The recent vacation trip included visits to several historic houses. On such occasions, I generally ask the guides or caretakers if any apparitions have been seen. You might be surprised how often the response is yes, with a detailed description of the revenants, either first- or second-hand.
My wife and I went to see some stone houses, among the oldest in the United States, built by Dutch settlers in the 17th century at New Paltz, New York. One house, I was told, is still inhabited by a previous resident from long ago.
Even more interesting was the Wilson Castle, near Rutland, Vermont.
It's the sort of eccentric place I love, with elegant touches and furnishings that suggest individual tastes, not a designer showpiece. The grounds, and the view of the Green Mountains, are lovely.
Wilson Castle also has invisible former inhabitants who have moved to the Other Side but drop by frequently.
I learned about them from the young man who led us and a few others on a tour. (Incidentally, Wilson Castle is almost unique in that you can actually wander around the rooms — albeit with the guide present — and not be restricted to peering in from behind ropes at the entrance.)
As soon as we arrived, I told the guide that my wife and I were interested in the decor but that I was especially keen to hear about paranormal events going down on the premises. Normally I am skeptical of guides who bang on about "haunted" houses. Not that I necessarily disbelieve they are haunted, but I tend to suspect the stories are embroidered or invented to give the tourists a thrill and enhance the house's billing as a mysterious attraction.
Our guide, however, who had lived in the house for four years, was obviously intelligent and not given to recounting "legends." He further won my confidence by expressing his distaste for "ghost hunters" who show up frequently. (A team from a TV program, in fact named Ghost Hunters, had taped a segment in the house recently, and our guide was not complimentary about their methods.)
Here are some of the activities that he had personally experienced.
When he carelessly draped a jacket over the back of a chair, he returned to find it folded neatly on the seat. One of the departed residents was quite the neatnik.
He heard the sounds of footsteps when he was alone in the house. Lights turned themselves on automatically.
The Wilson family had been musically inclined, and installed no fewer than three pipe organs in the building. Our guide had heard them being played by unseen hands. (As the old song goes, "I hear music and there's no one there.")
One room had been redecorated. He could sense the disapproval of one or more spirits.
I rather admired his sang-froid in living alone in the place. Spirits almost never physically harm anyone, but they can toss things around (which apparently was not the case there) and make a lot of racket if they're mischievous (i.e., poltergeists). We're surrounded by spirits all the time: some of them are in the room with you at this moment. But I like to be able to see my company. At the very least, if I had to live in the Wilson Castle, the organ player and I would need to reach an understanding.