The Grover House: A Modern Ghost Story
There came a time, when for reasons of economy and change, we decided to purchase a house in the nearby town of Romeo. Romeo, which was once the retreat of Lumber Barons during the mid and late 1800’s, was full of lovely Victorian homes, several of which had been stops on the Underground Railroad.
The house we finally settled on, was one of these, although more Italianate in design than Victorian.
Our house, which was right on the main street leading into town, was built in 1856 for a man named Andrew Grover. It was a two-story building with a wide front porch that extended across the width of the front of the house. The wood trim around the windows and porch was quite ornate, lacey white against the soft pale peach of the clapboard siding. The lower windows along the front of the house were more like floor to ceiling glass doors and made the house appear very elegant.
Inside, the floors were made of twelve-inch wide boards, with pocket doors that slid into the walls of both the dining room and front parlor. A winding walnut banister curved down the front staircase, which was wide enough for any lady’s hooped skirts. The downstairs hosted a front parlor, massive dining room, second parlor, front office, a full bath and a huge kitchen. There was also a glassed in sun porch on the west side of the house and a carriage house just off the kitchen. A narrow servant’s stairs led from the kitchen to the what was their upstairs quarters. That large room was connected to the others by way of the dressing room. There were two large bedrooms and a full bath on that floor. I tell you all of this, so that you can get a clear picture of the amazing wealth and elegance, which had suddenly come our way.
When we moved in, I was disappointed to find that there was little information to be had about the history of the house. There was only a few basic facts about Andrew Grover and that his business life mainly seemed to be about buy and sell property all over Macomb County. There was no record of who he was married to and if he had children. Even the date the historical Society has for when the house was built turned out to be wrong, as I found when I cleaned the foot of the brick chimney in the basement, and found the date engraved there.
As I have said, the house was quite large, and had many doorways through which one could enter and exit. This kind of thing would generally have made me quite nervous, particularly in the darkness or when I was alone. My sons, who were four and two at this time, still necessitated my getting up in the middle of the night occasionally; a fact, which had given me chills in our old house. However, in this house I was never afraid!
Regardless of the time, or if I were alone in the house, I often walked about without even turning on a light. I never stumbled, nor did I see faces in the windows or demons in the shadows. I literally had no fear. In fact, I even found myself falling asleep each night with one arm extended off the side of the bed, palm uppermost, something a coward like me would never have done in past. More amazingly,every night as I slipped into that almost half conscious near sleep state, I always imagined a women bending over my hand and placing a white flower in the center of my palm. Seeing this once or twice would be strange enough, but was happening every night! Again, I was never afraid.
The woman had no features and just appeared as a soft grayish shadow , yet I knew she that she was a woman.
When I focused on the flower, it became very clear; it was white and full almost like a rose. Yet, when I thought of it as a rose I was clearly told “No not a rose...more like vanilla . . Camilla . . but not a rose” and a sweet smell seemingly filled the room. Yet, like the women, this too was not truly real, being more an impression of a thought rather than actual words.
When I finally told my mother about these nightly occurrences, she suggested I try asking her name. This I proceeded to do, though the results then, were increasingly unclear. Each time I would think about the women’s name, I would begin to image one of those baby-name book with the pages turning quickly by themselves. A beam, like a yellow high-liter would run up and down the pages, settling briefly on Matilda or Melissa, but then giving me a message that this was not quite right. The flower would be pressed more firmly into my hand, and I could almost feel frustration in the air.
My neighbor was quite active in the local historical society and I decided to call upon her advice. She reported that sadly all the old local newspaper records for the area were owned by a man who allowed no one access, and that the only way I might be able to find out th name was through a census or if I found them buried in one of the nearby cemeteries.
Minutes after this conversation, I had my youngest in the stroller and was striding off to the local cemetery which was three or four blocks down the road.
When we arrived at the gates, I announced quite loudly and clearly “Alright, Matilda/Melissa where are you?” as I lifted my son out of the stroller. As it was fenced in and deserted, I thought he could wander while I began a serious search up and down the rows of tombstones. I was concerned because the cemetery was quite large and I realized this could be quite a lengthy search. Were that not daunting enough, my son kept wandering away from me so I that I often had to stop and run after him.
During one such retrieval, he began to giggle wildly and ran up a nearby hill. He ran steadily, but finally stopped and turned to watch my approach, plopping down on a small stone step that hadn't noticed until I was immediately in front of him. When bent over to pick him up, I saw that a name was engraved on the front of the step. My son was sitting at the entrance to the Grover family plot!
In the middle of the plot, one large ornate stone rose at least 20 feet into the air and at it's base I saw four foot stones seemingly engraved with initials. Holding my son on my hip, I stepped up to the large stone and began to read.
On the first side I read “Mary Grover”, whose birth and death dates implied that she was Andrew’s mother, and that she had died about two years before the house was built. On the next side was Andrew himself. He lived a fairly long life and had died about 15 years after the house was built. The third side was designated to be Andrew’s wife and infant daughter, both of whom died on June 28th, two years before the house was built. Only one more side and I was losing hope. . . but there she was "Melita C. Grover, second wife of Andrew". I also noticed that though not on the same year, her birthday was the same date as the death of Andrew's first wife and child. I couldn't help but think how difficult it must have been for Andrew to have to celebrate that day each year.
“Melita” I thought, “Not Melissa or Mitilda, but close.” I smiled as I cleared the plot of overgrown grass and the dead leafs that gathered around the foot of each stone. I had found her, or perhaps she had found me.
Melita had lived a long time too, finally passing away well into the next century when she reached her 90’s. It was impressive , yet I wondered if she was lonely for the thirty years following Andrew’s death. I saw nothing to suggest that there had been any children.
When I got back to the house, I looked up the name Melita. It meant “little honey flower”, which was also another name for the ‘Camilla” flower, not vanilla but it did sound similar. My "ghost" had been doing her best to help me learn a unique and rarely heard name.
Following this adventure, I began to have imaginary conversations with Melita as I worked around the house. When puzzled what color to paint a room, or what it might have been used for, I found if I just closed my eyes and waited, I could literally see how it had been. Although I never spoke aloud, nor did I physically hear a voice, the conversations I had with her during this time were distinctly two way and she often used expressions or words I was not at all familiar with.
Several times I tried to describe what was happening to both my parents and my husband, but neither seemed to truly understand how real Melita was becoming to me. I did a great deal of research in the Macomb County records and found that she had lived in our house until the day she died, which was over sixty years after it was built. I also found out that Andrew had Melita co-signing his land purchases very soon after they were married, and that she went on buying and selling land long after he was gone. The more I learned about her, the more strange things began to occur.
For instance once, when our family returned from a short vacation, my neighbors has a mysterious story to add to my own. On the third night we were gone, my neighbors spent a good half an hour watching the lights were go off and on in each of the rooms, one by one. They told me it was as though someone were walking through each room of the house,pausing to look for something and then moving on to the next room. My neighbor's husband thought it was the timers on the lamps malfunctioning, until his wife pointed out that there hadn't been any lights in the house at all on the previous nights. Leashing his dog and he approaching the front our house,he reportedly found the door wide open and a breeze blowing out. The dog’s hackles rose and he refused to even step on the porch. My neighbor quickly ran up the steps, pulled the door shut re-locking it, and deciding that the lights could do whatever they wanted!
After that, I made sure to always announce any vacations or overnight trips before I left the house. The lights never appeared again.
On Mother’s Day, I decided that I would clean off and display the little stone walk that led from our front porch down to the sidewalk in front of our house. This was a pretty long distance, about 50 yards or so, and the stones appeared rather sporadically, more like a streambed rather than a walkway. I remember thinking that perhaps I’d have to save up so that I could add some more in the future and getting the clear impression that Melita was very excited! As I began my clearing the stones, I discovered that my little walkway was actually about five feet wide and extended all the way down to the sidewalk! It was so large that ended up taking me over two days to clear it! Time or neglect had covered up the majority of the stones, but as I looked at the finished path I could almost see it flanked by pansies. I later later landscaped it just that way and it seemed to give the whole house a more welcoming air.
I had similar experiences in the garden, where I just seemed to "know" what I should plant in each of the beds. Can I proved that my gardens were replicas of Melita's? No, but twice I was stumbled upon buried treasures, when what I had mistaken for a rock or a lump in the ground turned out to be garden sculptures of a sleeping cat and a toad!Both of the sculptures were quite old and had seemingly been covered for a very long time, even though they were in obvious flower bed areas. I still wonder why no one else found them before me.
One day, a self described "Out-house Archeologist" appeared at our door one day to ask if he could do a "dig" in our backyard. I told him that I had no idea where our outhouse would even have been located, but he assured me that he had ways of finding that out. He went on to explain that in the past people often used their Outhouses like garbage dumps and therefore all kinds of items and information about the past owners could be found by doing such a dig. Best of all, he didn't even want to be paid, he just asked that he have first pick of any antique bottles he might find.
The excavation, discovery and refilling occurred over a four-day period. My boys and I had a terrific time playing detective,sifting through the dirt and then washing whatever "finds" came to the surface.
And Finds there were as hundreds of items from buttons to complete antique dishes. Many of the dishes and most of the bottles were unbroken, making me wonder why they ever were “sent down the hole”.
The medicine bottles, which would have been true garbage then, were lovely amethyst, aqua and gold in color now. Some of these were pressed glass, but several were actually hand blown! We found dishes and cups of several patterns , but one called the ‘Copper Leaf” was most prominent.
Most of the tea cups that we found were from the period in which they were not yet attaching handles, and I loved the simplicity of the small design. Those with the copper leaf appeared a iridescent green as the result of some chemical reaction with the soil.
I cleaned, repaired and displayed several of the cups and saucers in my kitchen and put a dozen more interesting bottles on the window sills. I had every intention of finding sets of both the Copper Leaf and the good china pattern, so that I could use them in my day-to-day life.
Over time, various families had removed most of the original antiques from the house,I was thrill to find an original crystal chandelier and walnut office-filing center in a dusty corner of the garage attic.
I never got into the actual house attic, because it was so difficult to get into, and I still regret it especially as for the last few months I was living there, I had a overwhelming urge to go up and look around the chimney. I even had dreams about doing so. I can't help but wonder what I missed.
Sadly, my drive from work to the house proved to be longer than I had anticipated and somewhat traitorous in the winter. Both my boys went to work with me each day, and the hour to two-hour drive was just too much. We decided to sell the house.
It nearly broke my heart.
As I told Melita, the only thing which made selling it bearable is that it was purchased by a local celebrity who had the desire and the money to restore it to it’s formal glory. A number of Romeo houses actually mention a ghost within the disclosure agreements,but as ours hadn't, I never mentioned my experiences to our buyers. The house had no records of hauntings before we bought it; in fact only four families had lived there since Melita died. Since I never actually saw a "ghost" and I was the only one with any experiences, I'm not sure the house would have been considered haunted.
It's been over ten years now and it's still difficult for me to drive by that house; it calls to me each time. For years after, and even now, I have only to close my eyes and I am there, walking through the rooms and talking to her. It seems to me I hear her calling to me sometimes, and I feel guilty to have let her go.