When I was 15 years old my family moved into an old house on North Thirteenth Street in Philadelphia, PA. At the time the house was about 80-85 years old, and located not far from the end of the Broad Street subway line.
There was a basement containing a washing machine, a living room, dining room, large eat-in kitchen (with a powder room off of it) on the first floor. There was also an enclosed, wooden back porch and a large yard. Upstairs were four bedrooms and a bathroom. Another feature of the house was a stairway to the upper floor from the living room and another staircase that came into the kitchen.
Structural changes had been made over the years; the kitchen was originally two rooms, the cooking area by the back door and a room between it and the dining room that I guess served as a breakfast room originally. At some point the wall between the kitchen and breakfast room has been taken down and there was a bar that acted as a room divider.
Strange things began even before we moved in.
My mother was cleaning the oven as we were preparing to take possession. I had been around the corner at the house we were moving from, and my friend Denise had just arrived and was talking to my mother. It was a summer day, clear and warm. I came in the front door and had just joined my friend who was in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, but not yet said anything, when she, my mother and I all plainly heard the front door (which was standing wide open at the time) slam, something run across the living room and up the front stairs into the back bedroom. My mother, who couldn't see me because she was kneeling by the stove and the bar blocked her line of sight, irritably called, "Chris! Stop playing around and get down here! We've got work to do!" I looked at Denise, who had heard the same thing, and she said, "Mrs. Laverty--Chris is right here. She just now came in." My mother stood up, could plainly see both of us standing there, and asked briskly, "Well, did one of the boys come in?" (My brothers, twins, were seven years old at the time and at a playground up the street.) My friend and I assured my mother that no one had come in but me.
"Well," Mom insisted, "I heard someone go upstairs!" So the three of us went upstairs together and, of course, found nothing.
A few weeks later, after we had gotten pretty well settled, another strange thing occurred.
I was sitting at the kitchen table, alone in the house. My stepfather was at work, my brothers were at the playground, and my mother was receiving a cancer treatment at a nearby hospital. I was reading some news magazine-- Time or Newsweek--and for some reason I looked up and toward the door to the back porch, which was standing open. I must have looked for a good twenty seconds or so at the figure I saw in the doorway, then the realization hit me that people don't dress that way anymore. What I saw was a youngish man, rather tall, dressed in the manner of a Revolutionary War soldier. What I don't recall was feeling afraid. He just kind of smiled and vanished. Many years later, after we were both adults, my brother Steve told me of having seen him, too.
Both of my older sisters were married. My middle sister had three children, the youngest just over a year old. Whenever they came to visit and my younger niece got cranky from being tired, I'd take her up to my parents' room and rock her. For reasons I've never been able to discern, she would always stare at something over my left shoulder, something only she could see.
Was it our Continental soldier? Whoever ran upstairs? Or something else?
Many years have passed since we moved out, but the last time I went to that part of Philadelphia a few years back, the house was still standing and the neighborhood still seemed to be holding its own. I'll just always wonder about the strange events that took place there over 30 years ago.