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 30 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, but 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 was even a TV show dedicated to such a collector, but my personal opinion about the way this person amassed 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.

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 after 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.

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.”

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.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

  • Deb Kauffman

    Dolls have always creeped me out. My mother used to buy dolls for me from the time I was very small. I hated each one of them and would hide them in my closet, behind couches, anywhere where I didn’t have to look at them!

    Yup, saw the Titanic exhibit in Las Vegas. I got physically sick at certain places, but nearly fainted at the sight of children’s shoes, awful feeling. I’m NO psychic, but the fear, terror and pain was almost palpable there.

    NO doubt in my mind that objects and locations and houses can be haunted. Anything that evoked a strong emotion in a person, can absorb that emotion. We all are made of pulsating matter, from flesh and blood to inanimate objects, and all have have magnetic and electrical systems. Just makes sense to me that somehow, everything is connected.

  • I believe one word in the article: Whackadoodle! There’s a logical explanation for everything.

  • Hi Deb,

    I read your comment to my daughter as she was with me when we went to the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor and your experience is very much like the one we had. Her’s was a little more extreme but after talking to one of the employees after we toured the exhibit he went on and on about stories he had heard from customers and other employees.

    I agree with your theory on why this happens. Be sure to check out my blog from time to time as I will be posting more information and hopefully the results of an upcoming investigation of the shop.

    Thank you for reading my article and taking the time to leave a comment.

  • MaryLou

    I think there are many things in the universe that we cannot explain using our normal logical thinking. We can’t even fully define life force/spirit/soul or whatever it is that makes each of us a living being. I have also had paranormal experiences and find your story very believable. Thank you for sharing.

  • Upstate New York

    Dear Ms. Stanley,
    Do you advise the potential Buyer that the item may be haunted? I would think that it would be only fair to do so.

  • I absolutely believe that places and things can hold something of their previous owners. I am a historical novelist and I feel so much from objects owned or touched by people I am researching. At an antiques exhibition I leaned over a display case with personal things belonging to Oscar Wilde and felt I was physically being pulled into them. I felt my little female body becoming his large body and that there was something tragic in the things; he had a tragic life at the end. I had to pull hard to stand straight and back away. This has happened several times, my sense of falling into things. My family and friends just shrug and know that’s me!

  • Michelle’s shop, My Granny’s Attic, was action packed. I was a dealer there and experienced some hard to explain things. The basement really creeped me out.

  • Tina

    I to was an antique dealer for over 30 years and heres one of stories. My husband bought me a 1930’s vanity. It was part of a larger set the bed the dresser and a large wardrobe. The set was beautiful. The other pieces were sold already. We bought it from an antique dealer we knew very well. I started noticing a cold spot in front of the vanity and our luck took a turn for the worse. I started having nightmares about the vanity and a woman and she killed herself in front of it. This went on for weeks. I couldnt stand it anymore and we went to see the dealer. To our surprise the rest of the set was back. I asked him if he wanted the vanity back to complete the set and he said NO!I asked why he refused to answer. I said well I want to sell it back to you and he said look I dont want it back. I said let me guess the set is haunted by a woman whom killed herself? He was stunned. How did you know? I have been having nightmares about it for weeks now. The story was true and everyone bought their pieces back. We finally sold the vanity. But the story doesnt end there. 2 weeks after we had gone and seen the dealer his shop burnt to the grown with those pieces still there.

  • The spirits get angry when one uses them for a marketing ploy.

  • Kathryn Levenson

    My daughter was so creeped out by the doll story that she didn’t even want to see a picture of it. We had some poltergeist activity when I was a teen. Apparently it is common around preteen and teen girls for some reason. I also saw the Titanic exhibit but remember more awe at the things that were preserved than fear or nausea (I was an archaeologist so maybe that made a difference). I have no idea for any explanation of the goings on in your shop. I know from my experiences that whatever the explanation, stuff happens…

  • WOW!!! I love all the comments and stories. If I can scientifically prove that an item is ‘haunted’ then yes I do put that in the description of the item. I think that any energy that is attached to an item might be stronger under some circumstances such as location and other items around it. So while I might have strange things going on around an item if it is removed or even moved to another space that activity will diminish or cease. If I can capture high EMF readings around a non-electronic item then I do let it be known. As for using ‘ghosts’ as a marketing ploy…. I am sad to say that I no longer have my business in that particular building. I still visit when I can and the current tenant reports similar activity.

  • Mary Paquette

    I enjoyed this article about the haunted? doll. How about a haunted dollar bill, My father passed away 11yrs ago. A nurse gave my Mother a folded dollar bill my Father had in his hand when he died, she gave it to me and I put it in the kitchen draw way in the back. My Daughter was digging looking for change, and she came across the dollar bill, and asked if she could have it, I said yes. She has a large coffee can that is filled with change and dollar bills. I bought a kitten, 6 weeks old. She roams around the house, In the middle of the night my daughter heard paper rustling,she put the light on and their was this little puff ball digging in the coffee container. She had the dollar bill in her mouth! yes, my father’s dollar bill, she walked out to the kitchen, my daughter followed her. she dropped the dollar bill near her water bowl. Every time we put it back in the coffee can she would take it out, so it is now on the floor where she eats. Does it smell like my father? But it’s been more than a decade since it was handled by my father. So strange

  • Many thanks for the great post, I was looking for information similar to this, visiting look at the other posts.

  • anne luther

    I bought two hand made dolls at an estate sale several years ago. They were folk art type dolls with a lot of interesting things going for them, unique faces and unusual embroidery in their costumes.

    I placed them on a shelf in my art studio, where I have other things to inspire me and beautiful things to look at.

    For months I could not work at art. I was frustrated, going into my studio and leaving it almost immediately after, not being able to sit down and work for more than 10 minutes at a time. I had no other feelings other than restlessness and agitation. I blamed it on the lack of creative juices and said I was going through a dry spell.

    I then invited a friend to my home who has written several books on Feng Shui. I never mentioned my problem to her I thought it was my problem. She walked into my studio and immediately turned around and walked out. She wanted to know how I could work there. I then discussed my problem and we went back and started to look at areas, soon she went to the dolls and said these have to go. There was nothing else she picked up nothing else she said only they had to go.

    I didn’t want to toss them out, they were rather expensive, so I locked them in a trunk in the garage until I could think what to do with them. I was able to go back to work in my studio but now the garage was freaking me out, either for real or from the experience with my friend. I ultimately burned them as I didn’t want any one else to have a similar experience.

    My friend told me that sick or abused children deal with their pain through their toys and often that is transferred, especially through dolls and stuffed animals. I don’t think they were haunted but I do think that certain people pick up sensations and feelings from old things. Usually it’s good and means the soul lived on, but in this case it wasn’t pretty.

  • Lisa Kroese

    What a fun Halloween post. I do not believe in ghosts, but I did once have a doll that literally looked over at the door right before my client, the deceased homeowner’s son, knocked on it. Now, that was a scary day as an estate seller. The dolls eyes, opened, and then moved to the side where the door was, I kid you not.

  • Timi

    Test comment.

Ready to invest in WorthPoint? →

Securities offered through North Capital Private Securities, Member FINRA/SIPC