Well, after several years of suffering through the nasty smell of fermenting berries and severe allergic reactions worse than poison ivy, the 100+ foot Gingko Tree that once graced the front yard is gone. While it had its positive points in providing shade, privacy and a lovely sound as the breezes passed through, its negatives finally outweighed the positives when it crushed Kelly’s car a couple years ago. With the odd storms and weather patterns that we have had recently (60 mile an hour winds etc.) I finally accepted that the tree had to go.
Since a large maple tree on the driveway had come down in one of our winter storms and we still had various piles of debris from the microburst storm a couple years ago which we were unable to move ourselves, I had Johnsons Tree Removal come out and do a little spring cleaning.
Six or seven trucks came rolling down the driveway at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 16. After seeing them remove the maple and all the other cleanup piles in about an hour, I thought they would be done with the gingko by noon or so. Mmm…not so much. Matt Johnson and his crew finished up and left at about 4 p.m. They used a cherry picker for a few hours and wielded a chainsaw bigger than I have ever seen (as tall as Matt!)
But, it is now gone, except for the stump (stump grinding is an expense that I just couldn’t swing this year) and maybe we will now have some fonder memories of the tree….or not. It was a pretty nasty tree and was prolific with those berries.
And if you couldn’t guess, Kelly is very, very happy to say good riddance to the tree!
The first time I went to the Hall for the weekend, I was with Laurie. We were going out for a weekend project – I believe we were going to paint the bead board for the bathroom. I think one of my first questions to her as we approached was “is it haunted?” If you have read the previous posts, you can make up your own mind about that topic. 🙂 Anyway, she told me that she had a mutual agreement with anything that might be in the house – they leave her alone, she leaves them alone. Plus, we had all the dogs (Spinner, Guinness and Natasha) and they would let us know if anything weird was going on. That was enough to satisfy my momentary panic about staying there overnight. After that weekend, began my weekends out at the Hall.
I didn’t spend too much of 2006 out there as I was still getting to know Laurie, and eventually Kelly.
I think the years of 2007-2009 were when I spent the bulk of my time out there. From 2007 to 2008, I worked at a bank and was off every other Saturday – which invariably meant we were headed out to the Hall for a work weekend.
Some weekends involved light work; others, not so much. And Laurie, bless her heart, would always give me warning – “it’s going to be a nasty job. We’re going to be pulling this down and that down and you’re going to be blowing black snot out of your nose for a week”. It didn’t faze me one bit. See, even though the weekends were filled with projects and what-not to do, the Hall was becoming my home away from home. Every time we would be on the road and finally hit the 301/50 split, this relaxing feeling would come over me. I was getting away from the stresses of life, work, and school – and I loved it.
I could go on for hours about all the fun times we had, but I’ll limit it to three for this particular post:
1. The apartment
Oh My. What. A. Job! Even though Jason did most of the grunt work tearing down all the plaster and lath, all three of us got so dirty and grungy –and- I was blowing black snot out of my nose for a week. Anyway, Laurie and I were downstairs outside cleaning up the junk piles while Jason was upstairs in the back section with a crow bar knocking down the plaster and the lath. We would hear this loud hammering noise, then a tear, then a crash and then *POOF* – a puff of dirt and plaster dust came billowing out the window. Once he was done, we went upstairs with buckets and proceeded to throw the large pieces out the window and put the smaller pieces in the buckets for transport to the dumpster. Now, this lath and plaster is no joke. It was heavy, so even with the three of us, it took a while. You could really tell how heavy it was because of this fact: on the left side of the house (if you were facing the front) the area where the brick section and the back section met, right at the roof, was separated. It had separated because of the failed caddy corner support of the foundation. Once all the lath and plaster had been removed, the gap between the brick section and the back section had gotten noticeably smaller. With all the excess weight gone, the house just bounced back!
2. The stupid crown molding in the bathroom.
Ah yes – Laurie’s and my ONLY disagreement in seven years. Seriously. We get along so well in general – I think it was a combination of things and the crown molding was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. So we had gone to Home Depot to get the crown molding, came back and tried to use a miter box to make the cuts. Between Laurie, Jason and myself (and the dull hand saw) it just wasn’t happening. So we tucked that project away, seeing as it didn’t HAVE to be done at that moment in time. Later, Denny informed us that he had a professional table saw that he would be happy to leave there for us to cut the crown molding. “Great!”, we thought, “How hard can it be, now that we have a really cool tool to use!” As we learned, a tool is only as good as the people who are using it. Laurie had her vision of how we needed to cut it. I had my idea of how we needed to do it, and this one and only time, our ideas didn’t match. And neither of us was budging! If the table saw had been a person, it probably would have chuckled at the bickering going on. The constant movement and readjusting of the table saw angle, the practice cuts, the occasional expletive when one idea (mine) turned out to be wrong, the sigh of exasperation as we stood back and looked at the result of our ideas combined…and the final “Well, we can just caulk it and the gaps will go away” solution. But, we got it up and learned some valuable lessons that day. – Laurie’s note (we still can’t cut crown molding to save our lives!)
While we all think of insulation as being a good thing, we don’t always think about the effort needed to go into the actual installation. This project also came with Laurie’s warning – “if you get it on your skin, you’ll be itching for days” and “whatever you do, don’t breathe it in”. So, with a mental image of small shards of glass burrowing deep into my skin if I so much as brushed up against it, we got ourselves ready. Boy, we were prepared. For a hot summer day, we were dressed in boots, jeans, sweatshirts (or a long sleeve shirt), masks, goggles, and gloves. This is probably why we were never bothered by any ghosts and what not – we entertained them during the day with our work outfits and projects!
Anyway, we were insulating because it got so cold during the Fall months. So, we figured we should put some insulation underneath the floor so as to keep the warm air in and the drafts out. So, marching down we went – to the cellar. I can’t remember the exact order in which we put it up but I did notice that soon, my goggles fogged up from the hot air coming from the mask. After not being able to see and not providing much help because of this fact, off went the goggles. Next to go was the mask because it was hard to breathe as it was. Next, were the sweatshirts because we just got too hot. By the end, we had our system down and just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. Those showers/baths at the end of a work day never felt so good!
Morton Hall also holds a special place in my heart because through meeting Susanne and her dog, Trip, we adopted Schafer, Trip’s brother. Schafs is that very special “first dog” and is one of a kind. I know he misses Morton Hall and being able to run around as he pleases.
It is so wonderful to see how far Morton Hall is coming and the direction in which Laurie and Kelly are taking it! I am so thrilled to be a part of and witness to a little bit of the Morton Hall History.
When friends would come to visit me at Morton Hall, I have heard everything from “WOW” to “that place freaks me out” to people saying they see flying monkeys perched on the roof of the back porch. I say, “such sissy babies”… Morton Hall has been nothing but good memories for me. Now, I am not going to say that it has been perfectly peaceful and no noise; more like a calm tranquil place with quirky little things that occasionally happen. I grew up in an old farm house and experienced my share of noises from childhood to early adulthood. Hearing noises and “feeling” things was just a part of my childhood; my parents would often sugar coat it by saying” it’s trucks on the highway!” Funny how that was enough to calm my fears which I can say is probably one of the ONLY reasons that made staying at Morton Hall so easy for me. What’s even funnier is how my children would hear noises at Morton Hall and I would feed them that very same line… Its trucks on the highway!
One of my very first experiences was when I was at the Hall alone. I was on the telephone talking with a friend and had this weird feeling wash over me. It was so bizarre; I felt very dizzy and light headed and even told my friend Crissi that I didn’t feel so well but to keep talking to me and at any point if I seemed unresponsive to please send them to Fox Hole Rd. Galena MD, first driveway on the left and that they will find me in the upstairs back section of the house. Now of course with Crissi being in PA this startled her ALOT and I remember telling her to “chill out. I just don’t feel right and in the event that I stroke out I want 911 to know where to find me.” She kept talking and making sure that she said things needing my response so that she knew I was still with her, but what she didn’t know was that I honestly was a little concerned for the way because I knew it just wasn’t right. A few minutes passed and I remember telling her ” ok, I am fine… whatever that feeling was, it is gone now. I am getting tired, so I am gonna go to sleep.” I disconnected the call and heard this loud clanking noise downstairs. My eyes were immediately drawn to the steps. When you live in a house, you quickly learn to distinguish sounds and become familiar to them without being in view of what is making the noise. Well, that night when I heard that sound, I immediately knew that it was from the black door with a barrel bolt that goes into the foyer of the brick portion of the house. Of course my blood was pumping… I was in this huge house all alone!!! But my reaction was to make a phone call to Jeanette to make sure she wasn’t on the property before I decided to have a look around. When I called her she ordered me to go downstairs and “get the sword.” I chuckled, thinking “really?!” that is not going to do me any good! So with her on the phone, I approached the steps and went down a few so I could have a peek downstairs. I looked around from the steps, didn’t see anything that looked out of the ordinary and simply went back up the steps and settled into bed. A few hours later, Jeanette shows up and walks up the steps asking, “What the hell happened downstairs?” I remember saying, “ I don’t know. What’s wrong?” She then explained how there was a bunch of material all over the floor several feet out away from the brick wall. I went down stairs to have a look and sure enough there was mortar all over the floor from the brick wall. The odd thing is that it landed on a nicely plush carpet which would have been a sound barrier. I just shook it off and went on about my routine. Of course for some people, that would be enough to make them jump ship and change residency to a place less creepy. However, I didn’t let it faze me and continue to stay.
Another time Jeanette and I were lying in Laurie’s bedroom and my kids were in the apartment portion of the house. There is a door at the top of the steps leading to that room that I would leave open so that the kids were able to just walk through easily. From a dead sleep, Jeanette and I awoke to a door SLAMMING shut and before we could even say anything, the sound of footsteps walking through the lower level of the house. Instantly, I assumed someone broke into the house and was walking through from the front of the house toward the back where my kids were sleeping. Jeanette quickly jumped up, grabbed her gun and instructed me to go get the kids and immediately return back to that bedroom while she went out the other door to search the house. By the time I had gotten to Kelly’s room, the kids were meeting me with fear in their eyes asking if I had heard that noise? I said, “Yes, that’s why I was coming to get you. Hurry up and get into Laurie’s room and get in the bed.” We quickly got on the bed and they jumped under the covers and waited. A few minutes passed and one of them says, “Mom, how do we know if Jeanette finds somebody?” I said, “We will hear gunshots!” Now the waiting game….waiting what seems like FOREVER for Jeanette to return, listening to the sound of silence in hopes that I do not hear her fire that 40 cal. she went out the door with to clear the house. I can remember thinking that she doesn’t even have a phone to call if she needs help because she took off in a tank top and underwear. Then we hear footsteps coming through Laurie’s bathroom and up the steps toward her room. Boy, did my kiddos dive under the covers when they heard that! It was Jeanette and she turned up with no news on her search.
Turns out it took her so long because she cleared that whole entire house including the attic and cellar with no luck on a door open or even unlocked for that matter. The whole house was closed up tight that night and the 2×4 was still over the front door that we thought the person came in through. Never once did I mention anything to my kids about the sound I heard, but when we were all laying in the bed together, my kids started talking quietly and amongst themselves described it exactly as I would have. A loud SLAM of the door and someone walking down below even to the extent of the direction the person was headed from the front of the house heading toward the back. The interesting part is that there was a whole section of house (brick section) that divided us, yet they heard the same exact thing. Now the part that I forgot to share was that this all took place on a Friday night but in the wee hours of the night. On Thursday night, there had been a car that pulled into the driveway and a lady got out and came on the back porch (slightly intoxicated at 1:30 a.m. to visit… isn’t that what everyone does at that hour?!) she began telling us how her father grew up in that house and that he had passed days prior and his funeral was Friday. She started crying and said she just wanted to come back to the place he grew up and asked if she could sleep on the porch. We told her it would be best if she didn’t since she had a long day ahead of her and she went on her way. The slamming of the door incident was the very evening of his funeral. Now, with my previous experience with noises in the farm house I grew up in, I was able to brush it off as that man that died finally came back home.
Never once have I felt threatened by any of the unusual happenings INSIDE Morton Hall. I have always had a sense of peace and serenity there even when my friends were completely freaked out. Notice I said inside… that is because I truly mean inside. I have always felt like there was a protective barrier from porch to porch with that house. Once I step off the porch (front or back) I have a very uneasy feeling, but it seems to be only with the outside grounds and that’s it. For me, confirmation of my uneasy feelings outdoors was confirmed one year on March 21 when I happened to go spend the night at the Hall for my birthday. That morning I woke up and went outside to do a little yard work to help Laurie out and as Jeanette was cutting daffodils for me, for my birthday, I managed to come across a piece of a tombstone that I assume Laurie had found and stuck it to the right of the back porch. I was curious as to where the other piece of the stone was, so I began looking around. Much to my surprise, I found the other half and put them together to discover that the person had died on March 21 many years prior and that was the very day I first saw this tombstone. Now, THAT was kinda freaky to me!
In a nut shell, if I was asked if the house was haunted, my answer would be “YES…. well …. NOOOOO.” I associate haunted with pranks and scary incidents; seeing things and feeling them so much that it will give you shivers down your spine. I don’t have that feeling about Morton Hall; granted I have had some raised eyebrows, blood pumping, deer in the headlights look but was always able to chalk it up to someone (spirit form) just coming “home.” So I talk to them and make them feel welcome and politely but firmly announce that I DO NOT WANT TO SEE THEM AND DONT SCARE ME!!!! To this day, I am very thankful that they have listened to my request and I always look forward to my stays at Morton Hall when I come to the East Coast.
FYI…. those bat/bird sounds in Kelly’s fireplace are kinda creepy when you first hear them! ha ha