HARTFORD CITY – Whether you believe in ghosts, when the sun goes down, the house at 220 N. Monroe St. in Hartford City is enough to give you chills.
Maybe it’s the fading porch lights faintly illuminating the overgrown bushes. Maybe it’s the way that, built on high ground, the old white dwelling looms as you walk past it. Maybe it’s the way its dark, stark windows seem to stare blankly into the night, like lifeless eyes.
Or maybe, as some people hereabouts believe, it’s really haunted.
“At first I’d say the house was settling,” Eddie Norris told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/16YgHk90 ), trying to explain the sounds and happenings inside. “But my gosh ...”
As the tree service employee spoke in the waning light he was warming himself, gathered around a backyard fire pit with his wife and fellow homeowner Pam Norris, who works for a bank, and her sister, Sheri Stewart, a marketing coordinator for a financial firm.
They were joined by Cheri Davis and Brian Yount of Doorways Investigations Group of Union City.
From the start, Eddie Norris has been vocal about his skepticism regarding the existence of ghosts in that house.
Paranormal investigators Davis and Yount, on the other hand, aren’t.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” the former said of the signs of haunting here. “Every time.”
“I’ve been doing this for seven years,” the latter added. “I would say there are few places that I would consider 100 percent haunted, and this is one of them.”
Residents of Selma, the Norrises have owned the house, the central part of which dates back to the 1850s, for 10 years, having bought it as a rental property.
“It was a HUD home,” Pam Norris explained, her feet close to the fire. “It was a repossessed home, so we bought it.”
So none of the folks in the back yard had ever lived here?
“Hell no!” said Stewart with a hearty laugh.
On a plastic bucket on the kitchen floor the investigators had placed two instruments, a K2 electromagnetic field detector, which looked like a wall-stud locator, and an REMpod, which looked like an automobile’s distributor cap with four colored lights – red, blue, yellow and green – on top.
“I’ve got REMpod hits,” Yount told Davis as she walked into the room, and soon lights on both devices were flashing regularly.
Still, if flashing lights were the only signs of haunting here, the Norrises and Stewart wouldn’t think much about it.
But doors and windows slam, they say. Nails are tossed across a room. Appliances, including the garbage disposal, turn on by themselves. A nickel slides across a dresser and falls to the floor. An old baby carriage upstairs has moved by itself. A plumber working in the basement once ran out and didn’t return.
You hear what sounds like someone walking around upstairs, they added, and neighbors have reported seeing spectral figures pass by windows when the house was otherwise empty.
`I didn’t know it’d be this bad,” Eddie Norris said, noting they began hearing rumors about the place shortly after buying it. Lately, though, activity seems to have ramped up.
Perhaps the voices are the worst. Rumor has it a child died in a fire in this house many years ago, and this was formerly home to a prominent saloon keeper.
Stewart said that once, just for “grins and giggles,” she and her sister took a tape recorder upstairs and heard voices mocking what they said. Other voices heard have included a dog barking and a boy saying “Don’t pet it,” and a child saying, “Momma.” Then there’s a gruff man’s voice, one heard only in the kitchen, that says some things ranging from racy, like “Spank me,” to nasty, like “Go home, pigs,” to the downright vile, like ... well, never mind.
The effect of all this on the sisters?
“I’m starting to click over,” acknowledged Pam Norris, in terms of belief, “but I’m still having a hard time.”
Stewart said essentially the same thing.
“I wasn’t raised that way,” she said, meaning belief in the supernatural. “But you come to a point where you can’t explain this stuff away.”
Despite his doubts, Eddie Norris acknowledged he was in the basement once when the light went off, and wasted no time running out, while his wife and sister-in-law acknowledged they’ll go in the house together, but not alone.
Today, the house at 220 N. Monroe St., is virtually empty and in need of work, but its history has brought such efforts to a standstill. More workers than that nervous plumber have left and not returned.
Still, the basement – the room the terrified plumber fled – is easily the scariest room in the house, its darkened recesses and rugged limestone walls looking like a place where fictional killer Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter would love to hang out.
Earlier, Pam Norris had flipped through ghostly pictures taken inside, some of which Star Press photographer Jordan Kartholl, a dyed-in-the-wool ghost doubter, could explain, and some of which he couldn’t.
Equipped with two $5,000 Canon digital cameras, he shot a number of photos in the basement, in two of which a mysterious orange light and a ghostly white cloud appeared.
His explanation? He didn’t have one.
“It’s weird,” he said.
It wasn’t weird to the paranormal investigators, though.
“This house has actually become a venue for paranormal investigations,” Davis said.
“Which is not a good thing for a homeowner trying to renovate,” Eddie Norris added.
Nearby, meanwhile, Pam Norris was out of sight, examining an upstairs hallway closet when things suddenly lit up.
“Pam,” her sister asked, “did you just turn the closet light on?”
Hearing this, Stewart rolled her eyes and smiled. “You never know.”