I do love our new house. I do. It’s a little quirky, having been a pool house and all. But honestly, pool house is a relative term in Wellesley. It’s a good sized home with a garage and everything, but it wasn’t meant to be lived in full time so the layout is challenging. It’s cute though, unique. Best of all, our yard is surrounded on three sides by woods which, believe it or not, is something I’ve always wanted. My ultimate dream is to be tucked away in the forest with a bottomless cup of coffee and a stack of mysteries. Zero interruptions. Zero responsibilities save for updating my GoodReads account. So, you know close enough. At least I’m in the woods.
Unlike our last three neighborhoods, where you couldn’t get away from everyone if your life depended upon it, which I found quite charming, the houses here are much further apart, the neighbors are very friendly but everyone does their own thing around here. Minding their own backyards, if you will. The girls and I occasionally walk down to the end of the cul de sac and aside from the construction crews and landscaping trucks zipping too and fro we don’t really see anyone. I suspect the houses on our street are empty most of the time.
This past winter right around New Year’s Eve, Chris noticed a really strong gas smell outside. He walked down the street and heard a hissing sound coming from one of the houses. Long story short, an ice sheet had fallen from the roof and hit the gas meter? Pipe? Hell if I know what the hell broke off, but gas was just streaming out into the neighborhood. Someone came out from the gas company and fixed it, nothing happened, though the man seemed pretty freaked out by the whole thing. The reason I mention this is that no one else was around. It was evening, and all the houses around us were silent and dark. Apparently the people who owned the house were out of town for the month. How long would that gas have seeped into the neighborhood if we weren’t homebody recluses, right?
So that was weird, but not, like paranormal weird, it just kind of illustrates that while we are in a neighborhood, no one’s really around. Something happened yesterday afternoon actually, that reminded me of that fact again. I was eating lunch and watching an old Dead Files episode when I heard this booming voice outside. It didn’t let up. I went out to the patio and heard NPR blaring through the neighborhood. A house a few doors down apparently has an outdoor speaker system and someone was blasting talk radio. At first I thought it was silly, then I wondered how long it might go on. Then, as I sat back down to my Frankenberry cereal my anxiety ridden, true-crime saturated brain whispered, “Maybe it’s a distress call….”
So I spiraled. I got it in my head that the entire family in that house was under attack. That someone had broken into their home. Either a stranger or, more likely someone with a grudge. Maybe against the dad? Or maybe one of the kids? Which reminded me that this one time in high school there was this guy in the class above mine who was horrifically bullying this other kid. That kid – the one being bullied – hired two of the instructors at his karate studio to beat the bully up. They duct taped him to a chair and beat him to within an inch of his life. My point is, my brain pulled up this memory, mixed it with all the true crime stories I’ve read and listened to, and created the story that a violent home invasion was happening on my street and that maybe the woman in that house had somehow managed to slip away and turn on the outdoor speakers in hopes of alerting someone in the neighborhood that they were in distress.
I flipped off the Dead Files and went back to the window, and stood there with my cereal bowl listening to the booming tones of the NPR radio host. Should I go knock on the door? No. If they weren’t being attacked how would I explain? What if they thought I was being a Karen complaining about the noise?
I went back outside and recorded some video then sent it to Chris. “What should I do?”
“Nothing. They probably don’t even realize it’s on.”
He soon returned home with his salad and moments later the radio turned off.
“See, they probably didn’t realize it was on.”
“Or they’re all dead,” I muttered.
Now I get that my mind leans towards the scary side of things more than the average person, and I have good reason, but I think anyone would admit that this neighborhood is a little spooky. I wouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that the people were in the midst of a violent home invasion in any of the other neighborhoods we’ve lived in. I would’ve assumed one of the neighbors’ kids had flipped the switch on the outdoor speakers by accident or even that the neighbors were just being rude and playing their radio too loud.
But not here. There’s a vibe here. It’s not inside my house, inside my house feels cozy and calm. I mean I’m not calm, I’m an anxious mess. But that’s beside the point. The ground here, the land, the forest, the trees, the lake up and over the hill behind our house, and that river so close by… all of it adds up to a sort of insidious creepy fairytale vibe. In the sunshine it’s fine, on a cloudy day less so. But at night? We don’t go outside at night.
I’ve learned how to turn the dial way down on my ability to see and interact with ghosts when I’m home, and I can sort of minimize my, like beacon, so ghosts aren’t drawn towards me. It’s made for a much calmer existence. But of course I’ve taken a little look see around the neighborhood, and I haven’t encountered anything too weird. Save for the sinkhole in Anne’s back yard. And Kelly’s whole time warp situation [see ghost story #58 Come Again?]. But I have this nagging sense that things are just plain weird around here and it isn’t a ghost-y type feeling. It doesn’t feel demonic either.
Meeting Anne and her sister-in-law forced me to face this vibe straight on. Had I not known about that sinkhole in her backyard, I probably would’ve continued to chalk up my suspicions to my overactive imagination. But of course I couldn’t be that lucky. I know there’s something up here. And I suspect it has something to do with the estate that was here in the late 18 and early 1900s.
Anne and Carly were not the first to mention the Baker Estate to me. It was time warp Kelly who first asked me if I knew that we all live on his old estate. But, like so many other things, the whole idea just fell out of my head after I spoke with her. Blame it on the back to school whirlwind. Anyhow, I Googled it and found a pretty cool article about the whole thing on the Needham Historical Association website (a town that’s just a stone’s throw from our house). I ordered a book and a DVD containing a short film about the whole thing from that website. We don’t have a DVD player anymore but you know damn well well one will show up at the dump swap eventually. I just have to be patient.
I’ve only read a few chapters of the Historical Association’s text titled, The Baker Estate or Ridge Hill Farms of Needham, but it was enough to get the gist of this curious William Emerson Baker. I suppose you would describe him as an eccentric, a kind, generous and rather idealistic one at that. He bought up over 900 acres between Needham and Wellesley and created a “Circus, Amusement Park Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre,” as the book describes it. I swear to God, I must be manifesting or law of attraction-ing these things into my life at this point, right? I mean who else would blindly land smack dab in the middle of something like this?
Anyhow, there were two bear pits (word around the neighborhood is that someone on the other side of the lake actually discovered the remnants of one of these pits when they were landscaping their backyard), lots of horses, waterside attractions, a bowling alley, a deer farm, a bunch of pretty monuments and such that he bought up from state fairs and had transplanted to his estate, beautifully kept gardens, and… underground caverns.
The book came with a large pull out map. It appears that the entrance to those caves was just beside the lake. According to the text, the caves are no longer accessible. To which I say, “Sure, Jan.” It’s not just me, though. Right? A late 1800s amusement park. It’s creepy. And it feels just about right. Now, I’m not saying that this Baker guy did anything nefarious here. By all accounts he was just a quirky person who liked sharing his quirks with everyone else. Godspeed.
But do I think it’s a coincidence that he set up his amusement park here? No. This place is weird. Do I think that he may have unintentionally stirred some spook up by digging that lake and creating those caverns and all the other attractions – including The Hotel Wellesley which just happened to burn down? Yes. I do.
My proof? We’re about to hear from another set of neighbors – my neighbors – who are dealing with something really scary on their property. Just coincidentally, diagonal from their place, right across the lake, is the location of the old, now defunct, cavern attraction entrance.
So, circling back – or I mean at this point, zig zagging wildly back to Anne’s sinkhole – Claire was right. I lied. I absolutely heard something when I peered over the edge into that seemingly bottomless pit. And the voice was just as Anne had described, gravely and wet. It said, “What was done cannot be undone. They never should have come here.”
At the time I assumed they meant they wanted Anne and her family out of there. I say they because that wet gravely voice was actually made up of at least three of those things, all speaking together. Shivers.
As the whole experience sinks in, I’m beginning to think the “you” was more of a “you all,” as in, “you all never should have come here.” And “here” didn’t just apply to Anne’s property, they were referring to this whole area. I can’t explain why I am so certain that this was their meaning, but I’ve learned not to second guess my gut in these matters.
I don’t think people are supposed to live in this part of town.
Our street is long and ends in a cul-de-sac upon which sit three very large houses. If you’re staring straight into the cul-de-sac to your right there’s an old colonial with a tasteful new and very large addition. The center house is unique and let’s just say century-specific. It actually overlooks Sabrina lake. And the house on the left is the one that Biddy and I went to visit. I suppose McMansion is the most accurate way to describe it, and it sits atop a little hill.
Painted a neutral grey, with white trim, a black roof, some brick detailing along the facade and black shutters the house is about as pretty and unassuming as it gets. It’s homeowners are the type to hire seasonal decorative landscapers, a phenomena that before moving to Wellesley I thought only businesses did. For autumn this looks like artfully placed haystacks, multi-colored gourds and pumpkins, tall grasses and tasteful Halloween decorations like wooden signs and such. You should see it at Christmas.
Anyhow, the day Biddy and I went to meet Heather and Josh Squire was a quintessential New England autumn morning. Biddy parked at my house and we decided to walk down to the Squire’s so she could catch me up on their situation. Life had been so crazy as of late that we hadn’t really connected at all about the haunting.
Our street is quite long, and as I’ve mentioned, when the girls and I take walks we rarely see neighbors, so I’d never really noticed the house before. Walking up the driveway it became apparent just how massive the place was. It’s top level, presumably the third floor, was lined with six dormers.
“How many kids do they have?” I asked as we climbed the front steps.
“Two boys, teenagers,” Biddy replied, reaching for the doorbell.
Before she had the chance to press the button the door swung open and a middle aged couple greeted us.
“We thought we could sit on the screened in porch out back, are you comfortable with that?” Heather asked.
We were, so we followed them through a grand entryway past a sweeping staircase and into a surprisingly gloomy kitchen. A spread of muffins, fruit and coffee sat atop a brown granite countertop with gold and black flecks. I grabbed a coffee and a pumpkin muffin topped with those great cinnamon sugar crumble thingys.
The screened in porch was just off the kitchen, it was a rather large room overlooking the woods. Off to the right I could see a slice of Sabrina lake. The vibe was very lake house, all wood and plaid and believe it or not there was a fireplace.
“It’s a little chilly. Shall I light the fire?” Josh went to the mantle to flip a switch and the gas fed fire came to life.
We sat in four Scotch plaid upholstered chairs arranged in a semi-circle before the fireplace, above which was mounted the antlers of some very large animal. I mean, it must have been a deer but who knows. Outside the morning was autumn grey and the trees, whose leaves were about halfway through their seasonal wardrobe change, swayed in a crisp breeze. It was one of the prettiest rooms I’ve ever been in.
Now that we were facing each other I could see just how exhausted, wrung out really, the couple appeared to be.
“I am embarrassed we haven’t had the chance to meet before this.”
“Me too,” I replied.
“We’ve just been so consumed,” Heather continued, glancing at her husband.
“This is all new to us,” he explained. “Nothing like this has ever happened to us before, thank God. We are grateful that you are able to help, but uh,” he shifted in his seat, “We do hope to remain anonymous.”
Heather put a hand on his arm. “She’s going to record this, that’s part of the deal.”
“I don’t have to share your story on my blog, that’s totally up to you,” I explained quickly.
“No,” Josh said firmly. “We agreed to this and we aren’t going back on it-”
“If anyone else is going through something similar, we would hope our story might find them and-”
“Right,” he interrupted his wife, after she’d interrupted him, “We just don’t want our names or anything specifically identifying to be included in the story.”
“Of course,” I reassured them.
“I haven’t had the chance to tell Liz much about what your family is going through,” Biddy cut in. “But I think it would be helpful for all of us if we start right at the beginning.”
“Can I be totally honest?” Asked Heather.
“I’m really afraid of what you’ll find here.”
My eyes slid over the dark woods at the edge of their lawn. I’d already sensed there was something off about the place. If I were being totally honest, I was afraid of what we were going to find in the house.
“It’s just,” Heather continued, “I’m afraid it will get worse if we talk about it.”
“It might,” Biddy replied frankly. “But it’s the only way we can determine how to best help you.”
Josh let out a deep sigh.
“How long have you lived here?” I asked.
“Almost ten years.”
“Have you been dealing with the, uh, problem that entire time?”
“No, no, no. It started last fall, actually.” Heather looked to her husband for confirmation.
“That’s right, last September right around the time the boys went back to school.”
“Do you know of anything that happened around that time that might have caused the problem?” Asked Biddy.
The couple exchanged a look.
“Our neighbors moved in last summer, things started happening shortly after they arrived.”
“They are lovely people,” Heather added quickly.
I could see the edge of their neighbor’s house through the trees, as I stared at it a loud ringing began in my ears. Pulling my attention back into the room I realized that everyone was staring at me.
Heather inched forward in her seat. “Are you seeing something right now?”
“No. Not yet. Sorry, I don’t completely let my guard down until I know what I’m walking into.”
“I’d keep that guard up if I were you,” said Claire nervously.
Biddy shot me a concerned look. “Tell us from the beginning what’s happened here.”
Josh kind of sunk back in his seat while Heather leaned forward.
“Josh noticed the, uh, problems first,” she began. “It’s all sort of a blur, but we can tell you that there have been two distinct stages to this whole nightmare. The first indication that we were dealing with something paranormal happened outside.”
“In the woods,” Josh clarified.
“That’s right,” Heather agreed.
“I’ll say,” Claire muttered.
“Josh was working on the porch,” she motioned towards the screen door behind them through which a wooden deck was clearly visible. “It was late September, right?” Josh nodded in confirmation. “He was in a Zoom meeting when one of his coworkers made a comment about our kids.”
“He wanted to know why they were home from school,” Josh added.
“Right, and you were confused because you thought the boys were at school.”
“They were at school. Tom, a guy I work with, saw someone walking back and forth behind me on the porch. The way he said it, he goes, ‘Then who’s that kid zipping around behind you?’ Well, it scared me, to be honest. I had my back to the woods, and you know what? I’d had this spooky feeling that I was being watched, but the way my laptop plugged in and all, it’s just the way I had to sit. But I’d been uncomfortable the whole call.
“It was impossible that anyone could have been on that porch without me knowing. There are at least ten stairs down to the yard. I would have heard them on the steps.”
“Spooky,” I offered.
“I had that same feeling, of being watched I mean, when I was out back gardening one afternoon right around that same time. I have some raised beds off to the right there, you can’t see them from here, but they are close to the trees. I eventually gave up on gardening altogether. It began to feel as though someone was about to run out of the woods at me.” Heather shivered.
“We keep all the curtains drawn. Otherwise it just feels like eyes are always on you.”
“There are eyes on us,” Josh pointed out bitterly.
“There sure are,” Claire whispered.
Just then there was a knock on the screen door. A quick, ‘knock, knock, knock.’ It sounded so natural I swore I would look over to see someone standing on the porch waiting to be let in.
“Oh, shit,” Biddy and Claire said at the same time.
I gripped the edge of the cozy chair and put my coffee mug down.
“Can you see it?” Heather asked in a low voice as she peered behind her at the door.
“See what?” I replied in a shaky voice.
“I don’t know, whatever it was that just knocked.”
“Does that happen a lot?”
“Constantly,” Josh replied. I noticed that he hadn’t even bothered to turn around.
“Are you getting anything?” Biddy asked.
Besides a feeling of sheer terror? I wanted to say. Instead, I said, “Really bad vibes.” Then, “Aside from the knocks and feeling watched, what else is going on here?”
“Okay, well, voices, um, footsteps, strange noises outside, something dug a hole in the backyard, um there are cold spots in the house-” Heather listed.
“Tell Liz what happened to you in the backyard,” Biddy prompted, looking at Josh.
He scrubbed his face and ran his hands over his bald head. “I was out back last year just before Thanksgiving. I was raking up some leaves the landscapers had missed and I heard someone call to me from the woods. You know there’s a trail back there, right?”
He gave me a hard look. “You shouldn’t use it, don’t bring your kids back there.”
“Done,” I replied.
“I thought maybe someone had come up through our woods off that lake path so I walked back into the trees a bit and called back, ‘hello?’ After a minute I heard my name again. ‘Where are ya?’ I said. ‘Back here,’ they said, only they sounded a little further away. So I asked if everything was alright, and took a couple more steps in. It got quiet so I called out again. Then right behind me, and I mean close, the voice said, ‘Nothing will ever be alright,’ and he said it like he was laughing and he had this horrible gravely voice.”
“And there it is,” said Claire.
“I jumped a mile,” Josh went on. “But when I turned around there was no one behind me. I got out of those woods and locked all of our doors and haven’t been back out since. We forbid the boys from going back there, but… it hasn’t been easy.”
“We don’t think Derek intentionally goes into the woods,” Heather explained, “Obviously, when he’s sleepwalking he can’t have any control of his actions.”
“That’s right,” Josh conceded. “We’ve done everything we can to keep him – them – away from the woods. The alarm system, the cameras… locks.”
Heather reached out and took Josh’s hand. “The boys have had a hard time, Chad has been staying at a friend’s and Derek, uh-”
“He seems to be the most affected out of all of us,” Josh explained.
“Can we speak with them?” I asked, because Claire wouldn’t stop demanding that I absolutely must talk to the boys.
“If you think that’s necessary,” Heather replied nervously.
I hesitated because I was trying to listen to what Claire was telling me.
Biddy stared at me, eyebrows raised, then said, “Yeah, I think it would be helpful to hear about the whole family’s experiences.”
“Okay, we’ll arrange for a time for you to meet the boys.”
“Thanks,” Biddy replied kindly. “Is it just noises or have you seen anything out there?”
We all stared out at the trees. The wind had picked up, the grey morning seemed to have darkened. I wished that we’d driven, I wasn’t looking forward to the walk home. I wasn’t worried about rain, being anywhere near those woods made me extremely nervous.
“I saw something,” Heather said quietly. “I was coming back up the driveway from the mailbox. I should have grabbed the mail before driving up to the garage but I didn’t think of it. When I got about halfway up the driveway I looked up and this thing was standing on that stone wall beside the garage. It was big. Big for a dog anyways. But it wasn’t really a dog. I thought coyote at first, but that wasn’t right either. It jumped down and began walking towards me. I tried to shoo it away, but it just kept coming. It had very dark brown, mangy fur. It looked like a huge German Shepherd mixed with a bulldog.
“I started yelling for help, I was backing away from it down the driveway, but I hit a patch of black ice and fell right onto my butt. I thought that was it, that it was going to attack me, so I covered my face with my hands and just curled up into a ball and waited for it to happen.”
“I was in the office when I heard her screaming,” Josh cut in. “I ran outside and found her like that in the driveway.”
“I didn’t even know I was still screaming until he’d basically lifted me off the ground.”
“Did you see it?” I asked him.
He shook his head.
“It just disappeared,” Heather explained.
“Was that the only time you saw that thing?” Asked Biddy.
“Yes,” the couple replied in unison.
“What about the boys?” I asked at Claire’s prompting.
There was a pause before Josh answered. “Chad has seen shadows, we are not completely clear on what Derek has seen.”
“You mentioned that there have been two distinct phases to the haunting,” I said. “Was all this just in phase one?”
The couple exchanged their thousandth worried glance of the day.
“We built over the garage,” Heather said as though she were confessing to some horrible deed.
“Actually we tore down the old garage, added to it so it would hold three cars and then built our master suite above it,” Josh clarified.
“They opened up the house,” Claire groaned.
“You think the renovations stirred up even more activity?” asked Biddy.
“We know they did,” Heather nodded emphatically. “Before we knocked down that garage at least everything was out there, but once construction started…”
“That’s when they got inside,” Josh said in a low voice.