Life in a Haunted Mansion

1461083_725684670216_2053039830_n(1)I rarely live in the same place for very long. The longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult is when I lived in a haunted house in Brooklyn for almost 2 years.  It was such a paragon of an archetypal haunted house that I could even make a perfect reproduction of it using the tiles from the classic boardgame Betrayal at House on the Hill (see left)

When I say “a haunted house”, I don’t mean the sort of artificial haunted houses populated by actors and animatronics (though a tv show was filmed there; see the image on the right). I mean the real haunted houses, with ghosts, a doll that moved on its own, a secret door, a dumbwaiter, and one time it literally rained inside. Literally literally, not metaphorically.highgarden filming

The ground floor consisted of the vestibule, foyer, grand staircase, library, games room, red room, ballroom/theater, servant’s hall, servant’s stair, toilet, and kitchen. There was another kitchen downstairs, along with the wine cellar, dungeon, boiler room, bathroom, and three bedrooms, while the upstairs had two more bathrooms, five more bedrooms, and a closet we used as the lost and found. Then there was the attic, and the roof. Large and bizarrely shaped mirrors were strewn throughout the building. There were windows on the inside looking in on the inside (see image on the left).highgarden windows

Allison and I arrived on Halloween night. We had to spend the night in this haunted mansion, full of costumed ghouls and goblins, before we could live in our new sharehouse. Let me tell you, there is no better way to meet your new roommates than in full demon makeup in a genuine haunted house. You’ll get all your uneasy sleep out in that first night, and all the rest will be easy.

The house was built in 1853 and was maintained in something like its original condition. It wasn’t kept up, but it also wasn’t modernized, which means that the whole place had the same sort of peeling varnish aesthetic as many of the abandoned buildings I’ve explored. It was built to house a wealthy family who would have had servants; hence the secret door: it was a way for servants to enter the ballroom unseen, deliver drinks or canapes, and then disappear into the servant’s hall and kitchen without being seen.

It had a functional dumbwaiter that could reach all three floors. I’m not sure that needs any explanation.

The doll was named Saucy. It was one of those ones that was built many years ago with the ability to walk and blink its eyes. Its abilities deteriorated with age, leaving it with but one mobile eye, but it could still find its way into the creepiest of places. Places I’ve discovered Saucy include inside the dumbwaiter, behind the theater screen, and in the shower. The last of which is by far the most surprising and terrifying. Showers are supposed to be safe and private!

The ghost was, fortunately, confined to the attic. It took the form of a throne topped with an eyeball examining a television screen set permanently to the display of four static-corrupted security cameras, none of which we were ever able to find. I’m not entirely convinced that they existed on this material plane.

Our house was a sharehouse, and we let many people stay the night, or a few nights. Friends and friends of friends. This bit us on the butt a few times: once we got robbed, though not for a particularly significant sum. But the indoor rain took the cake. Our guest was taking a shower, and somehow managed to both clog the drain and not realize that he had done so until dozens and dozens of gallons of water had poured out of the shower and through the bathroom floor, into the room below, and then through that room’s floor and into the room below that!

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