If there’s one long-running joke in my family, it’s my grandma’s haunted house. A 145-year-old running joke, actually. If you aren’t a believer in paranormal activity, this isn’t the article for you. I recommend cruising through the many other Her Campus sections or checking out the article I wrote about Taylor Swift.
For as long as I can remember, I have been terrified of my grandma’s house. Which, I know both hurts her feelings when I tell her and makes her wonder if she should also be afraid of the house. I tell her she has nothing to fear, the ghosts probably view her as their roommate. Yet, just as she claims it is not haunted, she also sometimes nonchalantly lets it slip that she hears yelling, voices and footsteps in the night.
Recently, we googled the house on Zillow, simply out of curiosity because my grandma has talked about selling the house for years. We scrolled through the tax history, school ratings, price estimates and a mirage of other realtor tools until we came across the construction year. Plain as it could be the year was 1877. We were all pretty shocked, including my dad who grew up in the house.
We always knew this house was old, we didn’t know it was the oldest on the entire street. My grandma often recalls how the living room used to be her father’s shoe shop in the 1940s and 1950s, and later a beauty shop in the following decades. She reminisces on how she grew up in the house and raised her children there, as well as when my cousins lived there in the early 2000s. She also details how her grandmother lived and passed there, meaning that five generations of our family have lived in that 2,254 square foot house. Many family memories are tied to that house, not to mention the many family members who have passed on there. Gram says her family purchased this house in 1945, meaning there were approximately 70 years where another family (or families) also lived (and probably died) in this house.
I went to visit my New York family during my winter break. I arrived in Buffalo a few days before New Year’s. My family got a hotel, but Gram wanted me to stay with her. Of course, I wanted to spend time with her, but I was kind of terrified. I hadn’t slept in that house since I was very little, and now I would be without my parents. My dad came to visit Gram a few weeks prior, and he did not make things any better by saying to “avoid the back living room.” That’s where he claims his leg had been grabbed while he was sleeping. Instinctually, I already wanted to avoid that room, because as you enter, you are greeted with an icy draft and the room emanates the color red.
A few days into my visit, I met with my cousins on New Year’s Eve dinner at a Hibachi restaurant. I mentioned how I ordered sage on Amazon and I intended to try to clear the negativity out of that house. My cousin Stephanie said that she saw a psychic on her 30th birthday, who took one look at a picture of that house and claimed that evil resides in the attic. She said that there was “evil energy” in the dark spaces of that house. Stephanie also said that she refuses to enter Gram’s house because of its haunted vibe.
Understandably, Gram becomes frustrated when we talk about her house. It holds so many special memories for her, and naturally, she does not want to fear it. We also assumed that, unlike other family members, she must never have had paranormal experiences in that house.
However, instead, she admitted, “I was grabbed last month,” and she quickly quipped, “but I’m not afraid, those are my ghosts, that’s just my family.”
Still, there just seemed to be some kind of heavy, dark energy in that house. Just entering, I feel like I can feel a presence watching me. After our dinner conversations about the house, my Aunt Lynn volunteered to sleep over at Gram’s house with me that night to perform a saging ceremony. I was so glad; there was no way I could do this alone.
Without a doubt, this was the weirdest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had. My grandma lay in bed and watched the Buffalo News as they did the countdown and ball drop. I hugged Lynn and Gram, and that’s when things quickly turned strange.
What do we do first, we thought? We stuffed crystals in our bras for protection before saging the house, because it can’t hurt, right? Aunt Lynn quickly became more anxious, and she disappeared outside for a cigarette and to write down the saging mantra. It felt like we were Ed and Lorraine Warren from The Conjuring. While I sat in the kitchen alone, papers started moving on their own and I heard strange creaks around the oven. It was like the ghosts knew they were about to be exterminated.
We started by saging each other outside in the cold—new air of 2022. Apparently, it’s important to sage yourself before and after to rid of any negative spirits that may linger. We were committed to doing this right. I was terrified to be doing this at 1 a.m. as there isn’t electricity in the upstairs rooms, attic or basement. Once we left the main level, it truly became like playing in a horror movie. I tried to remember that the ghosts couldn’t hurt me, but they probably could get angry at their eviction.
For the most part, this experience was more funny than scary. As I mentioned, this was definitely the weirdest New Year’s of my life. For good measure, we even saged Gram as she was sleeping, just to give her a little extra protection. This was the moment that I burst out laughing. Roxy, my grandma’s golden retriever, wagged her tail like it was a fun game we were playing and that she wanted to play too. Full of emotions, we continued to sage the entire house except the basement and attic. Aunt Lynn was too afraid of those rooms at night and said that if the psychic was right, it would be chaotic to sage those rooms in the middle of the night—the witching hours, of course.
The next day, we returned to the attic and saged the entirety. Truly, this part of the house looks like where either Annabelle could be filmed or Little Women with some renovation. I thought our work was done, except Aunt Lynn said she believes the vortex of evil is in the basement. She should know; she grew up there too.
“You know those scenes in horror movies where the little girls get dragged into the basement? This is the basement where something like that would happen. It’s entirely mud and dirt, and there’s a ‘Keep Out’ sign that’s probably been there for about sixty years.”
We begged my grandma to let us in that basement to sage whatever was left. I started to move the table that blocked the basement door. Gram had been patient with our shenanigans up until then, but she became flustered by then and refused to let us enter the basement. She said that was enough. Aunt Lynn and I saged each other, just for good measure, and I said my goodbyes before heading back to Chicago for the rest of winter break.
The basement remains unsaged. Whether our venture was successful is unknown. However, those spirits were successful in bringing all of us together in that house, laughing and spending quality time together, so that part was a success. As I write this in a London Starbucks, I smell a waft of cigarette smoke, and it reminds me of the hall by the front door of Gram’s house. If there is evil somewhere in that house, hopefully, it stays buried in the mud below 145 years of history and family memories.