True ghost stories tend to have an everlasting impact on people. The story you are about to read was verified by one of the most respected names of his time—William Wilmer. Wilmer was a licensed ophthalmologist based in Washington, DC, during the early 1900s. He treated a variety of affluent patients including the former US president Franklin Roosevelt to New York newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer. So it did come as a shock when one as recognized as Wilmer would dare ask The American Journal of Ophthalmology to print an actual ghost story.
True Ghost Stories: The Haunted House
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One of most spine-tingling true ghost stories ever shared, this ghost encounter was told to Dr. Wilmer by one of his patients, who chose to go by the name “Mrs. H” for privacy reasons. In the year 1912, her family and servants moved into what was described in the text as a “large, rambling, high-studded house, built around 1870, and much out of repair.”
The house was said to have been abandoned for the past ten years, with only a few guests renting the place during the winter season. Although the sun regularly shone on its interiors, the structure remained eerily silent as the carpets would drain the sounds produced around the house. During night, the only heat and energy source the family got were from gaslights and an old furnace that stood in the basement.
It did not take too long for the gloomy old house to begin exerting a strange new energy toward its new occupants. No one took it harder than Mr. and Mrs. H, who experienced severe depression just a few days after moving in. The couple also found the silence quite overwhelming, and the unseen occupants of their new home were adamant to make their existence known.
“One morning, I heard footsteps in the room over my head. I hurried up the stairs,” Mrs. H wrote. “To my surprise, the room was empty. I passed into the next room and then into all the rooms on that floor and then to the floor above—to find that I was the only person in that part of the house.”
No place to hide
The whole family later experienced the same weighed-down feelings that the house seemed to radiate. Pretty soon, they began to suffer everything from exhaustion, fainting spells, and throbbing headaches. The children’s health started to took a turn for the worse as well, and they would refuse to consume their meals while complaining of feeling restless and ill.
According to Mrs. H, there was not a single place in the house that they could call an area of refuge. The children would avoid the playroom on the last floor despite the fact that their toys were kept there. Mr. H would also be haunted by a lingering presence whenever he sat alone in the dining room. He grew paranoid over time, constantly looking behind to check if anyone was hanging over his shoulder.
The nightmare continues
While Mrs. H and her children were out of town, Mr. H often found himself awakened by the ringing of bells. Whenever he sought out to investigate, he could find no one at the doors. But it wasn’t just bells ringing, Mr. H heard what could only be the sound of the telephone. On one particular night, he woke at the violent sounds of a fire truck roaring up the street only to find that the whole place was deserted.
Soon after the children and Mrs. H returned home, the gloom of the house immediately took a toll on them. Mrs. H recalls how the color on the children’s face went dangerously pale and how they suddenly grew sick with heavy colds.
“My headaches returned, and I frequently felt as if a string had been tied tightly around my left arm. One night I was awakened by a heavy door slamming quite near me,” Mrs. H recalled. “It woke G [Mr. H] too, and he said to me, ‘What was that?’ ‘Only the door of the room,’ I replied; but as I grew more wide awake, I realized that it could not be any one of the doors of the room as they were tightly closed.”
The family servants were also a subject of the house’s torments. When Mrs. H would ask if they were experiencing the same thing, they confirmed that not only were they getting a strange vibe while inside the house, they were also awakened by unexplained sounds. Little did the family and the rest of the occupants knew, things were just getting started.
While unexplained noise and rattling furniture were a regular fixture in the household, an actual apparition was still out of the picture. That was until Mrs. H saw with her own eyes a dark-haired woman on the far end of the drawing room. The woman seemed to be moving toward her, and as Mrs. H bravely walked to meet the entity, she disappeared into thin air. This would happen for three more times, but the apparitions were not limited to that of a woman. Mrs. H recalled seeing an old man and young woman sitting at the foot of her bed, staring blankly at her.
On the night of January 15, the family went out to the opera to relieve stress. That same night, they were haunted by nightmares, something that Mrs. H felt lasted for hours. Her husband was also tormented by terror. Mr. H admitted to his wife that he felt as if someone was strangling him as he slept. He woke up to find that his wife was in deep sleep, almost as if she was given a very strong sleeping pill, which was strange because Mrs. H had always been such a light sleeper. The nightly terrors would go on and on, and the helpless family had no explanation in sight.
As soon as the houseplants began to wither, the family consulted Mr. H’s brother who advised them that they could be experiencing poison by some harmful gas. He recommended that they sought help, and a certain Mr. S was called to the house not long after.
“We told him how listless and ill the children appeared. He found one of them lying on the floor, and the other two in bed. We related the experiences of the children and servants and told him about the plants. He examined the house thoroughly from top to bottom and interviewed the servants. He found the furnace in a very bad condition, the combustion being imperfect, the fumes, instead of going up the chimney, were pouring gasses of carbon monoxide into our rooms. He advised us not to let the children sleep in the house another night. If they did, he said we might find in the morning that someone of them would never wake again.”
Verdict: a mere hallucination or something sinister?
True ghost stories and even the made-up ones are usually left with an open ending. This is likely because many people are fascinated with the idea of paranormal beings walking amongst the living. For this particular tale, however, Mrs. H and her family were back to living in their allegedly “haunted” house after fixing their furnace. From then on, the haunting, apparitions, and negative energy were gone.
This all begs the question, Was the house really haunted to begin with?
At first, the family were convinced that the haunting was very real. They kept in contact with the home’s previous residents, who recounted a similar experience during their stay in the house.
“The last occupants we found had exactly the same experiences as ourselves,” Mrs. H wrote, “with the exception that some of them had seen visions clad in purple and white crawling around on their beds. Going back still further, we learned that almost everyone had felt ill and had been under a doctor’s care, although nothing very definite had been found the matter with them.”
After consulting a professional to finally have their house checked, carbon monoxide poisoning was ruled as the cause of the family’s visual and auditory hallucinations, headaches, and lethargic periods. In more recent times, a woman who claimed to have seen a “ghost” while taking a shower had her fears shut down when respondents discovered a gas heater emitting carbon monoxide.