It’s been a long time since I was living in haunted house. Sometimes I forget that part of my first job required to stay in a haunted house. Whenever someone else brings it up, I realize that not only was it super unique, the whole arrangement was totally crazy. Mostly because, when I was 22 and living alone in a 200-year-old haunted house, it didn’t really affect me. I guess my frontal cortex really wasn’t fully developed because looking back, how did I agree to do that?
How I Ended up in a 200-Year-Old Haunted House in Maine
Remember when the world economy was death spiraling in 2008? Well, I had just graduated college, couldn’t find a boyfriend, and was tired of living in Illinois. I decided to take a Dwight Schrute-style assistant to the regional manager job at a Paper Company. Headquartered out of Boston, I found myself living just outside of Portland, Maine for almost six months. Sidenote: as a Midwesterner, I didn’t realize that Portland and Boston are only two hours driving distance away. Often people live in one and work in the other. As the newest hire, I was required to spend almost six full months living two exits north of Portland, Maine in a mid-size town named Westbrook.
An Unwelcome Disclaimer
When I first got to the house where I would be living, a high level manager for the company gave me a brief tour. The house was located right next to the paper plant, and with such largesse, its rooms were used for rotating interns, meetings, and “etcetera.” I had a room with two twin beds and an ensuite bathroom at the front of the house.
We walked through the home, learning the layout and where single steps unexpectedly appeared between one room and another. We walked to the back of the house and came upon a markedly narrow staircase, roped off by a single cord. “What’s up there?” I asked, pointing up the skinny steps. The gruff, no-nonsense Mainer leading me rolled her eyes. “Oh yes. Well…we may as well get this over with.” She flipped a switch, unlooped the rope, and encouraged my colleague and me to follow her up the stairs. At the top of the stairs was an uneven and oddly shaped room, separated by a half wall and one of those pesky single steps. The slope of the roof awkwardly lowered the ceiling height, and a tiny child-sized chair and rocking horse sat in the recessed room.
“This was the children’s playroom when the house was built in 1804. You’ve probably heard: the house is haunted by Mr. Warren, the original owner. He’s a friendly ghost. Harmless really, but sometimes you can hear him moving things around up here.” The way in which she said it was so matter of fact and inconsequential, I didn’t even have time to ask her more details before we were headed downstairs and I was handed keys.
Is This a Joke?
I didn’t have a choice where I would live during this training period, and now I just found out that the house was haunted. As our manager ushered us out of the building to make a meeting, I pulled the no-nonsense Mainer to the side and asked for more details about the haunted house.
“We believe it is Mr. Warren, but he is definitely a friendly ghost. He won’t bother you. Just acknowledge him if you notice him, and be respectful of the home. He had a child that died as a toddler, so I’ve heard a child’s giggle here and there, but that was a few years ago. It’s been quiet.”
I suppose that I should have been more scared once she described this, but I wasn’t. It was 2008 after all, and I was just grateful to have a job.
My First Week Staying in the Haunted House
A few days into my stay, there was nothing remarkable about living in a haunted house. It was musty and the kitchen desperately needed new appliances, but I made do. I bought a down pillow, comfortable bedding, and even joined a local gym. I’d drive there and back each evening, parking my car on a little pull out of the driveway and walking the 100 or so feet to the front door. In January and February, it was dark, cold, and snowy. I’d clip clop through the snow and ice, trying to stay where I could find the sand. Sidenote: did you know that in Maine, they don’t use ice to melt the snow, but rather sand to gain traction on the snow? It was a surprise to this Midwestern girl.
Sometimes I would get so uneasy on the walk from the car to the front door, I would keep my keys slipped through each finger web, just in case someone surprised me. As the house on the hill, it felt like the moon bathed the Greep House and its inhabitants like a spotlight during a solo, singled out with the town as its audience. I’d feel even more alone when a colleague in a room down the hall quickly relocated to pet-friendly accomodations.
I would spend nearly six months living alone in a mansion from 1804.
Not Exactly Alone
My first weekend in the house was pretty lonely. I had been living with my best friend in Chicago’s Gold Coast and I struggled filling the time in Maine. I woke up around 8AM and went to the gym. My 22 year old knees were in good shape; I easily ran seven miles and found that only an hour had passed. With no friends and no one with whom to spend time, I returned to the Greep House to clean up and figure out how I would spend the rest of my day.
It’s strange how there are some details of an important event that you can remember so clearly, and others that are lost. Memories seem to go from A to C so seamlessly, as if there was never a B. When I got back to the house, I cleaned up for the day. I stepped out of the shower and remember being surprised by how foggy the mirror got. My apartment in Chicago had a fan built into the light, so my mirror never particularly fogged up. In this tiny bathroom heated to the point that the mirror was completely fogged over, a chill entered the room. With cast iron hot water radiators in every room, the cold air was noticeable.
The chill hit me in the chest. It wasn’t a violent hit, but one that internally rotated my shoulders and made me curve in on myself. Wrapped in a towel, I was struck with an intense desire to avoid looking at the mirror. I was frozen where I stood, but my eyes instinctively looked toward the ground. I declared aloud, “I know you are here, but I’m not going to bother you. I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone. I’ll be here for a few months and stay out of your way.” After a few moments, the chill seemed to pass and I stared at myself in a perfectly dry, spotless mirror.
Recounting this now, it seems crazy. Why would I just start speaking out loud to a ghost? It reminds me of my childhood, when the basement seemed scary and I’d inevitably manage a trip down the stairs by loudly singing on my way. Had enough time passed that the mirror could have cleared up itself? Maybe it was my imagination playing tricks with me, or maybe it was a spirit. While this incident could be construed as hit or miss on the supernatural spectrum, the next event is a straight bullseye.
And Then, Things Moved.
Living in a haunted house in Maine comes with some musty smells. My first day there, I needed to make my temporary quarters more homey. Open flames weren’t allowed in the building, so I went to CVS and bought a few of my favorite scented products. I bought two clean linen room fresheners and vanilla scented body wash. This was 12 years ago, and the novelty of fragrance beads was brand new to me. If you are unfamiliar with this type of room freshener, this is what it looks like:
Akin to the size and weight of a snowglobe, I put both air fresheners in my room. One was placed on the dresser along the east wall and the other on the dresser on the west wall. While not a shag, the olive green carpet had a high pile and I wore slippers as I walked placing the air fresheners in the room. I pulled back the foil and twisted the cap to allow for about a 50% opening of the holes through which the fragrance escaped. I went to sleep that night grateful that I was able to make the room a bit more comfortable for myself.
When I got out of bed the next morning, my brain didn’t quite register the significance of what I saw. In the middle of the room, the air freshener from the east wall sat perfectly upright on the floor. The distance between the dresser where it was originally placed and the floor where it now sat was about 10 feet. There was no trail of scent beads between the two. I looked at the distance and remember being thoroughly confused. I didn’t want to think about what it could have been, so I picked up the air freshener and put it back on the dresser.
As I got ready for work, I thought that maybe the air freshener had moved when I was opening and closing dresser drawers. I put it on the edge of the dresser and tried to see how far it rolled. With the drag created by the carpet, not more than a foot. Even with this experiment, scent beads rolled out of the top. I collected the rogue beads and the air freshener and walked to the west side of the room. The other room freshener remained where I had placed it. There was no terrestrial way to explain how one air freshener ended up in the middle of the room.
As I walked back to the east wall, I proclaimed, “My name is Jaime. I’m working for Sappi and I’m going to be living here for a few months. I’m not going to harm you, but I am going to be using these air fresheners.”
Peacefully Living in a Haunted House
Did my declaration to an empty room do anything? I could say no, but I think it did. My air fresheners never moved again. Nor did anything else. There is no doubt in my mind that the ghost of the Greep House made his presence known by moving that air freshener. As my manager predicted, aside for these incidents, he was harmless. A handful of nights I’d wake up absolutely terrified, but I’m pretty sure that’s because I was a 22-year-old woman, living alone in a haunted mansion of suburban Maine. Oh what I would have given to have the sounds of Chicago sing me to sleep!
I survived living in a haunted house for six months and got a pretty good story out of it. Have you ever had any supernatural experiences somewhere you lived or visited? Leave me a comment if you have! I’d love to compare stories.