The Moses Day Homestead On busy Boston Road in Haverhill, Massachusetts, there stands a stately, 12-room, late 17th century Colonial house known to the local Historical Society as the Moses Day Homestead. It is one of the oldest homes in the area, but for four years it was a home I shared with Al (my significant other), my mother, and my Uncle Richard, who was severely afflicted by Parkinson’s disease.
On the day that I purchased the property, my real estate agent, who claimed to have seen the fleeting image of a Colonial-era ghost in a rocking chair next to the master bedroom fireplace while showing the house to another prospective buyer, presented me with a housewarming present. It was a beautifully bound research paper done by a local historian who painstakingly chronicled the history of the Moses Day Homestead, listing the names of all persons known to have lived in the house over the past 300 years. It also included the dates of their births and deaths.
While browsing through the numerous names of the house’s former occupants, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself if the spirits of any of these persons might still be inhabiting the house.
It wasn’t long after the move into our new home that a series of unusual and unexplained events began to unfold. For some reason, many of them took place in the master bedroom, where Al and I slept.
Late one night, the mournful sound of a child softly sobbing disturbed our sleep. It seemed to be emanating from within the master bedroom fireplace, which, like the other six fireplaces in the house, had been sealed up with bricks for an untold number of years. Al and I heard this eerie crying on numerous occasions, although it always happened late at night and seemed to wait until after we had fallen asleep. Sometimes, instead of the crying, we would hear a whispering voice coming from the fireplace, but no matter how carefully we listened, we could never make out clearly what it was saying.
The mystery of the haunted master bedroom fireplace fired our imaginations and prompted us one day to break it open with a sledgehammer to reveal whatever dark and perhaps centuries-old secrets might be within. After knocking down the bricks and looking inside, our eyes were met by a two-foot deep pile of ashes, chimney soot, and broken creosote-covered bricks enshrouded by cobwebs that were thick and gray with decades of accumulated dust. Using a shovel, we began cleaning out the fireplace and were quite aghast when we happened upon a large bone amidst the debris. We initially thought it to be a human bone, but later learned that it was actually the hind leg bone of a large dog.
But this only added more questions to the mystery. Where was the rest of the dog’s skeleton? For what reason was one of its bones sealed up long ago in the master bedroom fireplace? And was the ghostly crying we frequently heard at night perhaps from a long-dead ghostly child mourning the loss of a beloved pet from so very long ago? One can only wonder.
Al and I frequently heard at night what appeared to be the sound of footsteps coming from the attic above our master bedroom, and one afternoon while Al was helping me to put away some clean laundry, an upright vacuum cleaner on the other side of the room suddenly switched on by itself, startling the daylights out of us, to say the least!
One night while I was sleeping in the master bedroom, I experienced a very unusual and frightening dream. It was the sort of dream that feels so real that you can’t help but wonder if it is more than a mere dream. In my particular case, I felt that something supernatural was using my dream as a means to communicate with me: I dreamt that I woke up to find myself alone in the bedroom. I got out of bed and went downstairs to the living room. The television set was on but there was no volume, and, in front of it, I saw Al supine and levitating in the air in some sort of a trance state with his eyes wide open. As if someone else were controlling my every move, I began walking to the kitchen, where, in the dark, I could see some black shapeless thing materialize and then begin to slowly move in my direction. Gripped by terror, I let out a scream and then awoke from the dream.
As in the dream, I found myself alone in the bedroom. I went downstairs to find Al and from the hallway at the bottom of the stairs I could see the light from the television coming from the living room, but there was no sound. The volume had either been turned completely off or down so low that it was barely audible. Feeling a bit uneasy because of the similarities between what I had just experienced in the dream state and what I was now experiencing in the waking state, I entered the living room, not knowing what to expect. I found Al on the floor in front of the television set. He was asleep and his body was in a supine position. I then heard a strange noise come from within the kitchen and contemplated investigating it. However, my fear of re-encountering the black shapeless entity I had seen earlier in my dream was far greater than my curiosity, so, instead, I roused Al from his sleep and had him follow me back upstairs to bed.
The following year, as my Uncle Richard’s condition worsened and he began to grow more frail and weak, a rash of poltergeist-like activity began to break out in his bedroom. Baskets of laundry would be overturned onto the floor and heavy drawers filled with clothes would be found out of the dresser and stacked on the floor at the opposite side of the room. A small hole appeared on the wall and, as though being slowly chipped away at, began to increase in size with each passing day until it was around twelve inches in diameter. Bedridden and increasingly delirious, Uncle Richard did not possess the strength to carry out such actions.
He began to see strange people in his room when no one other than himself was there. And one time he angrily demanded that my mother tell him who all these people were and why they kept entering his room at night and waking him up. He told her that they would whisper and mumble strange things to him in an unintelligible manner. My mother thought him mad.
At night we could all hear him inside his bedroom at the top of the stairs conversing with his phantom visitors. Sometimes he would engage in lengthy conversations with them, telling jokes and laughing. And sometimes it sounded to us as though he were speaking backwards or in some unrecognizable foreign language, which is said to be one of the common characteristics of the possessed. At times he would become quite incensed and order them to get out of his room. One time we overheard him engaging in a conversation with his mother, who had been dead for the past 15 years.
As death drew nearer to him, Uncle Richard’s mental state began to deteriorate rapidly, leaving the rest of us unsure if the nocturnal visitations he claimed to be experiencing were nothing more than the result of dementia brought on by his failing health, or if they were actually spirits of the dead coming to call on him. After all, we were living in a house where paranormal phenomena had been experienced at one time or another by all members of the household.
But, undoubtedly, one of the weirdest and most spinechilling things we experienced with my uncle was the night my mother, Al, and I overheard him alone in his bedroom speaking in multiple voices, including one that sounded like a woman’s. Intrigued, the three of us stood at the bottom of the stairs for quite some time and listened intently to the bizarre and unintelligible rambling taking place in the darkness behind his bedroom door. However, when the voices began to talk simultaneously, we turned and looked at each other with horror and bewilderment etched upon our faces. Al made the suggestion that we go upstairs and check on Richard, but none of us felt very comfortable doing that at this point. After the bizarre gibberish from the room upstairs gave way to an eerie silence, the three of us mustered up enough nerve to tiptoe into it with a flashlight. We found Uncle Richard in bed and sleeping soundly. We checked around, but nothing in the room appeared to be disturbed.
The following evening when I went to give Uncle Richard his medication, I discovered him lying on his bed with his eyes staring lifelessly and his mouth open and frightfully contorted. His flesh was discolored and cold, and I knew immediately that he was dead. The expression on his face was dreadful. He looked as though something had literally scared him to death.
We had Uncle Richard’s body cremated, and his ashes were returned to us in a small cremation box, which I placed upon my altar in the attic and said a blessing over.
Not long after his death, my mother had a frightening experience in her bedroom. She awoke one night to find an old piece of yellowed and decomposing lace draped across her throat. When she showed it to me the following morning, I received from it a psychic impression that it had come from the burial shroud of a corpse. I also felt that the corpse was someone who had lived in the house a very long time ago, but whose spirit remained. How or why the piece of lace came to appear in my mother’s bedroom we will probably never know.
Al was also targeted on a number of occasions by the restless dead of the Moses Day Homestead. One afternoon, while mowing the back lawn, he was pelted by several glass bottles and empty soft drink cans thrown by unseen forces. Another time, while raking leaves on the south side of the house, a screen from one of the upstairs windows came loose and plummeted to the ground, nearly hitting him on the head. However, these unexplained “attacks” and other ones similar to them never scared Al all that much. Instead, he found such phenomenon to be highly fascinating and, even at times, rather amusing.
One evening while my mother and I were in the kitchen quarreling over something, we were interrupted by a loud, rapid succession of poundings. It seemed to be coming from up in the attic, where we were storing Uncle Richard’s cremation box until deciding upon which course of action to take with it. We ascended to the top of the attic stairs to investigate, but could find no explanation for the poundings. We wondered if it could have been a sign that Richard’s spirit was disturbed by our quarreling, or perhaps he was trying to tell us that he was not at rest due to his cremated remains being left in the attic.
The following spring, we buried Richard’s ashes in an unmarked grave on the grounds, and a feeling of calm seemed to come over the entire house. We felt in our hearts that Richard’s spirit was finally able to rest in peace. In December of 1990, we sold the old Moses Day Homestead and moved back to the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. We stayed there for three years until I experienced a disturbing premonition that prompted us to move back East. Approximately three weeks after leaving California, a devastating earthquake struck the San Fernando Valley, registering 6.7 on the Richter scale.
“In almost every family there is a record how some one has ‘heard a voice they cannot hear,’ or the dead speaking in the familiar tones. Hence the belief in ghosts, as soon as men began to care for death at all, or to miss those who had gone.” —Charles Godfrey Leland
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