In october there is always an old house and a ghost
It seems like nearly everyone in Cape Charles knows there's a ghost in Mike Sullivan's house.
That sounds ridiculous. Most people,like to think they're too smart to believe in ghosts.
But let's review the evidence, shall we?
Suspicious finding No. 1
Mike and Dora Sullivan's refurbished brick home was built in 1894 and used as a school until 1912. A few years later it was converted into a duplex. Over the decades, dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the small Eastern Shore town claimed a connection to the house.
By the time the Sullivans purchased it in the late 1990s, no one had lived in it for 12 or 15 years.
Fast forward to spring 2001. Mike Sullivan, a Xerox retiree, was restoring the house. He was sitting down, taking a break and admiring his handiwork, when he heard footsteps upstairs. Which was odd, because no one was upstairs. These weren't the stomping footsteps of a man. They were shorter and quicker, more like a woman. A pitter-patter. They walked through most of the second story before stopping.
Sullivan raced upstairs. He saw nothing.
Because of the construction, a thick dust coated everything. If it had been an animal, say a raccoon or a mouse or squirrel, it would have left footprints.
But, of course, there were no footprints because everyone knows ghosts don't leave footprints.
Suspicious finding No. 2
You should know that Mike Sullivan is very sensitive to perfume. His wife, Dora, the mayor of Cape Charles, doesn't wear any for that reason. When he's around perfume his eyes water and his nose stuffs up.
This time, it was fall, later that year. And Sullivan was again working upstairs, taking down the rotted plaster with a sledgehammer when he swung and...
"I hit the wall, and I got this blast of perfume. I had to back away. My nose stuffed up. My eyes were watering. There was plaster dust everywhere."
He thought to himself, "Wow. That's really weird."
He should have thought to himself, "Wow. That's one good-smelling ghost."
Suspicious finding No. 3
By now, Sullivan was telling people about the ghost who lived in his house, but he wasn't the only one who encountered it.
Sullivan and his son-in-law were working to install windows when again - bam - he got hit by a blast of perfume. His son-in-law smelled it, too. A real sweet smell. It went away just as quickly as it came.
But Sullivan was starting to feel better about the odd occurrences now that someone else had experienced one.
"It makes me feel like I'm not absolutely crazy."
Not that seeing ghosts is crazy. But we'll get to that soon enough.
Suspicious finding No. 4
This time, another friend, town planner Tom Bonadeo, was over. Again, they were working upstairs and, again, another blast of perfume.
"Is that the smell?" Bonadeo asked.
And again, Sullivan was relieved because someone else noticed, and this time it was without prompting.
Suspicious finding No. 5
Sometimes the smoke alarm goes off in the Sullivans' house. And you'd think, well, that's just the low battery signal. Except Sullivan said this is not the warning beep, it is the sounding of the alarm, only for a moment.
Mike Sullivan is a fanatic when it comes to changing the batteries. He does it twice a year, on the Fourth of July and New Year's Day.
Maybe the smoke alarm was going off because it detected something else.
Maybe it detected something... like a ghost.
Suspicious finding No. 6
Sullivan's cat used to sit and just stare as if listening to a person.
OK. That's not really all that suspicious. Everyone knows cats are downright crazy, but in any really scary story, the number seven plays a key role, and I needed to get to seven.
How about this? One time, Sullivan was working on the computer and smelled the perfume, so without even looking up he told the ghost, "You're standing too close to me." Then poof. It went away.
But do ghosts ever really go away? I think not.
Suspicious finding No. 7
This is the most damning evidence.
There is a picture of Mike Sullivan kneeling in the front of his house right after they bought it. Years ago, they were showing the photo to some friends, when one of them asked, "Who's that standing in the window?"
Sure enough, if you look at the window in the door to the right of him, you can see the opaque outline of someone standing. It's possible, especially with an enlargement, some squinting and a little imagination, to make out a nose, shoulders, eyes, mouth and maybe even a bro och of a woman.
It's possible to believe that it could be a ghost foolish enough to be caught on film.
When Sullivan showed the photo to some neighbors, they said, "Oh, it's gotta be Sara Doughty. She loved that place.... If she's still around, that's where she'd go."
See, when the old school closed and moved out of the house now owned by the Sullivans to a building a couple of doors down, Doughty, a popular teacher, wasn't happy about the move.
She taught at the school in the Sullivans' house from 1898 to 1912. She died from consumption in 1935. She was so popular in Cape Charles, there was talk in the 1930s about building a memorial to her.
What is so ridiculous about Mike Sullivan thinking a former teacher is living in his house, an old schoolhouse, as a ghost? She's not tearing the books off the shelves. She doesn't bother him often. She doesn't slime the cats. It's probably been three years since anyone's smelled her.
"Maybe she's happy with what we're doing."