Read Roberta's reflections on the Bar Harbor bed and breakfast experience. The following items are included in the forthcoming collection by Roberta Chester called “Be My Guest: The Inside Story of a B & B in Maine.”
“News and Notes 2018 - Our Resident Ghost”
Years ago, before ghosts and haunted houses became big business and people would actually seek out places reputed to offer supernatural experiences, I would have resisted any suggestion of a ghost at the Shore Path Cottage. I assumed, based on my own hesitation, that no one would choose to sleep in a house that was haunted. Now, I could probably, to our advantage, list our resident ghost among the amenities we can offer at the Shore path Cottage, but back then I associated ghosts with haunted houses, creepy places that one would only enter under duress to escape wild beasts (both of the human and animal variety) or acts of nature.
Our house was built in 1880, and though ghosts are known to inhabit old houses, I never suspected we might have one living (that must be an oxymoron) among us. After our first winter many years ago when we moved in just in time for the oil crisis during the 1970’s, I would have said, but jokingly, that only a ghost could deal with the cold that was so severe we were scraping the ice from the inside of the windows. I’m happy that I never knew about our ghost because my lights would have been on all night and the kids and I would have been sleeping together in one bed and not just to keep warm.
It was only years later when the house first became a B & B that I had a guest who said she was an “intuitive” (a term I was to learn referred to those few whose antennae are more tuned into another dimension than most of us) informed me that we do indeed have a ghost. “He pulled on my big toe last night,” she told me, “but not to worry”, she assured me, “he is friendly and was just curious and probably a bit mischievous.” She was a very sensible looking speech therapist, and certainly in no way eccentric. “If there is a presence in a house, I’ll be aware of it, and you certainly have one,” she said. Afraid that I would see a mass exodus, I furtively looked around to make sure none of our other guests heard her. “They only make themselves known to people who are sensitive to them,” she assured me.
Not long after, a man staying in the same room met me in the kitchen to tell me some strange things happened during the night. “The book I was reading that was on the night table when I went to sleep was on the desk when I awoke. And the shades were moving up and down of their own accord; it was if a ghost was trying to get my attention. I am very sensitive to these things and am wondering if anyone else mentioned something similar happening in this room?” he asked me.
“Really, how strange,” I said, playing dumb, happy he hadn’t mentioned this to the other guests at the dining room table. Now with this second report, I found myself worrying whether this particular room attracted intuitives, and I would soon be greeted in the morning with some similar strange phenomenon.
After the second report, I started suspecting some experiences I had previously dismissed. One night, the hall night on the second floor suddenly blew and it was completely dark. I was just about to walk downstairs when I became completely disoriented. In a house where I had lived for twenty years, I became totally unaware of my surroundings, and I was groping my way in the darkness, trying to feel my way to the stairs. It was if I were five years old playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” blindfolded and someone had turned me around and around. (I hated that game so much it was enough to make me want to avoid birthday parties.) I had no idea where anything was. In actual time, the experience could not have been more than a minute, but it felt much longer. By the time I felt my way down the stairs and turned on every light in the house I was angry with our ghost whose mischief was mixed with a bit of malice. Having observed me over the years, this little trick was exactly tailored to my weakness, namely my difficulty orienting myself in space.
Sometime after that I was sitting on the porch with a guest talking about writing. I was holding about five pieces of paper when suddenly, as if someone snatched them from my hand, I watched them disappear between the slats on the porch. There was absolutely no wind and the slats were, an eighth of an inch apart, if that, so even if I tried I could only have pushed the pages through two pages at a time, at most.Now I had to push my way through bushes and crawl under the porch to retrieve the papers, all the while thinking this was not only strange but nasty. I suddenly recalled hearing that ghosts don’t like to be left alone, and wondered whether our ghost — left to his own devices and on his own all winter — was taking revenge.
Even though I couldn’t explain how several sheets of paper managed to slip so easily through such a narrow slit, I was still resistant to attributing these phenomena to a ghost in the house…until, that is, two additional events convinced me. The first occurred when the woman, the one who said she was an intuitive, made a return visit to the Shore Path Cottage, this time with her family. At breakfast two days after she arrived she took me aside to tell me that he (the “presence” whom she mentioned on her first visit) sat next to her at the dining room table the previous evening. This time she was visiting with her family and they were sitting around the table enjoying a good time when she noticed that an elderly, dapper gentleman was sitting next to her, smiling and enjoying the warm atmosphere. She mentioned that he was wearing a bright yellow jacket. It was a detail I would remember.
The following summer the family who owned this house in the1940’s stayed with us for several days celebrating a reunion. The brother and sister, now in their seventies, were four and five years old when they visited their grandmother who owned the house. Their father, one of two brothers, spent many summers here with their grandmother when the house was named “We the People.” My elderly neighbor Polly who was born across the road, and remembered the brothers, told me about their wild parties and raucous good times. This time they came with their children and grandchildren and assorted family members. I was invited to join the family one afternoon when the 70 year old siblings were telling stories to their own children and grandchildren about the history of the house and specifically about their father who was quite a bon vivant. I heard that he loved beautiful clothes and that “his favorite article of clothing was a yellow jacket.“
I was stunned, remembering my “intuitive” who reported that our resident ghost sat next to her and was wearing a yellow jacket. For me, this was proof positive we have a ghost in our house. Now, however, that ghosts have become a desirable feature like so much other “junk” that became valuable with time like comic books, tinker toys, and art deco collectibles, I might conceivably advertise our ghost as one of our amenities like hair driers in all our rooms and plush towels and chocolates.
Beginning several years ago, one of the activities offered to the tourists and cruise ship passengers who disembark for several hours, is a tour of Bar Harbor’s haunted houses. The guide is dressed in appropriate period clothing and I have seen her leading a group of about 20 through the streets of town. This seems to be a lucrative business whose owners would probably be interested in our ghost, but I hesitate to add him to their repertoire and will instead keep him to ourselves as our own unique amenity.
(P.S. During the summer of 2016, I was talking to two guests in the dining room about our resident ghost when I had the strangest feeling that he was listening to me. I was prompted to tell them that they should be prepared for some sign (proof of his unique sense of humor) letting them know he is “for real.” Sure enough, they reported to me the next morning that they noticed something strange in the middle of the night when they awoke to find just one of the lanterns hanging beside the fireplace swinging madly back and forth while the identical lantern on the other side of the fireplace was totally still.)
- Roberta Chester, 2018