Family detects signs of spirited housemates

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A dark figure rests in a high-back chair just inside the living room door, sitting alone in the dark. But when the light is turned on, the figure vanishes and the chair is empty. The only exit is the doorway in which you are standing.

There is a reflection in the window of a tall, slender man dressed in blue. He is standing behind you, close enough to touch, and is watching as you paint the outside window frames. Jerking around to face him, you see no one, only the hip-high white porch railing.

While dinner cooks, a thick odor of sweet cigar smoke fills the room -- but no one is smoking.

A Mason jar filled with trinkets vibrates across the kitchen table -- without assistance.

After experiencing these and other mind-boggling events around their home, T.R. and Laura Wailes are sure their family is not alone.

The Waileses have done some research on their Roop Road farmhouse on the outskirts of Taneytown. They think it might have been used as a Civil War hospital. That might explain the message carved in an attic wall: "Remember me while I lay mouldering in my grave. Yours Very Truly, J.H."

They believe the spirit of J.H. carries a lantern from window to window in the attic at night, as if he is a sentry.

The dark specter who sits in the living room looking out the window, and who T.R. says follows him around outside -- as his 7-year-old daughter, Lindsay, attests -- might be a member of the family who originally lived there. The earliest records were traced back to Francis Elder, who purchased the land in the 1790s.

Pearl Shorb, also a former owner, could be the one who inhabits the kitchen, the Waileses say. They know about the woman from an obituary Laura found under linoleum she tore up in the living room to expose the original wooden floorboards.

As she was reading the article, T.R. called her upstairs to view a door frame that, coincidentally, had Pearl Shorb's name carved in it, under a protective coating of shellac.

It annoyed T.R. when the spirits took his tools while he was remodeling the house. Days later, he would find them in the NTC basement or sitting in the middle of the floor of the room from which they had disappeared.

Keeping a sense of humor, he asked the spirits what they had done with his tools, and made a game out of searching for them. He said he thinks they took his tools because the drastic changes that were taking place during the remodeling made them uncomfortable.

Yet the ghosts also have been helpful, the Waileses say. One day Laura decided to cook a venison roast for the first time. Unsure about what temperature to use or how long to cook it, she guessed. She put the roast in the oven and went to run errands while T.R. was working outside.

He heard the phone ring and climbed down the ladder to answer it. When he picked up the receiver, there was no answer. Turning to leave the kitchen, he saw that the oven door was open, so he closed it and went back outside and up the ladder.

Ten minutes later the phone rang again, with no one on the other end. He looked at the stove and saw that the door was open once more. He checked the roast, and found it cooked to perfection.

Laura remembers tucking Lindsay into bed at night when she was an infant. Laura went downstairs to work, and heard her baby laugh and kick her feet as if she were being tickled. When Laura went upstairs, Lindsay was alone, the covers smoothed over her.

The Waileses say they feel comfortable living with the spirits. They say the ghosts have been mischievous but friendly.

T.R. said, "I've never felt frightened. I've never felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck; it just startles you."

The only time someone was really afraid to be in the house was when a family friend tended the plants while the Waileses were on vacation. Because the water heater at her house was broken, the friend decided to take a shower at the Wailes house.

While she was showering, things started flying around in the bathroom. Terrified, the woman yelled, "Stop it!"

The items returned to their resting places. Needless to say, the friend did not shower there again.

The Waileses said they had not encountered any ghostly activity in two years until I interviewed them the evening of Sept. 30.

Whenever the conversation turned to the ghostly events of the house, my tape recorder seemed to record only when I talked. The buttons never moved, but it shut off whenever T.R. and Laura spoke. Noticing it, I laughed and showed them as we talked.

When I listened to the tape, I heard full conversations, then bits and pieces of conversations which became a laugh here and there, and a story about chickens in the barn.

It was almost as if the ghosts did not want their story to get out.

Diagonally across the living room from where I sat was a rust-colored, high-back chair. It was slightly indented, as if someone had sat in it and had compressed the cushions a little.

I thought I saw a shadow in the corner, but passed it off. I mentioned that I had seen the shadow, but did not mention that I saw the chair indent even more. T.R., sitting beside me, stroked a black cat, which was curled contentedly on his lap.

Suddenly, the cat's head rose and it ran to the other chair as if it had been called. It jumped up, nestled comfortably into the indentation, and continued to purr as though it was being stroked.

When we finished our discussion, T.R. and Laura walked me out to my car.

As I drove away, I looked back toward the house and saw what looked like a candle flame in a window high up in the house.

At first I thought it was a reflection from the outside lights, but they were fluorescent white. When I turned back again to look, I saw a dark figure sitting in my son's car seat.

I jerked my head forward, stopped the car, and said aloud, "Listen, pal, you have to stay here. I'm going home."

When I looked back again, the figure was gone. But the glow in the window remained.

It was a fast drive home.

*

Put on your best costume and walk in the 16th annual Taneytown Halloween Parade tonight.

The parade will form between the post office and Messiah United Methodist Church on Middle Street at 6:30 p.m. It will continue to Baltimore Street, to Maple Drive, and end at the Taneytown Fire Company's Activities Building, on the carnival grounds on Memorial Drive.

Costume prizes will be awarded for the prettiest, funniest, scariest, most symbolic for Halloween, most elaborate, store-bought, groups of two, groups of three or more, and floats.

Category ages are 3 and under, 4-6, 7-11, 12-17, and 18 and older. A total of 125 prizes will be awarded.

Games will be played and refreshments served in the Activities Building.

If it rains, there will be no parade, but costume judging and other events will take place in the Activities Building from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Since trick-or-treating is banned in Taneytown, the Recreation Council, which is sponsoring the evening, is asking citizens to donate to the prize fund money that would have been spent on candy. Send your donations to TARC, c/o Sandra Crouse, 108 Trevanion Road, Taneytown 21787.

Information: 756-6077.

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