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Burning Down The House (2)

Kate, NJ, USA
July 2006

Let me begin by saying that I am a New Jersey native and, as such, am more than familiar with 'weird' stories and phenomena from my state. You will not find my story in any book or magazine, but I think it is just as interesting and creepy as any other.

My uncle lives in an old house in Northwestern NJ. These are towns nestled deep in the foothills, with a lot of land and not too much development. This house, in Sussex County, is large and beautiful, with 10+ acres of lawns, gardens, and ponds. In the 1920s, the house was a huge mansion. The 'house' portion was revamped when a suspicious fire took the mansion sometime close to the turn of the decade. In fact, you can still see some of the original stone work from the old mansion on the property.

The story goes that an older woman was living there in the 20's. Whether she had lived there since childhood or was the wife of the owner, I'm not sure. But it seems that she (or her husband) had made enemies, and one fateful night, she found herself trapped in her library as a fire ravaged the rooms around her. She died that night.

The fire destroyed most of the mansion, but spared the center of the home. I suppose it hadn't made it that far before the fire brigade put it out. The woman was found dead of smoke inhalation. Cut to the mid nineties- my aunt and uncle purchase the house, with my 20-something cousin sporadically staying with them. His bedroom is the only one downstairs, and the sellers share the tragic story with them, adding that the rooms that now make up the laundry, living room, den, and downstairs-bedroom were all once the library of the mansion. If I wasn't already fearful of spending the night in this house, due to its isolation on top of this mountain, the story didn't help.

I was a young teen and my older cousin didn't hesitate to tell me these stories before I would sleep over, on the couch in the den. He swore (and not in a joking manner) that at night he could hear footsteps outside his door when he knew everyone was asleep upstairs. He claimed he could hear doors open and shut when he knew they would be locked.

I slept over one night, a year or so after they moved in, but wasn't afraid because another cousin, my same age, was with me. To be honest I had all but forgotten the stories at this point. But that night, he and I were watching TV, when we heard the sliding-glass door just outside the den open and close. We were the only 2 in the house beside my aunt and uncle who had already gone to bed. Neither one of us left the room, and we were totally freaked out. Even creepier was that it wasn't just the door- we heard footsteps walk from the glass door, through the foyer, into the kitchen, and out to the door of my older cousin's bedroom! (He wasn't there.)

The door opened and closed, and then we heard nothing. Since we were together, we decided to go and see what was going on. When you're young, your sense of self preservation is nil and I guess out of stupid curiosity, we went into the foyer and to the kitchen, both walking really slow with our hearts beating fast. As we walked through the hall, toward my cousin's bedroom, something from the inside banged the door, violently.

She didn't need to tell us twice- we ran back into the den, shut the wooden doors, and turned the tv up. Needless to say, we made it through the night. And I know this wasn't my imagination because at least one other person was there with me.

I haven't spent the night there since, but I do spend most of my holidays there, and have never felt a violent presence or anything of that nature. My older cousin claims to have seen the ghost of the woman who died in the fire. I cannot make the same claim, but my experience shook me all the same.

Kate, NJ, USA
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