Owners like sharing space with spirits


Haunted: The residents of a Baltimore rowhouse say they have made peace with the ghosts that inhabit their home.

October 26, 2003|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Nancy Beatty and Margot Rome are fully enjoying their restored rowhouse in Upper Fells Point - now that they have struck a bargain with the ghosts that they believe are living there.

"All [the spirits] really wanted was for us to acknowledge their presence," says Rome, sipping iced tea on the patio behind their South Chester Street home.

"And when we did that," says Beatty, "and asked them to please stop bothering us at 3 in the morning, things began to quiet down."

Neither of the women was aware of what they call the supernatural activity in their home when they purchased it in December 2001 for $168,000. After looking in Canton and Charles Village at homes that were sometimes far more expensive, they were thrilled to acquire this renovated, two-story, red-brick house that was built during the 1850s.

Everything about the home and neighborhood suits them.

South Chester, a wide street off Pratt Street, slopes south to the harbor. The houses are of various heights and widths. Some are set back several yards from the curb, allowing for neat, postage stamp-size front lawns.

A few are covered in Formstone. Others, including Beatty's and Rome's, have red-brick exteriors with black shutters and large windows.

"This is what you think of as old hometown Baltimore," says Beatty, 52, a mental health professional.

"People here are so proud of [the neighborhood's] history," says Rome, 55, a business administrator at the Johns Hopkins University. "We've been told our front window is the widest on Chester Street, and [the house] may have been a store at one time."

The women said they have heard from the ghosts on both floors of the home, which has an open interior that disguises its narrow, 15-foot width. Nine-foot ceilings, recessed lighting, original hardwood flooring and an overall length of 55 feet allow for a spacious feel while well-placed furniture groupings suggest cozy living areas.

The women say they bought a lot of furniture after moving in to supplement the pieces they brought to the house. The front of the house includes a double-wide window that serves as a backdrop for two tan leather, pub-like sofas that face each other. They are separated by a weathered, 100-year-old cedar chest used as a coffee table.

An antique wooden saddle-repair bench sits in a corner, next to a fireplace that has long been sealed. An electric log insert crackles and hisses.

The center of the first floor is used as a TV-viewing area. A blue microfiber sofa sits against the north wall at the foot of the staircase leading to the second level.

The second story has an open stairwell with a skylight in the hallway. The master bedroom is located in the front of the home and features knotty pine furniture. From here the women have often heard unexplained sounds throughout the home and wondered if something else shared the living space with them.

A step down from the hallway leads to a guest suite decorated in a nautical theme of lighthouses and bright red curtains. The suite's bathroom features a large window looking down over the kitchen roof with room for a deck that the women hope to build soon.

Outside, a walkway beside the house leads to the back yard and provides abundant light through six windows and a door. Inside, the bright kitchen's light ceramic tile contrasts with the adjoining wood floor, and a skylight over the sink area provides still more natural light.

Heat is pumped through vents in the floor, and it was the kitchen vent that convinced the women about a month after moving in that they were not alone in their dream home.

"Right away, things started happening," Beatty says, "but we pooh-poohed them. I would hang a curtain rod, and it would fall. ... Same with the shower curtains. I would swear I locked a door, head into another room, come back, and the door would be wide open.

"We just kept rationalizing these things away, like [the time] I heard loud hammering at midnight, and Margot, who was downstairs, heard nothing," Beatty says.

The women woke one morning to find the floor grate under the kitchen table several feet away, in front of the refrigerator on the other side of the room.

Another time, Beatty was working at the computer in the kitchen area, with her dogs, Jethro and Sara, lying beside her. "The grate jumped from the floor and landed five feet away in the living area," she says. "The dogs would not go near it."

Beatty called Rome at work to relate the incident, saying, "You're never going to believe this one."

Perhaps the most haunting confrontation occurred at 3 o'clock one morning.

The women say they were startled out of their sleep by a noise that sounded like a trash truck. A peek outside the window revealed nothing. A smoky aroma was coming from the first floor. As they ran downstairs, dogs barking, they found their vacuum cleaner going full force and smoking, they say.

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