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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

THE HAUNTED LIGHT


THE HAUNTED LIGHT
 

Several years ago, in another life, I owned a 100 year old home which was one block from the center of a quaint little New Jersey town.  Old houses can be charming, and this house was charming.  Old houses can have character, and this house had character.  Old houses can be mysterious.  This house held two mysteries; the first was the mystery of the overhead foyer light.

When we first moved into this old house the light in the foyer worked fine.  It was operated from a switch in a hallway just off the foyer.  We moved-in in September.  By Thanksgiving the light did not work. 

I tested the switch and it seemed to have power.  I tested the fixture and it seemed to have power.  I changed the bulbs…there was no light.

My brother-in-law was an electrician (He still is an electrician; he just isn’t my brother-in-law anymore.  Why do you lose the good relatives in a divorce?) Anyway, my BIL the electrician checked the fixture and he did not know why it did not work.  The house had old knob-and-tube wiring, perhaps it was bad.  There was barely any excess wire at the outlet; perhaps it was not making the correct connection.  Whatever the problem we just accepted the fact that the light no longer worked.

The other mystery in this old house was a switch upstairs which did not connect to anything.  It seemed to have a wire going someplace, but it did not operate any fixture or any outlet.  It was an old house, apparently what it connected to had been removed.

Around Christmas of the first year we occupied this house the foyer light suddenly was working again.  We called it the “Christmas Miracle.”  The light worked for about eight months and then as suddenly as it worked, it now was once again broken.  The “haunted light” worked like this for twelve years.  On in September, broken by Thanksgiving and around Christmas we experienced the miracle of the light.  It worked for ten or eleven months and was broken for one or two.  We never did anything to fix it.  We finally decided it must be effected by the change of seasons.  It was a temperature or humidity kinda thing.  Except that every once and a while it would go either on or off for differing periods of time.  Clearly it was just haunted.   It was just one of those things you had to accept in an old home.

One night, about two years before this era of my life was about to end, I accidently flipped the upstairs switch to nowhere.  The foyer light went on.  I flipped the upstairs switch to nowhere again and the foyer light went off.  Then another light went on, the light bulb in my head.

The foyer light was connected to two switches.  It was the classic two way switch setup, except it was wired incorrectly.  If it was correctly wired, the light would be turned on or off from either switch.  Instead, the foyer light only worked when both switches were in the on position.

If the upstairs switch was on, the foyer light worked from the downstairs hall switch.  If someone fiddled with the upstairs “switch to nowhere” the light would suddenly not function.  If someone subsequently fiddled with the upstairs switch we would experience the “Christmas Miracle.”  The mystery of the haunted light was solved.

Two years ago the old house was sold.  The buyers forced us to pay for carpenter ant extermination for two ants the inspector found outside (there is not one square yard of dirt in New Jersey that does not have carpenter ants) and forced us to spend thousands of dollars to remove an old empty buried oil tank.

I was not happy with this added useless expense and was not enamored with the new buyers.

The last thing I did when I closed up the old house and moved on with my life, was to flip the upstairs “switch to nowhere” to the off position. 

Perhaps the new owners will solve the mystery of the haunted light in less than twelve years. 

Perhaps they won’t.

19 comments:

  1. Our kitchen light is like that foyer light. Two switches, wired incorrectly. Because they're in close proximity though, we never experienced your "haunted light" phenomenon. Nice departing move from the old house. Sounds as if you have a reason to be cranky at times!

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  2. You are not only cranky, you are also very funny. I wonder how long it will take them to figure it out.

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  3. The old "don't get mad, get even", huh? Way to go Big Joe. ;)

    S

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  4. Bwa ha ha!

    I have come across "switches to nowhere" and now wonder: what were they to have turned on??

    Pearl

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  5. Good for you. The rats. I have to admit, I was really hoping that the house was haunted and you were going to tell us about all the spirits roaming around.

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  6. I've also owned a hundred year old house and I've come to realize that you don't but an old house, old houses buy you. We also got stuck dealing with an old oil tank that had been decommissioned fifty years earlier. It ended up costing $12,000 to get a piece of paper allowing us to sell the house, and the oil tank is still there. Fortunately the realtor had agreed to cover the cost of this out of his commission, back when he thought it would only cost a few hundred bucks.

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  7. Great story. I love old houses......and you.

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  8. Makes you wonder if it has been rediscovered. We had tube and knob here, twenty five years ago, third owner of a now 73 year old house. In spite of all new wiring we still have one switch to nowhere and one outlet that powers nothing.

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  9. You're evil--& that's only one of your GOOD points!!

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  10. Selling a house can be so painful. The buyers know you are committed to them and will push you as much as they can.

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  11. This was a delightful story, and a sweet bit of revenge at the end! It reminds me of the divorcing woman who was forced to give up her home to the ex, because she couldn't not afford the mtg pymts. She put raw fish inside the curtain rods, and before long the house began to stink, and they couldn't find the source. Very clever, though perhaps not too nice. I wonder if your buyers ever figured out the "ghost" light.

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  12. I knew you were going to say that! Great minds think alike? Or would that be "devious" minds?

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  13. That made me think of Clark Griswold trying to plug in his Christmas lights while his wife kept flipping that light switch in the garage. That was a "Christmas Vacation Miracle."

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  14. Ah yes, the house sale revenge! I had a friend who, when she was made to move out of her rental property, made it her last job to spread pumpkin seeds far and wide in the back yard. I imagine that they all came up next season and their entire backyard became a huge pumpkin patch!

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  15. I'm glad you finally solved the mystery. Wonder how long it will take the new owners?!

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