Would You Live in a Haunted House?

The Gingerbread Diaries

Or, more to the point, would you stay in a house once you find out that it’s haunted?

The first weekend after we closed on the Dollhouse we came up here and “camped out” in the empty house with an air mattress, our laptops, and a smattering of household goods. While it was strange sleeping in an empty, unfamiliar, echoing house, nothing out of the ordinary happened on this or any other weekend spent up there. When we moved in 2 1/2 months after closing, our a/c went on the fritz and we, again, slept downstairs for the first few nights until we could stand the heat upstairs.

That’s when things got a little weird.

While Todd slept on, blissfully unaware, I was awakened multiple times in the night by a series of 4 knocks coming from who knows where–I certainly wasn’t about to go investigate! There were also sounds of boxes being slid around the wood floors downstairs–that creeped me out the most, even if nothing was out of place the next morning. I was not amused; mostly I was just tired!

Fortunately, I’m not exactly a novice when it comes to the woo woo side of things. I read Tarot cards and have even (successfully) run a Ouija board in a haunted hotel as part of a paranormal workshop. I consider myself fairly intuitive, but I’m not sensitive to ghosts–my gifts only work with the living. But I was determined not to have a repeat of the previous night’s experience so–through meditation/visualization–I put up a “security blanket” around the house to ward against any metaphysical mischief. I also may have told the house, aloud, ‘Not tonight, Momma needs some sleep!’ It seemed to work, the strange noises didn’t repeat.

So, was it a fluke or do we just have very polite spirits?

At last year’s Halloween party, knowing that a couple of my guests are sensitive to ghosts/spirits, I took down the security blanket (but left up a net–I’m semi-brave, not fully stupid) and told anyone listening that as long as they could play nice, they could come play that night. I absolutely admit that I was full-on curious, but I did not request my friends to read the house, what followed was completely voluntary, and the two friends that were able to give me information do not know each other outside of possibly meeting at previous parties of mine.

I’d just finished one of the house tours when Friend M told me “You’re not alone.” Okay then! Apparently she encountered 2 spirits in the house, but they just seemed curious about what was going on. Fair enough. She wasn’t able to get much more from them as she wasn’t feeling well that evening and she admitted that it was screwing with her abilities.

Friend S, though, really clicked with one of the spirits: a woman, appearing to be in her mid-30s, who was excited that there was laughter in the house again after so very long of being tired and down. S did not yet know that the house had been rented out as a personal care home for the last 10+ years and was vacant for a time before that. I don’t doubt for a minute that the state of the house when we purchased it reflected the state of the “care” the patients received during their time here, and the vibe of the home in general.


But that wasn’t all she shared! There is a section of the staircase that she is uneasy on, that she clutches the railing for dear life as she goes down. It was either that she’d fallen down them or that she’d witnessed a fall. Also, in what is now my office, there was an argument of life-altering sort/things-that-cannot-be-unsaid vein that took place between a man and a woman.

In my research into the house’s history (which S did not know until after these revelations), I’d learned that the original owner of the home did take a tumble down the stairs and was hospitalized from his injuries. And I believe it was shortly before his passing, if not the eventual cause of it. So, if it was his fall that the woman witnessed, that could make her his daughter. And I also know that the daughter was a school teacher and never married, living out her days in this house at least through her retirement, so I got the impression that the argument might have been over a suitable suitor. She didn’t seem to indicate (via S) that this was wrong, but there wasn’t anything in the newspaper archives on that subject!

At this year’s party, M again noticed the spirit upstairs. I asked her what, if anything, she could tell me about him, and once again she said it was a curious spirit. He was, she added, not all that interested in communicating and that it almost seemed like the party downstairs might have “woken him up.” This spirit seems to hang out in our guest room (apropos, no?), but future house guests have nothing to fear. My aunt stayed up there last Thanksgiving without incident.

So the question becomes, what do we do about it?

Currently we’re on the side of nothing. While I’ve been chided by some that I shouldn’t be “keeping them here” and that I should help them move on, again, that’s not my talent and I’m not doing anything to hold them. Between the smudging we did before moving in and the “security blanket” that is back in place, I’m actively trying to keep negative energies out of the house. I believe that there’s a higher chance that these are residual energies, imprinted on the house over the years. If either spirit is “active” here, I hope it’s because this is a place they are drawn to on their own and feel comfortable with. As long as that’s the case, I say live and let live. Or, uh, you know what I mean.

Porch Wish List: Come and Sit a Spell

The Gingerbread Diaries

I’ve lived in plenty of houses with porches–they’re sort of de rigeur down here, after all–but very few have been “functional” porches. What do I mean by functional? A porch that could barely hold a single chair, much less two. A glorified concrete slab under an extended roofline without even a railing to speak of. Uninviting. Austere. No fun.

A porch can serve as either a deck with a roof over it or an awning with a floor under it. The former is a place to hang out and have fun with the aid of some shade, the latter being only concerned with sheltering windows from the full-on sun. The best porches, though, are easily both and so much more.

I love coming home to this every day.

I love coming home to this every day.

Driving up to the Dollhouse each day makes me smile. Part of it is just knowing that it’s ours, all ours, and part of it is the pretty pink exterior set off by the white porch. Our porch is made for sitting and watching the world go by. But it needs a little work.

First task: Privacy

It might sound strange, wanting privacy on a porch that faces the street and all, but it’s not like I want to enclose the entire thing. It’s more than I want a little more definition on the sides of the porch. Our lot is ~70×209, so the neighboring lots are fairly close. Not so close you could reach out and borrow a cup of sugar through facing windows, but a driveway apart. The east side of the house (that would be the left when facing the house) has a line of trees that creates some natural fencing, but the west is not so lucky. And while I like our neighbors well enough, I don’t want to feel self-conscious about not talking to the residents that routinely take the afternoon sun next door every time I venture out.

Funny how the break in the trees is right at the end of the porch...

Funny how the break in the trees is right at the end of the porch…

I think some previous tenants tried to accomplish the same thing with the sad little trellis on the right, but nothing is growing on it, currently, and my chances of training up a vine are slim to none. I could probably kill kudzu. (Though it would be divine to have wisteria and/or morning glory draped over it. A girl can dream…)

So, instead, adding some lattice panels, painted white, to each end of the porch will provide a tiny bit of privacy, some additional shade if we’re out there in the late afternoon, and still look pretty. I was inspired by the spandrels on some very fancy Victorian homes like this one.


Isn’t that awesome?!

Second task: Color

And while I’m on the subject of “walls,” another update I’d like to make is to the railing and corner pieces. Not change them for something else (are you kidding, that’s what gives the Dollhouse its Gingerbread designation!), but add a little more color. The Victorians didn’t shy away from bright and bold, so I thought it would be nice to paint the cut sides of the white balusters and brackets with our accent colors (the dark green and red) and maybe some additional decorative painting on the faces of the brackets. I’m also waffling between adding some additional molding along the top of the porch, but that might be a later update.

Finally, on the color front, our porch ceiling needs repainting already. (grumble grumble shoddy prep by “professionals” grumble grumble) It’s been peeling and chippy for months, so we knew we’d be tackling it eventually.

So much frustration...

So much frustration…

Now, apparently it’s a very Deep South thing to paint porch ceilings blue. Funny, I’ve never actually seen one or heard of this until very recently. I asked Mom and she confirms that this is not a thing in Louisiana, at least not that she observed in all her years there, only reading about it in magazines over the last little bit. I know geography isn’t my strong suit, but it still amuses me that you can call something a “Deep South” thing when you’re talking about eastern seaboard states that are a lot closer to the Mason-Dixon line than my home state or even my current one.

But I digress…

Will we paint our porch ceiling blue? Not sure. I don’t mind the idea, especially if there’s a chance it could discourage the wasps from building their nests in the eaves–we have gone through so many cans of wasp spray this first year it’s not even funny.

Third Task: Seating

Currently our porch sports a wire patio table and 2 chairs. They’re nice enough, though the chairs could use cushions, but they need a refresher. We also ended up with some spare dining chairs (I laugh at our surplus of seating these days, after so many holidays of dragging in said patio chairs and office chairs to the table) that I’ve set out on the porch for now. Things are looking a little rag-tag at the moment.

This would be the main sitting side of the porch.

This would be the main sitting side of the porch.

First I think I’ll give the patio set a good wire brushing and then a couple coats of outdoor spray paint in bright white. I don’t usually go for the when in doubt, paint it white school of decor, but the railing has such great contrast with the pink house paint and green floor that I think it’s the way to go in this case.

OH! I just had a fabulous idea! I think that the patio table needs a mosaic! *pondering design options*

Okay, while that possibility spins in the back of my mind, the three refugee chairs also could benefit from a coat of paint along with other repairs. And after seeing them sitting so close together like this, I began wondering if I could (and by that you know I mean Todd) join them together and make a chaise lounge out of them, capitalizing on the single armed-ness of the one chair. I’ve wanted a chaise lounge for so long–probably the one piece of furniture I’ve wanted, unabated, since childhood–and this looks like a good way to DIY it. I can pad the single arm and made cushions out of outdoor-friendly fabric and foam (and make matching ones for the patio chairs) and it’ll be the prefect place to lounge on the few days of the year it’s bearable to be outside.

Maybe we need a fan on the porch…

Fourth Task: Fixtures

There's a difference between antique and decaying!

There’s a difference between antique and decaying!

Fan or no, we definitely need a new porch light. We’ve spotted some contenders during our many trips to Lowe’s for one thing or another.

This being our favorite so far,

This being our favorite so far

Also in the plans are some shutters for the windows in the same green as the porch floor and, finally, a new front door. Screen optional.


Our front door is in really sad shape: there’s a pronounced gap at the top, it only stays closed when the deadbolt is flipped, and (as I believe I’ve mentioned before) it swings the wrong way. Todd brought home door brochures from Lowe’s and absolutely nothing looked right to me. I want glass, but not frosted or textured. The ones with leading are nice, but too modern.  Basically, I want something that looks a lot like our back door, but with a single pane of glass, either 1/3 or 2/3 the height, not half or full glass.

Okay, what I really want are a pair of narrow double doors with side lights, but that would require changing the entire front of the entryway and, well, I don’t want it that badly.

And there’s a better chance of us finding a salvaged door that Todd would have to man-handle into what I want than finding it in the store, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We’ve also talked about maybe having a porch swing installed (but I’m not sure the porch roof would hold it), and a second seating area over on the opposite side of the porch by the living room bay. It’s not quite as spacious over there, but there’s room for a small chair and table, I think.


Our porch is pretty spiffy as is, but I look forward to spending more time out here once we’ve squared away a few details.

The To-Do List Gets Real

The Gingerbread Diaries

I don’t remember, now, exactly what issue we were addressing a couple weeks ago when I said a frequent refrain around here:

Well, add it to the list!

So I don’t know why I was surprised to find Todd with pen and pad before turning in for bed that night, making an actual list of things that needed to be done around the house. Of course, this isn’t anything decorative, these were just things we needed to do to make the house more easy to live in. Since I like to work in some semblance of order, when he asked for my input I suggested we take it room by room. This is what we came up with:


  • Paint lower cabinets with Kilz
  • Fit cabinets and drawers with shelf liner
  • Buy & install water filtration system
  • Buy & install garbage disposal
  • Replace floor register, add diverter

Dining Room

  • Remove doors to kitchen & back hallways
Those doors are taking up some prime real estate!

Those doors are taking up some prime real estate!

When we re-do the kitchen we’ll install a swinging door between the kitchen & dining room. In the mean time, we never close the one that’s there and since you have to either go outside or through the dining room to get to the kitchen, I doubt we ever will. If we remove the door it frees up that corner to unpack the bar. Same goes for the door into the back hallway (which used to be the back porch); it stays open all the time as a main traffic route and blocks the other corner of the dining room where the other half of the barware would go.


Nothing needed here except to unpack it!

Main Hall

  • Install programmable thermostat
  • Relocate wireless router (requires running cable under house)
  • Replace front door & reorient opening direction
Ironically, the door is standing in the way of my pretty hallway plans.

Ironically, the door is standing in the way of my pretty hallway plans.

Again, the way the door opens blocks me from using the corner towards the living room. I’d like to put our antique desk in that corner but not if it’s going to get banged into by the front door. But there’s plenty of room on the opposite side of the door and the doorway into the library is too close to the exterior wall to have that space be usable anyway.

Living Room

Nothing needed here except to settle in.

The Abyss

  • Fix ceiling fan
  • Fix weird outlet on the south wall.

I’m grateful to have an outlet on each wall of my studio but it never fails that the one I depend on (aka the one closest to my computer) is a bit wiggly.

Back Hall

  • Clean wall where water damage occured
  • Re drywall/sheet rock wall next to bathroom
  • Add draft dodger or something to back door to prevent loss of climate control (floor is beyond not level back here)

The back hallway–what used to be back porch–is probably the worst area of the house. Extensive water-damage semi-concealed behind shelves, this are is prime territory for a mudroom-style makeover, but first it needs some triage. The floor was replaced as part of the 203k renovation, but there’s still some work to do.

Downstairs Bath

This is okay for now, but it’s the second item on the rooms to fully renovate list. (The first room on that list is the kitchen.)

Back Porch

  • Install outlet or two

Utility Room

  • Install outlet for chest freezer.

Technically, we have an outlet for the freezer, it just puts it on the same wall as the washer and drier and we want it on the other wall for a variety of reasons. Mainly it’ll prepare the room for the eventual moving-in of the water heater and fridge when we redo the kitchen, but that’s farther down the road.

Upstairs Bath

  • Get sink taps working
  • Install shower head (stationary or handheld, I don’t care which)

Right now we’re doing all our showering downstairs, which means I cart my clothes for the day down each morning and use The Abyss as my dressing room to avoid multiple trips up and down stairs first thing in the morning. While it works for now, I’d really like to not have to use that cramped cave of a bathroom or have clothes and makeup and toiletries strewn among 2 floors.

Guest Room

  • Install window coverings (this is the only room without blinds and it gets really warm during the day)
  • Fix ceiling fan

Master Bedroom

  • Flip door.

I know, me and the doors. While I understand that closing off rooms was for practical reasons as well as privacy (you can save money by only heating one area or another, a definite advantage over open plans), I have serious issues with closed doors and only sleep with a closed bedroom door if there’s a guest in the house. So when the most logical place for the bed means that the door opens alongside it–along my side of it–when it could just as easily have opened the other way alongside the door the adjoins the main and guest bedrooms, well, yeah, I want it flipped!

Of course, since the frame will need a little man-handling to make that happen, we’ll most likely be sans door for a while. I’m cool with that since it solves the main problem: the door creating this little half-wall on my side of the bed that makes me think someone’s going to jump out from behind it at night. I think there are something like 20 doors downstairs (not including the kitchen cabinets but counting the coal/wood doors next to most of the fireplaces) and another dozen up. That’s a lot of doors to deal with.

Todd’s Office

  • Install additional outlet(s)
  • Seal up some open spots in his closet

Upstairs Hallway

  • Install programmable thermostat
  • Install second wireless router, direct-linked from downstairs
With the second router right under the thermostat we should be able to get a decent signal in the 3 upstairs rooms. I'm envisioning a repurposed pie safe or similar to hold linens, and the router could hide in there, eventually.

With the second router right under the thermostat we should be able to get a decent signal in the 3 upstairs rooms. I’m envisioning a repurposed pie safe or similar to hold linens, and the router could hide in there, eventually.

We have quite a bit of signal interference thanks to the thick walls (mind you, they made up for it with thin outer walls…) so a hardwired set of routers seemed the best option to ensure full access upstairs and down.

And that’s “it” for now.  A bit of electrical work, some door issues to be resolved, but the only major must-do is the downstairs hall wall. That thing is contributing quite a bit to the musty smell back there and just can’t be good to keep around in general. Having replaced the roof it’s no longer getting worse every time it rains (seriously, how they managed to ignore it all those years is beyond me) but it doesn’t mean it’s miraculously getting better on it’s own, either.

But hey, now that we have a list, we can start to check things off it!