Every so often when showing an older home to a buyer, a question will be asked of me which I rarely would have the true answer for simply because of the age of the home and not knowing the full history of the previous owners. That question usually goes something like this, “Do you know if anyone died in this house?” Now that is a very broad question of which likely no one would know for certain unless there’s someone out there that’s really good at reading crystal balls back into the past.
Most people don’t realize that up until likely sixty or more years ago, nearly everyone who was dying of some disease or other would die at home. Unless of course they either died suddenly away from home, killed in battle, or died at the hospital during a surgical procedure. With that said, you can imagine what my answer would be unless I knew specifically that someone died in a home. I can certainly tell some stories about homes I’ve had listed where there’s been either a violent death or suicide. There’ve been some happenings I’ve experienced which were beyond all logical explanations in those homes. From strange re-occurring odors, to reflections of something that should not have been there, to even a “feeling” that someone or something just brushed past me.
I’ll never forget the time I could have sworn I saw a woman standing out in the yard in the corner of my eye dressed in vintage clothing, and when trying to get a closer look she was suddenly gone. We hear and see much glamorized stuff on TV about homes and sites being haunted or possessed, but until one experiences something first hand, it really doesn’t have the full effect. All I can say in a smiling way is what the lion on the Wizard of Oz said while stroking his tail, “I do believe in ghosts. I do believe in ghosts. I do, I do, I do!”
I visited with a client not long ago about her home, and while out there she informed me that she was going through old boxes of photos that had been in her family for generations. She went on to say she’d found one that had no names or dates and was likely a photo of an in-home wake service. She was wanting me to see it so after giving her my curious nod, she went off to get it. When she handed it to me I was completely taken by it. I asked if I could borrow it to have a copy made and she agreed.
The more I looked at the photo, the more I became almost “there” in understanding the ways of those times. I would say this wake photo was taken sometime in the 1920’s due to the style of clothing being worn. When you take a closer look, you see the over-worked hands and arms of a struggling class. The blurred faces are because someone was moving while the ancient camera was working slowly. The man in the casket appears to be quite young, and what really makes me curious, is who’s the wife and children of “OUR FATHER”? This is yet another reason why it upsets me so when people don’t notate names on photos at the time they were taken. There are likely relatives of people in this photo who’d love to see one of their kin of another time and place. In looking at the photo, you’ll almost “feel” the hardened despair of life during those times. I posted the photo above of what I copied of the mysterious wake.