“Did you hear that?” my husband whispered.
“Yes!” I said, clutching my blanket tightly around my neck.
It was 3am and outside the door of our inn room, footsteps could be heard stomping up and down the stairs — footsteps in a house that was empty, except for the two of us.
“It must be Charles Oldfield’s ghost!” I moaned. Dennis’s teeth chattered in response.
Three hours east of Nashville, Rugby, Tennessee is famous both for its Victorian-era structures and, as Dennis and I would learn after staying in one of the town’s bed and breakfasts, its ghosts. When we checked in at the 125-year-old Newbury House that night for a weekend getaway, we thought we had the place to ourselves. But as we learned from entries left in the rooms’ guestbooks, some of the former boarding house’s tenants apparently never left the premises.
The woman who was staying in Room #2 screamed and came hysterically downstairs, wrote Carol from Lascassas about her recent stay. She said a man whispered in her ear, ‘Hey Girly’. I went upstairs and said, ‘So you like to scare girls, do you? Well here I am, give it a shot.’ Suddenly, the hangers began to swing significantly, like an unseen hand was pushing them.
British colonist Charles Oldfield died in Room #2 more than a century ago. Legend has it he’s been hanging around the house ever since, slamming doors, tickling toes and sending the more sensitive guests into paroxysms of terror. After Dennis and I spent a sleepless night listening to Charlie’s supernatural antics, we knew we had to bring our kids back for an Oldfield-style haunting. That’s how we ended up celebrating my 16-year-old’s birthday at the house last weekend, renting all six rooms for our family and her friends. We started off the party with a guided ghost tour before returning to the inn and reading aloud from the rooms’ journals.
Odd occurrence at 3:00am, wrote Jim of Tullahoma. We were the only guests, but heard something walk down the hall and shut the door to the end bedroom. When we got up, we looked in the bedroom and it was untouched from our night before inspection.
“It had to be Charles,” the girls solemnly concurred. After reading a few more peculiar entries, they had sufficiently worked themselves into a high-decibal frenzy.
“Janie, come with me to the bathroom!” screeched Amy as the girls gathered around a Ouija board in the parlor. “I’m afraid to go alone!” Two minutes later, the pair ran shrieking from the hallway lavatory.
“Charles poked me on the butt!” Amy yelled.
Yep. These girls were primed for some paranormal activity, all right. But was I? Nightfall found me walking with our group to a nearby café on a dark, gravel road just outside the house. Before I knew what was happening, my ankle turned sideways. I used the side of my foot to keep myself from falling, bearing down hard on the outside bone, which promptly fractured.
“FUUUH-“ I bellowed, forgetting in that excruciating moment that my 13-year-old was walking beside me.
“UUH,” I finished lamely. “Fuh. That hurt.”
Obviously, Charles had pushed me and broken my fifth metatarsal bone. The bastard. What had I ever done to him, besides bring a bunch of cute young girls to his Victorian bachelor pad? I spent the rest of the evening with a big sack of ice on my swollen foot, staring darkly into the parlor fire. Charles wisely stayed away.
“If I so much as hear a peep out of you, Oldfield, I’ll kick your invisible ass all the way to Perry County,” I said aloud before turning out the lamp beside my bed that night. “And you will not like it there, let me tell you.” It worked. My room was as quiet as the grave. It stayed that way until 3:20am, when I woke to find a mysterious apparition staring mournfully down at me.
“What the…” I said confusedly. “I thought I told you not to bother me!”
“I just wanted to say sorry about the foot,” Charles responded. “The worst thing I’ve done up to now is give someone an asthma attack. I’m really not a bad guy.”
“Just misunderstood?” I asked sarcastically.
I shook my head. “You know, I could have you exorcised for this,” I threatened. Charlie blanched. I felt bad. “But maybe we can work something out.” I thought for a moment. “Okay, go upstairs and scare the girls. Not too much. Just give them something to remember.”
Charlie smiled. “Done,” he promised, before disappearing.
The next morning, the girls tumbled downstairs with a host of strange incidents to report. The hallway lights had turned on and off from 3am onward, all by themselves. The alarm clock in Room #2 went off three different times throughout the night. Even Hubs claimed to have heard men’s voices in the hallway. Of course, you might have scientific explanations for all of these occurrences, but come on, people. Humor me.
It’s my ghost story and I’m sticking to it.
This column originally appeared in the Nashville Scene.