After a lecture I did last October, a woman stayed after and told me about a haunted estate that her friend lives on; then she casually mentioned that it was once the home of one of the most famous American icons in history! Obviously, I was fascinated by the ghostly stories she shared with me, but when she asked if I would like to visit this historic home I was dumbfounded. First of all, this house is not open to the public, so the only people who are invited there are the current homeowners' friends and, occasionally, historians. What’s more, no one has ever conducted a paranormal investigation there. I would be the first. So, as you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the estate. The next day I contacted the homeowner, and we set the date of my visit for January 26, 2019.
Now before we go any further, I would love more than anything to tell you the name of this historic figure, but I can’t. As is the case with all of my investigations, preserving the privacy of those who are kind enough to open their homes to me is of the utmost importance. So if you care to guess who it is, be my guest--just don’t ask me if you’re right or wrong, because I’ll never tell! But for the sake of having something to call this distinguished and very famous gentleman, I will henceforth refer to him as Mr. Forrester.
The Forrester estate lies at the end of a long, narrow, winding country road dotted with modest private homes. I pulled my car up to the two stone pillars that flank the driveway and stopped to consider the hundreds of people who passed through these same gates in the early 1900’s. How thrilled they must have been to spy these stately stone columns in the distance as they approached the estate. After all, the man they were about to visit was a living legend, and from all I’ve read about him, he was hysterically funny and a great host. As I drove past the columns and entered the grounds, I was as thrilled as any guest who had met the great man himself all those years ago. With any luck, I still might have a chance to meet him--or at least to meet his ghost.
The main house sits on top of a hill that overlooks 28 acres of beautifully manicured lawns that cascade down to the surrounding woods. It is a fine looking house--large, but by no means ostentatious. The house was originally nestled in the middle of over 200 acres of land, so one can imagine how peaceful and serene this country home must have been.
I had a special assistant joining me on this investigation--my son Ryan. Ryan pulled up to the house a few minutes after I arrived, and after getting our ‘ghost hunting’ gear out of the car we walked up to the front door and rang the bell. The homeowners, Marissa and Jack, greeted us at the door and invited us inside.
As soon as I walked in the front door my psychic senses immediately kicked into gear. I felt strong energy in the front hallway. I was sure that I was feeling more than just my own excitement about entering this historic home. This was the very same doorway that hundreds of guests had used to enter the home of this larger than life gentleman, so I have no doubt that their excitement and anticipation left an indelible imprint on the entranceway.
Ryan and I put down our gear in the kitchen, and Marissa invited us to do a walkthrough of the house. As I explored the first floor of the house not much was coming to me, until I entered the dining room. Here I immediately felt very strong energy along one wall. I sensed that this was a place where people met and socialized, and where guests were treated to hearing Mr. Forrester’s humorous observations about life. I could feel his strong energy all along the back wall of the dining room near the three french doors that overlooked the rear of the estate. As I stood there looking out at the beautiful lawn that ran down to the woods below, I could imagine the man standing at these doors smoking a cigarette and contemplating the beauty of his new home. It certainly was a stunningly beautiful place. When Forrester moved here in the early 1900s, he praised the estate for its peace and tranquility.
I walked back and forth in this room for a long time and wondered why it was just along this one wall that I was feeling such strong energy. The rest of the room felt clear. It was almost as if the energy was coming from the patio area that lay just beyond the French doors. I was told later that an important family wedding ceremony was held on the back patio. Family was extremely important to this man, so it’s very possible that the energy I was feeling was connected to that ceremony and other family celebrations that once took place in this room and on the patio.
I was lost in my thoughts when Marissa walked into the room, cell phone in hand, and apologized for disturbing me. She was on the phone with someone who had a first-hand paranormal experience in the house, and she was anxious for me to talk to her. Her name was Katie, and she and her mother had stayed in the home two years earlier. It was summer, and the two were the only people on the estate, the homeowners being away at the time. I took the phone from Marissa, and Katie shared the following story.
“This happened two years ago,” she said. “I was 21 years old at the time. My mom and I were staying over that summer, it was just the two of us in the house, and I slept in what had been Mr. Forrester’s bedroom. It was hot that night, so I was just in my shirt and my underwear. I fell asleep with no blankets on, just the sheet.
I woke up in the middle of the night, and the entire bed had been made around me; the quilt tucked into the mattresses and everything.”
I said, “I know it was just you and your mom in the house at the time. Did you think that she was playing a prank at first?”
“No,” Katie said. “I was half asleep when I woke up and saw it, so I thought, ‘Oh, I guess I must have just pulled the covers over myself.’ But when I woke up in the morning I was like, “What the hell? Who did this?”
“Were the covers tucked in around your body?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “They were tucked UNDER the mattress. It was just like someone had made the bed and tucked the quilt and the sheets and everything under all four sides of the mattress.”
“So, you were kind of locked in there like a tamale!” I said.
“Yes!”, Katie exclaimed. “It was crazy. It was so crazy. It was really weird.”
I asked, “Was the bed neatly made? In front of your face, where your neck would be, was the quilt folded down?”
“I honestly don’t remember,” Katie said. “I just know that everything was pulled neatly. It was just like someone had made the bed with me in it!”
I hung up the phone and thought, ‘What an amazing story!’ Two things occurred to me. First, Mr. Forrester was a kind man, but I couldn’t see him tucking someone in at night. It just didn’t suit his personality. At the same time, he was a very funny man. I could definitely see him doing something like this as a prank. As a matter of fact, Mr. Forrester wrote about a similar practical joke in a piece of fiction he published in 1876. In the story, a young character played a joke on a friend while he slept.
But there is another possible explanation. After Mr. Forrester’s death, the house was used for a short time as a hospital for recovering war veterans. Mr. Forrester’s room housed soldiers who were recuperating from wounds they sustained in the war, and they were attended to by a small staff of nurses. The description of the way the bed was made--the sheets and quilt being tucked underneath the mattress--is reminiscent of the way a soldier would make a bed, or the way a nurse would make a bed. Of course, neither would make the bed this way with a person in it! So, the mystery continues.
I asked Marissa if she or her husband had experienced anything unusual in the Forrester bedroom. She told me that in all the years they lived here, they’ve spent just two nights in the bedroom. “We had intended it to be the master bedroom,” Marissa explained, “but that was short-lived. As soon as we moved into the house we tried to sleep in there--but we never fell asleep. We never got one minute sleep in that room. We just lay there for two nights in a row, then we gave up and made the room down the hall the master bedroom.”
In fact, in all the years they owned the home there were just three people who have actually slept in the Forrester bedroom--Katie, a visiting historian, and a girl named Jeanne. “Jeanne was the first person to spend the night in the bedroom room,” Marissa said. “She was actually the only person up to that point who had slept in that room. But that didn’t go well either.
We were away for a week, and my friend Diana and her sixteen-year-old daughter Jeanne were taking care of the dogs for us. Rather than have them drive over each day, which would have been a long drive in each direction, I invited them to stay over.
One night Diana, was sleeping in our bedroom while Jeanne slept in the Forrester bedroom. Diana woke up in the middle of the night because she heard Jeanne come down the hall from the Forrester bedroom. She then heard her come into the bedroom and stop by her bed. She thought that Jeanne was standing right at the end of the bed. Diana said, ‘What Jeanne, what is it? Jeanne, what is it?’ When her daughter didn’t respond Diana said, ‘Jeanne, it’s not funny anymore,’ then she flipped on the light. The room was empty. She was absolutely convinced that Jeanne was right there because she heard her coming down the hall and into the room. She ran down the hall to check on Jeanne, but she was in bed, sound asleep. After that, Diana refused to stay in the house. I tried to talk to her about it, and I reminded her that no one was hurt. It was just a sound--like the sounds my husband and I used to hear when we first moved in.”
Soon after Marissa and Jack purchased the estate, they began to hear strange sounds outside. I asked Marissa to tell me about these mysterious sounds. “This happened during the first year and a half that we were here. It was much more pronounced the first week we were here, but now it doesn’t happen at all. There would be the sound of crunching on the gravel driveway, and I would run and look out the window to see who it was, but there was never anyone there. The sound of the gravel would be just about the amount of time that you would expect for someone to come onto the property from the road and pull up outside the house. But it didn’t sound like a car. It sounded like the wheels of a carriage. But like I said, I would always look out, and there would never be anyone there.
Jack and I were always aware of the gravel sound. We were hyper-aware of it because one of our dogs was very protective. She was a really sweet dog, but she was scared of everybody. And she was a fear biter, so we were super cautious about opening the door. The reason I say all of this is because we were very, very alert and aware of the sound of people coming. So when there were gravel sounds it wasn’t like, ‘The mailman’s here!’ It was more like, ‘Quick, get the dog!’”
Marissa and Jack weren’t the only ones to hear strange sounds at night. I interviewed a family friend who stayed over with her daughter. She said, “One weekend my daughter and I were staying over while the family was away. I was sleeping in Marissa’s room, which is right over the back patio, and that’s where I would hear footsteps--on the slate patio underneath my window. It was like someone was actually walking around on the patio. But then when I looked out there and turned the lights on, there was absolutely no one there. My daughter and I would sometimes hear other noises outside, and the dog would pick up his head as if he had heard them too, and we’d look outside to see if anything was out there but there never was. Once in a while we would hear the floors creaking inside the house. That frightened us a little bit, but then we’re like, ‘Well, if it’s Mr. Forrester, at least we know it’s a friendly ghost!’”
The family’s housekeeper, Bernice, was the only person to actually see something strange on the property--an eerie, full body apparition of a woman with a large dog. Bernice was working the day I arrived, so I asked if she wouldn’t mind showing me exactly where she was when she saw this mysterious woman. It was cold that day, so Bernice, Ryan and I bundled up and walked out the front door and across the front lawn to a spot that overlooks the property.
Bernice looked down the road to the front gates and said, “I started working here about three years ago. This happened somewhere between the spring and summer while I was taking care of Marissa’s youngest boy. We were here on the front lawn playing and I looked down the hill toward the driveway entrance and saw an old lady walking on the road about to come onto the property. She had a big brown dog with her, and she was coming from the direction of the pool house which is just down the road. When I saw her she was almost coming past the posts that lead onto the property. I thought, ‘I wasn’t told that anyone was coming today. Maybe it’s someone from the neighborhood.’ I picked up the boy then looked back at the driveway--and there was nobody there! I thought,‘That’s strange. She couldn’t have moved that fast because she’s old, so where did she go?’ I looked everywhere.”
I asked Bernice how old she thought the woman was. “I don’t know because she was far away, but she was definitely an older woman. When I saw her, I wasn’t thinking that she was a ghost or anything like that. I’m thinking she was just a person, maybe a neighbor. I tried looking around the property because I thought maybe she was walking around, but it only took a couple of seconds for me to pick the boy up. I picked him up because I thought she might be coming up to the house where we were, and she had a big dog. Someone in the neighborhood walking around with a dog, you know? I picked him up because he’s so little and I was worried about the dog, but a second later I looked and she wasn’t there. I’m looking around and she’s not here. I couldn’t believe it because I just saw her a few seconds ago. ”
“You said the dog was brown. How big would you say he was?” I asked.
“It was a large brown dog,” she said. “About four feet tall.”
I asked Bernice to describe what the old woman was wearing. She said, “She was wearing a dress, like an old fashioned dress. The type of dress that you would see in pictures from a long time ago. The dress was very long. Maybe not all the way down to the ground, but very long. Since then I’ve looked to see if I can find a picture of the kind of dress she was wearing, but I can’t find one that looks exactly like it. One thing I noticed is that she was wearing…you know when a person is cooking they’re wearing something over them to protect their clothes? An apron. That’s it. I think she had an apron over her dress, or something that looked like an apron.”
I asked Bernice if she was frightened when she saw her, but she said that she wasn’t. At first she was just puzzled. She said, “I looked around and thought, ‘I’m not crazy. I know there was a person over there, but where did she go? No one could walk or run that fast; especially an old woman with a dog. I looked around thinking that maybe she was sitting down somewhere. I tried looking around, but you can see everywhere from here and she wasn’t anywhere. I wasn’t afraid then, but as I’m telling you the story I’m feeling a chill just thinking about it!”
I looked down the stately driveway to the gates where Bernice had seen the mysterious woman with the dog. I could see for myself that there was no way anyone could be seen walking onto the property from the road, then vanish a few seconds later. It’s just impossible because there’s a clear view of the gates and the surrounding woods from the front lawn.
The entire time we were on the lawn talking, I had been recording our conversation using a digital recorder. A few days after the investigation I listened back to the recording and made a startling discovery. I had picked up an EVP--a spirit voice--as Bernice was telling her story. The voice was quiet, so I boosted the volume and removed some of the background hiss to get a better idea of what it was saying. It was clearly a man’s voice, and as far as I could tell he spoke with a slight accent, either German or Scottish. To me, and to everyone I played it for, he seems to be saying, “Couldn’t pass”.
Keep in mind, the only people on the lawn were Bernice, Ryan, and myself. My son didn’t talk the entire time I was interviewing Bernice, and there was no one else on the lawn with us.
Listen for yourself. In the following clip, you’ll hear me say to Bernice, “So, she was close to the post when you saw her …” Bernice answers, “Yeah, yeah” and immediately after, the man’s voice jumps in and says, “Couldn’t pass”. I repeat the voice several times in this clip because it goes by so quickly.
We walked back into the house, thankful to be out of the cold and Marissa said that she wanted to tell us about an amazing thing she and her family witnessed in the upstairs master bedroom. We walked upstairs to the bedroom and Marrisa shared the following story.
“I had gone to a dinner party one night,” she said, “and I was shocked to hear how many people had personal paranormal experiences. It wasn’t like, ‘My cousin or my mother saw a ghost.’ These people were telling their own firsthand experiences. I was really surprised at the sheer number of regular, normal, trustworthy people who had stories.
So when I came home I was thinking of all of these stories. I walked into our bedroom and my husband was in bed reading to our youngest son. Our older son was in his room, but when he heard me come upstairs he came into the bedroom to say hi, so all four of us were there.
I said to my husband, ‘You’re never going to believe this. This person, this person, all these people who you know were sharing their ghost stories at the party. You’d never believe how many people have ghost stories from their own houses. You’d be so surprised.’ And while I’m saying this we all just stopped cold. We all stood exactly as we were, stock-still—our youngest son included, which is a lot for him. A toy car rolled out from behind this chair. It just rolled like this.” Marissa paused her story to show us how the car came from behind the chair in a curve, then straightened out. “It came across the room, and it came to rest at my feet. Now, if it had been any other time and we had been talking about anything else, that exact same experience probably wouldn’t have registered that way. I would have assumed, ‘Oh, I never knew that that toy was a pull-back car that moves when you pulled it back, or there must be an air vent that I didn’t know about.’ I would have assumed that it was one of those things. But the timing of it was just weird. And it wasn’t a pull-back toy. It was just a regular toy car.”
Marissa was anxious to have Jack tell me his version of the story, so she called him upstairs and asked that he share it with me. Jack said, “I was in bed reading to our son, and I was kind of groggy. I just remember a car, a toy car, coming out of nowhere. It was over there and it kind of came rushing over. My wife was talking to me about the party she had just come from, and this car just took off. It was pretty fast. It was one of those toy cars, and it just started taking off. It started over there, and it came all the way over to here to the middle of the room. And I was like, ‘Alright, that’s weird!’”
I asked Jack if his son would be willing to tell me his version of the story. Luckily he had just gotten home from school, so Jack asked him to come into the bedroom and tell me what he had witnessed that day. The boy said, “It was a toy car, and it was weird because it started here behind the chair, and it rolled AROUND the chair. It definitely wasn’t the kind of car that you pull back then let go to make it go by itself. It was just a regular toy car, like a Matchbox car. I remember it coming around the chair. It came out from behind the chair, then it slowed down. It moved slowly, and I thought it was going to stop. But it kept going all the way to here.” At this point, the boy pointed to a spot in the middle of the room--the same spot his mother and father said the car stopped.”It was going pretty slowly,” he continued, “then it was going really slow at the end.”
I was impressed that all three had seen the same thing, and that their stories were nearly identical. The only discrepancy was the speed at which the car moved. Marissa and her son said it moved pretty slowly, while Jack thought that it shot out quickly from behind the chair. All agreed that the car came out from behind the chair, not in a straight line but in a curve. They also agreed that it had travelled approximately seven feet, and that it came to rest in the middle of the floor.
I thanked Jack and his son for sharing their stories and decided to explore the other rooms on this floor. I was hoping to pick up some intuitive information that might help solve the mystery of whose spirit resides in this house. As I walked toward the front of the house, I suddenly stopped at the top of the staircase. There was a strong feeling here. Something had happened right on this spot. My head began to hurt, but the feeling quickly passed. I got a sense that someone had either fallen on this spot, or that they had experienced some sort of physical distress here. I later learned that Mr. Forrester had spent his last years in this house, and that his health had deteriorated considerably soon after he moved in.
I turned right at the top of the stairs and walked into a bedroom at the far end of the hall near the back of the house. Ryan and I both commented on feeling something peculiar in the corner near the window. My son described it as a “creepy feeling” whereas I was feeling something very quiet and still. It was as if there was a stillness to the energy in the room; that it rested in just one place and was very quiet and motionless. I later learned that a close relative of Mr. Forrester died tragically in this room. Although I’m not at liberty to go into the details of this tragic death, the stillness I felt in this room seems in alignment with the way the person had died.
We left this room and went down the hallway to a room near the rear of the house. Here I got a very strong sense that a lot of people met in this room, but this made no sense to me since the room is currently a nursery. Marissa later told me that the floorplan of the house had changed since the early 1900s, and that the room had originally been a sitting room where Mr. Forrester used to entertain his guests; so I was correct when I felt the energy of large numbers of people in the room.
The Forrester bedroom was across the hall from this room, and I entered with slight trepidation. After all, this was the room where the girl had woken up to find herself tucked into bed by unseen hands. It was also the room where Marissa and Jack were unable to sleep, and where footsteps were heard coming down the hall. So, I was more than a little disappointed when I didn’t feel very much in the room. There was some residual energy running along one wall, but other than that the room felt clean.
Although there are some striking paranormal incidents associated with the Forrester bedroom, it helps to know a little about how spirits operate. First of all, they aren’t imprisoned in a room. They can move about freely. Just because I walk into a room hoping to make contact with a particular spirit; it doesn’t mean that they are always on hand. Second, spirits are ‘attracted to’ certain people. For example, if a spirit is that of a mother who had lost a child in life, then she might only make herself known to mothers, or to children. Third, there is often more than just one spirit in a home. As I theorized earlier, the incident with the bedcovers being tucked in around the girl could have been a soldier, a nurse, or Mr. Forrester himself. Or, it could have been someone totally different, like a former maid or Mr. Forrester close relative who died in the room down the hall. As for the footsteps heard coming from the Forrester bedroom--well, they could have been the ghostly footsteps of just about anyone.
It was getting late, and Marrisa and her family had plans for the evening so Ryan and I wrapped up the investigation. I reiterated how thrilled Ryan and I were to have had the opportunity to run the investigation, and Marissa invited us to come back some day to explore one other house on the property. It’s a house that comes with a number of intriguing tales that involved Mr. Forrester directly--but that’s a ghost story for another day.
As I drove down the long, dark, winding driveway I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I paid particular attention to the sound of the gravel crunching under my car’s tires. And you can be sure that as the beams of my headlights illuminated the stone gates in the distance, I was hoping against hope to catch even the most fleeting glimpse of an old woman in a long, old fashioned dress walking a large brown dog.