A Montana Ghost Story
It was the sound of laughter and children’s voices that caught my attention. Curious, I materialized in my old bedroom and went out into the hallway to peer over the railing by the grand staircase. The voices had come from the Great Hall, where the house tours gathered. Yes, there were two children scampering about, to the distraction of their parents. An older boy and a tousled haired little toddler who reminded me of my own daughter at that age.
“No, no Alicia. Don’t touch,” her mother agonized at the little girl flung herself onto a rocker by the fireplace.
Alicia. No wonder I had felt compelled to return. There was an Alicia in this house again. How appropriate. There had been an Alicia in every generation of our family from the 1600s to the present. We’d called my little Alicia “Timmie”, I reminisced.
The tour began, and I followed them eagerly, floating down the stairs and hovering in the grandmother’s hallway. Little Alicia was swung up into her father’s arms as the group moved into the library next door. Looking over his shoulder, the tousle-haired youngster saw me. She lifted her hand to me. “Hi!” she piped.
“Hi back,” I returned solemnly. Her father glanced vaguely around, but did not see who his child was addressing. I grinned conspiratorally at the little toddler and winked. She tried to wink back, blinking her blue eyes several times in rapid succession, her face crinkling with the effort. I chuckled softly and followed the group into the dining room.
I swished passed Alicia’s mother and went through the butler’s pantry into the kitchen. Behind me, Alicia’s mother shivered and asked: “Is there a draft in here?” I looked at the picture of my little Timmie on the back of the stove. Yes, this little Alicia resembled her. I perched myself on a table in the corner of the room and listened as the tour guide discussed Father’s obsession with southern biscuits and showed everyone the huge bin of coffee. Alicia waved a hand at me from her father’s shoulder. “Lady,” she said very clearly to her mother, pointing at me. Her mother looked straight at me, seeing nothing but the table. Alicia’s brother turned my way and squinted very hard, as if he might be able to make out my outline if he stared hard enough. I smiled at him.
I floated up and up through the ceiling then and settled myself in the little toy room on the upper landing, waiting for Alicia to come upstairs. I heard her little voice insisting that her father put her “down”. Then the sound of little feet chugging mightily as she climbed the steps. With a smile, the woman looking into the toy room moved aside so Alicia and her brother could take a look. I couldn’t resist. “Peek-a-boo!” I called, appearing suddenly around the doorway. Alicia laughed in delight. “Peek-boo!” she giggled, hiding her eyes behind her hands. Obediently, her big brother did the same. He obviously loved this tiny moppet.
“Come on Peek-a-Boo,” Alicia’s father said indulgently, picking her up again and taking her with him up to the second floor hallway. I went to stand by the grand staircase again, watching the tourists move in and out of the guest rooms. Alicia waved to me as they entered my room, then around to my parents bedroom and out past the bath to the game room. Father had loved playing billiards with his guests, I mused with a smile, touching one of the balls with the tip of my finger. Beside me, the tour guide was telling the visitors about our buffalo herd. Father had been very worried about the bison. So many of them were being killed. So he bought a herd and they roamed the roads and byways around Kalispell freely all their lives. After the head male died of old age, Father had his head stuffed by my uncle, and his head still hung in the game room.
I floated up to the third floor and sat in one of the wicker chairs as the guide took the guests around to the sewing room, father’s private hideaway, the laundry room, our game room. Alicia ran all around, laughing and stomping her little feet in her cunning sneakers. She flung herself into my lap and we stared happily at one another, giggling together, until her mother came running. “No, no Alicia. Mustn’t touch.”
The tour was nearly over. The group gathered in the back hallway – the Grandmothers hallway – for one last bit of history. The guide showed them the ‘secret’ hiding places in the wall and showed them a note I’d written to my grandmother many years ago. Then they were saying goodbye, and Alicia waved her little hand to me as her parents exited through the door of the gift shop.
“Goodbye Alicia,” I called as her brother walked right through me. That felt strange to me, but worse for him I think. He turned pale and shivered. Then made a bolt for the door.
“Bye-bye,” Alicia called back to me as her brother pushed his father aside and fled out the screen door and down the steps to the drive.
“That place is creepy,” he told his mother as they walked together into the garden. ‘I think it’s haunted!”
Haunted, I thought, amused. By happy memories, certainly. And perhaps occasionally by something else! I leaned out the window and waved once more to little Alicia, though the toddler didn’t see me. Then I vanished.