Haunted Antiques: Do Some Items Retain Ghostly Emotions of Original Owners?
I hope that the title has piqued your interest in this article and I am fairly certain that a few of you are thinking “Okay, this whackadoodle has totally lost her mind.” Either way, this is a very true story based on events that I experienced in my antique shop.
I have been a life-long collector and an antiques and collectibles dealer for 27 years. Actually longer than that, if you count my college years, when I would pick and sell my finds on the drag in Austin, Texas. I am a skeptic at heart and even though I love a good horror movie, I never expected, nor really wanted, to have a brush with the paranormal. I know that there are people who collect items that were supposedly “haunted” and there is even a TV show dedicated to such a collector, but my personal opinion about the way this person amasses the items for his collection have no bearing on this article so I won’t go there.
The sleeping baby doll. I never felt comfortable with this doll and eventually needed to put it in storage out in the barn.
Now, on with my story. In your day-to-day handling of antiques and collectibles, have you ever picked up an item and wondered about the person who originally owned the piece? Especially when dealing with items that tend to be very personal, such as a vanity, comb and brush, precious antique doll, jewelry and certain articles of clothing such as a wedding dress. Who was that person? What was their life like? How did I end up owning the item?
I took in a consignment from a lady who had recently married a man whose wife of 40-plus years had passed away from a long bout with cancer just six months previous. The consignor had been relegated with the job of getting rid of the deceased wife’s possessions, so she brought them to me. In the beginning, I did not know the full story, but within a month I asked for an account of the items.
The woman brought in a few contemporary dolls—I have been a lifelong doll collector so dolls generally do not freak me out—but one of these dolls looked like a sleeping infant and from the moment I first picked her up I felt very uncomfortable holding her. But I took her upstairs anyway and placed her in a beautiful wood cradle near the other dolls. The next morning, when I came into the shop and was going around getting ready to open for the day, I noticed that most of the dolls were out of place. I put everything back where they belonged and went on about my business. Throughout the day I heard noises coming from upstairs, even when I knew there was no one in the shop but me. This continued on pretty much every day, as did the disarray of the dolls and toys.
I also had a beautiful vanity upstairs and items were always being moved around on the vanity. A silver-plate brush and mirror that were on the vanity seemed to be the items that were moved the most. They would actually go missing and I would think someone stole them but then they would be found in very unusual places.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Attend a Titanic exhibit. See if you don’t feel a little different surrounded by display after display of personal items and objects from the ship. It is a very emotional and eerie experience.
Other strange things occurred throughout the shop and I finally felt compelled to call in some experts on paranormal activity. Yep, I called in some “Ghostbusters.” They spent several hours in the shop doing their thing and, sure enough, they caught evidence of things we could not explain. I took the evidence they found, the stories that customers told me, my personal experience and that of my employee and came to the conclusion that the shop was haunted. I still did not associate the activity with any of my inventory, so I did some research on the building and the land and we based our investigation on the structure itself.
The activity continued to increase, so another paranormal group was brought in. I was determined to get to the bottom of things and get some answers. As they were investigating, I was sitting on a beautiful chaise lounge, and behind me was a clock that my consignor had brought in that day and I just placed it on the chaise until I could get some batteries for it. I noticed that the clock started to tick. This was strange because 1) it did not have batteries in it, and 2) it was lying flat so the pendulum could not move. All of the sudden a spot on my back began to burn and sting like crazy. I said something about it and one of the investigators looked at my back and three scratches were forming. They reviewed their audio recorder and just before I said something about my back burning there was a female voice that said “Get off my bed.” It was as clear as if she was there in the room with us. Ha, I guess that she probably was.
The front room of my antique shop. Occasional crying and one particularly spirit jealous of her chaise lounge has been investigated by “Ghostbusters.”
One day I heard crying. I immediately went outside to see if someone was in need of help but there was no one around. When I went back into the shop I noticed that the crying was much louder, so I started to go from room to room. I got to the room where the antique vanity was and it was as if someone were standing right in front of me sobbing: the air was very cold around the vanity and when I looked into the mirror I could see the upper body and head of a woman. It was very faint and vanished quickly. I felt compelled to talk to her and I told her that everything was OK, I understood her distress, but please do not sit and cry when customers are in the shop. The weeping continued off and on until the vanity was sold a few weeks later.
Later, the gal who worked for me on occasion finally told me that she felt very uncomfortable when she was around the sleeping doll, as she also had heard the noises from upstairs when she was alone in the shop. She had recently been cleaning up in that area and felt like someone was watching her the entire time. I still had not overcome the eerie feelings I had when I was near the doll and no one showed any interest in purchasing her, so I put her back in her box and took it out in the barn for storage.
Many other things happened in the shop on a daily basis, but you finally get used to most of it and eventually ignored. The deceased spouse who owned these items had been ill for a very long time and she surrounded herself with dolls and other beautiful items, as these things made her feel better. She had a lot of money, time and emotional attachment to these items. I had enough experiences with certain items that I now believe a person can attach emotion to inanimate objects. That person can be living or dead, but they have so much emotion invested in an item that it is infused with that emotion and it stays with it as the item passes from person to person.
The next time you purchase an item or are handling your inventory, take just a moment to hold the item, think about the life history of the piece not just who made it but who owned it and cared for it when it was new.
If you are interested in reading more about one of the investigations at the shop and the few photos that were taken you can view these on my Haunted Antique Shop blog.
Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.
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