There’s a house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Salem, Va., where the spirits used to roam.
That’s used to, as in past tense.
When the family who has lived there for 11 years moved into the house built in 1887, they found they weren’t alone. Lights turned on when no one was in the room. They heard footsteps downstairs when the family would all be upstairs, “and no one was there, obviously,” the wife said. The shower turned on by itself, at times. She smelled a perfume she didn’t recognize, and sometimes, cigarette smoke although no one in the family smoked.
There were the sounds of someone tapping on computer keys. And a baby crying when the family’s children weren’t.
Because they don’t want people coming around out of curiosity, the family has asked me not to identify them.
Let’s just say the husband and wife and their young children were concerned enough about the dozens of spirits who seemed to be “living” in the house that they sought outside help in convincing the ghosts to leave.
Even though they installed a security system and the basement door was bolted, “a crutch and a colander appeared inside the basement,” Mrs. X said.
And then, she had repeated dreams of a woman who seemed to be in charge of a roomful of people, “who all seemed to know me.”
The haunting feeling of having people from the past with them started before the family moved in.
“A whole bunch of stuff happened in the first few weeks,” she said. “The painter who had been working in the house late at night told me some stories of his own. We heard a huge sound upstairs when he was here painting the kitchen, a loud bang. My infants were up there,” Mrs. X said, but she didn’t find anything that might have accounted for the noise.
And when she would be up late at night feeding the babies, “the lights were turning on and off, mainly in the kitchen.”
The first two weeks they lived in the house, the mother kept having the same dream:
“In the dream I was actually seeing people in my house that I had to cross over, who were still living in the house. I would walk past the hallway and it was like a huge retirement home. I’d open the door and there were all these older people who were being kept busy. They would come over and tell me things like, ‘I used to be the gardener here.’ ”
The main woman in charge of those people wore glasses and was named Emily or Emma, she later learned. “The topping on the cake was a couple who used to live around here knocked on the door one day and had photographs they thought we might be interested in,” she said. “When I saw the pictures, I saw the woman I kept seeing in the dream. It was the same person.”
The family decided to take action.
“We’re Catholic, and had the priest from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Salem come to bless the house. We also put in a family altar and had him bless it, too,” she added.
“I believe between the priest and our prayers, whatever was here is gone.”
The lesson she wants people to take from the story, she said, “Is that prayer can remove anything if you have the faith to get whatever is there out.”