It was an old, old house in the Ohio community of Rosedale that Tim Clay moved his wife and four young daughters into.
It was a house involving much history.
And a house that held a mystery, a mystery from the other side of the grave.
The two-story brick, located south of Marysville and north of London, featured walls more than a foot thick. It once served as a part of the Underground Railroad – a stopover for slaves from the South making their way to freedom in the North.
There were recesses in the walls, entered into from closets, where people could hide in case those who harassed them came by.
The road out front once echoed the sounds of creaking wagon wheels as 19th century settlers, headed for new lives in the West, made their way across the flat lands of central Ohio.
Some of the leaning tombstones in the weed-infested cemetery on a knoll behind the house carried chiseled dates of the 1840s.
Neighbors told Clay the house was haunted, of how a resident, long years ago, had hung himself in the heavy-timbered old barn out back.
“Everybody who had lived there before use talked about the ghost. I was never a believer in the afterlife. I just blew that off and never thought much about it,” Clay said.
But events soon to occur would lead him to a change-of-mind. When he talks about them even today they cause goose bumps to rise up on his arms.
There was the hall light that turned off and on during the night; footsteps on the stairs, sometimes so loud they woke him up in the middle of the night.
“I would close and lock two outside doors. I’d get up in the morning and they would be standing open,’ Clay said.
“They had the old-style latches – a bar that went across the door and fell down in behind another bar. You had to push on it with your thumb to get it to come back.”
His normally fearless Rottweiler would go to the bottom of the steps, nearly hidden by weeds, which led up to the cemetery.
“He wouldn’t go up those steps. He would sit there and you’d hear this deep growl from his throat, then it would change to whining, almost like a puppy.”
The event that alarmed him involved two of his daughters, ages 4 and 8.
“One day they came back to the house all excited and said they had been talking to a ghost!” Clay said. “I said ‘what!?”
“After they calmed down I asked them what they had been talking about. The oldest one answered, ‘Oh, just about where he was from. Then he told us he had hung himself in the barn.’”
“I said ‘huh? Now wait a minute.’”
“This was unbelievable. My kids were having a conversation with a ghost? Anyway, I talked to the wife about it. I
asked her what she thought we should do. She said she thought we should just ignore it, and that’s what we did.”
For a short while, anyway.
“Not long after, the 4-year-old, Tais, came back to the house and said, ‘Daddy, I ate candy with the ghost today.’”
That was it for Clay. Strange occurrences with lights and doors and stairways seemed to be increasing. And now his youngest was eating candy with a ghost?
Something had to be done. They were not in a position to where they could just move out.
He called for a meeting in the front room with the whole family.
“I know you girls have been talking to this ghost. Let’s just get this off our chests,” Clay said.
It seemed he could feel, besides the family, the presence of someone – or something – in the room.
Believing in life beyond the grave or not, he directed his comments to that presence. Clay said he was convinced there were spirits in the house.
“I said, ghost or ghosts, I’m talking to you. We all have to live here. So we have to learn to get along with each other. We’re going to try our hardest to stay out of your way, and I hope you will do the same with us. Please don’t scare my children.”
The next night the hall light stayed out, doors stayed shut, no more steps on the stairway.
“I lived there another 13 years and never again did we hear from them,” Clay said.
And so ends the story …
… except for maybe the next residents, for whom no such pact existed.