[Editor’s note: since the house in this story is for sale, the owners have requested that the location not be disclosed. They also asked for some personal details to be changed, in order to protect their investment. Beyond that, the events here are one hundred percent true]
In late December 2018, I went out of state to dogsit for a couple who’d gone to their vacation home in Maine. If the idea of heading so far north for the holidays seems odd, this young family had good reason. Over the previous several days, the wife had been spooked by inexplicable bumping and creaking noises, and what she characterized as a general sense of dread. She was especially concerned that her infant son might be adversely affected as well. Redrum! Redrum!
I was left with a generous supply of wine, a fridge full of food, and the dog. As a wannabe ghostbuster, I watched him closely for reactions to unseen forces. Obviously, animals’ senses in general are more finally attuned than our own, so a dog reacting to something humans can’t perceive doesn’t mean there’s a ghost in the house. On our many walks together, along the road and through the woods, this lovable creature – a ten-year-old shepherd mix – was a typical canine, sniffing and pawing and psyched to be marking new territory. He didn’t seem the least bit unnerved.
When I dogsit and we go for a walk, I like to take a different route each time, because animals like variety – and the excitement wears them out, and then they can sleep and not bother me while I’m working.
That strategy worked out perfectly: if this house was haunted, the dog was either oblivious or didn’t care. And other than the usual sounds of winter – the furnace or hot water heater clicking on, wind in the trees, sleet on the roof and the deck – I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
About five days into my stay, I was on my laptop multitasking and listening to an album online. It was around ten in the evening. I hadn’t had anything to drink, nor any other mind-altering substances.
As with most albums, there were a few seconds of silence between tracks. About eight tracks in, the song ended and I suddenly heard the carefree laugh of a middle-aged woman erupt in my headphones. In the background, I could hear people milling around, sounds of silverware and glassware: there was a party going on. Then the noise vanished as abruptly as it had begun and the next track on the album began to play.
The song was Don’t Fear the Reaper.
I pulled off my headphones. Silence. The dog was asleep in the next room. My curiosity piqued at long last, I checked every room in the house along with the basement and the attic. Nothing. If I had company, it wasn’t revealing itself – anymore, at least.
I put my headphones back on and cued up the track which had played right before I’d heard the woman laugh. When the song ended, this time there was only silence before Don’t Fear the Reaper.
Through some quirk of the web, or wifi, did I catch a split second of somebody on Zoom? Was the computer somehow picking up on the audio to somebody’s Instagram, or a movie, maybe?
When the owners returned, they were reassured to learn that beyond this one incident, my stay had been uneventful. The wife explained that the previous owner had been her mother-in-law, who had died about a year before. The two women had despised each other, which could account for the daughter-in-law’s experiences right before I got there.
I also learned that the mother-in-law loved to throw parties, especially around this time of year. Had I received a festive greeting from beyond the grave? Maybe the Reaper isn’t such a scary guy after all.