A good ghost story has to have a solidly creepy cover, or half the terror is already gone for me. Looking at this copy really does not do it justice.
This true story recounts a Philadelphia family's encounter with a supernatural presence in their eighteenth-century mansion. After experiencing footsteps at night, opening doors, strange sounds and activity centered around the library, they investigate, unearthing the mansion's tragic past and changing their beliefs about the supernatural world.
The book was originally published in the late 70s and shows its age in that regard. Even so, I found it to be a really decently told story about how the family handled their unexpected roommates. It was a quick read, but highly interesting. There was also a lot of tragedy as well. The house as it was in their time there is gone, destroyed in a fire in 1987, a year after Harold Cameron passed away, and learning things like that always just gut me, because all of the history even without the paranormal experiences have been lost. I hope the lady of the house has found peace at least, as well as Enoch, who helped the family understand a bit about what was going on in their home.
After World War II, an unsuspecting family of seven (Dad, Mom, five children) have moved to Philadelphia due to the father's job transferring him. The family live in a motel for a while and Cameron reads about this huge old house for lease at a really great price. Like, REEEEEALLY great, too good to be true kind of great. They decide to lease the old mansion and move in after signing a two-year lease, which basically has a no-escape clause and they stayed almost the entire time - otherwise they would have had to come up with enough money to cover the rent for their rent for the entire duration of the lease even if not living there. Even so, they ended up moving out a couple months early. The older kids were away at college, leaving the younger ones with their parents to settle into their new home where they quickly discovered all was not as it seemed.
The story is told in the vein of being a mystery, as they slowly learn about what may be going on in their new home. Neither parent is believing in paranormal activity at first, the idea of the house being haunted is so illogical to them. But they finally reach a point where they can't sustain that viewpoint anymore, and gradually find out more and more information. One part that really frustrated me was the family's lack of effort into the history of the house at first. But on the other hand, I am 100% a believer in ghosts, and have had some really cool experiences at places like the Villisca Axe Murder House, The Stanley Hotel, and The Palmer House Hotel, (the last of which you can read about HERE in a three-part series if you are interested - such an awesome experience!) So, I can kind of see why they didn't at first, because they did not believe in ghosts. I would have been ON that research in a heartbeat.
Cameron and one of his sons explore the property at various times, and these parts were my favorites. I want so badly to go explore abandoned places every time I see one, but somehow I do not think that is an appropriate activity for Eleanor, so I have little experience in that area. At one point the two find a family crypt in their exploration, which was extra creepy due to the fact that the coffins had all disintegrated over time. The remains of those long-since buried there were scattered over the floor and just seeing that would have had me on up out of the crypt in a heartbeat. Burial sites are not to be messed with, even when stumbling on them by accident. Instances like this is what made the book more creepy than scary, though I will be the first to admit that I always read books like this with every light on in the house.
In the latter half of the book, the family finally begins to get some answers. They've been living for a while with all kinds of strange occurrences - footsteps on the stairs and up and down the halls during the night. They also hear footsteps on the gravel outside coming up to the front door, but no one is ever there. The family basically abandons the home's library altogether due to the major unease they feel, and they cede that part of the house to the 'other' occupants. When they discover a elderly African American man named Enoch living in the barn, they learn some information from him, but he knew a lot more than he was willing to tell at first. It was easy to see he was frightened of the place, though he still lived on the property. He worked at the home when he was younger, and really had no where else to go. He eventually does tell Harold what he knows and it becomes obvious why the home is haunted. Tragedy still befalls the home, when Enoch is later murdered (unrelated to the hauntings, and he was found off the property. As far as any information I have found so far, and from what the book stated at the time, his murder was not solved.) I did find it strange that they did not know Enoch was there for a while, though they did explore the property. Prior to his death Enoch did share a good amount of information with Harold, how the home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, but also a place of terrible violence which led to the hauntings in the first place. I won't go into details because I don't want to spoil the lead-up for anyone who might decide to read this one.
I plan to do some additional research on the home and its history at some point, and will add whatever I find to the review. My only real complaint about the book is the lack of photographs. Aside from the cover, I have found few photos of the exterior of the home, and none from inside. I get that this all happened after WWII, but you'd think someone at some point would have had some photos of the inside of the home, the grounds, etc. I think the grounds especially would have been a great addition, but those simply may not exist.
Recommended for a good chill, while being light on the 'scary' factor.