Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Kindred Spirits: A True Story

November 30, 2012

In 2002 when we bought our house it was nearly a hundred years old. We’d only lived in it a week or two, not long enough to learn about the neighborhood or meet our neighbors. We’d arrived in the Fall and the golden leaves on the old maple trees lining the street were falling with urgency. Our house was close to a trendy area filled with antique stores and restaurants.

    

One evening we were bundled up for the brisk walk home after dining at a popular bistro when we rounded a corner and approached our house. I was so busy taking in the autumn colors and crisp fall air that I failed to notice Mrs. Chatterbox’s hand dropping from mine. She’d stopped on the sidewalk, frozen like a statue. Color had drained from her face and she was staring at our house.

    

“Are you alright?” I asked, wondering if the rich dinner we’d just enjoyed was causing a problem.

    

“I’m fine,” she said, not sounding fine at all. “I thought I saw something…on our front porch.”

    

We were close enough to our house for me to clearly see there was nothing unusual on our front porch. “What did you see?”

    

A breeze had picked up and she pulled the collar of her coat tight. “It wasn’t so much that I saw something; it was more of a feeling.” She shrugged. “I feel foolish so let’s just forget about it.”

    

And I did forget about it, until several weeks later when we were returning home with a vintage lamp from one of the antique stores. Mrs. C stopped at the picket fence in front of out house and stared at the porch.

    

“What is it?” I asked. I don’t believe in psychic occurrences but Mrs. C. is more open to such things than I am. “Is it similar to what you saw last time?”

    

She nodded, but this time she looked neither startled nor afraid. “It’s a feeling I’ve had since we moved here. At first it frightened me, but not anymore. I sense many presences surrounding our house, often concentrated on the front porch.”

     

Had we purchased a home that was haunted, Portland’s own Amityville House?  “But you say you don’t feel threatened by them?”

    

“Not at all. In fact, it’s a nice feeling, comforting.”

    

Our neighbors weren’t able to provide much information about the house. The McDonalds to our right were close-lipped and kept to themselves, only coming outside to refill their backyard bird feeder. They were resistant to my charm. When questioned about our house they told me to ask Jimmy, the owner of the property on our left. Unfortunately, we’d never seen Jimmy. We’d never even seen a light burning in his house.

    

One day I was repairing the front steps while Mrs. C. raked giant maple leaves. From the corner of my eye I saw a white-haired man climb the steps next door and retrieve mail from the overflowing mailbox. I yelled out, “You must be Jimmy.”

    

He nodded, climbed down the steps and came over to our front yard. He jammed his mail under his arm and extended his free hand. “Yep, I’m Jimmy.”

    

After Mrs. C. and I introduced ourselves I said, “The McDonalds tell us you’ve lived here a long time.”

    

Jimmy glanced at the faded yellow house where he’d fetched his mail. “I was born in this house, lived here until I was shipped off to Korea in ’51. My folks called this house home until a few years ago but both have since passed. I don’t spend much time here anymore but haven’t gotten around to selling the place.”

    

“You’ve probably seen a lot of neighbors come and go.”

    

“Yep.”

    

“Can you tell us anything about our place?”

    

Jimmy rubbed his unshaven cheeks. “Let me think.” A moment later he started to shake his head, but stopped. “Wait, I do recall something interesting. I remember coming home from Korea and seeing all these pretty young women sitting on the porch and front steps. It looked like a piece of heaven, pretty exciting for a guy who had been in the Army too long. But these women all had babies with them. While I was gone the city rented your house and turned it into a home for unwed mothers. Your place had more babies in it than a hospital nursery.”

    

It was a pleasant thought—our home a sanctuary for young mothers with nowhere else to go. The wind rustling in the iron branches transformed into the cheerful sound of bells over water, the timeless joy of giggling and cooing.

    

Jimmy waved goodbye and returned to his house.

    

My wife’s eyes widened as she refocused her attention on our house. She was smiling, an enigmatic expression I hadn’t seen in years. It reminded me of a day thirty-two years earlier when she told me she was pregnant.

    

I felt the arms of this place encircling me, like a lost child returning to a familiar embrace. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were among the many who had come here searching for a home. I couldn’t help but wonder how many would come after us.

 

 

Note: The photograph shows the house we lived in from 2002-2008.



Comments

36 Comments
To have a home that is a true sanctuary is one of life's finest luxuries. I love that your wife has that sense of feelings, too.
By: Shelly on November 30, 2012
I've never been one to believe in "haunted" houses, but I do think it's possible that our souls (or whatever you might wish to call it - intuition, awareness) can "feel" something where strong emotions once happened.
By: Suldog on November 30, 2012
What a delightful post. How fun too. I can see why Mrs. C. was comforted. Excellent. Have a terrific day and weekend. :)
By: Comedy Plus on November 30, 2012
Great story! I don't necessarily believe in ghosts, but I don't necessarily think they're imposible, either. And why are ghosts always thought of as SCARY? Why can't they be nice? S
By: scott park on November 30, 2012
I know a couple of people who have felt similar presences in their homes.. in one case, not so comforting but very much so in the other. I love the idea that so many people had this place to call home. There were a lot of little sweetums about to start their lives.
By: Hilary on November 30, 2012
Why did you move out? It looks like a nice place. We had an old house in San Diego, I much appreciate the newer one we are in now, with the bigger rooms and more open layout.
By: Joeinvegas on November 30, 2012
Like SCOTT PARK, I don't believe in ghosts, but I don't NOT believe, either. Nobody knows for sure what happens after death. Why can't good vibes become part of a place?
By: fishducky on November 30, 2012
What a lovely ending! I'm not familiar with spirits or feeling like something is there, but I was sure there for a bit that we had one in the house, driving the doggie a bit crazy. was pretty funny!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on November 30, 2012
I love a house that has a history esp. if it is a good history. I hope you were happy there. Was the garage usable? Or was the drive too steep. We had one similar on one of our homes and a friend of mine drove through the door.
By: Cheryl P. on November 30, 2012
NICE!!!!!!!!! love this story.
By: mindy on November 30, 2012
I don't think it was ghosts but a "goodness" aura your wife felt. This was a lovely story- and what providence to have a long time neighbor Jimmy.
By: Kathe W. on November 30, 2012
Just because we can't see something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Those that sense a presence are open to receiving it will and those that don't won't. I remember feeling the presence of my grandmother at times after she passed. I was hoping the same thing might occur when my mother passed, but it didn't or at least not yet. Imagine the stories that old home could tell.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 30, 2012
she could feel the love of all of those heroines who chose life. these are the kind of stories I love!
By: annmariepipa on November 30, 2012
It always amazes me how many people who do not believe in ghosts or spirits are Christian. Of course I believe in ghosts and spirits. SOme are evil and some are Casperlike...and one is Holy!
By: Cranky old man on November 30, 2012
That's an interesting story. Perhaps your wife sensed the joy of having a newborn baby, yet if they were unwed mothers, they were probably surrounded by wistfulness and longing, too. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 30, 2012
I was skeptical of ghosts until I saw a headless guy in my basement. Scared the crap out of me! But I didn't feel threatened. I was scared because I SAW A HEADLESS GUY IN MY BASEMENT. That's not normal. I'm a science teacher. That defies the rules of nature. I suppose it's just like any other sense. Some people become tasters for coffee companies. Some sniff armpits for deodorant companies. Some organize ghost-hunting tours for a living.
By: Val on November 30, 2012
Amazing story - I guess places do give off an aura of what has been. At least it was a positive aura, and lucky for you and your wife that your neighbor knew the story!
By: Pixel Peeper on November 30, 2012
I believe that houses retain a spiritual sense so to say of its past history, your being a home for unwed mothers would have given it a feeling of comfort due to the spirits of all the Moms who had lived there, it's nice that Mrs. C picked up on this, now your Love and compassion for each other will only make this house a home for many in the future. Loved this post my Friend.
By: Jimmy on November 30, 2012
So they were friendly ghosts?
By: PT Dilloway on November 30, 2012
I can relate to your experience. People will look at me like I am crazy when I tell them about our experience. Houses do remain homes to the life they held before us. In our case it was a protected and comforting feeling. We live in Hillsboro now but the house I am speaking of was in Ontario Oregon and was built in the 1880's. Be well. b+ http;//www.retireinstyleblog.com
By: b+k on November 30, 2012
Another interesting tale!
By: Eva Gallant on November 30, 2012
As a Wiccan, and "free spirit", I believe in ghosts, hauntings, and the like. Some are very pleasant and comforting. We live in a building that used to be a school house, there are many presences I can feel here. I really enjoyed reading this and I am glad your wife felt comfort from those who had left their psychic imprint on your home. Very well written, again, I really enjoy your writing. :)
By: The Insomniac's Dream on November 30, 2012
Ahhhh...energy....... I adore lingering energy...... What a Blessing! :)
By: Mimi Foxmorton on December 1, 2012
Aww, what a lovely story!
By: Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous on December 1, 2012
I do believe that many houses do have 'presence'. The house we live in now give me the sense of wanting us here -- even of having waited for us to come! And I have had a few experiences of presence in places that I like very much. Great story and great house!
By: The Broad on December 1, 2012
So Jimmy's house was the yellow one on the left? That would be a warming thought knowing unwed mothers and babies had a safe home in your house.
By: CiCi Winningham on December 1, 2012
A great write...like the "new" look!
By: Jenny on December 1, 2012
Oh, i could only wish our current house had such a beautiful history!
By: messymimi on December 1, 2012
Nice story. Nice house!
By: Tom Sightings on December 1, 2012
Your wife is very perceptive. I am happy for you that she didn't feel threatened and wanted to pick up and leave.
By: Are We There Yet!! on December 1, 2012
Lovely story, lovely home...I have "sensed" things before, it is a very disturbing feeling...
By: Drbbie on December 1, 2012
That's an awesome story. Great house.
By: Diane Laney Fitzpatrick on December 1, 2012
Good Christmas story, Stephen.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on December 1, 2012
How wonderful that the house was a safe haven. Sounds like it was a safe haven for you two, too. ;)
By: Rita McGregor on December 1, 2012
what a great many histories and stories have passed through your home over the years!
By: lime on December 1, 2012
I don't think I'm psychic. Never known whether that is a good thing or a bad one! But an interesting story.
By: Jenny Woolf on December 3, 2012

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