How our haunted house is like a three-legged dog

Guest post by Amy Stewart

How is a house like a three-legged dog? (Photo by: Jim WallCC BY 2.0)
I live with my soon-to-be husband and my nine-year-old daughter in the top part of a duplex in a pretty awesome city. Everything is within walking distance for us. Stores, a huge park on the water, the library, the hospital, restaurants, my job and my daughter’s school. Everyone on our street has dogs, and some restaurants on the main road by our house actually allow you to bring said dogs in to eat with you. Most of the people on the street say hi when you pass them, and my daughter has a ton of friends on the block.

As much as we love the neighborhood, the house, however, is an entirely different story.

This house is owned by a landlord who is one of the nicest people I have ever met, but the house itself is sort of treated like that creepy uncle that everyone tries to avoid at reunions. Our landlord lets us do whatever we want here, which can feel like a huge victory at first. But when one realizes that it’s only because he has no energy left to worry about the pile of wood and bricks and early-century insulation, it all starts to feel a little depressing.

The windows shake and fall out of the sunroom walls when it rains, the bathtub almost never drains properly, and dangerous looking waterlogged black spots have begun to appear on our bathroom ceiling. The light in our stairwell leading down to the porch works sometimes, we have lights in the attic that don’t seem to work at all, and we found out when we first moved in that one of the lights in our kitchen, when turned on, somehow manages to turn the bathroom light on in the house downstairs. A woman died in our house in the sixties and never quite got the eviction notice, and while she spends most of her time stomping around in the attic, sometimes comes into the main living area and makes the house feel cold and heavy and opens cabinet doors and stuff. Our kitchen drain sometimes smells like dead animals. We have these fat and horrible spiders that build nests on all of our windows so we can’t open them. Ninja centipedes come scattering out from underneath furniture, causing me to retreat to the bathroom to shake and cry for 10 minutes. The house is unbearably hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Everything creaks and snaps and groans and hates us for being there.

All of these things mesh together with the high price of rent that we pay and sometimes make it difficult for us to validate continuing to live here. We have tried to get out of it in the past, but we have two dogs, which makes finding a new place difficult. We also have to stay close to where we are because we don’t want our daughter to have to switch schools. Our attempts to find a new place are typically short lived and end depressingly.

But there is something else that keeps us from trying too hard to find a new place. Despite all of its flaws, there is something adorable and promising about our house. I realized this one day when I compared her (the house) to our animals…

I am slightly obsessed with animals that have disabilities. Both of our dogs are three-legged, one of the cats is three-legged, and the other two cats were rescues. I think part of my love for them stems from the fact that they are so special that the masses typically don’t want to deal with them. I have a very “If no one else is going to take them, then I will” sort of mentality, much to the dismay of the hubs. And sometimes, I see this house as the same thing.

An old, haunted home, forgotten about by the landlord, ignored by potential tenants. There is a sort of charm to that, an almost motherly attachment to the poor thing that nobody else seems to want. It keeps us here, keeps us layering on the bright paint, talking to the ghost when she comes around, and spraying bug killer on the windows. I want to love this house because nobody else seems to want to, and I think that’s what has always kept us here. It’s tough, sometimes thinking that we can do better, or worrying that we won’t be able to afford this place for much longer.

Despite its many problems, we are trying our best to think positively. The ghost makes the house interesting to our friends and family, and gave me something to write about here. The place is big, and our landlord lets us have all the animals we want, and he lets us paint the walls and rip down wallpaper. And since we’re here, we don’t have to worry about paying a security deposit on a new place. This home isn’t perfect, but for the time being, we are doing our best to enjoy the place, flaws and all.

Comments on How our haunted house is like a three-legged dog

  1. Maybe you can work out a deal with your landlord that in lieu of the rent or a reduced rent, you can make repairs that are need or hire contractors to do it.
    As far as the ghost goes, I would make an effort to find her out her name, and possibly find a photo of her. Let her know she’s welcome and that is her home to. Then frame the photo and put it with other family photos, to let her know that she is indeed considered part of your family and you mean her no harm or disrespect.
    I’m one of those that sees potential in people and things no one else sees. It’s an admirable quality!

    • As sweet as the effort to include the ghost in your family sounds, that can be pretty dangerous. You never really, truly know what type of entity it is and you never want to put yourself and family at risk by being tricked into thinking it’s harmless when it may be anything but.

      • Since Amy had mentioned in the post that she does talk to the resident ghost, and she seems to accept her presence as part of the house, and there was no mention of anything harmful or threatening to Amy’s family had ever happened, was why I gave her the advice of handing out an olive branch as it were. I have lived in several haunted locations. I have seen some pretty messed up and violent things, and I have seen some really sweet gestures and acts of protection and kindness.

      • I agree. Spirits don’t always have to be of those who died in a place. Often they are of folks who were really attached to a place, or literally wander in off the street. Cleaning the space (physically as well as spiritually – with prayer, a priest/pastor’s blessing, smudging it with sage, whatever) and then setting your intention that, “Only that which is for my family’s greatest and highest good may enter here.” is a better option, as is praying to the deity of your choice that the spirit move on to its next highest vibration. You don’t want to leave the space open just in case something less benign decides to fill the void. Always protect yourself that way. Denise Lynn’s book Sacred Space is a very good resource for cleansing rituals that can be adapted to any belief system and you should be able to pick it up on inter-library loan.
        Of course, it is also possible that the spook is attached to another tenant rather than the place…Someone with mediumistic abilities (like my former college room mate) tend to draw spooks like moths to a porch light.

    • Cosigned. Please do not interact with ghosts in your home, “invite” them to do anything like become part of the family, or encourage them. Best to ignore them. Living in a haunted house is not fun, and the more attention they get the more they escalate the activity. YMMV, but if the OP was a friend telling me about their haunted house, that would be the heartfelt advice I would give them, earned through hard personal experience.

      • Every entity is different. As I said in the above reply, this spirit in particular does seem to want nothing but to be noticed. and to just ignore and stop talking or acknowledging her, that can stir up some bad feelings.

    • I second the advise on seeing if the landlord would let you do that. It seems from the article that its not that he doesn’t care just that he’s burnt out on the house, so that may be a great option. I know several people that have worked out similar situations with their landlords.

      As for the ghost, I have no experience with that.

    • If ghosts become attached to your family they may follow you. Making an effort to show her that it is her home too may be benificial, but making her part of the family could cause attachement issues. I have heard from ghost hunters that if you slip up and are too friendly the ghosts will follow you home, so I would assume this could apply if you were to move to a new home as well.

        • It depends on who you are, what kinds of mediumistic abilities you have (whether you realize you have them or not) and why the spooks are in a place. Some paranormal researchers theorize that hauntings often reflect the psychological circumstances of the haunted – ie, the ghost’s pattern is activated by a similar emotional pattern of one of the individuals experiencing the haunting. This is why one person can live in a “haunted house” for decades with no activity and a new tenant gets spooked. Another type of haunting can be where an entity feeds of available ambient energy like emf radiation and will follow the strongest source of “food” whether that’s a house with radon leaking in the basement, close powerlines, a place where large numbers of folks have expressed great emotions like hospitals or schools, or a kid who’s an untrained medium. There are so many different types of manifestations and no real scientific methods for measuring and quantifying them that it’s all a YMMV situation. We really don’t know what ghosts can do until they do it.

  2. I feel that way about a lot of things too. Hopefully this doesn’t come across too weird but where do you live? I mean, that neighborhood you described seems perfect!

  3. We had to move out of our haunted house. I couldn’t take it anymore. When I would leave for work, the dog would be inside (not a neighborhood to leave dogs unattended in the back yard) and I could hear him crying and howling until I got to the end of the street. We thought it was separation anxiety at first, but since we moved he hasn’t freaked out like that once. Doors would get stuck shut, things would be moved around in cabinets, the kitchen would get a breeze that rattled everything on top of the fridge and cabinets, you could hear voices coming from the guest room, the office was always cold, windows that opened the day before were suddenly stuck shut.

    We probably could have stuck it out if it weren’t for the dog and the fact that I stopped working. When I was home alone all day with the house, it was too much. It creeped me out and my depression was terrible. We counted down the days until our lease was up. I don’t know what happened in that house, but apparently no one has leased it for longer than a year.

    • I’ve lived in several haunted locations. I have seen some pretty strange things, some really messed up things, and some acts of beauty and kindness that still bring a tear to my eye.
      I’m sorry your house was so horrible, those types of spirits aren’t good for anyone.

  4. No pictures of the house? My imagination has pictured the House of the Seven Gables or something, but it’s probably not /quite/ that gothic. Either way, it sounds like the perfect setting for a novel.

  5. If your landlord is basically “ignoring” your house, to the point that windows are falling out and black mold is growing on the bathroom ceiling, then your rent should be affordable or at least not to the point that you have to worry about it going up so that you can’t afford to keep the house. I get being tired of dealing with properties, but landlords have certain responsibilities, rent isn’t a magic check that comes every month without you having to do anything for it. If you have an amicable relationship with him and he’s really as “nice” as you say, you might consider talking to him about discounting your rent to compensate for the repairs it sounds like you are doing. This is pretty common. I do it for the tenants that live in my old house. I don’t mean to sound like a hardass, but my last rental was also a haunted, falling down, spider infested wreck, and my landlord was not “nice”, she was a slumlord who thought a condemnable fire trap was worth tripling the rent because the neighborhood was STARTING to gentrify. I loved the old house, and even loved the funky and sometimes dangerous neighborhood…but I didn’t love unsafe wiring and no heat in the winter, so when she tried to raise my rent I had to make the choice to move. I could have called the city and had the property condemned, honestly, it was that bad…but I couldn’t stand to think of the cool old house being boarded up or torn down.

    If you really love the place, that can be worth a lot. Our current house is old and funky and sometimes a money pit, but we love it and our neighborhood so it’s a trade-off. Good luck whatever you decide to do!

  6. On the one hand, I’m glad you love the place. But on the other hand, there’s a lot more to be concerned about here than the ghost. It is fantastic that you can have all the animals you want, but there has been some serious neglect going on there (and I hope to Crom that those worrisome waterlogged black spots are not black mold behind the wall). And if you’re investing funds and sweat equity in the home then you really, REALLY need to have a talk with the landlord about what benefit those investments are going to have for YOU.

    It’s great that you have the big heart to rescue disabled dogs and dilapidated homes with lonely ghosts, but remember, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can assist others.

  7. I am really interested in this post and the comments that treat ghosts as fact. I have never had a ghostly experience, and I generally think of ghosts as fiction, but I totally allow for energies on scales that we can’t quite perceive (quarks, anyone?). I would love to read a guest post from a ghost-believer regarding what ghosts “are” or how they might exist.

    Anyway, I hope your ghost stays harmless and that your landlord trades your rent for your efforts, and you eventually find somewhere healthy and safe to live! Good luck!

    • In addition to “this”-ing this post, I’m adding a comment for emphasis – this ghost topic seems to be interesting (and potentially contentious?) territory for OBH that I really think is worth exploring. I am fascinated by the number of comments about the ghost. I too have never had a ghostly experience though am fully aware that the world is a strange and complex place full of mysteries that are often difficult to understand or explain.

      • Yup, I feel the same way. I was SUPER curious about how the ghost discussion would go. I, for one, loooooove ghost stories and talking all things ghostly.

        • I totally am a non-believer in ghosts, entities, etc. But have met enough people who have strong feelings about such things, so I just let it roll. No more crazy than believing in a God who walks on water and sends angels down.

          I do love me some ghost stories tho!

          • I’m not sure where I stand on ghosts. I won’t say I definitely believe in them, but I also won’t say that I definitely don’t believe in them. Just like I won’t say that our house is haunted, but I will say that I have never had window shades snap up of their own accord like the ones in our bedroom do from time to time, and I’ve had that type of window shade for my whole life.

    • I know for me, I’m open to the possibility of energies being left behind, kind of like the ripples after you throw a stone in the water, whether it be behaviors, moods or temperature differences. I’m less willing to believe that that energy would be sentient in the full sense of living beings.

      I considered it more important to be empathetic to the OP’s position that the ghost is a person who inhabits the house and not to dissect what a ghost really is, in my opinion. I’m not about to go about telling someone their spiritual (in both senses) belief is wrong when there’s manifestly no way to prove a “rightness” or “wrongness”.

    • I have similar feelings about ghosts. But, I really REALLY want to believe in them. I have loved ghost stories ever since reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a child. My favorite age-appropriate book when I was 10 was Stonewords: A Ghost Story (considering that I read dozens, maybe over 100 books that year, and can only remember 2, it really stuck with me).

      Unfortunately, only two things could convince me that ghosts really exist:
      1. Having my own tangible experience with a ghost. It’s stupid how much I want this to happen, but the more I hear other people’s experiences, the more I want it.
      2. Science proves their existence. This probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but you never know… It’s proven the existence of microbes, other galaxies, and shown us how to transmit information through the air. I’m really rooting for science to prove ghosts.

    • I guess I would classify as a ghost-agnostic: I won’t assert that ghosts are definitely real, and I don’t have one good explanation for what a ghost could be, but I approach ghost talk with the frame of ‘if I accept the a priori assumption that ghosts are/could be real, then this is a ghost because I have no better explanation for this phenomenon.’

  8. I’m nervous about this post on a couple fronts.

    First, I would let the ghost just be. You don’t know how she died, what her disposition is or anything about her back story. If the energy of her life is still in the house, there has to be a reason for it. Typically, those reasons are not cheerful — whether they be murder, betrayal, jealousy or possessiveness. If the spirit were to be at rest, there’d be no reason for her to still be around to do these things.

    This may not mean she’s malevolent towards you or would do you specifically any harm, but if it’s echo energy from life, you’ll be living with the same sets of behaviors over and over and over until they play themselves out.

    The house, in general, also sounds incredibly unhealthy. The bathroom mold, from the description, sounds like black mold which can cause serious health problems — especially in people with respiratory issues. The lack of insulation may make for an interesting phenomenon wherein the house “breathes” (it will occasionally “sigh out” some of the heat and “inhale” some of the cold air outside), but it also turns your heating bills into tossing gobs of money around.

    Like the others mentioned above, I would have a talk with the landlord. If you love this house anywhere near the impression you’ve given me you do, you should be able to work something out where you do renovation work (whether DIY or contractor) where you pay and its deducted out of your rent. That’s a stipulation of law in many US states, though I’m not sure where you are and if you’re even in the States. You’ve got rights and negotiating power here and you can pour your love into the house while also gaining benefit from it, financially.

    • And w/ regards to the law, I’m pretty sure in most areas there are provisions that require a landlord to deal with something as hazardous as black mold, and probably the bad wiring too. You do NOT want to live with that. Look up “Renter’s Rights” in your area.

  9. At the risk of repeating others, I would not encourage entities to interact. I think you can peacefully cohabit, but openly inviting ghosts is asking for trouble.

    I am ok with a house needing work, as an owner. As a renter, your landlord has some responsibilities of his own…

  10. Amy, your post has made my day. Clearly, your heart is huge, and has the strength to love “the forgottens” with much ease and grace.
    I think it might behoove you to consider a ‘middle path’ with the ghost. Yes, you AbSoLuTeLy must protect yourself and your family (2, 3, and 4-legged) as many readers have wisely advised – no doubt. But, your nature, to me, suggests a unique ability to accept and respect all entities, living or dead. I would advise making it known to the ‘lady in the attic’ that you respect her, and the fact that she was ‘here, first.’ Let her know she is welcome to stay as long as she respects you, too – and your boundaries. Emphasize that “OUR house” needs love, (as well as serious repair) and however she (ghost) can help magnify that, great. Let her know you are raising a family, and will allow NOTHING to jeopardize their happiness or safety, etc. … I think you get the picture. I did live with a ghost, when I was too young and too scared to do anything but freak out about it, and I made a slightly odd and merely different (to me) living situation into a nightmare.
    Set up your parameters. Keep your heart huge. Protect all, respect all, love all.

  11. I am going to make a suggestion of sage smudging. Despite my..weirdness..about talking about ghosts like this…I can say that sage smudging does SOMETHING to sort of neutralize negativity. Ive had a couple strange experiences in the past, and I would encourage giving this a weird rituals or particular patterns of movement (as the internet is bound to suggest if you google) I just lit the stuff in a little bowl and waved it around everywhere. I can’t explain it, and I dont hold any particular beleifs about it, but it stopped a really pleasant night time experience from happening again and it seemed to mellow out the creepy but harmless activities of whatever the heck else was happening in the house I used to live in

  12. A sage smudging is always a good idea.! Just light the stick, move from room to room and think good thoughts. That easy. Also a top to bottom house cleaning. (the kind with sponges, buckets and cleaners) All the while thinking good thoughts, and make the house your own.

  13. This is one of my biggest fears about buying a house, whenever my husband and I get around to it. I am terrified of living in a haunted house. Even if the ghost was friendly, I would more than likely die of panic attacks. I have been researching on whether or not realtors in my state are required by law to tell potential buyers whether or not a place is haunted, and thank god they have to tell you if you ask. Did your landlord ever mention anything about the ghost, or is he the “I don’t believe in that sort of thing” person? I would definitely recommend trying really hard to find out anything you can about that lady that died there, as well, just in case. Also, thanks so much for sharing your story – makes me feel a little less alone about happening upon a haunted house (I used to live in one that was slightly haunted… totally avoiding that in the future.)

    • “Slightly haunted”… is that like being “slightly pregnant”? ;-P

      You could always keep an eye for the ones explicitly advertised as “not haunted”, haha:

      I think that might be more popular in areas with lots of old architecture. Of course, who gets to make the designation of haunted or not? What one person might interpret as a ghost, another might interpret as sleep paralysis or a weird breeze. I don’t know if I’d trust the realtor’s answer either way.

      (Unless the answer was like, “15 people were murdered here and sometimes the walls ooze blood” in which case…well okay.)

      • By slightly haunted, I mean that something ran its fingers through my hair while I was asleep a few times, but only around the first few days when moved in. And I also found out I was sleeping in the room where my roomie’s grandmother died. Then I found she died in the same BED.

    • Been there, done that. Totally understand where you’re coming from. If you don’t want to hire a psychic to walk a house for you, there are a few mundane things you can do. Check it out on the internet. Has your perspective house ever been in the news? Talk to the neighbors, especially any elderly neighbors, about stories of the house you’re looking at. Outright ask the sellers (not the realtor) if they ever had any spooky activity. Do a walk through with your dog on a leash and keep an eye on the dog. They’re better at spotting spooks than we are. Pay attention to any areas of the house that give you the willies. Go into rooms alone if you can and just get a feel for them. It’s hard to scope them out properly if the realtor is chatting in your ear about baseboard heat and such. Above all, go with your gut. If something feels off, it probably has some sort of “issue”.

  14. Regarding the ghost, my approach with my haunted rental was to tell her (I just felt like it was a her) out loud that I was cool with her being there, but I never EVER wanted to see her. She never did anything bad, just moved stuff around sometimes and whispered in the hall at night. So we lived that way, until one night when I was sleeping and I felt a violent shake to my shoulders and a voice in my ear that said quite urgently, WAKE UP. I *leaped* out of bed screaming just in time to spy my front yard security lights come on as some guy ran out of my yard. He was trying to break into my house and my ghost saved me. So obviously, I think ghosts can be good. 🙂

  15. This is quite interesting, but I kinda know how she feels. Every house I’ve ever lived in since I was a child was haunted. My parents own a big, spooky farmhouse that must be at least 150 years old. The rooms are all built crooked, or maybe they’ve shifted over time. The doors won’t stay locked, the heavy metal framed windows open by themselves, different parts of the house seem to have cold spots all year round. It’s very spooky to begin with, but with the added charm of our ghostly room mates, it can sometimes be unbearable. When I was in high school, my siblings and I used to see regular visits from the woman in the black nightgown. She used to appear in our rooms, sitting on the end of our beds, or she’d wake us at 3 in the morning when she cracked open or locked doors to check on us. We haven’t had a sighting of her in years, but the bedroom doors still open at 3 in the morning sometimes.

    The man in the hallway was a bit more intimidating though. He must have been a farmer, because even now we can still hear him stomp his heavy booted feet up and down the stairs. We’ve never actually seen him, but he always leaves us feeling panicky and anxious.

    The two cellars in my parents house are always cold, damp and they feel crowded. I used to have slumber parties in the finished basement when I was a kid. All the lights would be off, and these lights would dance around the room and disembodied voices would call out. In high school once, my sister and I decided to try EVP. When we asked how many people were in the room with us, clear as day we received the answer ‘Many.’ My father has been terrified to go down there alone at night ever since.

    While I’ve lived many other places in my life, it seems for some reason that I’ve been drawn to haunted homes. As a child it scared and excited me, but now I feel kinda blessed. I think it’s special. It’s something most people don’t have and I’ve been lucky enough to never be placed in a dangerous home. So I can understand how you can love and accept your flawed and haunted house.

    Despite all the rough nights sleeping as a child, my parents house still brings me comfort. And when I’m there at night, and the bedroom door creaks open at 3 in the morning, I’ve never had a problem thanking the good lady that watches over us still. I only wish I could know more about her.

  16. When we moved into our haunted house there was a lot of negativity at first. We were tenants in a home that had been inhabited by the same family for decades. I don’t know if it was a ghost or if, after half a century of continuous inhabitation The house had simply developed a presence of its own (It always felt kind of child like, not innocent, but … basic)

    Regardless, we would freak out. One particular night we started to talk about it and my husband said “Not here, let’s go out.” The presence reacted the same way you might expect any childlike person to react to hearing someone planning to go talk behind its back – with extreme negativity. We fled and one of our other roommates with a history of standing up to other entities went through the house and explained that we weren’t out to get it. That It was upsetting US and we were just reacting. He called us later and told us that the anger and negativity was gone (we hadn’t told him what we were feeling, just that he needed to talk to the house), and the cats had reappeared. After that, we talked about the presence respectfully, never acted like we were trying to hide anything from it, and didn’t have any more problems.

    So, I can definitely see concerns about inviting the ghost into your family (after all, you don’t know how she treated her family), but I think respectfully acknowledging that it’s her home and asking her to acknowledge the same in return, doesn’t seem too hazardous to me. But I’m no expert; I just know it worked for us.

  17. I really appreciate that a few people have noted that some people are more receptive to ghostliness than others. I seem to attract anything even vaguely wonky, but my husband is a friggin’ pillar of salt. I can even go on walks through graveyards with him (which I previously couldn’t – too much static energy). I’ve lived in a haunted house, and am happy to hear of others who made peace as I had to. I thought of my ghost (a young man who liked to wander our hallway at night, totally harmlessly) like a weird extra wall or architectural feature. He couldn’t be ignored, but we could easily “decorate” around him with good energy, lots of visiting friends, and very loyal dogs who seemed to keep him out of our bedrooms. We found, to carry your metaphor, prosthetics for our one-legged dog.

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