​Echoes Through Time

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under the conditions of absolute reality; even Larks and Katydids are supposed by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone. “
So opens Shirley Jacksons monumental work The Haunting of Hill House, a phantasmic look into the horrors that lurk both within the stone and wood of ancient habitation, as well as those that lurk within our own mind. In it, the house becomes a metaphor for the main protagonist’s life. Trapped by circumstance, the house represents to Eleanor both an escape from her tragic life, as well as a trap from which she is unwilling to be released. We are left wondering by books end, is what she see’s there all a part of her imagination? Or does something truly terrible haunt the corridors of Hill House. In perhaps the only good ending for a horror story, the reader is left to decide.
Noted in its introduction by journalist Laura Miller, the arachitype of the traditional haunted house often presents a trap for the main character, be them trapped by their own curiosity, or by an external force. Much like the stores that gave rise to its influence, like that of The Jolly Corner, in which a man explores the home of his youth, haunted around each corner, by the man he could have been. It is a dark and brooding tale that brings to mind one eternal and foreboding question, that perhaps the darkness we find in the world is in truth what we have found in ourselves. And if such a thing could be, what mark could that make on reality around us. What horror might that expose to those who might come after.
Harold drove slowly up the long drive way, cresting behind a small hill and trees appeared the ancient Victorian era brick house, which stood majestic through the ages, and might stand majestic for ages more. His wife ___ was impressed if a little weary of how big it was. With her first thought running to how on earth she would be able to keep the mansion clean all on her own.

The ___ Family had been looking for a new house ever since their recent move from ___ for ___ new job, they had been on the look out for a place that would be suitable to raise their 6 kids. ___ had stumbled upon an advertisement for a house for rent at reasonable price. With ___ rooms, very low cost, and plenty of space both inside and outside for his large family, he jumped at the offer, its only catch being that he would have to sign a 2-year lease oh which there was no getting out of, or sub leasing.
After giving the house a run through, his wife was satisfied, but for one condition. The kitchen was archaic and would not due for her daily duties of meal making for such a large family. She would only move in if the owners agreed to renovate it with updated amenities. A proposal which ___ an experienced salesman at ____ company, had no trouble in negotiating. It was only after this walk through with his wife and two sons, as ___ was locking up the front door, that he though he heard someone open the door to the Library and someone walking toward him. The house had not yet been updated with lighting, and was pitch black inside. Thinking it was one of his sons coming down from the second floor, Harold waited patiently for him come down the hall, calling for him to hurry up as they were late in getting supper. To his blanks surprise, no response came, even as the footsteps came closer. He glanced toward the car to see that his two sons were already waiting for him with their mother. Confused, ___ called out, but again was only met with the rushing sound of footsteps, moving past him and up the grand spiral staircase above him.
“Who are you?” He cried.
Yet only the soft padding of footsteps could be heard. And for the life of him Harold, though he wished too, could not move. The room had become deathly cold, and he became confused and disoriented. Was this some kind of dream? He listened as the footsteps faded down the hallway on the second floor. Then the opening and closing of another door. And then an eerie silence. It was to be his first encounter with the otherworldly inhabitants which lived in the house on Rose Tree Road.

You’re listening to Devilry and I’m Matthew William Motsinger

Seventeen rooms may have seemed like a lot for any family, but after relocating to Philadelphia for his job, The Camerons had been forced to share a one room two bed hotel for over a month and were feeling a bit claustrophobic. With the updates to the house dully completed, the Camersons moved into their new home in early spring (check!) and quickly set about making it their own. The front door opened to a large hallway to the left stood the door to a large library, perpetually closed. Directly in front of them ran the long hallway to the kitchen in the back. A little to the right was the grand staircase which twirled around to the second floor in the manner befitting a southern plantation. The entrance to the living room lay to their right. On the second floor were bedrooms, enough for every child to have his own room and then some. The massive master bedroom was of coarse reserved for the Harold and his wife, with an attached door to a smaller nursery for which their youngest son, Michael would inhabit. The third floor consisted of a few rooms used primarily by servants and were closed off when none were available. The basement also was closed off except for use of storage, as it did not have electrical lighting, it was rarely ventured upon and for the most part left abandon.
                While servents seemed hard to come by, Harold’s older boys, Hal and Bob, were good natured, and helped their mother with the arranging and meticulous cleaning of the otherwise dusty house. In those first two weeks they witnessed nothing untoward in their new homestead, and were indeed beginning to believe they had quite the stroke of luck in finding the place after all. The house had plenty of extra rooms for the families many visitors, and all the children had the privilege of having their own room, something not always guaranteed in their large family.
                It was some two weeks after they were settled when something strange began to happen. Hal awoke to what he thought were footsteps leading down the massive staircase. Remembering the lemon pie left over for desert, he jumped out to bed, determined to not let Bob have the whole thing to himself. Darting out of his room however, he was puzzled to find no lights on downstairs. Poking his head in to Bobs room, he found him sitting up in bed, as if he had just awoken.
“Oh, its only you” he stammered. “I thought it was something else.”
“Didn’t you just get of bed a moment ago” Hal asked.
“Not on your life!” he insisted.
A little disconcerted, they checked on the rest of the family, who were all asleep, before they too allowed themselves some more shut eye. It was to be their first of many a strange encounter in the old house.

Not many nights later, Harold awoke with a start. A sound had reached his ears that he had heard before. The slow deliberate steps on wood floors. Only this time they were not in the hallway, they were in his room, and slowly approached his bed. Harold looked around the room, black as night but saw no one. What he felt was another story, he felt eyes on him, regarding him, observing with a haughty air. After sometime the footsteps receded out of the room with no indication a door had been opened. Dorthey nudged him.

                “What does it mean?” She asked in desperation.
                “I don’t pretend to know” Replied a dumbfounded Harold.

The next morning the older children, all in their turn asked why their mother had interrupted their sleep at night yet not responded.
 The boys, in a vain effort to feel safe from their other worldly inspectors, corralled their mattresses into one room and slept together for the rest of the week. This did not stop the strange visitor from coming each night to have a look at them and soon, Harold found he was hosting his whole family in his master bedroom, once again confined to a small space they had worked so hard to get out of.

Some two weeks of this went by when, on a cold clear night when the moon shown full, the boys heard footsteps once again, only this time they came from outside the house. The heavy footfalls were different from the light determined ones they had been hearing in the hallway in the previous weeks. They had the cling of brass which rang with every step, crunching on the gravel path up from the road, mounting the porch steps before finally ceasing at the front door. Upon inspection however, no person was ever found outside, nor foot prints in the gravel path. Just the creeping silence of the wind. With mounting concern, the family was beside themselves in confusion. This was the 1960’s, belief in ghosts had been vaporized in the ashes of the A-bomb. Yet these strange occurrences persisted to the perplexation of the house’s inhabitants.
                What Harold took comfort in as he left for work each day and fell asleep each night, was the lack of overt hostility to whatever was going on. They were strange, beyond all doubt, yet he had to admit that so far anyway, they had been nothing more than a nuisance. An oddity to be dealt with. That change one night for Harold however when he was jolted awake by a sharp jab to the ribs.
“What on earth is that smell?” hissed Dorothy in a hoarse whisper.
“The Nursery?” Harold suggested, still half asleep.

Turning over he caught his first good whiff of what it was Dorothy was talking about and nearly choked. What he smelled he could only describe in part, something like tar yet much more putrid and pungent had laid itself like a blanket over their bed and was so oppressive it made it hard to breath. They found, after getting up to check on the other family members, that the smell was found only over their bed and nowhere else. They sat themselves in a large easy chair by the window, Dorothy on Harold’s lap while they pondered what to do next.

For Harold, a growing uneasiness was beginning to set in. His eagerness and excitement to move into the old home had rushed them into a contract they could now not get out of without paying the sum in full, and though what they were experiencing had not been in anyway threatening, there was not guarantee that things would not get worse. That whatever had come to live with them in the house of Rose Street was altogether benevolent was not certain.
Harold had never spent much time considering the afterlife, or the reposed after death. In his youth, he had considered a carrier as a Baptist minister, like his father before him, but was eventually kicked out of seminary for his unorthodox belief that there was no Hell. He had taken a job in sales and found he liked it just as much, if not more than preaching. Within a few months of joining the (COMPANY NAME) he was promoted to sales manager, and then was sent to Phily to expand operations after World War 2. This is how they had come to the house in the first place. And now, with lack of sleep mounting and an increasingly on edge family to deal with, Harold’s compacity for dealing with, much less understand the otherworldly events began to take its tole on his work and personal life.

After some hours had passed, Dorothy ventured back to bed and found the smell had disappeared entirely. Grateful for at least a few hours rest left to them, they didn’t ask questions but crawled back in bed hoping that whatever had caused the smell would not return. Which it didn’t, that night. They found that sporadically it would descend upon them during the night time and even if they were reading in a chair for a period of time. After it had descended however it would not move and after some time would ultimately dissipate.
                Harold however did not get anymore sleep that night. He lay awake in the large four post bed thinking about the events since his family had arrived at ancient house. Nothing in his time at the Baptist seminary had prepared him for this. All otherworldly phenomena were carted off into the realm of “Manifestations of the Devil”. He smiled wryly as he realized he would have owed the Dean of the seminary an apology had the smell be sulfuric. Dorothy, also not content for the night, tossed and turned before finally telling her husband she was calling for a fumigator in the morning.

“Do you think it will help?” Harold asked
“I don’t know, but I have to do something!” She shot back.

Perhaps because of his thoughts on seminary, Harold suggested prayer. Neither worked however. The next night, the smell was back. They followed the same routine as the night before, and as the week wore on, the same smell kept returning to plague them each night.

The Camerons, to their credit, were not a family to give up lightly or be scared off by unnatural occurrences. A quick conference sometime after the oder had appeared produced a flurry of activity in which they all conspired to try and find out what exactly was going on around their new home. Hal came home from the Library with a stack of books on the subject of the paranormal, declaring defiantly that most cases of the strange can be explained away by natural phenomena. This seemed to be a rallying cry to the rest of the family. Bob put forth the idea that the house being so old, it may have a hidden passage, or secret entrance they were not aware of. Or, even more alarming, that the old home may not have had its locks changed for some time and that perhaps the noises and sounds they had been hearing were not otherworldly at all.
Harold promptly had all the locks changed on the exterior doors of the house, on the outside, he purchased two chows, Ching and Chang, who guarded the family from all comers without discretion. He set up a string of lights in the basement which could be turned on from the kitchen and secured all first-floor windows. The boys set about their hunt for a secret passage with relish, tapping on walls, searching closets and fireplaces and covering ever inch of the old house with a fine-tooth comb. They found nothing, much to their consternation. 
The smells and footsteps did not cease however, but were not a nightly occurrence. Nor did they escalate.

After putting an ad in the paper, they eventually received a response for help around the house. A couple by the name of Clyde and Mary Simmons applied and were hired on to live on the third floor. Clyde did mainly odd jobs and guarding around the house while Mary helped with the household chores and did the cooking. The Cameron’s found them to be fine workers with a tendency to be drifters, never settling in one place for too long. It was not much of a surprise then when one morning, shortly a month after they had started, Harold had come down for breakfast to find they were leaving.

“But you just got here!” Harold protested.
“We don’t like being spied on, not in my own bed I don’t” replied Mary with some heat.
Harold seemed perplexed.
“Spied on? Mary, no one is spying on you. Mrs Cameron and I would never dream of going up to your quarters unless it was an emergency and even then, we would knock.”
“You wouldn’t knock and then disappear!” Mary shot back.
“We would never dream of it” Harold reassured her.
“Well, even if you isn’t. I don’t want to know what was. Anyhow, we have family in Tennessee and we’s going to visit them for a while.” She replied.
And they did, that very day.
This was to start the long cycle of servant’s they could never keep. They would stay only for a month, sometimes less, but would always leave, often without explanation. Ellen, one of the many workers in the house, was the one who stayed the longest, a total of 3 weeks.
She was ironing clothes in the dinning room when she heard the door open and footsteps come behind her, thinking it was Dorothy come to check on her work she turned to greet her only to find that no one was in the room. The quickly called out but no one answered. She ran through the house calling for Mrs Cameron only to find her finishing up a bath of their youngest son Michael. She quite on the spot after telling her story.

The home had been perfectly set up to entertain family and friends, that was after all one of the main reasons why Harold had loved it so much. He took great delight in entertaining people and jumped at the chance the host his Sister, Elda Clare from out state. She flew in from New Mexico with her son Larry after seeing a picture of the grand manor they were living in, and spent much of her time shopping with Dorothy, that is until the theft of her purse was discovered while they were in New York put a quick end to their spree. They returned home that night and after a hurried dinner went to bed.
Elda could find no rest however. Frustrated by the theft she decided to have a smoke, but discovered to her dissatisfaction that her cigarettes where left on the phone table down stairs. She crept down to  grab them and, getting ready to strike a match, she froze as she heard the Library door open and close. Slippered feet shuffled up to her in the darkness yet she could see no one. She called out but, as always, no one answered. It was then that she heard something even more disturbing, soft rhythmic breathing, right next her… This was enough to shake out of her frightened frigidity and she bounded down the hallway and up the stairs, into her room and under the covers like a small child. She did not sleep the rest of the night.
                She explained her experience to Harold and Dorothy the next morning with bags under her eyes. The Cameron’s were apologetic for keeping their secret, and explained that they had hoped Elda would escape the notice of the other inhabitants of the house. Elda asked with indigence why she was not warned beforehand. With an innocent shrug Harold asked “Would you have believed us?”
“No” She smiled “I would have said you had rocks in your head!”

Elda spend the remaining time at the beautiful mansion in peace, staying away from the Library and not daring to venture out at night.

Harold’s sister in law, Ernestine, was not so lucky during her visit.
Ernestine was a thin, brooding character, highly excitable and not one for fanciful tales of ghost footsteps or doors opening and closing on their own. Despite Elda’s experience, the family again hoped to escape the embarrassment of explaining the ghostly apparitions. She had arrived late in the day, tired and worn from the journey anyway. How does one exactly explain to another to ignore disembodied footsteps or the opening and closing of doors on their own? He gave her a quick tour of the house before showing her to her room.
                In the middle of the night, when all members of the family were sound asleep a great crash, so loud that Harold first thought the furnace might have exploded. It came from somewhere downstairs. The boys were the first up, running after their father, all three were met in the hallway by a shrieking Ernestine.
“Someone tried to kill me!” She cried in hysterics.
Harold tried to bring her too with a little shake. “What happened?” He cried with alarm.
“Th-the Library” She stammered, still petrified.
Harold and the boys raced downstairs, a million things running through his head. Had the Chimney partially collapsed? What on earth could it have been? Running into the room, they expected to find it in shambles. To their shock, they found nothing amiss, only a single book on the ground near a couch. Puzzled, he picked up the book and examined it, it was Ernestine’s, the same one she had brought with her on her trip.
Marching back upstairs, Harold questioned his frightened sister in law.
“what were you doing in the library?”
“reading, of coarse” She whimpered.
“I couldn’t sleep so I decided to read until I felt sleepy. I must have dosed off. When I awoke there was a great crash next to my head. I was so scared I rolled over off the couch and ran, it felt like someone was trying to kill me.”
Harold studied her. She was still visibly shaken, and everyone had heard the noise, he knew she had not imagined anything, so he grabbed his sons and searched the house, checking the basement first to see if the furnace had indeed exploded. It had not, all the doors were still bolted shut from the inside, and nothing was found out of place. A search of the exterior the next day found nothing that could have explained the terrible noise. No downed limb or caved in roof. All was normal.
The family again was forced to explain their unhappy predicament and warm the poor frightened woman to stay away from the Library as it seemed to be the center of activity for the unexplained events which occurred in the house. The warning was unnecessary though, Ernestine had made up her mind that morning to leave the house right away. And leave she did, she never visited again so long as they lived in the house.  

In his book on Monsters, the eminent Druid Greer spends little time on the subject of ghosts. He does not dismiss them more as seems to not find them interesting for his subject as hand. In it he describes a common troup among folklorists. That of the echo effect. When something horrible don’t in a definite place and in a definite time happens, it can expose a rift in reality, or perhaps as Jackson suggests, it gives a more complete view of what reality is. Whatever the case, an echo occurs, in which a vision, a sound, an experience is repeated again and again. He calls these replay hauntings. He mentions many old English battle fields in which men are commonly seen in an eternal reenactment of the atrocities committed there.

                Such was likely not on the mind of Cameron family as they went through their two years of turmoil. And was especially not on the mind of Harold when he chanced to meet an old leathery looking man living out in the barn one summer evening.
The man, whom Harold had seen around once or twice, went by the name of Enoch. And he was closer to a century old, to the amazement and delight of Harold. As they got to talking Enoch described his being born right after the civil war, being born the first of his generation free from the tyranny of slavery. He had been a farm hand to the ancient owners of the House, then called Heilbron Manor and had lived there his whole life. And it was his stories that helped Harold piece together a strange tale of misery and woe that befell the Murchison Family, ancient patriarchs of Middletown Township. That, and of coarse, his finding of an ancient crypt on the mansions grounds which held the bones of those who built it. Enoch, and other locals even today, tell of a old legend of a murder-suicide that happened one warm summer day when a coachmen by the name of Ben walked up the gravel path to the old home, his heavy boots ringing with each step and knocked on the front door Heilborn Manor. A young girl in her teens answered, dressed up for a local ball she would be taken too later by her parents. She it was who answered, as no one else was home, and no one else would see her alive ever again.

Night Stalks the Mansion by Constance Westbie and Harold Cameron 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Monsters by  John Michael Greer