Monday, February 16, 2015

The Man With the Hat by Roseanne Dowell

I remember moving into our first home. I was so excited it was difficult to sleep the night before. It didn't matter that it was an old house and needed work, it was ours.  My husband worked nights and had taken his vacation to start preparing the house for us. I was six months pregnant, but raring and ready to work and we got the keys on my birthday. Couldn't have gotten a better birthday gift. We spent two weeks scraping wall paper and painting. Moving day couldn't come soon enough. We moved in the first weekend in June and spent the weekend putting things away. Things were quiet over the weekend. We fell into bed exhausted.
It all started the  night Roger went back to work.  We put our children to bed and sat down to watch television until it was time for him to leave.   I had the most uncomfortable feeling someone was staring at me, but ignored it.  Roger didn't seem to notice anything. Our dog curled up next to me and seemed quite content.  About eleven o’clock he left for work, and I went to bed.
Just as I dozed off I heard a noise in the basement.  Our dog started barking. Not sure what to do, I picked up the phone and called my sister, who lived two streets away. She sent her husband, Doug, to check things out.
Doug looked around the house and of course didn't see anything. However our dog refused to come into the dining room.  She remained in the hall growling and barking. Doug went into the kitchen and called her. She didn't move. I went into the living room and called her. She refused to enter the dining room and wouldn't come to either one of us. 
Seeing my fear, Doug suggested we pack up the kids and spend the night at their house. I’m sure he just wanted to go home to bed.
In the morning we returned home and all seemed well. All day our dog ran through the house with the kids like normal..
That night the same thing happened.  I hesitated calling my brother in law again, but the noises wouldn't quit. This time, however, as Doug started down the basement steps, he stopped, came back, and took a knife from the drawer.
I must have looked confused; because he told me he had an eerie feeling like someone was watching him. He checked out the basement and everything seemed normal. And, again, we spent the night at their house. 
This went on for several nights. Doug came over and took us all to his house.  The nights Roger was home we didn't hear anything and the dog stayed calm.
The next night Roger went to work it happened again. This time Doug brought a tape recorder over and set it up in the dining room before we went to his house. I’m sure he was sick of coming over and set it up to prove to me there weren't any noises. Yet, he admitted to having strange feelings especially in the basement. 
The next morning, we played back the tape.  Sounds of our dog growling and barking were predominant, but in the background were sounds we couldn't identify. Sounds like something being dragged across the floor and others noises sounded like scratches and moans.
I knew I couldn't spend every night at my sister’s house so I made up my mind to stay home. Every night the same thing occurred. Somehow I tuned out the noises, quieted the dog and managed to sleep. After all it was my house.
One day, a few weeks later, my three daughters were playing upstairs in their room.  They screamed and ran down stairs.  “There’s a man up there,” they cried in unison.
Since we’d been home all day, I knew that couldn't be. But I went up to check out their story to appease them.  They pointed to the alcove where they said a man with a hat had been watching them.
Of course no one was there.  I explained it was a shadow of a bird going past the window.   Although I had an eerie feeling and the room felt extremely cold and it was a warm June day.
My daughters refused to accept my explanation. They knew what they saw and described him clearly.  He was a tall man, in a brown suit jacket and wearing a hat. They couldn't make out his face, but they said he watched them play.
Of course, hey refused to play upstairs, and I often had a hard time getting them to go to bed at night.
Up until then things remained normal during the daylight hours. Now it seemed our nightly visitor had decided to appear when it was light out, too.
Also until then, Roger thought it was my vivid writer’s imagination working overtime.  That is,  until one day he was working in the basement.  He came upstairs, white faced.
“What’s wrong,” I asked.
“I just saw a man wearing a hat in the basement. At first it was a shadow. But as I stared at it his form became clearer, and I could see the outline of his hat.”
That shook me up. When he described the man the same as the kids, I knew we had a ghost. Roger wouldn't lie about something like that. Now he realized the noises weren't my overactive imagination after all.
About a month after we moved in, I met some of the neighbors. I hesitantly told them of my feelings of being watched.  I didn't mention that my kids or Roger had seen a man.
The woman across the street laughed and said it was probably our nosy neighbor looking in the windows. She went on to explain how when they moved in the woman actually walked in and looked around.  I knew that wasn't the case but hesitated to tell her anymore of our experiences. After all I had just moved in and didn't want people to think I was crazy.
I asked one of the neighbors about the people who had lived in the house before us. It had been sold as part of an estate sale.  So I knew they had died.
“Oh, a nice old couple lived there. The wife died a long time ago. And John lived alone for a long time,” she said.  “He died in the house and it was several days before they found him because he didn't have a phone. When we didn't see him for a few days and his newspapers stayed outside we called his son.”
Later, I found out John died in the very bedroom I slept in.  Eventually I told my friend about some of the things we experienced, but didn't tell her about the man with the hat. I asked about John and she said he was a nice old man, kept mostly to himself. “He loved to work in his garden and yard. Funny,” she said. “He always wore a brown suit coat and a hat.”
So that explained a lot.  John was our ghost. He appeared many times after that. Roger often saw him in the basement, especially when we were remodeling the kitchen. One of my sons said John used to sit on a chair upstairs and watch him play.Strangely enough, my son wasn't afraid of him. 

I never saw John myself, but I sure heard him and sometimes smelled a sweet smell, like aftershave. One day he simply disappeared. I figured he must have approved of us and went on to a better place.

You can find Roseanne's books at Books We Love or  Amazon