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1000 Acres

August 2004

The following events took place 1991-1992. They are true, which is to say, I've made every attempt to record the events exactly as I remember them. My ghost story does not contain apparitions, poltergeist activity (okay, a little), ghostly moans, or any other typical dressing that can be dismissed as hypnogogia or hoax. I've changed individuals' names, but the places are real. I've tried to make it a good story, but it's all true--even the Indian shaman, which sounds like something from a movie.

I was 26 years old, and had met and fallen in love with 26-year-old woman and her young daughter. After a six-month courtship, we got engaged. I was living (temporarily) with my parents in Howard county, Indiana, and Mary lived in neighboring, rural Grant county, with her parents. So, finding a home of our own was a priority.

About six months before our planned wedding, Mary announced that she'd found the perfect place--an old farm house in Grant county, about three miles from her daughter's grandparents and great-grandma, so we'd have free babysitting. The best part was the rent: only $250 a month, which was important as we had little money to start out on.

We went to look at the place, a typical midwestern farmhouse built around 1890. White clapboards, tall windows, steep pitched roof. Sitting on the endlessly flat, fertile soil of north-central Indiana. I agreed that is was a terrific house, and soon met with Martin, the owner. Martin was a farmer, about 80 years old, and the house had been his parents'. He had a new house on the same farm down the road, and his son had his own house elsewhere on the farm. I asked Martin about a security deposit. He said, "Well, there ain't no security deposit, but the last folks here were bikers, pretty rowdy bunch. You clean up the mess they made, and that'll be your deposit."

So we agreed that I would move in immediately, start the cleanup, and Mary and her daughter Ann would move in after we were married. I'm not much of a handy man, but I did my best to haul out trash, patch plaster, and put on a fresh coat of paint. Farm houses in this part of the country are built to be cool in the summer, not warm in the winter, and as summer approached, I wanted to make sure that all the windows would open to let the breeze through.

All the windows worked in the house except one. It was in an upstairs bedroom, the smallest of three bedrooms. It was almost too small; more like a nursery. Anyway, this one window wouldn't budge, no matter what I did. The glass was cracked, and I was sure that the building had settled and wedged it in. So, I set out to take the frame out, remove the window and plane down the sash. The longer I worked in the room, the more I became aware of an odd feeling--an emotion that seemed to come from somewhere else. It was a feeling of warmth and comfort, of being filled with a kind of familial love, as though I were three years old and snuggled up in Grandma's lap while she read fairy tales.

I never did get that window to open, but I began to love that room, and would find excuses to go up there and putter around. Always with the same feeling of being deeply loved. Anyway, the six months passed, we were married, and Mary and Anne began moving their things in so we could build a life together. Mary wanted to use the small bedroom as a large closet for her clothes and things, as closet space is hard to find in houses of this vintage.

Mary spent the day putting her dresses, shoes and other clothes up in the nursery room, and when she came down, I asked her, "Did you notice anything, well, different about the room?"

"Yes!," she said. "You've noticed it, too?"

"Every time I'm in there." I said. "Amazing, isn't it?"

"Amazing? Are you crazy? She hates me! I thought I was going to be killed!"

A few days later, Mary's things came out of the room, and mine went in to make room for hers in our bedroom. For the remainder of our year in that house, I used the small room as a closet and changing room, always feeling that same sense of warmth and love.

Mary and Anne weren't so lucky. They both avoided the "haunted room," as we began calling it, and soon Anne started having nightmares.

There was one other area of the house we avoided--the window in the front parlor which looked out on the road. When you would look out the window, a feeling of wistful sadness would come over you, a deep sense of loss. One day, I was out cleaning up the yard, and found a dead cat rotting in front of the window. Apparently struck by a car, it had crawled up there to die some weeks before. I picked up a shovel and deposited the cat's corpse in the cornfield across the road. That weekend, we had a small dinner party for some friends. Jim, a real man's man, had been my best man at our wedding. As I was getting drinks for people, I noticed Jim standing at the window in the parlor. "Careful, Jim," I said, trying to sound casual. "That area's haunted. It's not pleasant."

Jim turned to me, speechless and in shock. He had tears streaming down his face. I took his arm and walked him out to the porch. Soon he relaxed and started to laugh. "Well, that was really weird! What just happened?"

Mary's family had lived in this part of Grant county for many generations, and we asked her many aunts and uncles what they knew about Martin's farm. It turns out that when Luther was a boy, he and his father used to go hunting with Mary's great-grandfather. Luther's father died when Luther was a young man. He built his house down the road when he got married, and Luther's mother lived alone in the house until her death some years later. We decided that our ghost was Luther's mother, although we never mentioned it to him.

One morning Mary was taking a shower in the small bathroom that had been added to the house sometime in the 1950s. She came out of the bathroom soaking wet and white as a sheet. "I was in the shower stall when it started to shake. It was shaking so bad I was thrown against the sides."

"Really?" I said, "I was right out here and I didn't hear a thing."

My wife was silent for a moment. "Her name is Katherine." Our ghost had a name.

Mary had native American ancestry, and we used to enjoy going to pow-wows when there was one within a day's drive. Around Memorial Day (in September) we went to the big (by Indiana standards) pow-wow in Muncie. We had pretty much spent all our money on food and trinkets and things, when we saw a stall selling simple, yet oddly compelling dreamcatchers. Most dreamcatchers are gaudy things, with colored yarn, died feathers, and big ugly beads. These were elegant and natural. We walked up, where there was a mixed-blood teenager and a much older, Native American man with long grey hair. We got to talking to the young man. "Anne's been having nightmares. We sure like your dreamcatchers, and thought one might help."

The teenager was very earnest, in a way I found amusing. "A dreamcatcher is nice to have, but if you have spirits in the house, it's going to take more than that." He then went on to describe in great detail the various steps we'd need to perform to purify the house.

"Well, really, we don't have a lot of money," I said, "I just thought we could tell her the legend of the dreamcatcher and it might reassure her, help her get to sleep." The old man slowly rose and approached us.

"Pick out one you like." I motioned to one on the end, the one we'd all noticed earlier. "Oh, that's a good one," he said, as he got it down for us.

"Thanks," I said. "How much do we owe you?"

He looked me up and down. "Five dollars."

"I'm out of cash. Would you take a check?" He looked at me again, hard, before nodding. "Who should I make this out to?" I asked.

"Just put 'cash'." I made out a check to cash and he carefully wrapped the dream catcher. As we walked away we ran into an acquaintance.

"I saw you talking to Grey Wolf. I didn't know you guys knew him," he said.

"We don't. Who is he?"

"Spiritual leader of the Lenni Lanape. A very important man to all the eastern tribes. Grandfather to the grandfathers. He doesn't usually talk to white people. You bought a dreamcatcher? How could you afford it? Grey Wolf's dreamcatchers cost hundreds of dollars."

Anne's nightmares calmed down quite a bit after that, until December. I had been doing some Christmas shopping for Mary and Anne, and that evening, in the best Christmas tradition, hid the presents where I knew they'd never find them--in the small nursery, my "closet." Katherine's room. Later, I went to bed, and fell fast asleep.

Mary started shaking me violently. "Get up! I've been trying to wake you for twenty minutes. Anne can't sleep; I can't sleep. She's crying and I'm pretty close to tears myself."

"Just sit tight," I said, as I got out of bed.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Never mind," I said. I went into my "closet," and felt the same warm glow of affection I always felt, retrieved the presents, and took them down to the parlor, where I had my office. I put them behind a file cabinet, well away from the front window. By the time I got back upstairs, less than five minutes later, Anne and Mary were both peacefully asleep. Katherine, I can only assume, did not want that stuff in her room.

That was the last major incident. We moved out in the spring. I sometimes wonder whether Katherine could see something in Mary I couldn't, because Mary left me only a few years later, rather cruelly and heartlessly. We haven't spoken in years, and I have no wish for her to contact me again, which is why I post this anonymously.

I'm not a spiritualist or a religious person. I'm agnostic by nature, and don't usually resort to the supernatural. In my more skeptical moments, I note that the old farmhouse was a mile or so from a gravel pit, and heavy farm equipment was working all around, and some people speculate that very low-frequency sound can affect people's perceptions. That's as close as I get to a rational explanation of the events I've described. It's not very convincing.

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