Reblogged from E.C. Moore’s blog, From One Bird to Another: A Blog.
In March 2011, I decided to jump off a cliff and buy a 107-year old, historically-registered, brick, three-bedroom, one bath duplex in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where I knew two people and had never lived before. The idea was to leave the Washington, DC traffic and high cost of living behind and return to the creative life I’d lived as a married woman/artist/writer in an area where I could afford to write and paint full time.
I happily moved into my new/old house in June of that year. I was pleased and proud of myself for having the guts to buy the house solo. It was a big deal for me–I’d sunk quite a sizeable chunk of my divorce cash settlement into the house in order to remain with a low mortgage, and I’d waited until my kids had graduated from college and were on solid ground before mentioning my desire to move, and it had finally happened.
By the end of July, most of the larger packing boxes were empty, and what I didn’t need right away, I stored in the immense attic with the tall ceilings and two-inch thick oak beams, which I hoped to turn into the master bedroom and studio in the future. The rest of the house only needed interior painting, and the hardwood floors throughout were hewn of beautiful Maple that didn’t need stripping.
I was very happy with my move but my adult kids weren’t thrilled that Mom had moved to West Virginia and now lived two hours from them. I tried to assuage their fears and although I missed them desperately, I wanted to show them that I finally had a good financial plan and that they wouldn’t have to worry about their single mother. I cried a lot the first few weeks and my Pug Ozzy was there to console me as I remembered my beautiful home in France, nestled among three vineyards. That idyllic life was over, but I was determined to make it in my new small city with the charming Main Street and small town feel.
In early August, my best friend Kristine and my younger sister Elaine visited me. Immediately, we decided to tackle the kitchen instead of hiring a pro. None of us had ever done any serious home renovations, but each of us had enough DIY show time under our belts and naivety to tackle anything. Besides, I’d painted many Army quarters and rentals during my twenty-five year marriage. We would paint all the rooms and paint the original doors and sash windows at a later time with more time and money.
We removed a cheap corner cabinet and another cheaply made counter and cabinets first to make room for my large pine armoire and oak dressers that would double as counters. We decided to paint over the kitchen wall paper with primer and then paint the walls a nice cream color. As you can see from the first photograph taken with my iPhone before we began, I “claimed” the home as mine by painting the words, “My House” on the first wall. The three of us worked fast and in no time, my new kitchen was done.
I thanked my DIY helpers, who left the following morning, and after the walls were dry, I began moving furniture in. The photos of my new kitchen were beautiful and fresh. In the afternoon, I sat down at my English oak table with my laptop to download the before and after photographs, and this is what showed up in the photograph—a light coming from the ceiling and twisting and turning in bows, circles, and hard edges. We’d painted during the day, so there was no overhead light on and we hadn’t used the camera’s flash.
Had we disturbed the energy of the 107-year old home with the renovations? Were the ghostly inhabitants trying to tell me I wasn’t alone? Well, my jaw was still lowered as I emailed the photographs to my friend and sister, who were as gobsmacked as I was. Had anyone died in the home? If so, who? Oh, boy…was this the beginning of the end for my peaceful creative life?
I immediately lit sage and walked through the entire house, praying to St. Michael as I went from room to room. I spoke respectfully to the spirit(s) and explained that I’d had no choice but to buy the house. I was now alone and had sunk most of my money into it. I remember tears in the corners of my eyes and the fear in my throat, but I also knew I had to claim the home as mine. I wouldn’t live in a haunted house. Well, the saging seemed to work. I felt a calm come over me as I slept that night.
A week later as I prepared for a bath, I felt a finger firmly poke my shoulder, slow and deliberate. I spun around and this time I didn’t pray, I yelled! I warned the spirit not to touch me again. Ever. I immediately contacted the realtor who was born in this town. No one had ever died in my home, which is not too far from Antietam, Charles Town, and Harpers Ferry. A theater in town is on the 100 Most Haunted Places list in the United States. So there you go.
Four years on, I still sleep like a baby in my home. I attend theatrical productions at the theater, and on occasion, my cat Pierre looks up and stares, especially as he sits quietly at the bottom of my staircase like he’s watching something, someone. But I’ve not experienced any more pokes on the shoulder and there are no strange lights emanating from ceilings. However, a lamp in my dining room, which doubles as my writing area, goes off and on several times a day. Yes, I could have the lamp and the outlet checked, but I won’t. I kind of like having company, and as long as the spirits can live in peace and harmony with me and my furry kids, I’m fine.
Believe it or not.
About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.
Eleanor Parker Sapia, Author of A Decent Woman, available on Amazon