BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The thunderous noise ripped through our sleeping house.
Something in my brain was commanding me to open my eyes. What in the
world was that? I thought to myself. I rubbed the crumbs of sleep out of
my eyes as I slowly opened them to the darkness. I lay there silent and listening,
curled in against the small of my husband George's back. Had I heard
a booming noise or did I dream it? Maybe I had just drifted off into
that shimmering sea where we seem to float between sleep and consciousness,
that often jolts us with the alarming thought that we're
falling or that we've missed our step.
Boom! Boom! Boom! The sound tore into my ears like reverberating
thunder, but I knew it wasn't thunder. It had been a beautiful clear
evening in May, with not a cloud in the sky.
George stirred from his sleep. Did you hear that? he whispered.
Of course I heard it, I whispered directly into his ear. I was too
scared to speak any louder and even more scared to move. What do
you think it is? I asked anxiously.
I don't know. Are all the kids in bed? he murmured under his
I released my bear hug on George and quietly, so as not to even
have the bed squeak, turned away from the security of his body just
leaning over to the other side of the bed enough to see the amber
glow on the alarm clock-1:05 A.M.
Speaking rapidly and barely audibly, I replied, They were. Before
all this racket started. In bed and sound asleep. I had completed my
routine bed check before turning in just after midnight. George and
I had laid in bed talking about our new house, a very old Victorian
style house we had just moved into two days before.
Boom! Boom! Boom! The splitting noise intensified, again blasting
my momentary pleasant thought through the rooftop.
George, the noise is inside the house, I exclaimed in a whisper.
It's coming from downstairs. He could hear the anxiety in my voice.
Without saying one word, he quietly slipped out of bed and pulled
his trousers on. Sliding his hand under his side of the mattress he
retrieved his handgun. If he was expecting my usual argument about
the handgun, he was wrong. I hated his keeping a loaded gun under
the mattress, but I hated the idea of an intruder even more. George
tiptoed barefoot to the landing of the stairs and didn't utter a word for
what seemed like five minutes. After those few agonizing minutes of
dark, dead silence, the crashing booms echoed again. He turned on
the light at the top of the steps and that gave an illuminating yellow
glow to the downstairs entryway as well as to the upstairs hallway.
The loud booming continued.
I bolted straight up in the bed, breathing heavily from the uneasiness
of what George might encounter. I waited for George to say
something. Finally, I called out in a loud whisper as if trying to shout
in a lowered voice. What is it? All I heard was silence. After three
separate successive occurrences of those deafening booms, I figured
whoever was causing all this commotion wanted to make sure we
heard them, so why whisper? Common sense told me that it wasn't a
burglar. Intruders, who break into other people's homes in the middle
of the night, try not to get caught, but who was it? And where
the heck was George?
George? I called to him sharply, no longer whispering, but in a
perfectly audible voice. Still there was no reply.
A little concerned for George's safety and a little annoyed at him for
not answering me, I threw back the sheet and bedspread and got out
of bed. As I approached the doorway, I cautiously peeped around the
door frame and looked down the hall to see George still standing silent
on the landing and completely motionless. He was frozen to the spot,
leaning against the wall, his left hand holding his handgun limply, his
right hand gripping to the banister so hard his knuckles were white.
His gaze told me he didn't hear me when I had called out to him. His
stare was glued to the entryway below. All the while the drumlike
booms continued. What did he see? What was down there? As if in a
trance, I grabbed hold of the banister with a firm grip and slowly
walked the length of the hallway, standing beside George. I looked
over at him, but he didn't look at me. He never took his face away
from the entryway below us. I was afraid to look downstairs. I lowered
my eyes to the front entrance and instantly became as paralyzed as he
by what I witnessed.
The old house has double doors, both outside and inside. The
outer doors were screen doors and inside are finely finished, sturdy
hardwood double doors. At the bottom of the stairs, in the entry, our
eyes were fixed on the inner double wooden doors. Finally, and for
only a moment, we looked away from the doors and at each other in
stunned disbelief, my eyes questioning George for an answer. Both of
us hoped the other would say that our eyes, the house, our imagination,
something or somebody, was playing a trick on us. But we
knew better. We knew. There was no way that what we saw could
have been anybody's trick and certainly not our own imaginations.
The outside doors remained closed. We could see the metal hooks
latched tight on the screen doors as the inner double doors were
slamming back and forth. Those solid wooden doors swung open
wide, all the way to the wall-then Boom!, they would slam shut
with deliberate force. We saw nothing, nobody was to be seen. Our
bare feet might just as well have been nailed to the floor of the landing,
as we stood spellbound gazing down at what we saw. Dumbfounded,
we watched the doors open wide and slam shut for three or
four more performances.
After it became obvious that we had seen the show, it stopped.
We stood there waiting for an encore, but the show was over. I was
trembling so hard I grabbed onto George's right shoulder for some
support. Without speaking a single word to each other, we both
walked in dazed disbelief back to our bedroom. George returned his
handgun to its hiding place beneath the mattress and we got back into
bed. We neither one knew what to say, so we didn't say anything, not
a word all night. Soon enough I heard George's soft familiar snoring,
but sleep did not come as easily for me.
I lay there in the dark with my eyes wide open, thinking about
what had just happened. I knew what it was. When there is no explanation
for something so bizarre, then the only explanation is not
only simple, it's obvious. And whether George would ever agree, it
didn't matter. How I wanted and loved this house! Now two days
after we moved in, I find it is already occupied-by ghosts!
The house was built like a fortress; even the inner walls were brick.
George liked to brag that you could tear this house down one room
at a time and all else would remain in tact, right down to only one
room standing, and that one room would be unharmed. Before we
moved our family here, we had taken two months to do some serious
cleaning and remodeling. Our new house had no central heating system
before we added it. Nearly every room had its own fireplace.
How in heaven's name could George be snoring? He saw the same
thing I did and yet he crawled back in bed and managed to fall right
to sleep. I needed to get to sleep too, but I couldn't sleep. How was I
supposed to sleep after what happened? My brain was telling me we
were going to have to move and my heart was telling me everything
would be okay. But how?
As I lay there in the darkness, I thought about the first time I saw
this house. I fell in love with this piece of history eight years ago,
before I ever knew George McConnell. I was nineteen years old. I
rode the city bus from New Albany, Indiana to work just across the
river in Louisville, Kentucky. One particular summer, repair work
was being done on the old K&I Bridge, so for a time the bus had to
use the new bridge and travel through the old Portland area of
Louisville en route downtown. That's when I first took notice of this
house. That whole summer I always made sure I sat on the righthand
side of the bus so I wouldn't miss a chance to get a glimpse of
my house. As soon as the house came into sight I sat transfixed
with my face to the window, and I would watch it as long as I could.
It is a splendid old Victorian house. I don't know what drew me to it,
but every day it beckoned to me and I was captivated by its stateliness.
The house has an air of dignity all its own. Eight years ago I
wondered who lived in this wonderful place, never dreaming that
someday I would.
Many times I saw a little girl standing at the upstairs window. She
always waved as the bus went by and I'd put the palm of my hand
flat against the bus window. I knew she couldn't see me that far away,
but I'd made the gesture to return her wave.
I ordered my brain to stop thinking, but it kept up its constant
bombardment on my efforts to sleep. My mind was flooded with
memories of this house and how we came to live in it.
The house had been for sale a very long time before George and I
bought it. Actually, I think it had been for sale when I watched it
from the bus those eight years ago. George and I had looked all over
Portland for a house we could afford that was big enough for his,
mine, and our kids. In 1971 we decided that, with a new baby on the
way, we just couldn't stay in our little house on 27th Street much
longer. Our little house would be too crowded once the new baby
outgrew the bassinet. George wanted to stay in Portland. He grew
up in the Portland area and loved its rich Ohio River history.
I reached over in the bed and gave George a squeeze. He was
sleeping too soundly to notice. I wanted to shake my fist in the air
and shout. How in God's name could he be sleeping after what happened
just minutes ago? I knew there was something very wrong
with our lovely new house.
My mind continued to wander. I had mentioned on a number of
occasions that I liked the house over on the Parkway. I knew George
thought the same thing I did, that we just couldn't afford it. It would
undoubtedly be way out of our budget. If George thought there was
even a chance we could afford it, we'd be looking at that fine old
house. George is the best husband any woman could hope for. If I
wanted the moon, he'd start building a ladder.
One Saturday afternoon, we'd looked at another big two-story
frame house that was very pretty. It wasn't brick, but it was still lovely.
I had no real feeling one way or another about brick. I really didn't
know why I wanted the other house, but I did. I think the draw was
its elegance. It had style and charm that spoke of noble men and
We were very close to making an offer on the two-story frame
house. The owners were asking eleven-thousand dollars, but George
said we could get it for ten. One day he just walked in the door from
work and, out of the blue, said, Let's just see what they're asking
Asking for what? I said. I knew exactly what he was talking
about, but I didn't want George to know I had the other house at the
forefront of my mind, and I didn't want him to know it mattered
The red brick over on the Parkway, he answered.
I didn't want to get my hopes up, but it was already too late. I was
sure the house was way out of our price range. We both thought the
sellers would be asking no less than twenty-thousand dollars. In
1971, twenty-thousand dollars was a lot of money for the average
working family to pay for a house, and I'd be leaving work soon
enough with the baby coming.
It don't cost nothin' to ask, he said.
George called me from work the next day. Guess how much they
want for the house? he teased.
I bet at least twenty-five thousand. As I said the words twenty-five-
thousand dollars, my spirits dropped like a stone in a deep well,
with the realization of such a great amount of money.
Nope, he paused. How about eighty-five hundred.
I was silent. I couldn't speak. All of a sudden a dream had become
Are we interested? he asked. I could hear the grin in his voice.
He had just handed me something he knew I wanted very much and
he was pleased with himself.
Are we interested? Are we interested? I bubbled. I could hardly
contain my excitement. When can we see it? I asked.
I hung up the telephone and danced around the kitchen like a fool.
Yes, yes, yes! was all I could say. I could hardly wait for George to
get home from work. I was six-and-half-months pregnant, and the
pregnancy wasn't going so easily. George and I had been married less
than two years. His youngest daughter, Linda Sue, now sixteen, had
moved in with us a month after the wedding. His ten-year-old son,
Mike, would be with us most of the summer once school let out, and
my own little boy, Ward, would be five in September. George built an
extra room onto the little house right after we married, but with the
baby coming we just plain needed more space.
That evening we were supposed to meet at 7:00 P.M. with the owners
of this beautiful stately old house. We were both excited. We
couldn't wait. We went over at 6:00 P.M. just so we could snoop
around. The house loomed to three stories. White framed the windows
of the red brick. The roof was steep and came to a high point
in the front, not like so many of the old red-bricks in Portland that
are square with flat roofs and have no style. This house had real
stained glass over the double doors at the entrance and a two-foot
border of beautiful stained glass over the arched picture window in
the front room. A black wrought iron fence surrounded the yard,
front to back. The fence had lots of fancy work and the black spokes
were twisted and looked like licorice sticks. Each spoke was topped
with what looked like thick heavy arrowheads. The only color trimming
this elegant old Victorian beheld was the white stone that was
carefully inlaid above every window. Even the front window had the
white stone set in to fan around the archwork of the stained glass.
This house was surely some stonemason's masterpiece. There was
white lattice on one side of the front porch that begged for climbing
red roses, and on the other side of the porch was a tall green juniper
bush. There was only a small walkway between the house and the
fence at the sides.
To the right was a huge corner lot and the big yellow stone neighborhood
library was there. On the left was another big two-story
frame house. Both yards were filled with children. It was mid-March
and the temperature was in the fifties. They were playing flag football
in the library yard. We would later learn that the neighbor to the
left had nine children and only four of them were girls.
We made our way to the backyard by walking down the library side.
We would have a big backyard, I thought, which looked like about a
half acre. There was a big, old, dilapidated, three-car wooden garage all
the way to the rear of the yard. I remember thinking that I would never
park in the garage. I'd have to drive down the alley and then walk the
entire length of the backyard just to get to the door. I'm such a coward;
I knew I'd be parking on the street right out front. The backyard was
nice and tidy. Someone was keeping the place presentable even though
it was empty. There was an overhang on the back stoop. The overhang
extended the full length of the back of the house and there was a concrete
patio that was walled up on two sides. That seemed to me a bit
strange, because the concrete patio turned out to be the top of an old
well that was sealed off. Next to the concrete patio floor was a big,
wooden cellar door. There was an old cellar door just like that at the
farm where I grew up with my four sisters and a brother. This cellar
door was padlocked and, unlike the one from my childhood, this one
was still solidly together and not falling through.
George and I held hands as we walked around to the other side of
the house. Extending from the roof and just outside an upstairs window
was a sitting area with white railing around it, where one could
sun. I told George he'd have to close it off because the boys would
want to play out there and one of them would fall off the roof. He
grinned and nodded yes, but I knew he wasn't going to close it off.
He's such a gentle man, but was far softer with the boys than I. At
forty-three, George is seventeen years older than I, and I think he is the
smartest and wisest man I have ever met, except where the kids are
concerned. We continued on around the house until we were back in
the front yard. There, in the left side of the front yard was a humongous
tree stump. The stump was short and close to the ground, but
still massive in circumference.
I bet that was a magnificent tree. I wonder why anyone would cut
down a wonderful old tree? Maybe it died. I answered my question
before George could say a word. He knew I was babbling. I was
excited at the possibility of having this house.
As we were standing at the tree stump, the owners arrived. They
came over and introduced themselves and after the proper handshaking
Mrs. Lambert said, Did you read the plaque?
What plaque? George and I said simultaneously.
Mrs. Lambert grinned at us and bent down in front of the big old
stump. She pulled up some grass from around it and wiped some
dirt away with the side of her hand. There, nearly swallowed up by
the earth, was a thick black and brass metal plaque about three
inches wide and eight inches long with raised brass letters that were
greenish blue with tarnish that read: The Fontaine Manse.
I knew it! I thought excitedly. I knew it. This magnificent old house
was somebody's mansion in years gone by. I would have offered them
the asking price right then and there, sight unseen. Eight years ago I
had begun a love affair with this house and perhaps I was about to
find out what the attraction was. I had loved this house from a distance
much like the shy fourteen-year-old schoolgirl who dreams of
the varsity football captain.
Mr. Lambert went around to the back door and we waited on the
front porch for him to let us in. Mrs. Lambert explained that the outer
screen doors didn't lock with a key, but had latches. I was rocking
back and forth in my shoes. I could hardly wait to get inside. Finally,
he opened just one side of the doors and we stepped into the entry.
There was a small vestibule that offered passage as well as a glimpse
of the beauty that was to come from the left of the entrance right
into the living room on the main floor, as well as to the upstairs.
To my immediate left was a doorway surrounded by six-inch
solid oak wood trim that shined like it had a permanent wax finish.
I walked over to the doorway and ran my hand across it to see if it
was greasy or sticky. I smelled the wood, expecting the smell of fur-
niture polish, but it only smelled of wood. The luster was the natural
finish of the oak. Still in the entryway and on both sides of the
shiny door frame were hooks that in years past held gas lamps. I
stood in the doorway between the entry and the living room and
beheld a breathtaking vision. I was facing the living room, but I
could see through to the dining room through a huge cutout that
appeared to me to be bigger than a double-door opening. The glistening,
deep, wide oak trim went all the way around the rooms and
up and around the door frames. If the room had been decorated by
professional interior designers, this splendid lustrous wood trim
would have still stolen the show. Its natural gleam captured the eye
and would not be denied its attention.
I walked over to the living room fireplace. It was built from some
sort of unusual beautiful white stone. There were no bricks. The mantle
was one solid piece of this white stone. The only color added to
this white fireplace was a very thin line of gold all the way around the
edge of the mantle.
Does the fireplace work? I asked, my voice revealing my excitement.
No. Mr. Lambert said. All of the fireplaces have been closed
All? I said. How many fireplaces are there?
Two down and two up, he answered, sounding as if every house
had four fireplaces.
All of a sudden I wanted to run through the entire house, room to
room, just to get a glimpse of what was ahead, and then come back
for the slow tour. I grinned at the Lamberts, but George knew I was
hooked. I would be no good to George with any efforts to negotiate
a lower price. I'd never been in a house like this. The closest thing I'd
seen was the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The Howard's home was a mansion that the city had turned into a
museum. It was much grander, of course, but still similar. I was a little
old county girl, and to my innocent eyes this house was a mansion.
I was in love with it.
Please God, I prayed. Let what happened tonight be just a bad
dream. I've lived in this wonderful old house for two days now and
I do love it. And now, after those two short days we discover that it's
I shifted my body in the bed and snuggled closer to George, and I
thought to myself, we should have asked the Lamberts why they
were selling this house so cheaply and why had it been on the market
so long. There are some things and some areas that are better left
alone when buying or selling a house.
How could anything be wrong in my new house? How could this
stately, wonderful, old mansion be haunted? I whispered to myself.
Pretty darned easy. I answered. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe something
else caused the inner doors to slam back and forth. Kathleen,
you dumb butt, nothing else caused those doors to slam. Your house
Unable to sleep, I again diverted my mind back to the day we met
the Lamberts and our first tour through this house. The floors were
solid inlaid oak, but whoever decorated had no imagination or just no
taste. The wallpaper in the living room and dining room was all the
same brown and white checkerboard that was absolutely horrible.
The white had yellowed with age, but was probably just as ugly when
it was new. The doorway between the living room and the dining
room wasn't your usual doorway. It was six or eight feet wide-but
why not? The ceilings were ten feet high. Mr. Lambert had walked
over to the doorway and reached into an opening in the frame and
pulled out the door. When he did, doors came sliding out from the left
and the right. There, before my eyes two magnificent lustrous oak
panels gracefully came together to separate the two rooms. Mr. Lam-
bert pushed one of the panels back toward its hideaway place and
simultaneously the other door withdrew back into its secret place as
well. George called them pocket doors and I told him that was just
too bland for such beauty. The more I saw, the more I loved. The
thought never entered my mind to ask why this house was being sold
for eighty-five-hundred dollars.
The kitchen went across the entire width of the house. It was a little
peculiar-looking. A big, country kitchen in this elegant Fontaine
Manse looked out of place. The kitchen definitely needed help. In
truth, even in all its glory, the whole house needed help. The hideous
wallpaper, no central heat, ten-feet-high ceilings, a silver-colored steam
heat radiator glaring awkwardly in the entryway-we would have a
lot of work to do before we could actually move in. Oh, but looking
beneath the surface I could certainly see the potential of what would
soon be my new home.
There were four rooms and a bath downstairs, two small coat
closets and many areas I preferred to call nooks and crannies.
George called those areas dead space. There was a four-by-eight
area between the living room and the kitchen that would be just
perfect for a downstairs baby bed. To the left of that space was a
bathroom, and to the right of it was a small bedroom.
We continued our tour upstairs. The stairway was the product of
a master carpenter. The slender, white spindles of the balusters were
rounder in the middle and tapered on both ends. The white paint
enhanced even more, the gleam of the oak railing. No nails in this
stairway, not one. It was masterfully put together with wooden pins,
tongue and groove. The fancy woodwork of the banister continued
to the top landing and made a tricky little U-turn and continued to
the end of the hallway upstairs.
As we ascended the stairs, Mrs. Lambert began to tell us what she
knew about the house. She was a short, round woman and I noticed
her face was red as she paused to catch her breath. She placed her
index finger against her mouth as if she were recollecting her
thoughts. An old riverboat captain, name of Aaron Fontaine, built
the house . . . and it was the Fontaine family home for many years.
My daddy bought this house from some of the Fontaines and when
me and John got married we lived upstairs over my parents. When
my dad died, he left this house to me.
Upstairs were two huge bedrooms, one small bedroom, and two
large walk-in closets in the hallway and another bathroom. A third
walk-in at the end of the hallway was large enough to make a sweet
nursery for the new baby. It even had a window that overlooked the
I had never seen such unbelievably large bedrooms. The master
bedroom was next to what would soon be a nursery. The middle
room would serve for the boys and the smaller one at the back of the
house next to the bathroom, which wasn't all that small, would do
nicely for Linda Sue. George would definitely have to build closets in
the middle bedroom and the back bedroom.
There was a small black ominous wooden door in a large area of
dead space next to the smaller back bedroom. Looking at Mrs.
Lambert, I began opening it, asking, What's this for?
She didn't answer me, but looked at Mr. Lambert for direction. Just
as I opened the door and saw only stairs, Mr. Lambert cleared his
throat and said, Goes to the attic.
I tugged on George's arm, pulling him toward the little black
door. Come on, let's go see. I said gleefully. There was still more
to see in this fine, old house and I wanted to see it all. Mr. and Mrs.
Lambert didn't want to go up to the attic. I just figured because
they both appeared to be in their sixties they didn't want to climb
more steps. I never gave it a second thought. About ten steps went
straight up to a tiny landing, and then curved around, and about six
more steps continued to the open attic entrance. We just stood
there and looked around a bit. The attic was one big open A-frame
room due to the high pitch of the roof, and only a big old box of
junk obstructed the view. Books were strewn around the room, and
it was dusty and dingy. Way at the other end of the room was a window
framed with black wrought iron into the shape of a porthole
with long windows on both sides of it. The porthole-shaped window
had a stained glass transom above it. We just panned the big,
open room and then went back down to the second floor. Neither
of us said a word about the attic. It wasn't gruesome or eerie or
anything, just a dirty, old attic. I thought to myself, it was quite fitting
that the attic window would resemble a porthole considering a
riverboat captain was supposed to have built the house.
The Lamberts expressed no regrets or sadness at selling a house
they obviously had lived in for nearly thirty years. We all shook hands
with the understanding that George and I would talk it over and give
them a call tomorrow.
After we left, and George and I were out of sight of the house, I
could hardly control my emotions. I had this tremendous urge to
squeal, but I held it in. It was just a big, sprawling, three-story house
and it was old to boot. A house that needed a lot of work, not to mention
a lot of furniture that we didn't have, and I still wanted it bad
enough to cry. I was six-and-a-half months pregnant, sick as a dog
most all the time, and George loved me better than life. All I would
have to do was cry. I didn't want anything that bad, but I sure wanted
this house. I did not let George see exactly how much the house
meant to me. We were nearly back home on 27th Street before either
of us spoke.
He looked in my direction and smiled. Well, Kathy, do you like it
as much as you thought you would? I thought I detected a bit of
excitement in his usual staid and monotone voice.
Yes. I said calmly, half holding my breath so I could control my
excitement. What about you? What did you think of it? I asked. I
loved it, I thought, but what if he hated it?
I think it has a lot of potential and I think it would be real economical
That was two points for my team, I thought. George's Scottish
blood had surfaced. He was frugal to a fault with everything but me
and the kids. How so? I said, smiling.
The house is solid brick. It'll be cool in the summer and it will
hold heat in the winter. We won't have to put in air conditioning
because the brick inner walls will keep it cool.
What do you think about buying it? I asked, as calmly as if I'd
asked him what time it was. I couldn't read George. He never shows
excitement or enthusiasm, personifying the strong, silent type.
Well, he paused briefly, then cooly said, Let's make him an offer.
Sounds good to me. What are you going to offer? I said anxiously.
Knowing George's frugality, I just wanted to give the Lamberts
what they wanted and be done with it, but I've never bought a house
before and this was nothing new for George. Besides, George is a
horse trader at heart.
He wants eighty-five hundred, let's offer him seven thousand. I
think he'll come back with seventy-five hundred, he looked at me
and winked, and I smiled.
I bet he won't come down one penny. I said, I can't believe he is
only asking eighty-five hundred dollars for that grand, old house.
For one thing, the house is in Portland, he said.
Portland is not the most desirable area of Louisville. It's basically
lower-middle class and downward from there. Much of Portland has
extra wide streets and some of them are brick streets or cobblestone.
The side streets of the Parkway area lead down to the Ohio River,
where in years past it was the port where all river traffic had to stop,
unload and take their cargo overland, because the Ohio River has a
falls at this point and boats could only come this far. Freight would
be loaded onto horse-drawn draft wagons and hauled uptown to 4th
Street, beyond the falls, and then put back on other boats that would
carry their cargo or passengers on to their destination. Portland is a
wonderful historic community. The Parkway, where the house is
located, is lined with dogwood trees and is a lovely neighborhood.
The little house on 27th street where we lived when we bought this
house was also in Portland. I loved Portland nearly as much as George.
The people here are nice (a lot of them are poor). Most of them would
help you any way they could. Most any one of them would give you
the shirt off his back. They might not know who's shirt it was, but
they'd give it to you. It's a diversified community and predominately
I don't think the value of the house would drop drastically just
because it's in Portland.
George laughed out loud and said, Of course it would.
I never thought of it, George, but we should have asked them
why they were selling it so cheap. All of a sudden my common
sense kicked in.
No, I don't think we should have asked them that at all. We don't
want to look a gift horse in the mouth, he said.
When you call Mr. Lambert tomorrow, ask him how long the
house has been on the market. I'm pretty sure the house was for sale
when I was riding the city bus to work about eight years ago. I was
now more curious than ever about the low price they were asking.
By the time we actually arrived home I wasn't quite as excited as I
was earlier. I still wanted the house, but now I wanted to know why it
had been for sale so long and why the Lamberts only wanted eightyfive-
hundred dollars for what was worth at least twenty thousand,
even in Portland. That didn't dampen my desire to buy the house, but
it did pique my curiosity.
When we went to bed that evening, George said we'd better be
prepared to move because he felt like the Lamberts would take our
Are you ready to move? I asked quietly.
I don't think we have much choice about moving. I just want you
to be happy with the choice, he said matter-of-factly. I can be
happy anywhere, as long as you're with me.
I love the house, George. If you like it, and we can afford it, I'd
love to have it.
The next day we bought the house for seventy-five-hundred dollars.
I was overjoyed, ecstatic, and sick as a dog. My mother had come
over as usual to watch Ward while I tried to go to work. This morning
was worse than usual. I was having chills so bad I couldn't be still.
I called the doctor and he asked about contractions. None to speak
of, I told him.
I called the bank where I worked and told them I was too sick to
come in. They'd been very understanding throughout this pregnancy.
I stayed in bed and was miserable all day. The chills and the
fever continued. Mother had kept hot compresses on me all day.
When George got home from his work, he took Mother home. The
chills and the fever got worse and a constant pain persisted in my
lower stomach. At 11:00 P.M. I called the doctor again and he told us
to meet him at the hospital. He didn't want to see me nearly as bad
as I wanted to see him. Linda Sue stayed with Ward and waited for
our call. I sure hope it's a boy, she said as we walked out the door. I
was only six-and-a-half months along. I knew this wasn't labor pains,
but something was very wrong. Knowing the baby would be delivered
Cæsarean, Dr. Powell and I had discussed a June 10 delivery
date for surgery.
Once at the hospital, things began to move quickly. The diagnosis
was appendicitis and the prognosis was not good. They would have
to deliver our baby when they removed the appendix. Duncan
McConnell was born just after midnight in the very early morning
of March 25, 1971, and, in the arms of his pediatrician, was taken by
an ambulance to the Children's Hospital.
Five days later, when I went home from the hospital, he stayed.
The minute I was released I walked the three blocks from my hospital
to his hospital so I could finally see my tiny new baby. I looked
through the nursery window and saw my new infant. He weighed
three pounds and eight ounces, and I thought probably the eight
ounces is red hair. Duncan's pediatrician, Dr. Hess, walked with me
into the nursery and handed me my baby. I held him for about an
hour and called George at work. I told him I had been released and
to pick me up at Children's Hospital. Five weeks later, Duncan came
George had enough to worry about with me and Duncan, but he
had moved ahead with buying the house.
Every day of the five weeks of Duncan's hospitalization I was
allowed three visits a day, but they were long visits so I could give
him his bottle, and he ate very slowly. He was born with hyaline
membrane. His lungs were not developed. I thanked God every day
for allowing me to keep my baby, when a most beloved president lost
his infant son to the same problem. I knew Duncan was special and
that God surely had plans for him.
After my recovery, George and I would have supper each evening,
and then go over to the house and clean and dream. Linda Sue was
the only one who didn't want to move. She was in high school and
most of her friends lived close to the little house on 27th Street. Linda
was a beautiful girl, five feet two inches, with long, brown, naturally
curly hair. She has blue eyes, perfect skin, and a dark complexion. An
honor student and a cheerleader at Male prep school, Linda is as
pretty inside as she is outside, and she has bushels of friends.
Duncan was eight weeks old when we finally moved into the new
house. And now, just two days after moving in, this strange noise
thing was happening.
As I lay in bed, my pleasant thoughts of our new house eased my
mind and settled my nerves. I tried to think of some explanation as to
how the inside doors could be slamming back and forth while the
outside screen doors were latched down tight. I closed my eyes. I was
surrounded by the darkness, but the realization of the truth was as
plain as day.
I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. The house is haunted.
I whispered in the darkness. It's really haunted.