The Otherworldly Family is Watching

When we hear about ghosts, the first image we get is a story told in front of the orange flames of a campfire against the dark, a barrier against the unknown that surrounds us.   I remember one of those stories being about the ghostly hitchhiker who vanishes after being picked up.   That story is an urban legend, but the ghost story I’m about to tell you really did happen.  To me.  And it wasn’t scary.

This post is part of the Absolute Write October Blog Chain, with “Otherworldly” as the theme.  At the end of the post is a list of the other contributors, so check in on their posts.

My own ghost starts with a house.  This one:

Front view of the Havilah Babcock House, a Queen Anne style house with a tower and carriage porch on the left side and a wrap around porch on the right.

It’s the house that was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark company (the Kleenix guys).  He decorated the entire house to his personal taste.  It was so much his personal taste that after the house was inherited by two of his daughters, they were afraid to touch anything!

So it was left as it was, and eventually my grandparents inherited it.  Essentially, the family is living in a museum.   For pictures of the interior, check out the book Wisconsin’s Own.  But you if want a quick view, the cover of this catalog shows the library.

The house is the only one in the United States that is still occupied by the descendents of the original builder.

My grandfather died 18 years ago, and my grandmother Arva earlier this year.  After Arva died, my uncle reported ghostly activity.  Nothing scary — but clearly something “otherworldly.”  He thought it was Havilah’s wife, Frances Kimberly.  So, as part of the memorial service for Arva, we had a psychic come out to the house.  Not contact Arva, but just to see what was going on in the house.

The psychic was not told anything in advance.  In fact, she was completely shocked when she saw the outside of the house.  While we waited in the kitchen, she and my uncle wandered through the first floor.  In minutes, my uncle was back, telling us to hurry.  The psychic had contacted Havilah!

We rushed to the library.  The psychic described Havilah as being brilliant, almost brilliant to the point of autistic.  My father, who followed along the same route, was amazed at where it had come from.  The psychic reported that Havilah was pleased by the caretakers of the house — he dropped in periodically to make sure it was well cared for.   Then he was abruptly gone, which was, according to the psychic, the nature of spirits.

So we retreated back to the kitchen to wait, and then a few minutes later, they’re back.  This time, Arva had stopped in to visit.  If there were any doubts about the psychic, they were gone with this.  She knew one thing about Arva that no one would have said, would not have been posted anywhere, and yet was common knowledge:  Arva liked to talk.  The psychic was having some problems because it was “talk, talk, talk, talk.”  The psychic mentioned that Arva was not always well-treated because she was a little progressive for her time.   Arva also knew about two babies that had been born after she had died.

After that, I had to dash off to catch my plane at the airport.  They were four hours wandering around the house, and other spirits dropped in for a spell.  But Arva stayed present during that time and kept saying that we were not to sell the house.

Have you had any ghostly encounters?


Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller


Wisconsin Historical Markers, a blog featuring a photo of the house a month before the memorial service showing the roof being repaired.

Conrad Schmitt Studios shows off their restoration work of the stained glass windows inside the house.


Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.


Absolute Write October Blog Chain:

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: (post link here)
randi.lee: (post link here)
Aranenvo: (post link here)
pyrosama: (post link here)
hilaryjacques: (post link here)
meowzbark: (post link here)
slcboston: (post link here)
areteus: (post link here)
dolores haze: (post link here)
SuzanneSeese: (post link here)
bmadsen: (post link here)
Linda Adams: Me
Alynza: (post link here)
Orion mk3: (post link here)
BBBurke: (post link here)
SRHowen: (post link here)
Damina Rucci: (post link here)
CJMichaels: (post link here)
wonderactivist: (post link here)
Lady Cat: (post link here)
xcomplex: (post link here)
debranneelliot: (post link here)

31 thoughts on “The Otherworldly Family is Watching

  1. I don’t believe in life after death, but I think we do leave our “prints” in the places we inhabit, as they do in us. Maybe a different way of looking at the same thing, I suppose.


    1. I know felt something that I guess I would call a “print” at the Manassas Battlefield. It looked like what it was — a meadow with rolling hills, but I got the feeling war had stained it somehow.


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    1. The inside is even more so. Havilah was a dry goods merchant and was well known for his excellent taste. Evidently, the ladies trusted him to pick the textiles for their dresses!


  4. What a gorgeous house! It must have been wonderful to grow up in, ghosts and all. Just think, to be able to learn your family’s history from the people who lived it!


    1. Neither was I! I didn’t feel anything like a sense of cold or the smell of cigarette smoke (which apparently my uncle did smell when Havilah arrived) — though with my allergies acting up, I’m not sure I would have been able to!


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  6. I’ve had a few creepy encounters when I lived in a haunted house. The lights would turn on and off on their own. I would hear footsteps on the stairs – which made my cat go crazy…and I could hear someone walk from the first floor, past my door, up into the attic, and then walk around up there.

    I had so many nightmares that were so visual and crazy I can still remember them now. The house was deathly cold always. I refused to go downstairs at night unless every single light on the way there and the way back were turned on. My cat refused to go downstairs.

    I couldn’t get any friends to stay there more than one night with me. I had creepy hallucinations when traveling down nearby roads – like I’d hit my brakes because I’d see someone dash in front of my car. Now that really freaked me out. When I moved out, these “hallucinations” stopped.

    Never had any experiences outside of this house. It is still owned by family – and I’ve heard since that several other family members have had strange experiences too. It was built in the 1890s and the oldest house in that part of town.

    I don’t think I’d spend another night there. At least not alone.


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  8. When you mentioned the psychic walking around the house all I could picture was the short woman with the bun in her hair in the movie Poltergeist. Sorry. I did enjoy the story though.
    My husband has a ghost story but I’m not allowed to speak of it, damn. I wish I could.


  9. Interesting stuff! I don’t believe in psychics or ghosts, but it’s still a closer encounter with the stuff of supernatural stories than most have had. What’s going to happen to the house now?


    1. Alex, a family trust was set up for the 75 years to take care of the house. The way it was set up will allow for the trust to be able to pay for restoration work before it becomes an emergency. Getting it submitted for a National Landmark is also part of building on Havilah’s story, and from what I understand, that also means doing more publicity about the house (the book Wisconsin’s Own).


      1. That’s awesome. I love it when grand old houses get the attention they deserve. Growing up in a town that had a lot of wonderful 1870s houses that were going to pot, that sort of thing warms my heart 🙂


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