Friday, April 27, 2012

The Ghost Diaries: Volume I


Editor's Note: For many years my grandmother, Mrs. Kathryn Montenyohl-Mattis, lived in what she always claimed was the "oldest house in Santa Rosa," California. I don't know if that is true. Situated on an oddly-shaped triangular piece of property across the street from the cemetery, the ramshackle little clapboard house -- which still stands -- has no foundation but sports four rather two-big-for-its-britches Doric columns out front (though family always entered from porch at the rear). It's a strange house. The second story, where she often boarded foreign students, is accessed by a little doorway next to the fireplace, which forces you to bend down to get through. Even in summer, it was always cool, if not cold. It's on a slope; you can place a marble at one end and it will roll down to the other. The tree next to the house, she once told me, was once a hanging tree, where crooks were executed. I don’t know if that is true, either. But I always loved it. She always hinted that something mysterious was going on in the house, but never explained. “You’ll find out one day,” she said. After she passed, in her effects was found a set of handwritten notes on yellow legal paper, dating from the 1970s through the early 1990s. I have finally decided to publish them here. Below you will find the first few entries, with her spelling and grammar intact. At first they describe merely odd noises but grow increasingly strange as she entered the final stages of her long life. I make no claim to the paranormal but merely provide them as a chronicle of one woman’s experience. I will continue to transcribe and post these diaries as time permits.

16 April, 1974

The time has come for me to make a record of what I choose to call “The Unexplained Noises in the Nite.”

I have lived here at [address] since July 5, 1969, in this very old house, which has had considerable remodeling in its existence. There is nothing unusual about it though – just a charming setting of trees and plants surrounding a small, old home.

But for the past three years, more or less, there have been occurring strange noises (to me), rappings for which I find no logical reasons. Certainly in a house as old as this there will be creakings and settling, possibly mice or other nite-time visitations; the wind blowing in the branches, stray dogs, even a prowler or two. None of these can account for what I hear.

[In the margin here is written “1971”]

To describe these sounds will tax my ability to find the right words and even this will not be entirely accurate because they are different from any sounds I’ve ever heard. But I’ll make the good old try anyway.

About three years ago was the first time. I was sleeping soundly and dreamlessly when I was startled awake by what I thought was someone knocking at the front door – three loud knocks. I lay there, waiting for further knocking, thinking, “If someone wants me, they will knock again.” There being no further sound, I got up and, turning on the lites, I went out, opened the door, looked over the porch and yard. Seeing no-one – nor any animal either – went back to bed. It had startled me so – such a loud noise – that I was uneasy for a while but went back to sleep. The next morning I had forgotten about it until later in the day – then searched the porch and yard again. Maybe a branch? No. Nothing.

I said nothing to anyone – it wasn’t even notable and I quickly forgot the whole thing.

About a month later – again I was in a deep, quiet sleep – when I was suddenly awakened by the three loud knocks on the front of the house. The sounds were the same as before but the placement was different. This time the noise was “inside” the house – more into the room. The raps were strong, sharp, masculine, but not exactly the sound of knuckles on wood. (See it is hard for me to get it correct!) Again, I listened for further activity. Nothing happened. I thought about it for a while but didn’t get up. I was not particularly frightened (as for instance of an unwanted prowler), but I had just a sense of wondering, “What the hell is going on?” Again, I said nothing to anyone.



What was there to say, really?

A couple months or so passed – all was quiet. In retrospect, it is interesting to me that I forgot these disturbances (all of them) quickly. It was not my nature to do so – being such a fearful, nervous person – it impresses me that I’m not ready to move out of here [unreadable]. Anyway, there was a longer interval of time before the next visit – I don’t know, maybe three months. But this time was different in that the sound was in my bedroom – a few feet from where I was sleeping. The three knocks were so loud I expected to find holes in the wall. But there was nothing disturbed. Needless to say this time I was more shaken by being so suddenly and rudely awakened. My heart was pounding so that even if someone had [unreadable] away I would not have heard it. I did not get up – only left the lite on and eventually went back to sleep.

The next day I thought about these happenings – trying to account for them. No way. This time I mentioned it to my daughter [Note: Which daughter?] – telling her the house has a Spirit (singular). We chatted about it for a while but came to no conclusion.

Now six months pass by without anything unusual – life was routine. Then within a couple of months the sounds were repeated, twice more there were three raps. However, each series was farther away from me, thus fainter, but I also felt that they were weaker, too. The first of these two times the knocks came from the area of the kitchen and the second time from the vicinity of the back porch. I remember thinking, “Oh, he is moving away toward the West – he is leaving.” [Note: The cardinal point, West, is an often repeated theme in these chronicles.] Again, inspection revealed nothing out of place or broken. In fact, I sort of was just accepting the noises as ephemeral and insubstantial – no need to look for physical evidence of the presence.

Again, I told my daughter and one other friend. The friend, I think, thought I was sort of nuts but was too polite to question me about it. (In retrospect, I now place the series of three raps in a group with the intensity increasing to the time I heard it in my bedroom and then decreasing as the sounds moved away from me to the West and to the other side of the house.)

There was a long interval between the last of the “3” series and the next – I don’t know how long – and, I repeat, I forgot them quickly – they are not disturbing or upsetting to me – nor am I frightened. There seems to be not threat involved here. [Note: in the margin here is written “1972.”] Anyway, it must have been some months later when I was awakened by what I thought was someone as the back door – but it was only four gentle raps – not repeated. (It is remarkable to me that the counting seems to accurate even though I’m sleeping – that’s why I was skeptical at first – perhaps I was only dreaming these noises.) The four sounds were more “feminine,” gentler, less forceful but the same quality – as if not being on or against anything.

I see I haven’t emphasized this aspect strongly enough. They always are just in the air – I cannot duplicate them, no matter what I hit against. They are simply out there in the openness of the room.

These four raps were repeated one more time later. This time they were inside the house around the back porch. I remember thinking the first time – “Oh, that is different, there are four now.” I had not been counting before – only hearing the noise and noting its changing positions. Now I became conscious of the number and quality as well as position. I was now no longer startled when awakened – just as in the past when I listened for members of my family to return late at night – I slept with one ear open; and when they were all finally in I would really go to sleep. I was not disturbed by they’re coming in but I registered who it was & peacefully checked that one off. So it seems with these noises – I am now only registering their appearance.

The four series has only those two times, both sounding alike in an undemanding way.

The rhythm changed in the next series. This time it was two raps and two separated by a 1/64 resh fairly loud in the region of the back porch [Note: The meaning of “1/64 resh” is unclear to me (musical notation?); “1973” is written here in the margin.] – again at nite. (I do not have clock time on any of the foregoing – not being a very clock oriented person – just in the quiet time of the nite between midnight and 5 in the morning.) These sounds were midway in strength the first and second series – firm, no-nonsense, somewhat preemptory but not unusually strong.

The scene changes. It is daytime now – late afternoon. I am asleep on the living-room divan when I am suddenly frightened awake by the loud 2, 2 raps in the kitchen only a few feet from me. These were unusually loud, demanding bangs, seemingly in the open area of the room. This time I found I was shaking with fright – the implication was so strong, so close, so loud, so imperious. I felt like saying, “What do you want?”

That was the end of that series – just those two times, but the last one I could have done without. Again I reported to my daughter of the sounds but did not go into details.

We are now into April of 1974 and last nite I was awakened by a gentle rapping in the area of the pillars on the front of the house. [Note: Though this is a small, old house, the front porch, which faces the Santa Rosa cemetery, it supported by four Greek-style columns.] There were ten fairly weak sounds as of knuckles against one of the wooden pillars. Again it seems strange to me I could count them after the sounds have gone – but I’m confident that my count is an accurate one. I’ve never had any hesitation in saying “how many.”

This morning I went out and tried to duplicate the sounds – I was so sure they came from the pillars. However, I couldn’t – the sounds I made with my knuckles, while close, were just not right.

So it is as of this day. Over the past three years I have been experiencing these phenomena – all following a pattern but all different, too. At this time, I have no more of an explanation than I did after the first happening.

But I finally decided to put it in writing – my impressions were piling up and details were becoming blurred. Let’s see what happens next, if anything.

25 April, 1974

During the small hour of this date there were two different sets of sounds. It was after 1:00 o’clock when I fell asleep that I was disturbed by one set of three raps coming from the vicinity of the back porch. They were rather brusque but muffled and were not repeated.

Later, I was again awakened by four sounds from apparently outside the rear of the house (North Street side). There were four sounds, not so sharp as the earlier ones but also somewhat muffled.

Both of these incidences were merely noted – not alarming or particularly disturbing to my rest. I returned to sleep.

26 April, 1974

During the nite I was aware of a single set of knocking sounds on the West (North Street) side of the house – 4 reverberations, each decreasing in volume as though they were going away or moving westward. [Note: Again the “West” theme.] The sounds were of the same quality as the second set of the previous nite just as though they were a continuation of them. My thought was, “Oh, he was going away.” There was no especial emotion connected with this thought; I was simply observing the fact of “leaving.” Again, I say – hard to explain.

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