I found the apartment on Craigslist, which honestly might have been my first mistake. A cute second unit apartment of an old converted home, the hardwood floors and ample light seemed appealing.
When we arrived for a walk through, we were surprised by the size of the apartment: two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, porch, and back porch that overlooked the Wilmington skyline. We imagined growing our plants on the wide roof, and drinking beers as we watched the sun go down.
The top floor was uninhabited and we asked about that. Pat, the manager, said they were going through a legal dispute with the last tenant, something about not paying the rent for months.
Although we weren’t blown away by the place -the bathroom was a little shabby and the neighborhood didn’t seem that great- there was a certain charm about it. We were, however, blown away by the price: $850 and that included heat and electric.
We left thinking we would see other places, but Pat was persistent. She called twice saying, “we don’t want to rent to just anyone. We think you’d be perfect tenants.”
Even though we searched, we couldn’t find any place with such a cheap deal.
So finally in September, 2011, as a newly married couple, we moved into 1720 Washington Street and that’s when the trickery all began.
Arts & Crafts
I never truly believed in ghosts or hauntings, though I must admit I was always fascinated. As a child, I liked reading or watching detective stories. I was always attracted to the unexplained, the unraveling of a story over time.
But nothing could have prepared me for the ghosts that dwelled (and continue to dwell) on Washington street.
The house was built in the early 1900’s. Some say 1904, other’s say 1907, but either way it was at least over 100 years old. I’d never lived in a house that old, and I kind of liked its character.
On the day we moved in, an unexpectedly hot September, several teenagers drove by our UHaul on bikes. One stopped and said, “Are you moving in?” Yes, we said. “You’ll be sorry. No one wants to live here.”
It was a creepy statement and left me feeling quite uncertain.
If there was anything wrong with the house, we didn’t feel it for the first week or so. It was warm and inviting, almost
luring you in. It had a strange scent about it, like old lady perfume or cats, or things that are really old and delicate.
But as charming as it looked, it was going to start losing its charisma come week two, when things began to take a sinister turn.
The First Encounter
My first “encounter” on Washington Street occurred when I had the house to myself and my husband was at work. I undressed and got in the shower and went about washing my hair. Suddenly, I felt a cold breeze enter the room. I tried to get the soap out my eyes, but I couldn’t see anything. I turned and kept on washing, trying to calm my nerves and justify the coldness in the room. Maybe a vent was open or maybe the window wasn’t closed fully. As I looked down, the shower curtain started to move towards me, as if someone was pushing it from the other side. That was it, I got out the shower quickly, soap still slipping down my hair, and grabbed my towel to head into the living room.
As a human, you always try to rationalize, or explain away the unexplained. Even as I write this, I am still trying to find the story behind my story, trying to dig deeper to find its meaning. Analyze and over analyze.
After that first incident, it was like the flood gates opened. Weird things began happening to me all the time. I’d turn the light off and it would turn back on, doors would open on their own, things went bump in the night, the classic Hollywood ghost movie stuff.
I was the only one who saw, sensed, or felt anything and my husband began to think I was crazy.
But as time went on, he experienced some hauntings too.
One night, he woke up gasping for breath. I grabbed him and turned on the light to make sure he was ok. “What’s wrong!?” I screamed. And he sat straight up clutching his throat. It took him a while to calm down and then he turned to me and said, “He was choking me.”
Many a sleepless night we had in that bedroom. Our dreams were always invaded by hostile men trying to choke us in our sleep, weeping women, or children sitting on the edge of our bed.
There were multiple ghosts dwelling in Washington street. You could always sense which one was around, and I believe my psychic abilities were honed during my time there (although in a way that produced a lot of anxiety).
The first ghost was that of a sad female. She wore white and would walk up and down the hall. I believe she was the ghost of Anne Marie Fahey, one of the most well known tragic murders in recent Wilmington history. She had been living in the apartment next door to us (same house, divided by a wall) when she went missing. Having an affair with the then Deputy General of Delaware, Thomas Capano, she was last seen on a date with him in Philadelphia. Though her body was never found, Capano confessed to dumping her body in the Atlantic Ocean with the help of his brother. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
I know people might think I am crazy, but I know it was Anne Marie who visited that house from time to time. When she came around, the lights would dim and there would be a great sadness in the room. Sometimes, I would feel the sadness rip through me. I was watching a program on babies and weddings and I inexplicably began to weep. It was as though I could feel the pain that she felt, the longing for a family and for a real wedding. My sad visitor. And I felt helpless when I tried to communicate with her. Her life was cut short, her childhood girlish dreams never realized, and her body, sinking somewhere deep in the Atlantic, never to be found.
At first, our neighbors- a gay couple that lived downstairs – denied any paranormal activity in the building. But one night, over drinks, the truth began to seep out.
“I get a weird feeling once in a while,” he said. “I never know really what it is.”
He then told us about the fact that Anne Marie Fahey used to live next door. “Our landlord knew her personally and her family, a very sweet girl.”
He also told me that the tenants who lived in our house before left in a hurry after her ex boyfriend broke in the house and beat her up. The police had to be called and it was a very dramatic scene.
Everywhere I turned there seemed to be negative energy in that house, in the surrounding houses, and almost in the community. Gun shots would be heard twice a week. People would fight on the street. And even our gay neighbors downstairs began to get into domestic disputes. On one occasion, the cops were called.
Eventually the negativity seemed to rub off on us too and we began to scream and shout at each other like we never had before.
It was like something was in the air.
The Man in the Bathroom
Anne Marie’s ghost was not a problem for me. Though it was sad to feel her pain, I felt like she was never imposing on me or on our home.
There were other spirits in the house, ones that did not appreciate our presence.
The second time I encountered “the man in the bathroom,” I was unpacking in the kitchen while cooking. Rob was away at work, and once again I was alone in the house.
I think some spirits pray on you when you are weak.
A box was open on the floor behind me and I turned towards the stove to stir the food. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the box moving.
I turned fully just in time to see the entire box neatly closing in front of me. Each leaf of the box closed tightly as if to say “don’t unpack!”
That was too much for me. I ran to the other side of the house, called a friend, and left.
Later when I returned that night, the house was incredibly hot. I sat anxiously waiting for Rob to come home. It was quiet, it was uncomfortably hot, and the air felt heavy, like I couldn’t breathe.
As I sat there, I began to smell an unfamiliar cologne. I knew it wasn’t Rob’s, I knew no one else was there. But the sent grew stronger and stronger. Finally, I felt like the cologne was right next to me.
Frozen, I sat still as could be. Until I felt something on my neck. Something gripping tight and I stood up and shouted “STOP!”
Suddenly, the string of halloween lights on the wall slapped hard against the wall.
“What do you want?” I begged. “We are just living here, the same as you. We mean no harm!”
The scent disappeared and the heat seemed to slowly subside. But my fear had only just begun.
All Hallow’s Eve
I started to dread being home alone. Home didn’t feel like home, it felt more like an evil prison, never sure of what you would get. Nights were filled with terrifying dreams. Sometimes you would hear children or the small patter of footsteps.
It was terrifying.
Meanwhile, I felt like a crazy person even having conversations with friends about it. Maybe they think I am making it up, I thought. Maybe I am making it up. Was it all in my my mind?
The man in the shower was always the worst. Not only was he very angry and hostile, but he seemed to enjoy invading our private space. In the shower, or if I was naked, I always felt eyes on me, or felt like I was being watched.
On occasion, he would touch my neck or my hair. It was one of the scariest things I ever experienced.
When visitors came over, he liked to play tricks.
On Halloween, we had friends over and all the pictures we took came out blurry and distorted. There were orbs everywhere. It confirmed my feelings that there were multiple spirits in the house.
The ghosts took a toll on our mental and physical health. Rob started drinking in excess. I struggled with a new variety of illnesses. Our mental health was no better. There seemed to be a depression and darkness that settled over us.
No matter if I brought incense or sage, chanted or prayed, the spirits continued to play tricks on us and make our lives miserable.
I knew we couldn’t last there much longer.
Communicate with Spirits
On several occasions, I tried to communicate with the spirits. I consider myself a very sensitive and open person and sometimes this leaves me open to be called upon.
“Why are you so angry?” I said to him once. “You can’t stay angry forever. You have to let it go and move on. There is nothing here for you.”
He seemed to quiet down for a week after that. But within a week or so, he was back again and so where the others.
When I lived there, I felt like it was my responsibility to help these spirits, to learn what their stories were and help them see the light.
But it seemed no matter what I did, what I said, or how much I felt their emotions, there was nothing I could do.
In retrospect, I see that I was supposed to learn from them.
In July, I got a job at a company located in South Florida. It had been our dream, and when I told my husband we hugged and laughed and cried.
It was the break we had been waiting for.
We were leaving Wilmington. But more importantly, we were leaving Washington street.
As we packed our things, I felt the sad spirit come by a lot. Anne Marie, I thought.
The man in the shower would stop by too, and make sure that we knew he was happy to be rid of us. That this was his place.
It was somewhat bittersweet to leave Wilmington, and I knew I would miss my friends and family.
But the day we left Washington street (at 4 am on a Thursday) I felt a weight lift off of me that I didn’t even know I had been carrying. It was like a dark cloud was lifting, and we were moving into the light.
Confirmation of this came when as we were driving to Florida, the sun came out so beautifully over the horizon. It was like the light was guiding us forward.
Reflecting on a Haunted House
It’s taken me a year and a half to process what went on in that house. Part of me was scared to write this post. Would the spirits come find me here?
It always felt a little incomplete, never really knowing who lived in that house (it was rented since the 1970’s but was traded hands numerously in the early 1900’s), who was haunting us, why they were haunting us, what was the meaning of it all?
In the time I have spent away, living in a house we love, feeling happy, reflecting on the time we spent there, I have come to a few conclusions:
I may have helped them, without knowing it. Maybe they needed me to wake them up to things. While everyone around them (the neighbors downstairs, the tenant before me) was feeding off their negative energy, I was rejecting it, and because of this, I was a target.
They have helped me. Helped me to hone my psychic abilities, but most importantly to live in the now. To appreciate the moments, the breaths, the sunsets, because at any moment you can be gone.
They also taught me to let go. Let go if anger, of control, of sadness. Never to let it consume you.
These spirits taught me that if you don’t let go, you can become and angry shell of a being, something I wish never to be. They showed me what happens with stagnation, what it feels like to be stuck.
I feel sorry for them, and I still wish there could be a way to help them.
But in the meantime, I’m moving into the light. The darkness has lifted.
And oh, yeah, no more apartment hunting on Craigslist.