We all lived in an old subdivided mansion outside of Philly. At one time, the large yellow stucco structure had been elegant with large windows, high ceilings, and elaborate woodwork. Now it was divided into single bedroom apartments that followed none of the design logic of the house.
My apartment was in the rear. I had a doorway that let out onto a large yard and what had been the carriage house. The yard was our place for Croquet, Bolles, Bocci, and dance parties.
We had monthly “reunion” parties when the weather was warm. At the reunion parties, we welcomed back all the friends and associates who lived with us but who had moved on to other digs. We set up tables with booze and food, and someone would bring out their stereo. The party was constantly rolling sometime about eight PM, and of course, the usual knot of garrulous drinkers talking about parties past would be off in a corner. Drama figured large in these retellings of which event had been the most outrageous. We were a pretty wild bunch.
Our anti-police strategy for these parties was to ensure that everyone in the neighborhood who was not an itinerant got invited and compelled to come. This way, only a snitch could complain at two AM, and in my recollection, we never shut down before four.
You could sometimes see my cat, the Grey Menace, and buddy Barnaby hanging around the grill, cadging hunks of steak tips and chicken. Their strategy was simple; bob and weave around the cook’s ankles till something dropped, and then run like hell with it to the carriage house.
Life was good until it wasn’t.
More and more people came to the parties. Old residents brought friends. Their friends brought friends, and pretty soon, the residents wondered who the hell was at their party. Then, thefts happened, and bedrooms got used by strangers. So we decided to continue the parties at a household meeting but put the house off-limits to non-residents. Non-residents now used the facilities available in the carriage house, but it also became the place to smoke weed, have liaisons, do deals, and generally misbehave. Finally, a group of us decided to take action.
We understood that the old mansion was haunted. My apartment had been a dining room and pantry. I always heard muttering and plates being moved about early in the morning. Upstairs someone was pacing back and forth in front of a bedroom door most nights. And the basement and attic were strictly off-limits. So a few of us decided to fill a tape with scary stuff and let it play in the carriage house next party. We thought it was best to keep it simple, so we recorded footsteps on creaking boards, muffled laughter, and dropped heavy objects. There was about an hour of this, and we planned to rewind and replay it through the party.
The plan seemed to work, and guests avoided the carriage house.
About midnight, I checked with Josh and mentioned that the recording was doing a good job. He looked at me and then said, ” uh, Wes, I forgot all about the darn tape.” So we walked over to the carriage house, saw some dim lights moving about and the sound of a very active craps game going on. We noticed a lank figure reaching up to cast the dice. Moving in, we found that the building was empty. We left in a hurry but saw that our tape player was sitting in a corner entirely still.
At first, we thought that someone else in the house had thought up a plan independent of ours, but nobody in the house seemed to know about it, and most looked at us blankly when we mentioned that it was a craps game going on. After that, the parties petered out as more strange incidents occurred; a crying baby, knocks on doors, creaking stairs, and the like. Then, one by one, the residents left for more peaceful digs. After placing my stuff in storage, I went for my summer in Boston – I had no intention of ever returning.
A year or two later, I ran into someone who had moved into the old mansion, and the hauntings came up. The current residents had heard the stories but lived at peace with the house. He assumed that spectral residents just had it with all the noise and upset and decided to evict us.
He had an interesting point. After all, who was haunting who?