I was going through some old files recently and came across a report about The Roycroft Inn in East Aurora that I have never published. An example of a type of random phenomena that seem so common at the Inn, this one came from the period (1970s-1980s) of Kitty Turgeon’s (1933-2014) ownership.
The essence of it is this: One hotel guest in a certain first-floor room told Kitty that he could hardly sleep because of the sound of someone repeatedly “loading coal” through a chute.
And that's it.
The gentleman to whom the account is attributed had indeed been sleeping over the position of a former coal chute; but the Inn by then hadn’t been heated by coal for a mighty long time, and the chute itself was no longer there. But I am not sure I have ever bothered to mention this report in a talk or a tour.
One reason I made so little out of it is because there's not much to it. It can be phrased in a single sentence.
Another is that I have so many tales about The Roycroft Inn, and most of them are better. The Inn is a folklore-generator.
Lastly, this is an incident, a report, rather than a story. A story is self-contained. A story has a beginning, a middle, a conclusion, and hopefully some sort of point. It makes a bit of sense.
The incident reminded me, though, of how different my outlook on haunted sites is from the standing premise of the TV ghost-hunting programs.
How would you classify what that guest might have heard? Would you say that the ghosts or spirits were back, acting up and sending the guest a message? Would you classify it at all?
What the guest reported – unless he made it all up – must have been a psychic sound effect, a survivor of a former time. (You don't call that “a ghost” since it was not a visual phenomenon – an apparition.) It was something that used to be heard at that spot based on things that actually took place. But why did the sound recreate itself on that precise night? Why did this guy again and again hear it?
As for the timing, I can’t answer you. I don’t know the time of year, much less the date, of this report. I have only a general idea – within ten years – when the account came in to my dear late friend, Ms. Turgeon. So establishing any connection of that sort with a past event seems impossible.
What I will say is this: I think perceptions of past events – sights, sounds, touches, even smells – can occasionally come through to human percipients. There is no need to posit the willing intervention of the spirits. There’s no reason to think of the matter as an extreme instance of ESP of the living experiencer. It may have no more meaning than a leaf falling off a tree.
I look at grand haunted sites as portals, places at which the margin between present and past may occasionally thin and cease to be a barrier… and that may reveal time to be the continuum the quantum physicists are starting to tell us it may be, as the old Druids and other indigenous mystics always thought it was.
I do believe in the existence of the occasional after-life message. I believe this because it’s the best interpretation for the experiences of living witnesses, because it’s in the research, and because I believe I’ve experienced at least one such instance myself. (I say “at least one” because the second, though impactful – it saved my life – is contestable.) These direct communications are easy to tell apart from commonly reported spontaneous phenomena at apparently haunted houses. These direct communications provide good evidence of an immaterial component to the human organism, as well as of the survival of human consciousness in some form after death. Random sound effects and the occasional apparition do not.
© 2020 Mason Winfield