6 April 2006

Carriage house ghost

Filed under: General

When I was a boy my family and I lived in Rye, New York. Rye is a small town, for suburban New York, anyway, with a population comfortably under 15,000, at the time it was closer to 10,000. It was settled in 1660, by someone whose name I’m sure I knew at one point but can’t remember right now, and was complete with your dash of history mixed with a little profiteering by the town council. In the main part of the village was a place called the “Square House”, why, I don’t know, as it seems to me that most houses, especially ones of that era, were square. This square house was apparently an inn at one time, and was occupied in an even shorter piece of time by George Washington, who probably had stopped there to have a pee while on the way to fathering our nation.

Our house was no less historic, or maybe it was, I don’t know, but it did have a ghost.

The house was called the “Carriage House”, no I don’t know if all houses there had names, the only ones I remember were “Liam’s House”, “Tom’s House” and “Maurene’s house”.

There were two parts to it, the “old” part, which was built in the 17th century sometime, and the “new” part, which was built in the 19th century. These two wings, well really they were just parts of a slightly large house but for some reason my mother always called them wings, were connected by a long elevated hallway, which we called a breezeway. I think it was called that because it had windows along the walls of all sides in order to let the breezes in. I believe the theory was that during the hot part of the year you, you being the homeowner who lived in the house before electricity, would open these windows to let cool air in, and more importantly hot air out.

We didn’t need to worry about such things though, as I’m not that old, and by the time our occupancy in that house came around electricity in household use was well beyond its 70th year. The ghost that lived in our house however, didn’t know that.

Most every evening in the summer someone, we all, save my father, assumed it was said ghost, would go down that hall and open all the windows in the evening, and then go through and close them all in the early morning. Now if we had lived in the previous 200 or so years of that house’s history, this would have been a good service. However, we, living in the latter half of the 20th century and in the Northeast where summer temperatures frequently reach the century mark, had air conditioning. Needless to say, the windows being open didn’t quite help the A/C to do its job.

This used to drive my father CRAZY. He would go through every morning closing the windows and cursing us all out, first my mother, for wanting to “capture the old times” and later us kids “for playing tricks and being wasteful”. We would tell him repeatedly that it wasn’t us, and that we suspected it was a ghost, to no avail, or so we thought.

The “old” part of the house was where most of the living space was. My parents’ bedroom, my sister’s bedroom and the kitchen. I lived in the “new” part of the house, over the garage. The breezeway connected my part of the house with the rest of the house, which was cool in the privacy department, but not so in the midnight snack department, as I had to walk what seemed half way to Port Chester to get some Chips a’hoy and milk in the wee hours.

So one evening on my little cookie sorties I heard a voice coming from the breezeway. It was soft, just a murmur really, and I was convinced that I was going to see the ghost. I dropped to my knees and crawled commando-style, as quiet as I could, down the little hall towards the windowed hall, knowing I would finally see the ghost and could tell everyone that I solved the mystery (the fact that no one would have believed me anyway didn’t occur to me at the time).

And what did I see when I got there? My father, walking back and forth in his bathrobe, trying to explain to a ghost what air conditioning was and why we didn’t want the windows open.

I never told him that I saw him there, but the windows were never opened again.

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