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Kate's Room

February 2007

It was the late 1990's, I think 1996. My husband, Gary, and I were living in a small town in Pennsylvania - Sharon, PA, right on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was an old steel mill town, with a lot of joblessness, homelessness, and many older first- and second- generation European people who had come to America hoping for prosperity, but instead lost all their future when the steel mill left and took all their pensions.
There were many old-timers in Sharon who had plenty of time to tell stories of the history of Sharon and otherwise.

Gary and I had been married only a couple of years. We didn't know many people in Sharon, had moved there for my job in the large hospital there only. We had no family close by and only a few acquaintances. But we loved the town, with its old stories and people who had so much time to share their thoughts. We bought a brick house very inexpensively, as it was at least 70 or 80 years old and had not been taken care of (the address was 272 Cedar Avenue). It was a wreck. Messy, stinky, with layers of paint and scum and wallpaper all over the walls, trash and debris all over the basement. In fact, we even found an old upright piano hiding in a small corner in the basement; and, although badly out of tune, it still played!

Gary and I had a lot of time on our hands, no children, enough money, and so decided to completely renovate the house. We tore everything down to the lathboard and/or brick, replaced all the plumbing, electric, all the old plaster walls taken down and replaced with drywall, we refinished the hard wood floors throughout the house. But there was one bedroom (of the three total bedrooms upstairs) that we left undone, as we just got tired of renovating for a while.

This room, in the next two years that we lived in the house, began to be affectionately (and sometimes eerily) referred to as "Kate's room." But before we came to call this bedroom Kate's room, a number of strange things happened.The first incident had to do with the old upright piano that usually sat quietly in the basement.

One afternoon I got out of work from the hospital early. It was a beautiful spring day, so warm, smelled good outside, the sun was shining throughout the house on Cedar Avenue. I was in the newly renovated kitchen doing dishes and looking forward to the weekend ahead. The window in front of me was open and I was enjoying the sounds of neighborhood kids playing. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. I was the only person in the house at that time, save for our six cats, who usually all slept upstairs together until night came. Suddenly, I began to hear a quiet song playing on a piano. I couldn't recognize the specific song, it sounded as if a child was trying to pick out some simple melodies and chords. It was slow and pretty. I remember thinking how sweet it was that a neighbor child probably was just learning how to play. I put my ear to the open window, listening for the direction of the sweet, youthful melody. But I discovered the music was not coming from outside. I felt a little anxious as I walked slowly over to the basement door (which was right off the kitchen). I stood at the top of the basement steps and listened to what I didn't really yet believe: that the sweet little tune was coming from my basement. Yet there was not supposed to be anyone home except me.
Strangely, the music kept playing for quite a while. I was way too scared to go downstairs and prove or disprove this oddity. So I rationalized and told myself, "You're probably imagining that it's a real song; it's probably one of the cats walking around on the piano keys." So I walked back into the kitchen and called for all the cats. They usually would all come to me if called. All six cats came sleepily down from the upstairs of the house - none of them had been in the basement at all! The now eerie little tune kept playing from the old, forgotten piano in the basement. I ran out to the front porch and waited for Gary (my husband at the time) to come home. He did come home about ten minutes later. I felt very unsettled. Gary reassured me, he told me I probably imagined everything, and went inside.
There was no more music playing when he went with me to the basement steps so we walked down and looked at the piano, and nothing looked out of place. We couldn't explain it, and I never heard that piano play again. But the story goes on.

A few months later, Gary was busy cleaning out some old heat ducts in the house when he looked up and said, "I think the heat duct is full of a bunch of stuff; I can't quite reach it." We got a broom and dug around for a time. In the next ten minutes, Gary proceeded to pull three different baby shoes out of our heat duct. None of the shoes were matching, but all were about the same size, perhaps to fit a three-to six-month-old baby. There was a red tennis shoe, a slipper looking bootie, and a very old-fashioned looking white patent leather shoe. All three of the shoes had obviously been worn at one time or another; we just couldn't figure out why they were stuck in our heat duct and why there were no matches. Again, an odd random incident that we could not explain. And we actually had already forgotten about the piano playing and the baby shoes when the third incident happened.

It was late fall or early winter, perhaps 1997. Gary and I were asleep, it was about 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. I woke up in a daze of sorts, maybe still half asleep, I felt like I was dreaming but was definitely not. I lay in the bed for about three or four minutes quietly, with Gary asleep next to me. For the entire three or four minutes, I heard from the wall next to me (which was the wall that separated our bedroom from the bedroom that was not redone yet) the quiet voice of a woman singing some kind of lullaby, and sometimes it sounded as though she was trying to comfort a baby or a child. I could not make out any exact words or a song, but the mumbling sort of sounds were so very clearly coming from the wall beside me. At times I thought I heard her say, "It's okay, it'll be okay, come on," but I cannot be sure. Also during this entire three or four minutes, as my heart was beginning to beat more and more quickly, our Siamese cat, Percy, was pacing the hallway upstairs, and meowing aggressively, almost crying, and keeping her eyes on the wall from where I heard this peaceful voice. Although I was frightened, because I could not explain the voice (no one else was in the house that early morning other than sleeping Gary), the voice at the same time oddly comforted me. The more I listened to it, the more comforted I felt. After those few minutes, Gary frightened me even more by speaking out suddenly, "Do you hear that voice?" I jumped when he spoke. I thought he was asleep. And Gary was not one to admit that he heard something unexplainable. I knew then that I was not imagining things. As the singing went on, Gary got up and went downstairs to look around. When he came back up, the singing was still going on, Percy the cat was still pacing the hallway, and Gary told me that all he heard from downstairs was the quiet singing coming from the empty bedroom upstairs. The singing stopped after about a full ten to fifteen minutes. Gary and I just sat in the bed listening. It stopped almost as if fading out, Percy stopped pacing and meowing, and I never heard any strange noises in 272 Cedar Avenue for the rest of the time we lived there.

But one of our friends did hear something strange about three or four months later.

Before I tell that story, I must note that I one day I told Gary we should probably name our "ghost" and be friendly with her, so we could all live peacefully. He laughed at me. But later on I got a strong feeling that the voice I heard was a young woman named Kate. I have no proof to back my feeling, but nevertheless I began coming home some days to call out, "Hi, Kate, how was your day?" I never got an answer, but it seemed to help me feel less afraid. We even started referring to the bedroom that was right next to ours, the one that we renovated late, as "Kate's room."
Gary and I decided not to tell our story to very many people, as most people would not believe us or believe us to be fruity.

One night some months later, we had a friend Tammy stay overnight. Tammy did not know about Kate's room. Tammy had been out late at our house and we didn't want her to go home alone, so we made a bed for her in the bedroom that was not finished yet. The next morning, I woke up very early (as usual for me) and went to the kitchen to start some breakfast. I was not talking or singing at all, trying to be quiet so as not to wake Tammy or Gary. After 20 minutes or so, Tammy came rushing down the stairs wrapped in a towel and covered with soap, looking very scared and slightly angry. She ran into the kitchen and said, "Stop trying to freak me out!!!! Why are you sneaking into the bathroom like that?" I told her that I had been downstairs cooking the whole time and had not really made much noise at all. Tammy proceeded to tell me that she had woken up early to take a shower. She was washing up in the shower and said that she heard a woman's voice, sounding as if the woman were singing a quiet lullaby to someone, and Tammy heard this right outside the shower curtain. Tammy said that she quickly opened the shower curtain to see nothing and the singing also stopped. She said that this went on about three or four more times, with her trying to wash up, hearing the quiet singing clearly, madly opening the shower curtain to see nothing. After about the fourth scare, she said she decided to run downstairs because she thought that I was trying to make her feel scared. I vowed that I was not trying to scare her, but you must understand how Tammy's story made Gary and I feel very unsettled once again, as our friend who had no knowledge of Kate had obviously experienced almost exactly what we experienced months earlier.

There is only one more unsettling incident to tell related to 272 Cedar Avenue and Kate's room. It had been at least one year since all of the odd piano, shoe, and Kate singing incidents. It was about 1998, winter. We had hired an older man to come in the house and install our new kitchen cupboards. I forget his name, but I remember clearly that he was an old timer from Sharon, told me that he had lived there all his life. He was very talkative and had many interesting memories to share about Sharon, PA. As I was standing talking to him, watching him on his back attempting to screw in the bottom of a cupboard, he asked me, "Hey, did you guys ever hear about what happened in this house right after it was built?" I told him I knew nothing about the history of our house, other than that it was built in the 1920's or 1930's. I also chose not to tell him any of the Kate stories. Curious, I asked him what he knew about our house. He said, "Oh, boy, there was a big murder here in the 1930's, I remember. I was a little kid, but I remember everyone talking about it, a big scandal for this small town." The cupboard, still laying on his back at work, proceeded to tell me that the story was of a young couple who bought 272 Cedar Avenue when it was first built. They had no children. But the young woman had a sister who lived in Chicago. The sister in Chicago was unmarried but became pregnant. It was later rumored that this young pregnant woman (the sister in Chicago) was beaten terribly by the father of her baby. Still pregnant and wanting safety for herself and her baby, she moved to Sharon, PA, and came to live with her sister and brother-in-law at 272 Cedar Avenue. The father of the child, so angered by her leaving him, came and found her in Sharon, and in a fit of rage stabbed her to death in her bedroom upstairs. The cupboard man could not tell me any of the names or which bedroom it was, but I was very curious. I went to the library and did a bit of research. I would like to say that I found out there was a young woman named Kate to nicely complete this story. Alas, though, I found no information to validate his story. But I have a feeling, from the strange experiences I had with "Kate" and "her room," that his story was not a lie.

We moved from 272 Cedar Avenue in 1999. I think of Kate often. I have never had another paranormal experience, but sometimes wish that I might be comforted by her quiet singing again someday.

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