TOWNSEND — The debate over the existence of ghosts has raged for centuries, with no end in sight, but for two Elm Circle residents there is no need for discussion.
“This whole area is full of houses where ‘special’ people lived,” said resident Louise Thorpe, with a touch of mystery in her voice.
Thorpe and Peter Bratko live across the street from one another at the cul-de-sac at the end of Elm Circle. Both have experienced strange, possibly supernatural, events in their houses since arriving. Both houses are very old, constructed within the first 110 years of the town’s existence.
Both live alone with pets, but neither believes what they’ve seen and heard was any figment of a lonely imagination. In fact, it was not until their households were reduced to one apiece that the disturbances mysteriously stopped.
Thorpe moved into the house with her late husband, Samuel, and their son, Craig, in 1959. A date scratched into a post revealed that the red cape house had been constructed in 1749. It wasn’t long after they moved in that the first odd happenings began. She recalls many of them, including a door that would not stay closed no matter what she did.
“We never could keep that door shut,” Thorpe said. “It was very difficult to close, but we used a strong lock. Every time we locked it, within 10 minutes it would be unlocked. At first, we didn’t know what it was. Eventually, we figured out it had to be something.”
Across the way, at Bratko’s house, equally bizarre events occurred. He has lived in the house for 10 years and recalls how his two cats first alerted him to the possible presence of another being in the house.
“It would happen frequently; they’d be walking in the hallway upstairs and would both suddenly stop and stare into the laundry room at the end of the hall,” Bratko said. “And they’d just stand there until I herded them away. They were alert, almost concerned.”
Curious, Bratko says he investigated several times, following their line of sight but never finding anything. While he thought at first it could be squirrels, he believes he may have caught a glimpse, on a few occasions, as to the true nature of the object of his pets’ awe.
“A couple times I’d walk up the stairs and I’d see this white thing, like a flash, zipping away,” Bratko said. Whatever the cause, it did not seem to vacate the hallway area. And while he never heard any sounds, it was not the most benevolent house guest, to hear him tell it.
“I remember one time my girlfriend was standing at the top of the stairs, about to go down, when all of a sudden she was falling, sliding down on her bottom,” he said.
Thorpe, meanwhile, believes her son had an even closer encounter with what she calls the “extra guest” in her house.
“My son used to sleep out in the shed sometimes, and one night he woke up with his bed shaking and his Irish setter’s hair standing on end,” Thorpe said. “He says he saw a shadow pass across the window. They both came and slept in the house that night.”
When her son moved away, Thorpe said, the occurrences seemed to end. However, her father-in-law begged to differ when he stayed over, saying he would occasionally hear footsteps above him, as though someone were walking around. Everyone else in the house was asleep.
It would not be the first time someone in the house had heard such a thing. Thorpe said she used to hear children’s voices and furniture being moved around upstairs. She always thought it was her son and a playmate from the neighborhood.
“One day, I heard their voices upstairs so I called to them to come down,” she recalled. When they didn’t, she went up to investigate, but found “they weren’t there.”
Thorpe was never uncomfortable with the “extra guests” in her house, but she does not seem to miss their presence. Bratko does not either, recalling that the happenings seemed to stop when one of his cats passed away. He was never scared, as his sister lived in a house that everyone believed was haunted long before he moved into his current home.
But perhaps the strangeness hasn’t stopped altogether. Adjacent to Bratko’s home is a large, two-story barn. The lower level looks like it was used to stable horses.
Years ago, according to Thorpe, a fire broke out in the lower level, one that the Fire Department believes should have caused a lot of damage. However, the blaze was extinguished after only charring one support beam. Residents at the time were baffled, as were the firefighters, but some believe that the spirit of a man that once lived there, Steven Keefe, put it out. Keefe passed away in the 1970s, long before the fire.
While the beam was damaged, Bratko said, it was still intact and he’d frequently show it to visitors. But on his most recent trip to the barn, he discovered that the beam was gone, mysteriously vanished as though it had never been there in the first place.