by Timmy Valentine
Several years ago my Husband John and I purchased The Harrison Street Inn. The Inn is a lovely old home tucked into the sleepy little town of Sullivan, Illinois. We fell in love with the Inn as guests. Both of us more than enjoyed staying here and when we found out the property was for sale, we jumped at the opportunity to live in the Inn full time. This place is special, you can feel it when you walk up the front steps. You feel as if the house smiles at you with that big front porch. This place feels like home. The history here envelopes you. Its not over whelming or stodgy in any way, it is comforting. Like your favorite pair of jeans or a warm bowl of soup on a snowy day. You just feel like you are a part of the place right away.
The house has been a part of this community for over one hundred and seventeen years. It has functioned as a boarding house for the majority of its long life. These walls have provided refuge for many people passing through this tiny town, including actors drawn to Sullivan by The Little Theatre On The Square. Among a long list of others Margaret Hamilton known to the world as the Wicked Witch of the West played the theatre 17 times. The Theatre has been graced by many world famous actors and is known for cultivating talent for Broadway stages and screens both large and small. Oh the stories these walls could tell of aspiring actors learning lines and pacing the floors perfecting their craft.
The house was rescued from the cruel hands of time and converted into an Inn around sixteen years ago. Now, the Inn houses overnight guests and is an amazing place to live. After converting part of the property into our own private quarters, We settled in to the routine of being Innkeepers. As with any home, new inhabitants go through the customary getting to know you period, becoming familiar with the squeaks and knocks and taps. Little noises caused by a temperamental water heater a rusty hinge, or a loose piece of siding perhaps. The noises in this house are different. Sure some of them can be explained away. But some of the sounds are very distinctly human.
John is a skeptic, a die hard, show me the proof, skeptic. Or at least he was. I am a believer, am adventurous, and open minded and understand that the universe has secrets that have yet to be unraveled. I kept my encounters with the undead to myself for the first few months we lived at 204 E. Harrison Street. I was keen on keeping our marriage in tact, so i didn’t speak of the strange things happening around our house. In fact it was John who brought the first phenomenon into conversation.
The house was empty of guests. John had fallen asleep on the sofa, and I sat next to him swimming through the pages of a new book. A blissfull Sunday afternoon.
Then the sound of running. The sounds of foot steps. Not the typical even plodding pace of the specters in old scary movies. These little feet were running, and jumping. It sounded as if a child was busy herding a flock of tiny sheep around upstairs. John woke from his nap. “Are there are people upstairs?” he stated with a yawn, turning over to fall back asleep. I reminded him the house was empty of guests. We were on our own today. It took a minute for what i said to sink in. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. We both stood without speaking. I grabbed my ring of room keys and we walked slowly up the stairs. To be honest, even though I was certain we were the only two people in the house, I was stunned to find the rooms upstairs empty. With that much noise your mind automatically tries to rationalize and find reason. Not a thing out of place. Just empty space. John was intrigued.
We went back to our lazy Sunday afternoon as different people. Something was going on in this house, and we both knew it.
In the days and months that would follow we began to compare notes. Each time the house was empty of guests, our ears would become super sensitive. Working over time to be aware of our surroundings. The permanent residents of our home did not hesitate to introduce themselves. We began to notice the sounds of water running. Casually walking past an empty bathroom We would hear the sounds of a running shower, even the flush of a toilet. The sounds of footsteps following you up the stairs or doors shutting in vacant rooms became regular and ordinary.
One night as i climbed in bed, I heard the sounds of two voices in deep discussion coming from another room. The voices carried on for several hours, I clung to my covers and listened in awe. The voices became irritated and rose in passionate disagreement. They became so loud, they even woke John. A nearly impossible task, as his snores create more noise while he sleeps than legions of the dead cackling about with rattling chains could ever hope to make. He sat up in bed, looked at me and said “Someone is talking in there!” He can be so observant at times…. I reminded him that we were alone in the house. The drowsy man to my right became alert and just the slightest bit alarmed. We both snuggled deeper into bed, tucking the covers around us like little kids afraid of the closet monster. We listened as the conversation occurring somewhere in our house went from a loud argument to a quiet discussion then faded away as we drifted off to sleep.
Over the years we have become accustomed to sharing our house with visitors, those with and without bodies. We have witnessed countless unexplained events; they have all been with the kindest of energy. Even at their most rambunctious the spirits here have the very best natures. Once, weeks had gone by with less than the usual amount of activity. John and I were discussing our plans for the next day. He asked me if I had heard anything lately. I asked him if he really wanted to discuss ghosts at such a late hour, he smiled and allowed me to change the subject. Something decided to take this moment as the perfect opportunity to remind us that we share our space. Our kitchen door opened with a creek and slammed shut with enough force to rattle the wavy glass pane. That night my valiant mate decided it best that we sleep with all the lights in the house on. I agreed.
For the most part the events or phenomenon if you will, can only be described as ordinary. I feel as if I share this house with a handful of regular everyday people going about their business. They just happen to be invisible… most of the time. We have had guests report seeing things. I have to admit I have been startled myself on occasion by a shadow moving across a room, or noticing a shape hovering in a corner. One guest in particular was eager to report the aloofness of one of our housekeepers. She was staying at the Inn for an extended period of time and was settled in nicely. She had spent the morning reading the paper out on the front porch. Returning to her room for a refill of coffee, she passed an open door and caught a glimpse of a maid going about her chores. She said hello to the busy employee and was shocked that the woman disappeared into the next room without returning so much as a nod. I had to tell her she had seen a ghost. You see I am the only employee at the Inn. I am the only housekeeper. The day she had noticed the woman cleaning I was running errands and she was the only guest staying in the house at the time.
I have become so accustomed to living in this haunted house that I can forget I am not alone here… even when I am alone here. On a perfectly reasonable Wednesday afternoon I was taking advantage of a much needed day without house guests, to catch up on chores. I was racing around the house taking care of all the little things that can accumulate during a busy week. As I passed through the front hall a woman’s voice scolded me. I felt as if I had just walked between her and a friend as they carried on a conversation. Something happened between us, This spirit and I. I felt as if we were two beings who had just become very, very aware of the others existence. She had shocked me by speaking so clearly and by obviously referring to me. I think I must have startled her because I reacted to her voice by gasping… a loud long gasp. I don’t think she expected me to hear her. Perhaps to her I am the strange occurrence that pops in and out of her life from time to time. For the next hour I felt her standing close to me as I folded sheets and towels.
Her presence in the room caused the hair to stand up on my neck and arms. It was electric, a physical reaction. I could feel my body responding as she moved about the room. It was as if she were studying me. Maybe she could not see me but knew I was there, just as I could feel her but not see her. After an hour of tense and deliberate folding and refolding, I broke the silence. I mustered up a weak little voice, void of confidence and told her in a joking fashion that if she was going to lurk about I could use the help with laundry. Just as the last word slipped from my dry mouth, I felt her again as she drew near. If indeed we were both blind to the others exact whereabouts in the room, the sound of my voice must have acted as a beacon. She must have moved towards the sound because the energy I had been feeling intensified. It wasn’t a bad feeling, nothing angry or frightening about it. It was like someone moving toward you as you stand in a dark room. You can’t see them and they can’t see you but you can sense each other. I can only describe it as being aware of the unseen.
These are just a few of the happenings here at The Harrison Street Inn. Some of our guests pass through without so much as hearing a whisper. Some of our guests are kept awake all night by children playing and songs emanating from a piano that was carried away from this house a long time ago.
The events that take place here come and go, just like the people who stay here. We can pass through weeks without noticing anything. Then things will start to move about clamoring for attention and the energy in the house will change ever so slightly. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the occurrences. The house just lives and breathes. It is such a happy place to be. The spirits here seem to be at peace. Maybe that is because they can be heard here? Is the house built on enchanted earth? Or perhaps the sugar maples that shade the yard provide protection for weary souls on this plain and in the beyond? I am not quite sure. I can’t tell you why any of these things have happened or why they keep happening. I can’t tell you why these spirits seem to call this place home. But, I can tell you that living here has changed me, for the better.
Timmy is an artist and the current “living” owner of The Harrison Street Inn, which is located at 204 E. Harrison Street in Sullivan, Illinois. You may contact him with questions concerning the Inn at email@example.com or Visit the website www.theharrisonstreetinn.com. The Inn is open year round providing comfortable accommodations for both living guests and those that seem to no longer require a physical body.
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