The scene: A small Bed & Breakfast in a century-old home in a residential neighborhood. Four guest rooms. Large living room heated by a coal fireplace. Gracious, gracious host. Her name was Kirstie. A former psychology major, who had accidentally developed a knack for hospitality and certainly a genuine love of people, their travels and cultures.
My husband, Roderick, and I were visiting his ancestral grounds, Blair Atholl, seat of the Murrays in the Scottish Highlands. It was early spring. Not a busy tourist season in Scotland. We were the only guests. Roderick had begun to assemble a team to restore an ancient Kirk and was heading out to a brief meeting. The morning was cool and peaceful. I decided to stay behind to read by the fireplace. Our host, Kirstie, had left earlier to seek provisions in Pitlochry, about a half hour away. She had prepared a tray of coffee and scones for me.
Moments after settling down to read, I began hearing footsteps above. I thought that perhaps Kirstie had forgotten something and returned. A quick look out the window confirmed that everyone was indeed long gone. I settled in with my book again. Perhaps I had imagined something. The footsteps continued, accompanied by a cheerful female voice. It was humming a tune. “Alright”, I thought, “perhaps a maid is here making the beds and tidying up.” The footsteps and voice were right above me, in our bedroom.
The theory of the maid took a different twist the moment I realized that the footsteps were clearly on a wooden floor. Our room, and every floor upstairs, had wall-to-wall carpet. Another oddity added to the mystery. I heard what sounded like cabinet doors opening and closing upstairs, the sort of cabinet that is built into the wall, even to the point of making the picture frame on the wall next to me vibrate. There were no such cabinets upstairs.
I debated between staying put and investigating. I stayed put, my heart racing. Here in Vermont, I have had my share of unexplained encounters in the woods and even in houses, but never so clear, so loud and so, well, present. I tried to reason this out every which way, but could not find any physical explanation or configuration that would justify the activity above me. At last, the “woman” seemed to walk up toward the bedroom window, said a long and welcoming “Hellllooooo!” and everything was silent. Roderick walked in, just beneath the window. “Had she greeted him?” I wondered, “How funny and spooky!”
That night, around three in the morning, Roderick and I sat still in bed as we listened to what sounded like two women chatting over tea (we could hear spoons against the rim of cups) in the empty room next to ours. Kirstie was delighted when we told her about our encounters. She immediately knew who it was. Of course, ask anyone in Great Britain and they will be surprised if you have not met a ghost yet!
From Johnson’s Elementary School, to Emily’s bridge in Stowe, to Waterbury’s Old Stagecoach Inn, accounts of ghost sightings abound throughout Vermont and neighboring states. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as buyers hoping to find their dream haunted house. A Fanwood, New Jersey, Realtor reports the following inquiry from a couple that was visiting a 111-year old Victorian house: “We were walking out and the wife said, ‘any ghosts?’ The seller replied, ‘Well, yeah.’ And the couple said, ‘Cool, tell us about it.'”
(Picture above is the Blair Atholl Post Office)