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Raised Catholic in a family that had strong intuitive abilities, the unseen world of angels, spirits, and lost souls has always been a familiar part of Annie Wilders (Minnesota) everyday life. Wilder grew up in the rural areas of southern Minnesota and South Dakota, moving from one old, rustic farmhouse to the next, one of which had no telephone, a woodstove for heat, and a cistern as the primary water supply.Wilder earned a B.A in Communications and Film from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN and holds a level II certification in Reiki. She serves on the Heritage Preservation Commission, which serves to protect the historical, architectural, and cultural heritage in the small Mississippi river town where she now resides and where her story takes place.House of Spirits and Whispers, her first book, is a true account of the ghosts who have visited her beautiful and haunted old house.
UNLOVED AND SPOOKY. Those were my first impressions of the old house. It looked eerily vacant, even though the previous owner-an old man-had lived there for thirty-some years until his death six months earlier. Although shabby now, with peeling paint and a roof so timeworn it looked mossy around the edges, I could see that the Victorian house had once been grand. From the outside, it looked like an abandoned old-fashioned schoolhouse (an apt first impression, as it turned out) with what appeared to be brick siding (it wasn't), long narrow windows, and porches all around. A small twelve-paned attic window tucked under the front roof peak caught my eye because it was quaint and interesting, and I really was hoping to find a home with at least one charming feature. Because I loved old houses and my housing budget was relatively puny, I had looked at a lot of homes that were in terrible states of disrepair or had significant architectural problems (one house I looked at years before had an open staircase leading into the home's only bathroom).
Another problem I encountered with houses in my price range was a "troubled" vibe-a vibe usually caused not by the dead, but by the living. The most common form of negative energy seemed to be fear, reflected in a "compound" milieu-homes barricaded behind nearly impassable stacks of junk, mean dogs, big fences, and yards filled with old vehicles.
I had looked at dozens of houses in the preceding months. My realtor, Todd, was an uncommonly patient man, a musician at heart whose day (and night and weekend) job was selling houses. In all that time, I had only looked at one other house that seemed spooky. It was an old house at the top of a hill-a Dutch colonial, like the Amityville Horror house.. You could only get to the house by walking up a long flight of stairs-there was no driveway. My mom was looking at houses with us that day, and as the three of us climbed the steep staircase, the house's front screen door started banging open and shut. That probably would have been enough to keep me from going in, but it was a breezy day, so we attributed the door's theatrics to the wind. However, other small things inside the Dutch colonial also seemed "off." I tripped as I stepped in the porch; something felt unsettled throughout the home, but especially in the kitchen and one bedroom; and in the otherwise empty house, we came across a piece of scrap wood that had the word "DIE" spray painted on it in black.
I made an offer on the Dutch colonial anyway, after getting an estimate on completely repairing and restoring it, because it was an attractive and interesting old house and it had a really private yard. I even liked the weirdness of it being accessible only by making the pilgrimage up the steps. The owners weren't impressed with my offer, however, and the price they wanted was too high for me to be able to make the repairs to the home that I felt were necessary, so I did not end up buying the Amityville Horror house. My ability to sense the energy of places was reasonably well developed from having made my living by cleaning houses at different times in my life. I believe that anyone can tune in to just about anything if they give it enough energy and attention. Since I spent long days working alone, scrubbing and sweeping and dusting my way through my customers' homes, I became attuned to houses.
It's also true that a strong intuitive ability runs in my family. My mom can see and hear spirits, and both her mother and mother's mother, who were Irish, were psychic, too. I adored my Irish grandma, who was very kind and always interested in the things kids have to say. Her house was beautiful and magical-there were ceramic elves and leprechauns hidden in her houseplants, satin gowns and fur coats in her closet. She even had an entire kitchen drawer just for cookies and doughnuts.
My grandma used to tell me stories about banshees and fairies. She said her mother believed that the fairies, or "little people," had come to this country with the Irish immigrants, hidden in suitcases and trunks. At night, my great grandma would set out a saucer of milk or bread crusts for the little people who, according to her, would disguise themselves as rabbits when humans were around.
On my dad's side, his father, who was a Montana farmer, would just "know stuff." For example, one time when they were driving, my grandpa knew their neighbor they had just passed on the road had been in a car accident and they had to turn around and go help him. My dad is able to "dowse" to find buried water pipes and electrical lines. And my dad's German grandmother had premonitions of tragic events, including a fatal plane crash. I overheard the adults talking about it when I was a kid. It terrified me since I was already afraid of my great grandma. She was very small and stern, and wore dark clothes all the time. Since she could see the future, I was afraid she could read my mind and knew how much I didn't want to go to her house for visits.
When Todd told me about the big old Victorian house in the neighboring small historic river town of Sibley, Minnesota, he warned me that something might be wrong with it. Even though it was priced far below market value, it had been on the market for six months with no offers.
But I was three weeks away from the move-out date for my home, and the deal on the house I thought I was buying had...(Continues)