceiling. Whatever is was that was holding the dog's attention, was unseen to Margaret.
Margaret called Honey's name and snapped her fingers, but she could not get the dog's attention. Honey was so fixated on whatever she was seeing that she almost toppled over backwards as it moved overhead. As soon as she had lost sight of it, Honey snapped back into reality and trotted over to Margaret as if noticing her for the first time.
The dog's behavior had been odd, but Margaret let the incident pass without giving it too much thought. In the days that followed, Honey would continue to interact with something in the house that only she could see. In time, her mysterious companion would make himself known to Margaret. It would prove to be a family reunion that she would never forget.
A Series of Strange Events
Margaret isn't exactly sure how much time passed before she began to observe a pattern of unexplained activity in her home. What had, at first, seemed to be childish pranks would soon escalate into something far more frightening.
Late one evening, not long after the incident in the kitchen with Honey, Margaret was dozing off in one of the living room chairs when she was suddenly jolted awake be the sound of a man's voice. Whoever was speaking was rambling on and on in a tone that was both creepy and hypnotic.
Margaret could tell that the voice was coming from the kitchen so she eased herself out of the chair and quietly made her way to the next room. Once she reached the kitchen entryway, she peaked around the corner to see if she could catch a glimpse of the intruder. The room was dark so she flicked on the light switch which immediately illuminated the area.
To Margaret's surprise, the man continued to unleash a torrent of words, none of which made any sense to her. It was only when she saw the source of the tirade that she felt real fear for the first time. The voice was coming out of the mouth of her dog, Honey.
Margaret realizes how crazy it sounds that a dog was channeling someone, but she says that she stood and watched as a male voice emitted from her Maltese. When she came to her senses, Margaret ran to the living room and grabbed her cell phone with the intention of recording what she was hearing. When she returned to the kitchen, the voice had stopped and Honey was acting like her old self.
As strange and alarming as such an occurrence must have been; Margaret claims that it repeated itself on at least two other occasions. Both times, she tried to record the event as it was happening, but the voice would stop whenever she attempted to capture it on her phone.
For her part, Honey never seemed to be aware of what was happening. Margaret says that the little dog seemed completely oblivious as the stream of gibberish escaped her lips. The other dog was never affected. Ginger would always disappear when her companion acted out. She would then reappear as soon as Honey snapped out of her trance.
It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the dog was channeling Harold since he had passed away in the house, but Margaret is adamant that the voice she heard had not been that of her father. Harold had been born in Kentucky and had always retained a distinct accent which this voice had not possessed.
Margaret kept the incidents with the dog to herself for a long while after they ended. She genuinely feared that she would be locked up if she shared her story with anyone. Such things weren't possible, and yet she had witnessed them with her own eyes and ears.
Around the last time that Honey had "spoken", Margaret began to get an uneasy feeling anytime she had to pass through her father's old bedroom. Unfortunately, it couldn't be avoided since the only way to get to the bathroom or other bedrooms was through Harold's room.
Margaret says that she would break into a cold sweat when she entered what she called the "flag room." On several occasions, she had suffered from chest pains so severe that she thought she was having a heart attack. Her fears were quickly put to rest when she discovered that the pain miraculously disappeared the moment she exited her father's room.
There were times when Margaret wondered if the things she was experiencing in the house were real or simply figments of her imagination. She wanted someone else's opinion of what was going on in her home, but didn't know who to contact. This is where I entered the picture.
The Search for Answers
Margaret's story piqued my interest from the very beginning. When we first spoke on the phone, she was hesitant to share the details of the bizarre chain of events that had occurred since she had taken up residence in the home.
When she was finally convinced that I was on her side, the floodgates opened. It was then that I learned of the events that had centered around Honey as well as Margaret's suspicions that there was a sinister presence in the flag room.
I don't claim to possess any psychic powers or anything of the like and stressed that fact to Margaret before our first in-person meeting. What I could offer were my opinions regarding what was taking place in her home based upon my experiences with hauntings and other paranormal phenomena. We figured that, together, we might be able to get to bottom of things.
Margaret asked that I come to the house so that she could show me the areas where the majority of the activity had occurred. I met her two dogs who were both very sweet and friendly. One of our first stops was the kitchen in which Honey had exhibited some unexplained behavior on more than one occasion.
Everything in the room seemed perfectly normal. There were no dark or oppressive feelings present in the area. I had known the fear that came with living in a haunted house and it is hard to disguise. There were no such worries in Margaret's kitchen. If a spirit had taken up residence in the home; it wasn't interested in this particular room.
Margaret had already expressed a sense of fear regarding her father's bedroom before pointing me in that direction. When she had referred to it as the "flag room," she wasn't kidding. Stars and stripes adorned almost everything in sight.
Nothing in the room seemed out of the ordinary until I reached over and touched a picture frame that was sitting on the dresser. As soon as I picked it up, a sudden electric shock caused me to drop not only the picture, but also the cell phone that I had been holding in my other hand.
The whole thing had happened in an instant. No harm had been done, but the incident had been bizarre and a bit frightening. I reasoned that the metal frame must have reacted with my phone, but I'm not sure if that is even plausible. It seemed to be as good an explanation as any for what had happened.
As we continued looking around the room, it became evident that we weren't welcome there. It's a hard feeling to describe, but it is much like being in a store when the announcement is made that the doors will be closing in five minutes. We both felt like someone wanted to point us in the direction of the nearest exit.
Margaret wasn't wrong when she said that the longer one remained in the room, the higher the anxiety level became. After about five minutes of standing in the flag room listening to Margaret share some of her experiences, my heart began to race. As she spoke, I could feel my pulse pounding in my ears.
My hostess was also showing signs of despair. She became so dizzy at one point that she had to sit down on the edge of the bed. When she did so, the door that led from the flag room out into the hallway suddenly slammed shut. With that, we both hightailed it to the living room in record time.
It was pretty clear that something was residing in the bedroom and that it valued its privacy. There was no way to be sure who the spirit was since nothing that was happening was unique to any one person. It seemed likely that it was Margaret's father, but since she steadfastly maintained that the voice she had heard had not been his, the situation was a bit puzzling.
I felt that the spirit in the home did in fact belong to Harold. The possessiveness that it had shown in the flag room was that of someone who had a personal attachment to the items that were housed there. A wandering spirit wouldn't have cared if Margaret sat on the bed or if a stranger touched a framed photograph. Those things had meant something to Harold and only he had reason to lay claim to them.
Out of curiosity, I asked Margaret what her father had been like in life. Surprisingly, she could offer little insight into his personality. It seems that their contact had been sporadic in the final years of his life, so she wasn't certain how he had behaved in the end.
Margaret did recall that when she was growing up, her father had been absent much of the time. When he was home, he mostly kept to himself, preferring to read western books rather that interact with his family. Margaret's parents had divorced when she was a teenager and she had moved with her mother to a home that was owned by her grandmother.
The more Margaret revealed the details of her past relationship with her father, or the lack thereof, the more I felt that he was probably still attached to the house. She harbored a great deal of resentment towards him that she didn't try to hide. Harold, for his part, seemed to be holding onto some grudges as well.
They definitely had unfinished business that needed to be addressed and it would require the aid of someone with clairvoyant abilities to facilitate the process. I couldn't help Margaret except to give her the name of the only medium I knew of in the area.
The plan of action was to mend fences between father and daughter which would, hopefully, allow Harold to let go of the life he had known and cross over into the afterlife. It was evident from the start that the medium would have her work cut out for her.
The medium whom Margaret contacted, a lady named Celeste, was someone familiar with cases in which a stubborn spirit refused to give up their earthly possessions. I had become acquainted with Celeste when she handed me her business card at a pop culture festival. She had left quite an impression that day and I felt that if anyone could help Margaret, it would be her.
It was my understanding that Celeste had visited Margaret's house not long after they were put in touch with each other. According to Margaret, the medium had sensed the presence of a restless and extremely perturbed spirit the moment she entered the house.
At her request, Celeste had been told very little about the goings on that had taken place inside of the home. She informed Margaret that she wanted to hear only the basics and nothing more. She had not been told about the voice, nor did she know that the flag room was the place where most of the activity had occurred. All Celeste knew going in was that there had been disturbances in the house that Margaret had inherited.
Margaret related that the minute Celeste laid eyes on the dogs she had bent down and picked up Honey. She then calmly informed Margaret that the dog had been used as a conduit for someone who had passed on. Celeste told Margaret that most people think that animals can sense the presence of spirits, but that such a thing is not strictly true.
Celeste explained that, much the same as people, only some animals are sensitive to the spirit world. In her opinion, Honey was an old soul who had allowed herself to be used by the specter of someone who had once lived in Margaret's house.
As they walked through the rooms, Celeste sensed that the kitchen had been a favorite spot of the resident spirit. She described the entity as being a man who had lived a long life, but had not accomplished many of the goals he had set for himself. Celeste felt that he was someone who had lived for a time overseas while fighting in a war. She related that it had been the only time in his life that he had been truly happy. Margaret knew exactly who Celeste was referring to, but kept quiet as per her instructions.
When the women entered the flag room, Celeste informed Margaret that this had been his bedroom. She went on to say that the man was extremely upset that they were disturbing his belongings. He was also angry that Margaret had remodeled the house. Celeste could hear him saying that she (Margaret) needed to keep her hands off of his things.
After a few minutes spent in the flag room, Celeste told Margaret what she already knew: the person haunting the house was her father. The medium told her that he had not stopped talking the whole time they had been in the room. She said that his words had poured out in a torrent of hostility, mostly aimed at Margaret.
Harold had not wanted Margaret in his house in the first place and was upset that she would not leave even though he had ordered her out on numerous occasions. He went on to say that he had used the dog as his means of communication since Margaret seemed to fixate on the animal, but his plan hadn't worked. For some reason, his words would not translate properly resulting in them being lost on his daughter. He had eventually abandoned that idea and resorted to physically trying to remove her from his bedroom anytime she entered, but his attempts had only made her dizzy.
Celeste recalled that Harold had been one of the most frustrated spirits she had ever encountered. He had obviously been waiting a long time for the opportunity to unleash all of his pent up feelings towards the daughter he viewed as an interloper.
Margaret and Celeste went into the living room to discuss all of the things that the medium had experienced in the bedroom. Margaret wasn't surprised by most of what she learned that day. Her father had always wanted to be alone and, apparently, nothing had changed. The question now was how to remedy the situation.
Celeste informed Margaret that, although she had felt Harold's presence in the house the moment she walked in the door, he was rooted in the bedroom. Her suggestion was that she perform a thorough cleansing after which Margaret should remove all of what remained of her father's life from the room.
As harsh as the solution sounded, Celeste felt that it was the only way to communicate to Harold that the house he had known was no longer his. By the same token, he needed to understand that he was the interloper in the situation, not his daughter. Harold was a spirit who could not accept death. It would be Celeste's job to convince him that he had no other choice.
A Pathway to Forgiveness
It took several days for Celeste to collect the things she would need to help send Harold on his way. In the meantime, Margaret had made arrangements for the flag room to be cleared out as soon as the medium gave her the go-ahead to do so.
On the day of the cleansing, Celeste requested that Honey and Ginger be boarded at a kennel. She explained that, since Honey was open to spirit activity, there was a remote chance that Harold would attempt to use her as a place to hide from the finality of death. Margaret obliged and made sure that the dogs were out of the house when Celeste arrived.
The medium began by lighting a bundle of sage and blessing the house from top to bottom. She then said a prayer to clear the home of negative energy and oppression. When she entered the flag room, she cleansed every bit of the space around her as she spoke a prayer of forgiveness and enlightenment.
Celeste then communicated directly with Harold. She told him that life as he had known it was no more. She assured the wayward soul that any issues he had with his daughter would not be resolved by his remaining in the house. Celeste then handed the burning sage to Margaret and encouraged her to speak to her father.
Margaret wasn't sure what to say, but she essentially poured out her heart to the man she had barely known during his lifetime. She spoke for quite a while about her own resentments and sense of loss at never really having had a father. She assured him, in the end, that she would take care of his house and that she would find a way to make sure that he would not be forgotten.
Celeste told Margaret that her father was struggling with his decision to stay or leave after hearing his daughter's words. She sensed that he was frightened at the prospect of death and still hesitant to accept his fate. Celeste had informed him, in no uncertain terms, that he had no choice. The decision had already been made for him. She assured him that all he needed to do was to let go.
A short time after the sage had burned out and all of the blessings had been completed, both women felt a shift in the room's energy. A weight had been lifted from, not only the house, but from Margaret as well. For the first time in a long time, she felt comfortable in her own home.
Celeste did a final walk through of the house and proclaimed that she no longer felt the presence of any lingering spirits. She suggested that Margaret clear out the bedroom as soon as possible. When that task was completed, she said that she would return to perform another blessing in the room. Starting over with a clean slate would, hopefully, put the matter to rest once and for all.
Margaret followed the medium's instructions to the letter. The flag room was transformed into a home office with no trace of Harold to be found. Even so, Margaret had made a promise to her father and she intended to keep it. He would not be forgotten; she would see to it.
When Celeste returned to perform the blessing on what had been the flag room she noted that there were no signs of paranormal activity in the house. She felt that Harold's spirit had, at long last, moved on.
Before Celeste left that day, Margaret told her that she needed to show her something. The women walked outside to a neatly landscaped memorial garden that had been constructed in the backyard. A concrete bench had been placed beside a small eternity fountain surrounded by red, white and blue flowers.
The bench had been engraved with Harold's name as well as the dates of his military service. Having made her peace with the man she wished she had known better in life, Margaret also had the words "Beloved Father" added as a reminder that Harold, in the end, had made the ultimate sacrifice for his daughter.