Friday, June 29, 2012

Was Grandma's House Haunted?

Now I'm not one to go watch the celebrity haunting programs on TV, but when Cousins Linda and JoAnn and I got talking recently there was one big item on our conversational agenda... about haunting. Cousin JoAnn looked at me with big eyes and asked, "Do you think Grandma Kelly's house was haunted?" Woooah!

Now you have to have known Grandma Kelly. She was pretty much a Victorian woman in many respects. She never met a cabbage rose wallpaper pattern she didn't like. She played rag-time on the piano which, just for fun, she called her pi-an-nee. She loved to tell stories, fact based or not, and was given an award for elocution when she was a girl. In a time before TV and even radio, this was a good skill to have.

Grandma grew up in the Western Maryland town of Frostburg, was born in the old house at 89 West Main Street and died in the same room in which she came into the world. It was her father's house and after she and Grandpop Kelly were married they lived there too. When her parents were gone, the house was hers entirely. But it was kind of haunted.

Helen Gertrude Zeller (1894 - 1985)
As a lovely young girl and before she married.

Cousins Linda and Joann started telling what they knew about the haunting and retelling stories of haunting as I mostly listened and made notes as fast as I could.

The first in a long line of stories had to do with Ma, Grandma's Mother, Moretta Workman Zeller (1859 - 1946). Ma would say with regularity, "Oh what I saw last night!" Tales of furniture moving on the upper floor were quite common. As was the report of head laughing. No body, just a head.

Moretta Workman Zeller
(3 April 1859 - 24 MAR 1946)

Now I do have to admit here that Ma was a jokester and story teller in her own right. I have the distinct impression that when Ma got bored she'd cook up some fun! So what did Ma see?

Finally, a young Helen told her parents that she had seen a woman's face with gold teeth laughing. Grandma was the apple of her father's eye, Gustav Zeller. He was well off and owned a couple of barbering emporiums in the region so money was no object. He promptly built an addition to the house as Grandma's bedroom so she wouldn't have to sleep upstairs... and the hauntings always happened upstairs.

Gustav Zeller
(3 FEB 1858 - 12 Mar 1927)

At this point you need some information about "upstairs." Next to the indoor bathroom with the six-foot tub designed especially for Gus Zeller because he was tall, was an exceedingly narrow stairway, hidden behind a curtain, that immediately made a sharp bend to the left. Kids could scamper up it but it was difficult going for the older folks. At some point Grandma Kelly just gave up on going up there altogether and sent us kids to fetch stuff. I gotta say, I could be kind of spooky up there.

Cousins Linda and JoAnn said that whenever they went to Grandma's house she'd usually send them up on errands and say, "Now hurry and go up can come back down!" No wonder we all thought the place was haunted!

Mom and Dad and I lived in Cleveland but when we went to visit we'd bunk upstairs. I never thought a thing about it being haunted... but then maybe they didn't tell me!

When Grandma passed we bought the old house from the estate. Just wanted to freshen it up a bit and then we'd have a country place to stay in summers. One thing lead to another and we found out that it was way crooked on the foundation, needed a new furnace, plumbing, electrical, and oh, by the way, the walls were all coming down because they were original horse-hair plaster. Many bills and a year and a half later I finally slept in Grandma's house for the first time. Have to confess it was sort of spooky! Said a wish to Grandma to protect me from hauntings. It worked! I slept like a baby:)


  1. Great post! Do you have photos of the house?

  2. Yes, and I have to find the box and scan the oldest picture of it. It's a very cute little cottage style house with some Victorian gingerbread added. It was built about 1840. Still standing, and in good shape.