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For nearly four decades I’ve been collecting and retelling ghost stories, as long as I’ve been researching and writing about the work of Theron Potter Healy. It seems that old houses and ghost stories just naturally go together, so it’s no surprise that I’ve heard about haunted Healy houses.
Here are stories I’ve heard about houses built by T.P.Healy:
The first was told to me by a woman I’ll call “Lee” who was raised in one of Healy’s Queen Annes. As a child, she found the large Victorian house mysterious, even a bit spooky. One day when she was looking through the closet in her room, she discovered a pile of letters tied up with a ribbon. She took them out and read them.
The letters, she discovered, were those exchanged by a former resident of that room and her boyfriend in the military. Apparently the writer was, like her, the daughter of the homeowners. Lee was taken aback to learn that the boyfriend was stationed at a base that had the same name as she. As Lee read through the letters, it became clear that the writers were star-crossed lovers who never did get together. Her parents disapproved of him, and pressured her into ending the relationship.
Lee sometimes felt a presence in the room, and once, she saw the apparition of a young couple standing together by the closet. She couldn’t help but wonder if they had been united eventually, if not in life, then in death. Why the letters were still in the closet, Lee did not know. She put them back where they were and never looked at them again. They are still in the closet, awaiting the next resident to find them and speculate about the full story surrounding their contents.
The second story involves another Healy Queen Anne on the same block as Lee’s former home. The owner “Ted” says that he knew the house would be his from the moment he saw it while driving by. He called the number on the “for sale” sign out front. The owner, who lived out of state, told him that the house was vacant, and that it would be difficult to get a key to Ted. Instead, the owner advised Ted to climb in through a basement window. And so he did.
Ted went from the basement, to the main floor, up the formal staircase to the second floor, then up to the third floor. As Ted was looking around the attic rooms, he heard someone moving around on the second floor. Ted froze, thinking that someone had seen him breaking and entering and had called the police. How could he explain that the owner had told him to break in?
However, when he went down to the second floor, no one was there. In fact,, the house was completely still. Ted checked the first floor and basement and found no one. Not intimidated by the mysterious interloper, Ted wound up buying the house, which he still owns and lives in today.
Shortly after Ted acquired the house, he invited a well known psychic in for a tour. She told him that the lower floors had residual hauntings, but nothing active. On the other hand, on the third floor “lived” a little boy ghost, an intelligent haunting. The psychic told Ted that the boy had said to her, “Ted doesn’t see me, but Newton does.” This freaked out Ted because Newton was his cat’s name–and the psychic didn’t know that. Ted still occasionally hears footsteps on the second and third floor, but is not disturbed by them.
The next Healy haunting story involves a turn-of-the century house in South Minneapolis. Actually, I have stories from two owners about it. When my first ghost story articles appeared the “Wedge” newspaper and the “Hill and Lake Press”, then-owner “Jake” told me that “weird things” were happening in the house. But when I asked him to explain, he demurred, saying he’d rather not think about it.
Ten years later I became friends with the couple who currently own it. Owner “Cherie” told me that when she was in the front bedroom of the house, sometimes their dog would stand, hackles raised, looking out into the hallway at the top of the stairs. Occasionally, the dog would bark at something out there that the humans couldn’t see. At times they would hear footsteps in the hall and on the front staircase.
While these owners didn’t know it when they bought the house, the neighbors eventually told them that someone had been murdered in the house. When the property was a rooming house, the landlord had gotten into a dispute with one of tenants. Their quarrel eventually escalated to the point that the landlord came to the house with a shotgun. As the tenant stood at the top of the stairs, the landlord shot him. The tenant tumbled down the staircase, killed by the blast.
One sunny winter Saturday I was visiting with Cherie. We were talking and sipping tea in the parlor when we heard a loud “clink” from the kitchen. We hotfooted it through the pantry into the kitchen. To our amazement, a glass jar was sitting in the middle of the hardwood floor, intact. It had formerly sat on a shelf over the sink, 10 feet away. How did it get there? Perhaps an unseen resident was trying to make his or her presence known.
Years ago, while I was writing the article about Healy for “Twin Cities” magazine, the owners of a Healy house in Central Minneapolis told me about their feline ghost. The house had been converted to a duplex; what had been the formal front stairs was accessible to both upper and lower units. Both the owners, one tenant, and two visitors had witnessed the apparition of a cat bounding down what was the main staircase. The cat seemed real and solid–until it passed through the closed front door and disappeared. Who knows what the back story to that is?
A final ghost story, which is not about a haunted house: For the past four years, members of the Healy Project have met at different Healy-built houses to celebrate his birthday in May. On his 170th birthday, a group of Healy aficionados met at a house in the Wedge. We gathered around the cake on the dining room table and sang “Happy Birthday.” The candles stayed lighted throughout the singing. But the instant the singing stopped, a big gust of wind from the doorway blew them out. No fooling.
Do you have a ghost story to share? I’d love to hear it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can meet at a Twin Cities coffee house–or if you’re out of town–over the phone.
Next: A post on haunted houses built by master builder Henry Ingham.