Growing up, I'd heard mutterings from my grandparents and parents of a man my family fondly referred to as "The Captain."
"Yes, 'The Captain.' He was a captain in the Panama Canal and he loved cars," my grandfather recalls, half-laughing through his words as if he knew the Southern ship captain and previous owner and builder of my childhood home personally. He didn't. "The Captain," as everyone in my family had come to know him, was the name of the spirit we'd suspected of sharing our home with.
From what I've gathered from online documents, original blueprints of the house, and accounts from my grandparents, "The Captain," otherwise know as Capt. Howarth V. Rowe, was a World War I veteran and senior pilot in the Panama Canal Marine Division. Throughout the course of 1938, Rowe, with the help of an Italian stonemason, built a home in a small town on the shoreline of Connecticut. That home would later become my childhood house and what we can only assume to be the final resting place for Rowe's soul.
So how did we come to notice The Captain? It started with little things. When my grandparents first purchased the home in the late '70s, they used it primarily as a weekend house, since both of them worked in New York City during the week. But every time they came home, something would be off: picture frames would be slightly off-kilter, TVs that they were sure hadn't been left on would be booming throughout the house, and ordinary objects would be left in not-so-ordinary places.
These minor-yet-strange happenings were what prompted my grandmother to suspect that something paranormal might be at play, ultimately fueling the family legend we came to know as The Captain.
For years, my family attributed everything odd that happened in the house to our friendly household ghost. Missing a pair of keys? The Captain probably moved them. Another picture frame fell off the wall? It was most definitely The Captain.
It wasn't until I was older and my grandparents had sold the house to my parents that I started to notice more than trivial, ghostly inconveniences and that my perception of The Captain started to shift from a kind, lost spirit to something more sinister.
You know that feeling you get when someone is watching you? Well, I always had that feeling at home. I'd often turn around, feeling the sensation of eyes burning in the back of my head, thinking that my mom had walked into my room and I hadn't noticed. More often than not though, no one was ever there. It felt impossible to ever really be alone in that house.
The nighttime was the worst. I'd lay in bed under the covers, trying to force my heavy eyes asleep, while the intense feeling like someone was in my room made it nearly impossible. For awhile, I could convince myself that I was just being a coward and that like many others, I was scared of the dark. It wasn't until one night, when I awoke suddenly around 3am to what felt like a pile of bricks on my chest that I knew that I hadn't been a coward at all. I still remember the feeling of trying to scream but not being able to. The intense feeling of someone holding me down coupled with the abstract face that I saw taunting me from above is a memory burned into my brain. From that point on, I paid a little more attention to The Captain.
Sometime in middle school, I took an interest in all things spooky: I binged 20/20 documentaries before binging was even a thing, I read up on the world's strangest conspiracy theories and most notably, I had an appetite for the paranormal.
I loved watching ghost shows. My best friend and I could spend hours watching Ghost Adventures, which we often did after school at her house. But when I would come home and try and watch these shows on my own, the TV would suddenly turn off...every single time. After a few times of excitedly switching on Ghost Adventures, only to be met with a black screen after a few moments of watching, I took it as a sign that The Captain wasn't as fond of my shows as I was. I shrugged it off and never watched another ghost show in my house again.
I tried not to think about The Captain much of the rest of middle school and into high school. I chalked my experiences up to one-off spooks and I hoped that I wouldn't have any more head-on experiences with our household spirit. But like any good story, that wasn't the case.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I studied abroad in France and stayed with a host family while I was there. Shortly into my visit, I was introduced to my host mom's mother.
"Bonjour! It's nice to meet you," I said shyly as I greeted her. Her response was unexpected: "You have a spirit in your house," she said urgently, her hands pressed into my shoulders.
I was dumbfounded. Not only had I never met this woman, but I hadn't told anyone outside of my family—who were a continent away—about the The Captain.
"I should probably tell you what I do," she said in response to the look of total confusion on my face. "I am a spiritual cleanser. I go into houses and rid them of trapped souls," she explained.
After saying a quick hello to her grandchildren and daughter, she ushered me inside and instructed me to create a floor plan of my house. After studying my sketch, she pointed to my parent's bedroom, "The ghost in your house is causing a major separation and it's manifesting in this room."
Unbeknownst to anyone, about an hour before this experience, I found out that my parents were getting divorced. I was in shock. I told her about the divorce and explained that the room she had been pointing to was my parents'. I then told her as much about The Captain as I could and the weird experiences I'd had with him and she confirmed that he had been—and still was—living with us all these years.
At the end of our visit, she took me by the shoulders one more time and handed me a bundle of sage. "I had a feeling that I would need to bring this with me today," she said. She advised me to say a prayer, light the sage, and wave it through my house. This, she claims, would help The Captain move on.
So I listened to her. A few days after returning from France, I walked around the house with a burning stick of leaves hoping that this woman had been right. Turns out, she had been.
The day after I smudged the house, one of my childhood friends came over. As she walked in, she looked around cautiously and asked if I had done something to the house. Confused, I asked her what she meant. She went on to tell me that for years, she had seen dark shadows floating around my house and like me, she had always felt watched even when no one was around. She explained that she could feel an energy shift whenever she would come over and that for the first time, she didn't feel that anymore. From that point on, nothing strange happened in my house again.
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.
You Might Also Like