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The Ghost I Knew

NolineshouseYou cannot have a ghost story without a spooky, somewhat mysterious house and where I grew up in rural Forsyth County was nothing like that but things change.

My mother moved back to 347 West Pine Street (pictured to the left) in Mount Airy the fall of 1963. I came home to that house for Thanksgiving that year, my first at McCallie, the military school I was attending in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

My bedroom had moved from our non-spooky house in Lewisville about thirty-eight miles away to Pine Street which certainly had the potential for spookiness. My dad had been in a house at that location since around the turn of the century.  My mom lived there from the mid-twenties until just before I was born in 1949. For many years, she ran a beauty shop on Main St. just walking distance from the house.

After I was born, we lived with my Aunt Mollie and Uncle Austin at their Yadkin County home until I was about three. Then we moved into a new house mother had built in Lewisville. The house had a beauty shop attached and a breezeway. The breezeway eventually got turned into my bedroom. There were no ghostly things in our house unless you count the scary smell of the permanents mother administered to ladies in the beauty shop adjacent to my bedroom.

A little mystery also helps with ghosts and there was plenty of mystery in my life in the fifties. I really did not know my dad or even that he was my dad until we moved back to Mount Airy and my last name got changed.  That fall was pretty challenging I had given up all my friends and Boy Scouts which I had grown to love and spent the fall living in a dorm six hours from home. When I came home, I got picked up at the airport by my mom and a couple of people that I had never met. That's a lot for a fourteen year old but I eventually rolled with the  challenges.

Not the least of those was living in the Pine Street house. It was well known to my older cousins who had regularly visited my mother there while they were growing up.  Though it took my mother a while to get it back in shape,  it was a much fancier home than ours in Lewisville. It was built on the same foundation as the original one which had been damaged in a fire sometime in the twenties. We ate at a table in the kitchen in the Lewisville house. The new house had a great room complete with a portrait of my father over the fireplace, formal dining room, a breakfast room and a table in the kitchen for the "help." It was a beautiful home and certainly worthy of all the parties which had taken place years before I got there. The gorgeous dark woodwork in the Mount Airy house was done by workers from the National Furniture Factory. My father was a part owner and vice president there. Most of the woodwork was solid walnut as were many of the interior doors.  The house had copper gutters and a slate roof. My understanding is that it had the first electrical service with circuit breakers in Surry County. All of these things were rare back when the house was built during the depression.

The house also had a lot of history, some of it gruesome which is certainly helpfully when looking for ghosts. Many of stories that the house's four walls could tell never got fully explained to me before everyone who could explain died. Some the questions that I wanted answered never got addressed because no one wanted to talk about them. There were things that I did not even know to ask when I was growing up. The house at 347 West Pine Street is an imposing home. That was especially the case to a country boy who was more comfortable in the woods than in a big fancy house. By the time, I got old enough to care, I was on a mission to get away from the house and Mount Airy. That mission took me to Canada by the time I was twenty-two.

Looking at the back of the imposing Pine Street house which coincidentally was a five minute walk from a funeral home, my bedroom was the old master bedroom on the third floor. The old master encompassed the whole back side of the third floor including the strange bricked in windows, one with a tiny window and one with just bricks in a space obviously designed for a window. I would learn it had an amazing spring view. I had a fantastic for the age of the house tile shower with enough water pressure to take paint off of a board.  Behind the strange bricked in windows was a very fancy closet. There were three bedrooms on the floor and unlike many homes, each bedroom had its own bathroom.

Upstairs above the floor with the bedrooms was a full stick-framed attic complete with walnut banisters. If ever there was an area that could house ghosts along with mysterious steamer trunks, this attic was it. The house even had a laundry chute which went all the way to the basement where there was a bedroom and bathroom for a maid.  The kitchen, dining room, and great room were on the second floor along with the bedroom my father was reduced to using because of a stroke.

It did not take me long to figure out that the history I did not know about about was powerful.  My Aunt Molly when she visited would not stay in the guest bedroom. She always slept in one of the twin beds in my mother's bedroom. Eventually I heard the story about my father's first wife's attempted suicide. My mother, who at the time was nursing my grandmother, found her hanging from the walnut railing around the top of the stairs. She saved her but the story was born.

I was never afraid of the house but there were some strange things like how cool the hallway always felt between my bedroom and the stairs to the attic. Of course there were strange noises but it was an old house. Then in 1974 after my dad had died, my wife and I were staying in my bedroom after coming back from our place in Canada. It was our first night in the house as a married couple. We were going to bed and all of sudden the electrical panels started popping. It was like someone was running between the two floors flipping the circuit breakers off and on. The circuit breakers were not easy to move from one position to the other. They also made a loud noise. My mother was sound asleep in her bedroom. She always slept with a baseball bat by her bed but said the ghost had never bothered her.  I thought someone had broken into the house. I took a gun from my gun cabinet and checked the whole house. All doors were locked and no windows had been breached. Things quieted down as soon as I left my bedroom.  To this day, I have never solved the riddle of the noise that night.

After we moved back to the states in 1987 with our children, when visiting grandma, they would refuse to sleep anywhere except in the same bedroom with us. The stories of my dad's first wife, Clara, somehow had convinced them that a spirit was wandering the house. They even took to planting tombstones with Clara's name on them every Halloween in our flower beds in Roanoke, Virginia.

My mother died in the spring of 2004.  I often said that if there was a ghost in the house, it would have to deal with the life force of my mother.  My money was always on my mother winning any battle of the spirits. After her death, we were faced with cleaning out the Pine Street house. It took us many years and we often spent weekends working on the house.  One weekend my wife was working in a hall closet on the main floor. She looked towards the foyer and saw something triangular floating from the stairs to the dining room. We are pretty grounded people but we could come up with no explanation that made any sense. It was probably my imagination, but the upstairs hallway felt particularly cold that day.

Perhaps I am crazy but not long after that I decided that the blinds in the attic had to go. I ripped them down and threw open the windows. It was not long after that when I noticed how warm the upstairs hallway felt. I smiled and thought to myself that my mother's spirit had prevailed and the restless ghost had been driven out once I opened the windows and made sure the attic got plenty of sunshine.

Even after that I was the only one willing to spend the night in the house alone. By that time the guns were long gone but so was the ghost.

So that is the story of the ghost that I once knew.



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