So, this is a story late in coming. I promised you this story about a year ago, and failed to deliver. Ah, well, better late than never they say!
Once upon a time,
a long time ago about one year ago, there were two good friends who escaped the responsibilities of home and family to venture out into the world on a girly escape. You will recall that we went to Newport, Rhode Island to eat, explore, and be merry.
We saw many beautiful things that weekend including quaint shops, great restaurants, beautiful mansions, and a festive St. Patrick’s Day parade.
We even saw some sure signs of spring there, having left our snowy home.
Somewhere near this point in our explorations, I recall being stopped dead by a strong, beautiful scent of flowers. I said to my friend, “Can you smell that?!”
“Those flowers!! Where is it coming from?”
“I can’t smell anything.”
“You can’t smell that?! It smells like…I don’t know…a cross between roses and…and….I don’t know. Maybe lilacs?? I don’t know. Stand right here.”
So my friend moved to where I was, and still couldn’t smell a thing. The scent was so lovely and strong, I couldn’t believe I was the only one who could smell it. Shrugging, we moved on. (This piece of the story becomes important later dear friends, but I mustn’t get ahead of myself.)
We continued exploring throughout the day, my favorite part being our tours of old Newport Mansions. During the Gilded Age, Newport was home to summer “cottages” of the rich and influential. Here, debutantes would host garden and house parties throughout the summer, with many of history’s elite in attendance. According to Wikipedia, “by the turn of the 20th century, many of the nation’s wealthiest families were summering in Newport, including the Vanderbilts and the Astors… They came for a brief social season to grand, gilded mansions with elaborate receiving, dining, music and ballrooms, but with few bedrooms, since the guests were expected to have cottages of their own.” We were able to tour Marble House and The Elms that day, and I look forward to going back eventually to tour some of the others.
The last tour of the weekend was a “Ghost Tour” at Belcourt Castle. I will begin by telling you that my friend and I are true skeptics at heart. I consider myself an open minded skeptic, believing that there may be things about which we will never understand or explain, but that most of the unexplainable have earthly and scientifically based origins. We entered this tour not expecting to see anything “ghostly” and with all senses peeled for slight of hand and speakers in the walls piping out “ghostly sounds.” We certainly felt scammed as we sat in a slightly creepy and in need of repair entryway, waiting for the tour to begin. The man taking our ticket had an odd sort of manner, which we put down to an “act” to get us in the right frame of spooked mind to enter the tour. When the tour began, the owner of Belcourt, Mrs. Tinney, came out, dressed surprisingly modestly. (No black witchy gowns and green wigs like we were beginning to expect.) She greeted us warmly. (Not with the “Velcome to my cossle!” spoken like Count Dracula that we were expecting.) And the tour commenced. Truly it was a tour of what must have been a spectacular home once upon a time. It certainly had seen better days, unlike the other mansions we had toured earlier in the day. We assumed at the outset that the “Ghost Tour” was a schtick to get people to see a house that wouldn’t be on anyone’s list to see otherwise. But as the tour continued and Mrs. Tinney shared stories of the history of Belcourt Castle and of all the antique furnishings within, it truly was engrossing. My friend and I chuckled a bit over her stories of “ghostly happenings” in the house, and found it quite funny to watch a small group of 20-something young women jump at the sound of creaking doors, or bangs that surely came from outside.
We had finally reached the upstairs hallways, which Mrs. Tinney described as the most haunted area of the house. At this point one of the women raised her hand and in a shaking voice said, “M-M-Mrs. T-T-Tinney?!?!? Do the doors around here open by themselves?!?! Because I just saw that door open a crack!!” As we all turned around to see the door mentioned…a huge, beautiful, double wooden door, about two inches thick, the man standing behind me put up his hand and said, “Sorry…my fault! I leaned against it and it creaked open.” We all had a good laugh and any “spooky tension” Mrs. Tinney was going for evaporated. As she continued her story, however, something strange happened to me. What I can only describe as a crackling noise started in the base of the back of my head. At first I looked behind me thinking the noise came from behind me, but quickly realized that the uncomfortable sensation was from inside my head. Similar to a rice krispies crackling, similar to the sound of static electricity when you pull two pieced of fabric apart that are sticking together…it was a sensation and a sound at the same time, and uncomfortable and disconcerting enough that I grabbed the back of my head. My friend looked at me with concern. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t know.”
At this point I was most concerned with what was going on in my head. It was around this time that I had begun to have a lot of strange Fibromyalgia symptoms and atypical migraines. At first I thought something was wrong with my head.
“What’s going on?!” my friend whispered.
“I don’t know!” I whispered back. “I have something weird happening in my head!”
We moved on down the hallway, and I tried to explain to my friend what was happening to me. “I have a strange staticky crackling in the back of my head! On the inside!!”
As we entered the room at the end of the hall, the crackling began to diminish and after a moment, went away altogether, leaving me a bit concerned about myself. It was at this point in the tour, when Mrs. Tinney casually mentioned, “Ghosts have scents you know. People describe it as a cross between roses and lavendar. It’s a lovely scent.” I wish I could have seen the look on our faces. Our know-it-all skeptical grins dropped to looks of astonishment. We looked at each other in that “OH-MY-GOD-DID-YOU-JUST-HEAR-WHAT-SHE-SAID?!?!?!?!?!?!?” sort of way, and a bit of my skepticism was knocked out of my crackling brain.
But wait, the story continues. We then entered the very last room on the tour, the Ballroom. Click here to see a photo taken by Flickr user StJenna. Mrs. Tinney began telling us the history of “happenings” in this room, pointing out objects here and there and telling fascinating stories about them. She ended by showing us a pair of salt chairs. Apparently ages ago, salt chairs were only used by kings, and under the seats, salt was stored. It was very valuable and kings would give salt as gifts, according to our guide. She claimed that these chairs were the most haunted objects in the place and related a sensational story that someone was even physically thrown out of one of these chairs once, and that she and a group tour witnessed a ball of light shoot out of one of the chairs and fly across the room. She then asked for volunteers to come up and put an arm over the chair and slowly lower their arm toward the seats. Several people came forward to try it. (Not me…as I explained to Zan, I may be a skeptic, but I’m not stupid.) No one felt a thing…no great surprise there. A guest asked, “What do people usually feel when they do that?” She said, “People describe it as an electrical tingle of sorts.” It was at that very moment that I realized the two chairs were sitting in front of two large, beautiful, wooden double doors, two inches thick. The same double doors that I had stood on the other side of a few moments before, when I had my strange, static electricity crackle in my head.
Needless to say, I left that house feeling very queer indeed, with both of us slightly freaked out by the surprising turn of events that has me a little less skeptical than I was before. It has been a fun story to tell, and I have remained a skeptic, assuming there might be some scientific reason for my experience, having more to do with my sensitivity to electrical currents than to any metaphysical sensitivity. (Have I told you about getting electrically zapped by my PT’s electrode machine….twice?)
However, let’s fast forward a year to the present. I have enjoyed my year in blissful skepticism, chalking my experience up to a fun little ditty to tell. But about two weeks ago, I ordered dinner from a new restaurant (which is incredibly delicious by the way) in town, that has recently moved into our old, decaying village court house. The building, built in 1873, is exquisite with it’s old original moldings and marble floors. Even the old jail cells in the basement are intact. Quite a wonderful atmosphere to dine in, and the food is unmatched. I stood in the front hall of that beautiful building, waiting for my order to be ready, chatting with some of the locals who were out to dinner. All of a sudden, taking me by complete surprise, I felt that tingling crackle in the back of my head that I have only felt one other time in my 42 years on the planet…the same crackle that I felt at Belcourt Castle one year ago. As I did last time, I turned around quickly to find nothing but the door behind me, and grabbed the back of my head in discomfort. This time, the sensation left quite quickly. I relayed my tale to Zan laughingly when I returned home and joked how I might be gaining “sensitivity” in my old age. I was curious enough to do a little online research, which led me to no stories whatsoever about ghostly sightings at the old Courthouse.
Having completely forgotten about this experience, I open my Facebook this morning to a post from the restaurant with a photo of a woman and a dog standing in the front entryway of the restaurant. In front of the dog are two “orbs,” which I know as a photographer are likely from the play of light on the lens. However, the text in the post caught me by surprise:
“Remember the Donation Dog is visiting us from Guilding Eyes for the Blind. Come on in and throw some spare change in and support a great cause. Also if you notice this photo with the two round circles, looks like our furry friend has a couple “ghostly” friends near him. One of which we call “Walt”. They do say dogs and kids can see spirits from beyond??? You be the judge.”
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I am not the first to have had a “strange” experience at the Courthouse. Could it be that I have tapped into some Sixth Sense that I never knew I had??? You be the judge. ;)