Doors opening on their own and writings appearing on the bathroom mirror are just some of the unexplained events that Clarkston resident Chip Travis has experienced since moving into his home six years ago.
Travis is not the first person to describe ghostly experiences at this house on South Holcomb Street in downtown Clarkston, which was built in the mid-1800s.
Travis has named the ghosts George and Sara, after two previous owners. George Elliot, his wife, Victoria, and her sister, Sara Carran, moved into the home in 1917 and lived there for 50 years, according to the Clarkston Community Historical Society. In local legend, George was not welcomed in his home and was often forced to sleep outside in the barn.
Travis said that “there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind” that at least one ghost is in the house.
After he moved in, Travis said he saw script written on the steam in the mirror — all in German. He translated the words to mean, “Welcome” and “Do not be afraid.”
“I don’t want to chase them out. It’s been fun. It’s been very entertaining. I’ve never been scared,” Travis said. “We’ve gotten gifts. Ping pong balls, for some reason. We recently received a little golden heart charm.”
Kim Huttenlocher of the Clarkston Community Historical Society named Travis’ home one of the “ghost houses” of downtown Clarkston.
After he was called by the society, Travis learned that these experiences weren’t unique to him and that several previous owners described similar events.
The five family members also described unexplainable events that happened in the house. Harlton said he never told anyone about the family’s experiences — until he heard from a friend still living in Clarkston that his childhood home was called a “ghost house.”
“To hear similar stories of things happening 20 years later just blows my mind,” he said. “I was always skeptical about ghosts and hauntings until I heard about Chip’s experiences two months ago. It’s too coincidental.”
Harlton said his parents remodeled the house, room by room, and each time they built an addition or fixed a room, that’s when the majority of unexplained events would occur.
For instance, his father tore down the old barn that previous owner George Elliot is believed to have slept in.
“My brother and dad were standing next to the barn and the construction workers had left. All of a sudden a metal rod fell off the building, coming at an angle toward them, and stuck in the ground right in between the two of them,” he said. “I don’t know if that was the ghost saying, ‘Don’t tear down my barn.’ ”
Another time, Stephen said his parents were remodeling the kitchen when they heard a loud banging at the door.
“It was a big glass door, and my dad looked over and no one was there,” Harlton said. “We heard (the banging) again, and he went to the door. It was 8 at night, and there was nobody there. There was six inches of snow on the ground, and there was no footprints or anything.”
When he was 10 years old, Stephen said he thought he heard the murmuring of several voices coming from downstairs.
“At first I thought it was my parents talking in their room, so I listened right next to their door, and it wasn’t coming from their room,” he said. “This was at 3 or 4 a.m. I stayed at the top of the stairs for a minute because I thought I was hearing things, but as much as I wish I was imagining it, I wasn’t.”
He said when he found out about these “hauntings” at Travis’ house, he talked to his brother and sister, who told him about unexplained events they also experienced.
His sister said, “I was alone once playing with (her cat) Sammy in my room. ... I ran down the hall to mom and dad’s room for her to chase me. I jumped in their bed and hid under the covers thinking she’d jump up. I felt what felt like someone rubbing their hands fast over the covers on me, so I threw the covers off and no one was there. Not even the cat.”
Another time, Stephen said his mother was sticking her head out the window to talk to her husband, who was working on the roof.
“The second my mom pulled her head out of the window, the window slammed down right in front of her,” Harlton said. “My mom was saying, ‘That window could have killed me.’ Those windows just didn’t fall. They were almost impossible to get up or down because they would stick.”
But current owner Travis said the events he has experienced seem friendlier than what happened to the Harlton family.
For instance, two months ago, a golden heart-shaped charm appeared on his dresser — one he had never seen before.
Travis’ girlfriend Elizabeth Wareck placed the charm inside a box, and the next time, she looked inside the box, it was missing.
A couple days later, the charm was found in the basement. Then Travis put the charm under a glass cup. But it went missing again — and was found two weeks later in the same spot in the basement.
Other objects also have inexplicably moved. For instance, Travis was sitting in his living room one day when he thought he saw a groundhog or some brown animal run by the window. When he walked outside, he saw his brown welcome mat had moved from his side door to the front of his house, in front of a large window.
When doing renovations to the house, he looked under the patio and found concrete steps underneath, leading up to the window where the mat had moved. Upon closer examination, he noticed siding had been patched on the side of the house — where another door used to be.
“It was like the ghost was saying, ‘Yeah, that’s where the door used to be, and that’s where it should be because I’m going to show you,” Travis said.
Travis said he’s seen the “ghost” twice — a dense smoky form passing through his fence outside and the same form passing through his arm and disappearing through the side door of his home.
Travis asked Bloomfield Hills resident Sheila Cummings to sage the home after he moved in. Cummings is in the process of being certified as a healing touch practitioner.
“The Native American custom is you tie sage into bundles, called a smudge stick. And what you do is light them. It smolders and smoke comes off the end. You walk through your house, wherever you want to clear any energy that isn’t of the light,” Cummings said.
Cummings said she asked the evil spirits to leave and feels the ghost that has remained is a friendly, female ghost. She wonders if that’s why Travis now receives gifts — in gratitude from the ghost for getting rid of the evil spirit.
“I think this ghost likes attention,” Cummings said, with a laugh. “I think this ghost really likes Chip.”