In early 1996, my daughter Dana had a sleepover at her friend Reba Fiori’s house. When I picked them up, she started saying that Reba’s house was haunted, and Reba casually agreed. “It’s true,” she said.
Dana heard footsteps all night, up and down the stairs and through the hallway. The footsteps sometimes stopped at Reba’s room. She did not get any sleep, while Reba was oblivious to the sounds.
I knew the house, I had been there many times. This was the first I’m hearing of a ghost, although when I think of it, the setting was perfect—a three story majestic home with a dozen rooms set deep in the woods in upstate New York. In the nineteenth century it was a home for the elderly. The center hall had a sweeping staircase and a cage-like elevator with intricate scroll work. A bronze plaque next to the front door said: Shore House.
The house now is filled with teenagers, constant activity, music and lots and lots of noise. Sherrie Fiori, Reba’s mom is a whirlwind unto herself—a creative with multiple projects in varying stages of completion that seem to follow in her wake. Her kitchen percolates with the aromas of roasts and stews and cakes every single day. She is a busy, busy woman who doesn’t hesitate to add another project at a moment’s notice.
Reba tells us that according to her mom, the ghost is Mrs. Shore who ran the house when it was a nursing home. Mrs. Shore had a reputation for managing with Victorian precision. According to Sherrie, Mrs. Shore is friendly, she wants to be kept informed on what’s happening and she helps look after the house. Sherrie was at first frightened by the voices and the footsteps but since she began talking to Mrs. Shore, things had gotten quieter and Mrs. Shore offers friendly assistance from time to time; finding a lost key or opening doors.
I shuddered when I heard this.
Summer came and the Fioris were spending two weeks four states away at their family’s summer home on the North Carolina coast. Sherrie closed Shore House. She stopped the mail. The two energetic golden retrievers were boarded and the cat, taken to a friend’s house.
Sherrie asked me to help water her extensive plant collection once a week while they’re away. A few days after they left I suddenly remembered it while at work, and I made a dash to the house during lunch. It was a beautiful, hot day in late September. The silence hit me like a brick wall as I turned the key and entered the house, the air was as stagnant as a slab of butter.
Sherrie had set the houseplants on a massive table in one of the dining rooms next to the kitchen. The room was filled with sunlight. I devised a counting system and circled the table without missing a plant or overwatering another. I was focused on this system as I slowly circled the table, pitcher in hand, and counting out loud.
Suddenly, a loud “crash!” reverberated from the kitchen. I was struck frozen. I remembered Mrs. Shore and my knees turned to rubber.
I took a deep breath and entered the kitchen. Despite the earlier explosion, nothing appeared to be out of order. I inspected the tiny laundry room adjacent to the kitchen. Again, nothing.
Back in the dining room, I am forced to stick my finger in several pots, having lost track of which plant I had watered.
I began watering again and: Clang! Clang! Clang! burst from the kitchen.
My spine turned into ice-cold steel and I held my breath. I stood there for what seemed like hours, just listening. My ears strained for any sound. There was none. I was too afraid to move. I knew I could exit by the front door, avoiding the kitchen altogether if I had to run. This thought emboldened me and I slowly moved toward the kitchen once again.
This time, the kitchen had taken on “an atmosphere.” Despite the September heat which was even more oppressive in a closed up house, the kitchen was freezing cold. The hair on my arms stood on end and I shivered. Thankfully, I saw no one. Nothing seemed out of place until I noticed three, two-liter soda bottles laying at the foot of the door I had entered just a few minutes before. I looked around and saw that one of the counters, clear on the opposite side of the room, held a number of soda bottles with space where three more would have fit easily. There was no way those bottles simply fell from that or any surface and landed right there, in front of the door I had just been through.
I racked my brain for an explanation but found none. Strangely it calmed me and my breath became easier. I stood there breathing slowly. I decided to take control of the situation and returned to the dining room to finish what I started.
I made a point not to look up from the watering as I announced in a loud trembling voice: “Mrs. Shore, I’m only here to water Sherrie’s plants and then I’ll be gone. I don’t mean you any harm.”
As I finished watering and as an afterthought I added: “I’ll be back next week, they’ll need more water then. Thank you.”
As it happened, I was saved from further dalliance with Mrs. Shore by an even angrier specter: Hurricane Fran, who chased thousands of vacationers away from the coastal regions of the mid-Atlantic, Fiori family included.
When Sherrie asked if the plant watering went okay. I took a deep breath, handed her back her key and said: “Absolutely.”