My (HELLA SCARY) Night in a Haunted House

Newbury House

What you are about to read is totally REAL and creepier than a Hollywood horror movie. Welcome to Scary Story Week on The Stir ...

One thing you should know about me is that I don't believe in ghosts.

But I can't deny that some frightening and unexplainable things happened during the night that I spent in the Newbury House in Rugby, Tennessee, a historic Victorian boarding house known for its paranormal activity.

Let me explain.

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A few hours from where I live in Nashville, Tennessee, there's a historic village called Rugby. Founded in 1880, it was established as a colony for younger sons of English gentry --  These were men who were cultured and came from money, but because of their birth order, they didn't actually inherit any.

The idea was that everyone who lived in Rugby would work together, 'Little House on the Prairie'-style, to make the town prosper. But remember, we're talking about rich boys here, not Charles Ingalls. Once they got to Rugby, they didn't really want to work. Instead, they wanted to read Charles Dickens and play lawn tennis -- and that wasn't very good for the crops. Eventually, the whole colony idea was abandoned, but not before some really pretty Victorian homes and town buildings were constructed.

Lately, people have been working to restore these historic structures, and now Rugby is a lovely little village in the middle of nowhere with 20 restored structures, hardly any inhabitants, and relatively few visitors. Several years ago, my husband read about it and rented a room for the two of us in village's historic boarding house. We planned to spend the night there, then have breakfast the next morning in a nearby restaurant and take one of the tours offered each day.

We arrived late on Friday night to a note from the manager instructing us that the key was under the doormat and we were the only guests that night. She wrote that we were welcome to help ourselves to a midnight snack of tea and cookies in the kitchen and call her if we needed anything -- She lived ten minutes down the road.

Stepping inside the historic house was like going back in time. All of the rooms had been left open, and we were delighted to have the entire place to ourselves. I wandered from room to room, marveled at the antique furniture (some of which was original to the house), and paged through a few of the guest books in the bedrooms. In them, I found dozens of stories of strange occurences.

Some guests claimed to have woken to see a ghostly-looking man standing over their bed. Others reported waking up feeling like a hand was on their chest, or of waking to hear all of the hangers inexplicably clattering in the closet. As I said, I don't believe in ghosts, but I do love ghost stories. My husband and I had had no idea that we were staying in a famously haunted house, but I was thrilled to find that was the case!

After reading some of the stories aloud to my husband, I convinced him to turn off all of the lights in the house so that we could go on a ghost hunt of our own. We walked through each room slowly, looking for strange lights or a sudden drop in temperature, and listening for noises. We spent extra time in the rooms that were thought to be most haunted. One room contained the actual bed where colony member Thomas Oldfield had died -- he was thought to be the ghost that stood over visitors' beds. I sat on the bed in total darkness and said as solemnly as I could, "Thomas Oldfield, make yourself known to us."  We sat absolutely still on that bed for minutes on end, listening for any squeak, any creak, any evidence of ghostly activity whatsoever.

But we heard absolutely nothing. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

After an hour or so, I concluded my paranormal investigation. It had been fun, but our best-ever chance to prove the existence of ghosts had turned up nothing. Ghosts, I decided, definitely did not exist. Hubs and I ate a few cookies in the kitchen and then went to bed.

Both of us fell asleep fairly quickly, but within 30 or so minutes of dozing off, I awoke with a start. Someone was tapping on our wall. At first it was quiet, but then it grew louder. Then it stopped.

I was so tired, I listened for a moment longer, then fell back asleep, only to be woken again a few minutes later. This time, it sounded very clearly like someone was coming up the stairs outside our room. Beside me, I realized my husband's breathing had gotten quiet.

"Do you hear that?" I whispered.

"Yes," he answered.

I shivered and was glad we had locked our door. I didn't know what was going on out there, and I didn't want to. I only knew that it was the middle of the night, we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was highly unlikely that our aging b&b hostess had decided to come calling from her home ten minutes away.

We spent a miserable night, woken over and over again by tapping, knocking, heavy footsteps outside that sounded like they were running up and down the halls and climbing stairs, and other strange noises. "Did you hear that?" one of us would whisper periodically. "Yes!" the other would respond. Neither one of us could quite believe what was happening, and neither one of us were willing to admit that ghosts seemed to be the only explanation.

Also, neither one of us wanted to get out of bed and investigate. The thought was just a little too scary.

The next morning, though, we both agreed that there really was nothing else but ghosts that would serve as an explanation, although we desperately tried to come up with one. Perhaps the noises were just the house settling, the heating system, or the pipes ... but remember, I spent an hour walking that house in total silence, in the dark, doing nothing but listening for strange noises. I heard nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Or maybe someone was playing a prank. The house is not advertised as a "haunted house" to visitors, though (although several independent sites list it as haunted). Plenty of people stay there (including us!) with no expectation or desire for paranormal activity. There's no way the owners would put a guest through that kind of trauma on purpose. Also, we had very carefully locked up before going to bed -- and we were, as I said, in a deserted village in the middle of nowhere.

Some have suggested that the noises were rats or mice in the walls. I've heard both before and these noises were nothing like that. The tapping was heavy and so were the footsteps on the stairs outside. The footsteps to me were the most frightening and totally inexplicable part.

I don't know what happened that night, but I do know I don't want to spend another night like it!

Do you believe in ghosts?

 

Image via Historic Rugby

 

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