The Shadow Man
“The first time I viewed the house, I didn’t really feel that it was haunted…just that I belonged there with my family. The second time I viewed the house, I could feel there was a presence that wanted me to live there.” ~ My Mom
It looked like a medieval castle shrouded in the overgrowth of the surrounding trees. Being five years old the dark and mysterious house towered over me as I stepped around the crumbling sidewalks that led to the creaking front door. I could see the gables peek out between the leaves as I walked closer. The house hadn’t been lived in for some time, and I could clearly see graffiti on the exposed brick walls through the windows. My parents were beaming at our new home, but all I felt was a sense of uneasiness.
I had lived my whole life before this point in a bright and sunny twin house in the center of a bustling town. My “boyfriend” was my neighbor, my Grandmother was the next block over, I could walk to school, and the ice cream truck came promptly after dinner every night in the summer. Idyllic is a gross understatement.
As a child I couldn’t comprehend why we needed to leave our picture perfect (although extremely haunted) house. My parents were having a new baby and needed more room – reasoning that was completely irrational to me. This move had been disrupting my life for months now. I couldn’t hang the crayon pictures I made on the walls because people were coming over to look at the house. I couldn’t leave my toys out because it might hurt the sale. I had to leave my friends behind. To top it off, I was no longer the baby of the family. My world was in complete chaos. My only solace was in my collection of Barbie dolls and purposely annoying my older sister.
We moved in against my will. The new house was like a labyrinth waiting to be explored: large rooms, tall ceilings, secret hidden spaces, and more than twice the size of the house in town. To a logical adult it made perfect sense for a growing family of five. To a kid, this Victorian beauty seemed like a playground for the underworld.
I never could feel fully comfortable in this house; although to be fair I was never comfortable in our first home either (haunted houses will do that to you). My new bedroom was the back room, it always gave me a feeling of being watched and might just be the reason why, as an adult, I sleep with the covers over my head.
You could chalk all of my uneasy feelings up to a kid going through two major life changes of a move and a new sibling, but it wasn’t just me who experienced the unexplained in our new residence.
My Mother was the first person to experience something odd in the home. It hadn’t been lived in or updated for quite awhile (I can still remember the pink walls with dark peach colored drapes hanging in the living room shudders) so before we officially moved in, my parents would often make several trips to the new house to fix and spruce up the place.
One day my Mom made her way up to the attic. At the time she was eight months pregnant and had never really explored the rooms on the top level. She can’t fully explain what she felt that day, but it was an odd feeling that she wasn’t alone. The attic always gave her this feeling.
The activity started slowly after that. It wasn’t until a full year later that anyone (to my knowledge) had the first “can’t find a rational explanation for” experience. My Mom was the first to realize something odd was going on.
“A year or so after we moved in I was in the basement doing the wash – it very early in the morning. All of the sudden I heard someone coming down the main staircase and shuffling across the hallway floor headed towards the basement. It sounded like a child’s footie pajamas, which is exactly what my toddler was wearing when I put him to bed. I panicked! I thought he had somehow climbed out of his crib and made his way towards the treacherous steps. I ran upstairs, only to find no one there. Still panic-stricken looking for my child, I ran up to the second floor. There, my one-year-old was fast asleep, wearing footie pajamas, in his crib.”
Over the years, we all experienced something supernatural at that house. For the most part the haunting is benign: unexplained voices, footsteps, doors opening and closing, unexplained electrical problems, and physically being touched.
One of my most vivid memories is of the disappearing/reappearing keys, which would often happen to my Mom. Her car keys would be on the kitchen counter, we would all see them, and for one reason or another, we’d walk out of the room for a minute or two. Upon our return her keys would be gone. This would obviously cause stress and frustration for my Mom. After some time had gone by, her keys would magically show up… on the kitchen counter where she had originally left them.
I could fill up many pages of unexplained activity that we experienced in this house over the years, but in the last decade or so, and interestingly enough around the time I started my professional career in the paranormal, a more ominous presence has manifested.
The first time I heard of this new activity I was away at college. I remember my Mom saying half-jokingly, “I think you brought your work home with you.” She then went on to ask if I had been working on a case, which I was. She had just had an odd (totally different from anything we’ve ever experienced in the house before) occurrence. She was the living room, which looks into the dining room, and she had seen shadows blocking out the light in the dining area. As the shadows moved around something knocked over my snowboard that was leaning up against a wall.
Around that same time my Aunt had come for a visit. My parents had made up the living room, for my Aunt to sleep. It was then that she had her first encounter with the shadowy figure. As she later explained it to me,
“It was around 3am – go figure! I saw what I assumed was your Father in the dining room. I heard and saw him walking around and rustling through papers on the dining table. I knew sometimes he went to work early, but I thought that was ridiculously early. I just figured he had to travel far that day. I got up a few hours later and your Dad walked into the dining room. I said, ‘You’re already home?’ He looked at me confused and said, ‘Home from where?’ When I told him I thought he had left for work he informed me he had just gotten up. So it couldn’t have been him at 3am. I was a little freaked out.”
In my field of work I’ve seen, over and over again, that certain types of activity can change as time goes on. Sometimes it’s due to external causes – a change in the family, renovations, or even someone moving in/out. Sometimes it seems to be connected to someone’s emotional state and then there are times when there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the sudden change. It’s not always easy to know why activity may increase in intensity and/or frequency. For whatever reason, the Shadow Man’s energy grew. In all the years my Mom has called our house home, she recently had her first terrifying experience.
“I was resting on the couch when I heard someone in the dining room. I thought perhaps my husband had come home early from work. As I looked I saw the shadow of a man coming towards me. I became afraid and opened my eyes to see who it was, but I couldn’t open them all the way. I was awake and very aware of what was going on. All I could make out was the outline of a dark figure coming closer to me and then it stopped. I was so scared at that point that I closed my eyes waiting for the worst to happen. When I opened my eyes the figure was gone…
I checked with my husband to see if he had stopped home, but he had been at work all day. I was scared so I checked all the doors, which were still locked.”
Just the other week as I walked into my Mom’s house she looked at me concerned and confused. She asked (already knowing the answer), “Did you just get here? Because I just saw what I thought was you walk through the dining room ten minutes ago.”
Over the last ten years just about everyone who has stayed in the house for a few days has experienced the Shadow Man.
As a paranormal investigator I noticed patterns with the Shadow Man’s presence. My Aunt has seen and heard the Shadow Man numerous times, always in the dining area, which is connected to the kitchen. On her last visit she heard the rustling of papers on the dining table again.
I have personally heard and felt him, always, without fail, in the dining and kitchen area. My Mom is having terrifying encounters and countless others who have visited the home have commented on odd occurrences and feelings in the dining room and kitchen.
So what’s a paranormal investigator to do? Start by checking the history of the location where the unknown is happening to see if any historically significant events can be tied to the present activity.
The plot of land was originally part of a much bigger parcel owned by William Penn during the 1700s. During those times the Lenape tribe were still living in the area trying to co-exist with the newly settled Quakers, who had taken over the area where my parent’s house would soon stand. After the Lenape were forced to leave the town grew into what it is today. Although, there are accounts of conflict between the Lenape and the settlers, I haven’t been able to find a direct connection to my parent’s property.
Over the years, as to be expected, the land was divided up and my parent’s house was built in the late 1800s.
Families have stayed there a long time, often passing the house from generation to generation.
From what I can tell of the families that have passed through, nothing sticks out as odd or abnormal; at least nothing that I’ve seen in my work that would contribute to or spark paranormal activity.
Now, it is interesting to note that the dining room was once the heart of the house, the kitchen. What is now my Mom’s kitchen, where we’ve had numerous experiences was once the back porch off of the original kitchen.
Who is this shadowy figure that’s been haunting my parents for the last decade?
Is it just left over energy? The previous owners? Is it our family members communicating? Did I accidently bring something home when I was first starting out as a paranormal investigator? Why are the dining room and kitchen the most active areas? Although, there were times as a child I felt threatened by an unseen force in this house, I know now it wasn’t anything harmful, but what about this new activity?
My interest in the paranormal had piqued in our previous house, but it was this new home that really solidified my beliefs. I may not know what is there or why, but I know there’s something beyond our current understanding of science occurring.
My Mom, perhaps to make peace with the odd experiences over the years, has a more jovial outlook of the activity. When I asked her what, or who, she thought was haunting the house she thoughtfully replies, “I’m not sure, but apparently we’ve all lived together this long, so I say let’s keep it going. It certainly has been quite the experience.”
Besides the paranormal, this is the house where I developed many of my other passions. Cooking being one of them. My family has a longstanding history in the culinary arts. My Father’s family owned a restaurant in the Lehigh Valley for many years and my Great Grandfather was a pastry chef in Philadelphia. My mom has also worked professionally as a baker on and off throughout my childhood.
When we were growing up she made sure we knew how to cook and bake and many of my happy memories in this beautifully haunted house are of time spent in the kitchen with my mom learning the art of baking. Although it is occupied by ghosts and (now the Shadow Man) I loved learning how to cook in that creepy kitchen!
So now I share with you a secret family recipe that you can make at home too. From my Mom’s haunted kitchen to your (hopefully not haunted at all) kitchen.
Jenny’s Scottish Shortbread
My grandfather came over from Scotland when he was only a few years old. Along with his accent and love of golf, he carried several other traditions that have been in our family for generations. One of my personal favorites is my family’s shortbread recipe. Buttery and flakey with just the right amount of sweetness, this shortbread is made with only three ingredients and takes very little time to whip up. It’s perfect if you have a last minute event or guest coming over and need something scrumptious to serve quickly! I often make this as gifts for family around the holidays as it’s a surefire crowd pleaser, but I won’t judge if you keep it all to yourself. I’ve been there and have no shame! This shortbread is divine on it’s own, but also goes great with some jam, tea, or coffee.
This is the original recipe. I usually modify it by using a little less flour, usually around 3 ½ cups instead of 4. My Mom uses a little more than the original recipe calls for. Test it for yourself and see which version you like best. Either way, I can assure you it will be delicious!
Two 9-inch cake pans
¾ lb salted butter, softened but not quite room temperature
¾ c. sugar (we use regular granulated sugar. My Great Grandmother used super fine)
4 c. all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325 degree
- Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans
2) Cream butter and sugar
3) Add flour 1c at a time, scraping down sides to make sure all is incorporated, until all flour is added to the mix
4) Stop mixing when the dough becomes crumbled. It should not be a smooth dough.
5) Divide mixture evenly between the two pans
6) Pat down with hands and even out
7) Use the back of a fork to push along the edges and create a crust. Also use the fork to poke holes on the top.
8) Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 mins until a light golden brown
9) Let cool on cooling/wire racks in their pans
10) Once cool, flip shortbread onto a workable space and cut into wedges.
Stay tuned because next month Haunted Kitchens will be featuring Bube’s Brewery and multiple recipes from their restaurant!