Having grown up in Virginia, I heard many stories about houses which hosted ghosts of Civil War soldiers, slaves, star-crossed lovers, lonely widows, and countless others. I became immune to the tingly feeling that washes over a person when they hear a particularly eerie ghost story. Perhaps that is why I can only remember one ghost story and to this day it gives me chills. Not scary chills but “wow, that could actually happen” chills. Today seemed the right day to tell the story.
In the early seventies, a family of five moved from a tiny house in Baltimore down to a house outside of Williamsburg built in the 1700s. The house, which sat on the far corner of a large field, was quite a grand home in its day and had the architectural skeleton to prove it.
Upon entering the home, there was a grand staircase which overlooked a large room. Each room had a fireplace, wallpaper that was utterly hideous, stained carpeting reaching from wall to wall, and the original fixtures which had been converted into electric chandeliers. The house needed a new roof, updated appliances (appliances at all), replacement windows, and a world of other time-consuming fixes which are typical of a house that old that sat empty for so many years. While their parents set to work on the home, the three children were permitted to explore without interference until mealtimes.
On a particularly lovely summer day, the mother called the children for lunch and the children began scooting down the staircase on their backsides. As they made their way down the first few steps, they were even with the ceiling of the great room and the converted chandelier only this time they noticed that wax candles were lit in place of the plastic tubes and flame-shaped electric bulbs. The children began to hear music and the quiet roar of a crowd. As they peered between the stair rails, they could scarcely believe their eyes.
Where the ugly stained carpet had been moments before there were now shiny marble floors and dancing couples in jackets with tails and dresses with lots of skirts. Musicians were set up in the far corner of the room. The walls were painted with elegant green and gold columns with golden crests. The children pressed their faces into the rails to watch but soon feared that they would catch the attention of the strangers and began quietly scooting back up the steps until they were seated at the very top step. They could still see the flicker of light from the many candles as they all fell asleep.
A while later, the mother and father came out of the kitchen to call for the children who had failed to report for their meal. The children awoke and made their way down the grand staircase with their eyes searching the great room below in wonder. The chandelier hung with its electric bulbs, the wallpaper showed ugly orange roses and watermarks, and the floors were covered in the unappealing stained carpet. All the children began speaking at once and told their parents about the music, people, columns, floors, and candles. The parents laughed and ushered the children into the kitchen for lunch.
After lunch, the children began investigating and discovered that on the drab carpet beneath the chandelier, there were wax drippings. They showed their parents but the adults were not convinced.
Weeks later, the parents were ready to begin working on the great room. The mother began peeling off the many layers of wallpaper and the husband began rolling back the carpet so that they could refinished the wood floors. As he rolled back the carpet, he discovered marble tile which covered the great room floor and as the mother scraped the dampened wallpaper with a putty knife, she found faded green and gold columns.