My home is 180 years old, and it has “character.” That means it has some unusual features and it needs a lot of repairs. Among the features are wide-plank floors, working fireplaces, old hardware, wooden dowels where one might expect nails, and brick insulation in the walls (which is very inefficient). It also reveals changes over time including a summer kitchen turned into a den, and a door to the outdoors which now forms the backside of a closet. I like the quirkiness.
One dark evening, while I was hosting a dinner party in my home, a strange thing happened. Eight of use were seated at the dining room table. We were eating the main course and enjoying an animated conversation, when suddenly, the floor “jumped” and made a loud thump, thump noise. All of us were startled. We had all felt the floor move. We had all heard the noises. One of the guests was particularly nervous, as he was a strong believer in the spirit world. We listened attentively, wondering if the disturbance would happen again. Then we laughed and talked of ghosts. Who had inhabited this old house, and what might a spirit want to tell us? What could the disruption have possibly been?
We found no explanation. Was the house settling? I described the situation to a neighbor who was a carpenter, and he just laughed – no, the house was not settling so dramatically. The neighbor’s wife offered the suggestion that maybe there was new blasting from an old, unused quarry a town away, and we felt the vibration. But no, not on a Saturday night, not when the quarry hadn’t been mined in years. Was there something wrong in the basement? Well, the old basement – with a floor that is part gravel, part concrete, part large stones –has plenty of problems, but there was nothing new to see. For weeks, we wondered about the mystery.
Finally, I solved the problem. In the basement, I found a metal support column that was propping up the dining room floor, and it had rusted at the bottom and sunk a bit. At the dinner party, under the weight of the extra adults, the floor had actually dropped a bit and thudded on the post where it stood. The metal support had some gadget on the top that I turned in order to raise an extension on it; in that way, the support propped up the floor completely again.
I rather liked the idea of a ghost in the house…maybe the rusted post was the spirit’s maneuvering – why not?