By Mary Trotter
first time I entered my house in Kennewick,
in spite of its rundown and dirty condition, something about it seemed oh
so right. It seemed like the house was welcoming me: telling me to come
live within it. Not long after I moved in, at times it did not seem quite
so welcome. And I had yet to meet ‘Ralph,’ my silent mischievous
housemate, or at least start to realize I was not living alone. Ralph was, and is, invisible to me, except for one very brief occasion.
had lived in my house some two weeks when one day I heard the faint sounds
of a baby crying. It seemed to be coming from the other end of the house.
At first I didn’t pay it much attention. Just one of the cats, I thought.
I had several and one, Cookie the calico, had quite an extensive cat
I heard this
baby-crying sound several different times and each time Cookie would
not be in site, confirming my belief that Cookie had added another
phrase to her speech-making. I had already assured myself that the
neighbors on either side of me had no small children or babies. So, I
concluded, it was the cat making the crying sounds. With that mystery
solved, or so I thought, I continued unpacking boxes and making the
place my own. If anything else unusual happened I was far too busy to
one day I again heard the faint cry of a baby. As usual, it was coming
from the other end of the house. It never mattered which end of the
house I was in; the sound always came from the other end. But this
time when the ‘baby’ cried, Cookie the cat was sitting beside me. As
the ‘baby’ cried I stared down at the cat. Cookie was quieter than I
had ever seen her. She never opened her mouth, nor twitched a whisker.
It was not the cat making the sound and it was the last time I heard
the ‘baby’ cry.
I had no idea what
had created the crying sounds, and still don’t. There was nothing I
could do but let the incidents pass and get on with enjoying my house. It was a busy time, cleaning the place to a state of livable. Its most
recent residents, before me, had been of the squeaky four-legged and
long-tailed variety. Though unseen they had dropped plenty of evidence
of their having been there in every cupboard and drawer. That was no
problem. Armed with pail and rag, several cats, and mousetraps, I soon
had my unwelcome boarders mostly eliminated. But, as I discovered one
afternoon, there was evidence of some other uninvited guest lurking
about in my house. And evidently it was a rather windy entity.
When I bought this house one of the gals
where I worked gave me a housewarming present. It was a wind chime
made from an inverted clay flowerpot that could be hanged by a leather
thong. As it was winter still and I had yet to begin sorting out the
yard, I hanged it from a hook that was in the ceiling in the dining
area. As heavy as it was I feared to think how much of a big outside
wind it would take to make it sway and activate the clay clapper. And,
of course, being hanged inside with all the doors and windows tightly
shut there wouldn’t be any breeze to move it anyway. But -- there was.
One day I entered the
dining area to see the heavy clay wind chime swaying back and forth. It
must have been moving a good eight or ten inches in either direction. I
just stood there, almost disbelieving what I was seeing. But I was seeing
it as it swayed back and forth for several seconds before it abruptly
stopped and remained still. My first thought then was that one of the cats
had gotten up on the table, swatted the chime, heard me coming and
scurried down and away. Knowing that my largest cat could stand on the
floor on his tiptoes and reach up to the kitchen counter to at anything on
the edge of the counter, I did some measuring from floor to counter top. I
then measured from tabletop to the clay chime. The space from the tabletop
to the hanging clay pot was a good two feet more in length than from the
floor to the counter top. No cat had hit it and made it sway. The incident of the swaying clay pot occurred one other time shortly after
that, then no more.
For a couple of years
nothing more happened that seemed out of the ordinary. Oh, once in a while
something would just happen to fall off of the top of the
refrigerator -- things I was sure had not been near the edge where they could
fall. But, of course, I could have been mistaken. Besides they were just
small things that couldn’t hurt anyone. I kept my big electric wok up
there on top of the refrigerator and made sure it was well back from the
edge. There was no fear of it falling. The heavy wok didn’t fall, but
something else even more strange fell -- of possibly flew.
By now there had been a
few incidents of pictures falling, not down from the wall, but OUT from
the wall. Actually, it had happened just a few too many times and I was
starting to wonder and get suspicious. Houses just don’t make crying
sounds or make hanging clay pots sway. I was seriously beginning to
believe that something strange was going on. I had been in the house
nearly three years now and although unusual things happened occasionally,
nothing serious had happened that could harm anyone. Then something did
I was in the kitchen on
day, doing some of those necessary things you do in a kitchen. One of the
things I did there that day, was duck, just as the lid to the wok came
flying off the top of the refrigerator right at my head. Now things were
getting serious, and scary.
As the wok lid clattered
to the floor I shouted. And I to this day have no idea why I shouted what
I did. I yelled: "Ok, Ralph, knock it off!” So now my invisible and
silent housemate had a name, and since that time I’ve had many occasions
to repeat those five warning words. Why did I call him ‘Ralph?’ I don’t
know. I don’t even like the name especially. But it has been a
little over sixteen years that I have lived in this little house with
Sometimes a year or more
will go by and I will have no indication that Ralph is still lurking
about. Then, suddenly, he will pull one of his innocent pranks. At
the present time I would not believe he is here except that I have learned
to make sure, when I go outside, not to close the door completely and to
make sure the little thing in the middle of the doorknob that locks the
door isn’t turned to lock. I learned the hard way early one morning when I
put the dogs outside. For some reason that I do not remember, I stepped
outside also -- and closed the door completely. When I turned the doorknob to
reenter -- it was locked. It was no fun climbing in a window. At the time I
didn’t even consider that Ralph had locked the door. Then one day my
sister was here visiting. We stepped outside together and I closed the
door completely. We were locked out. If Ralph did it he goofed. My
brother-in-law was inside and let us in. I didn’t say anything about Ralph
to them. They wouldn’t have believed me. But since then I have been very
careful not to shut the door tight unless I’m on the inside. Many times
now, after coming inside I have found the little thing on the doorknob
turned to lock. Telling Ralph to "knock it off” doesn’t seem to
always work anymore.
I’d been living in the
house some seven or eight years when I became disabled and could not work
any longer. My daughter was going to work fulltime so I signed on as
babysitter for her little daughter. My granddaughter was about
three-years-old at the time. I don’t think Ralph cared much for the child
being there. I had some small plastic Mexican decorations on one wall.
They were extremely difficult to put up. I suppose they were designed that
way so they would not fall off of the wall. However, on several
occasions, when my granddaughter would be within a few feet of where they
hung, one or the other of the decorations would come flying off the wall
straight at her. They never hit, but just missed, and couldn’t have hurt
if they had connected with her. Eventually, that game ended, just as
others had. But always, when one game ended, I was certain with time,
something new would happen. And it did, just before Christmas in 1996.
To make sense of what
happened late in November of 1996 I have to briefly explain an incident
that happened to me some twenty years previously. At that time, while
living in Illinois, a person I will just refer to as ‘a friend’ sent me
one half of a tissue in an envelope with a letter. This friend wrote that
the tissue had been blessed and that I was not to destroy or discard it. Being one to keep cards and letters, I read the letter, put the half of
the tissue and the letter back in the envelope and stuck it in a drawer in
the bedroom. I thought no more about it. Soon after, I began having
tremendous headaches that lasted for nearly a year, never really going
away. Nothing the doctors gave me did any good and I, to this day,
remember very little of that lost year. But, for some reason I can
not explain, one day I did remember something.
Why I recalled the letter
and the tissue my friend sent me I don’t know, but I thank God that I did.
They were still in the drawer where I had put them. I took the letter, the
envelope, and especially the tissue and burned them. Then I asked my
husband, now ex-husband, to go buy me a silver crucifix on a chain that I
could wear. He usually scoffed at my belief in the supernatural, but
this time he didn’t. He immediately left and came home with what I had
asked for. I put the crucifix on and lay down to rest.
My husband said later
that I lay there twisting and turning and crying, and that he could not
wake me. When I woke on my own the excruciating headache was gone. I
continued to wear the silver crucifix for many years thereafter. Several
times the chain would break. I would then buy a new chain and attach it
and continue wearing it. The chain broke a couple of times after I
moved into my house. The last time it broke I never found it or the
crucifix. Always before, it would fall down inside my clothing or on the
floor where I’d see it. This time the silver crucifix and the chain, which
had a string tied to it where I have once done a quick repair job, was
gone for good. For weeks afterwards I looked everywhere in the house for
it. I could only guess it had broken, unknowingly, sometime when I was
away from home. It had disappeared some two to three years before
November of 1996. That November I had occasion, instead of telling
Ralph to "knock it off,” to thank him.
That Christmas, being
short of money, I was making a lot of my gifts. One I was especially proud
of and was enjoying making was a large cloth doll for my granddaughter.
The doll, when finished, would be as big as she was. I was sitting at my
sewing machine late one night, making a dress for the doll. After a while
I got up to go to the kitchen to refill my teacup. When I came back to the
sewing machine the chain that had, some years previously, been attached to
the silver crucifix, with the string still tied on it, was draped across
the machine’s foot-feed. The foot-feed is the little foot-like thing that
you let down on your material to hold it in place while you sew.
Had the chain dropped out
of something I was using? That was my first thought. But that couldn’t be.
Everything I was using to sew the doll and its clothes I had bought new
just a week before. Besides, it was obvious the chain had been gently
draped, not dropped, across the foot-feed. All I could think
was -- Ralph, and to thank him. Why, if it was Ralph’s doings, hadn’t he
also returned the crucifix as well? I didn’t, and still don’t, have an
answer for that one either. In fact, it is something that is a little too
scary for me to consider.
Time passed. A year or
more would go by and there would be no indication that Ralph was still
with me. Occasionally, a wonderful scent of male cologne will waft through
the house with no logical explanation of its source and I will
think -- Ralph. At times, things fall off of tables or counters when
really they should not have. Again, I will think -- Ralph. Throughout all of
this, I often wondered what Ralph had looked like when he was alive -- if,
indeed, he is a he. For several years nothing of major note occurred
and my life continued to revolve around the usual things, cleaning, yard
work, grocery shopping and caring for my cats and my dog.
By now, Cookie the
calico, who I had in the early days, at first, thought had learned to make
sounds like a baby crying was getting on in years. She had passed her
fourteenth year and survived a mild stroke that left her far less agile
than previously. She spent most of her time now in a place I found
very strange for her to be.
I had a rocking chair in
the living room. None of the cats had ever claimed it as their resting
place because the least little touch would send the chair erratically
rocking. But now, Cookie was spending her resting time exclusively in the
rocker. She was there most of the time now, except for one occasion
when someone else was sitting in it -- someone who quickly dissolved into
I had been out grocery
shopping. I came through the front door, both of my arms clutching
over-filled shopping bags. Out of habit, I was looking downward to insure
I didn’t step on a cat: I had a couple of new ones that were not
fully-grown and hadn’t learned not to be where my feet were. Had I not
been looking down I might have missed that brief glimpse of who was
sitting in the rocker. And it wasn’t Cookie the cat.
I only saw the lower,
jean-clad legs of the man sitting in the rocker. The jeans were well worn,
as were the scuffed western boots he wore. In my astonishment and, I
admit, fright I failed to glance upward to his upper torso and face before
he instantly disappeared. It is a failing I will always regret. Was
it Ralph sitting there, or someone else?
Cookie, the cat, spent
her last days curled in that chair. I often wonder if the chair’s
attraction was actually Ralph’s lap. If so, again I thank him.
That has been several years ago. Occasionally
the scent of that wonderful cologne fills the house or a single room. At
other times, something falls that shouldn’t have. Is Ralph still here? His
antics may have calmed but, yes, I believe he is here. In many ways, I
hope he is still haunting the rooms of my little house. But a kinder
instinct also hopes he had moved on to that better place we tend to say
the departed have gone.
© Mary Trotter Kion, 2005
Author: Mary Trotter Kion is the published
author of two books: Stones of Love, a mystery romance, and
a historical non-fiction book about Kennewick,
Over 200 of her historical articles and fiction have been published on the
Internet. Mary’s first e-book Rails Across a Nation, a history of the
building of the railroad in America, will soon be available.