Family Lines

stories for you

Month: October 2013

Anchorage House ghost

Anchorage House.

Mount Allison University’s Anchorage House – where Mrs. Bennett still roams the halls.

Anchorage House is a beautiful old mansion sitting like a grand gentleman on the Mount Allison University campus. The old man has a white beard, white hair, wears a black top hat on and is rather stout. He looks distinguished in the daylight, inviting enough to come in for a cup of coffee or a snifter of brandy. But looks can be deceiving and he can be quite the different sort in times of quiet, especially in the fall when the shadows of autumn grow to collect secrets.

I worked in Anchorage House for a few years. My office was on the second floor of the three storey building and it was a beaut. Hardwood floors and panelling, high ceilings and crown mouldings, windows with a view of tall elm trees and student life passing by. It was a cozy place to do business in fall. Usually.

Anchorage House was built in 1892 by a Sackville, N.B. lawyer and then sold to a doctor in 1906. In 1933 the home was bought by retired Mariner Captain Ronald V. Bennett, brother to the 1930s Canadian prime minister Viscount Richard Bedford Bennett. My office was once the bedroom of the captain’s wife.

It would have been a nice spot for a bedroom as it looked out to the landing, where the first floor stairs met the second floor. Mrs. Bennett could see whoever it was climbing up the staircase and probably watched her children nightly, ensuring they went to bed on time.

The story goes though, that her two sons died fighting in the Second World War. Their mother was distraught at the loss, often climbing the stairs to visit their empty rooms. It was said she did this even after her death many years later. I know this is true, I’ve heard her.

Yes, but Anchorage House was an office building, you say. There must have been lots of people coming and going, up and down those staircases. But not as many as you would think. One autumn lunch hour I was alone in the house. All alone. No one downstairs, no one on the second floor (except me) and no one on the third floor. There was no one else there.

My desk faced out the door with a direct view of the landing. Everyone using the stairs had to pass my office. Up and down and down and up. Even when I was busy with my work I could see all the different shapes of people treading on the steps and passing me by. Except one day.

One, two, three footsteps creaked on the carpeted stairs. Up and up and up until he or she got to the second floor.

I looked up from my computer to see if someone needed my help, as I was the only one there. But there was no one there. Oh, OK. My mistake.

Back to work.

Again, one, two, three footsteps creaked on the carpeted stairs. Up and up and up until he or she got to the second floor. I look up. No one there.

That’s weird. Maybe I’m hearing things. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe the old gentleman house is stretching his bones? There must be a reason for this. I walked to the landing and looked down the stairs. Nothing. No one.

Hmmmm. Do I let myself be scared? I don’t have to, as a co-worker rushed in the front door and up the stairs to her office, her office that’s straight across from mine. I didn’t tell her what I’d been noticing. I didn’t want her to think I was a silly goose.

One, two, three footsteps creaked on the carpeted stairs. Up and up and up until he or she got to the second floor. I looked up. And nobody.

This happened a couple more times until my co-worker came into my officer and asked me if I was experiencing what she was experiencing –  hearing footsteps but not seeing anybody.

“Oh yes,” I said. “It’s kind of freaking me out.”

“Me too,” she admitted.

Then one, two, three footsteps creaked on the carpeted stairs. There! We were hearing it together. Tiptoeing out into the landing we looked down the staircase. It was a student, my friend Pete, climbing the stairs. He looked up at us expectantly and we started laughing.

I asked him if he had been here earlier and he said no, it was his first visit.

It wasn’t the grieving mother’s first visit and I doubt that day was her last. After that I made sure when I was working evenings to turn on all the lights although it made leaving torturous. I had a million switches to shut off before I left, each light I turned off brought me closer to the darkness. But good old Anchorage and Mrs. Bennett left me alone.



The way it really was: My life

Man and book.

Karl all smiles with his book.

I just finished a memoir project with Karl. He had been searching for someone to help him write his story and found me. He had a lot of his thoughts already written out in German and translated these words into English for me. I asked him many questions and we ended up with a first person account of his life: The way it really was: My life. If you’re interested in reading his story, click here for the PDF: The way it really was: My life.

This is the story of Karl, a German man who was born in Sudetenland, orphaned at age four, soldier at age 16, a prisoner of war for over three years and once released, spent time searching for his adopted family in a divided Germany after they were kicked off their farm in the former Czechoslovakia.

Karl has wrestled with the fact that he was left with nothing after his father and mother were expelled from Sudetenland. He has struggled for acceptance and meaning in Germany and Canada. Now, at 85, he’s found a semblance of a peaceful life.

Adding memories to photos

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
~Ansel Adams

I’m adding memories to my Newfoundland photos. Putting in some of the little details that can’t be seen by looking at the pictures. I’m capturing the uncaptured frozen in time.

Cabin.The orange cabin we stayed in in Bauline East. Did you know some places in Newfoundland are named twice? Portugal Cove, Portugal Cove South, Bauline, Bauline East. This didn’t just make my head spin but a Newfoundlander’s too when he tried to visit us one day. He got lost in Bauline, up the coast, instead of heading down the coast to Bauline East.

Sea  view.This was the view from the cabin. It was absolutely fantastic. The tiny cove still has a working wharf and fisher people are coming to and fro in their boats with their catch. My sister enjoyed watching them one morning and wondering what they were bringing in.

Seaside breakfast.The cove was also a nice place for breakfast. The camera is tilted from sitting on all the beach rocks. The sun was hot but the wind was not. A nice pot of tea warmed me up with the sea breeze blew by. Oh, and Hobnobs dipped in tea are delicious.

Cribbies cottage.The Cribbies, Tors Cove. We were told this is one of the most photographed cottages in Newfoundland. It’s right near the ocean and we saw seals and whales swimming and diving a short stroll away from the traditional saltbox home. The only reason I saw the sea life was because I glimpsed the sun glinting off a whale’s back.

Cape Spear. Cape Spear was windy, windy, windy and windy. Cold too. Couldn’t imagine being on watch there looking for U-boats during World War II. Lonely post. Now I have been to the western most part of Africa (when I was in Senegal) and the eastern most part of North America at Cape Spear.

Signel Hill.The view from Signal Hill was amazing. Look at that view of St. John’s narrows. My husband was using his mobile phone to tweet while at the national historical place and someone tweeted back, “Think about the message sent originally, and your message today.” Something to ponder.

  Terry Fox monument.This is the Terry Fox Mile Zero Memorial Site, the place where he dipped his foot into the Atlantic and started his Marathon of Hope. I’ve been to his monument in Thunder Bay and to the one in Victoria and now, the one in St. John’s.

Brides maid.Here I am in my bride maid’s dress. My shoulders are slumped because despite the shining sun, it was frosty and I was cold. At one point during wedding photos I wished my dress was made of fur. But pictures had to be done. I was part of my friend Neil’s wedding party. He and I go way back to the first day I moved into residence at Acadia.

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