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Sleepless In Bellingham

By Sherry Steiger


Excerpted from Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places, Second Edition

    In the mid-1990’s, during one of our frequent speaking tour engagements in which we lecture, conduct seminars, make local radio and television appearances as well as do book signings,  my husband Brad and I had just completed several events on the West Coast and were about to land   at the airport  in the beautiful state of Washington. 

    The Washington event was sponsored by our friend the late Benjamin Smith who picked us up from the airport, briefed us on the logistics and updates regarding the next few days of our seminars, and then with an extra twinkle in his eye enthusiastically told us of a surprise he’d arranged for our overnight lodging.  Ben could hardly contain his excitement, but he made it clear that he didn’t want to tell us too much about the castle where we would be guests because he didn’t want to influence our opinions or experience of the place.

    We had known Ben for quite some time, so during the last segue of the drive from the airport enroute to our destination we chatted, sharing old times and catching up on things before getting back to the business at hand.  As we neared Bellingham, it was already far later in the evening than we had hoped to arrive, as inclement weather, plane delays, and the like put us in past dark and served to remind us yet again why we arrive in a city the day before our scheduled appearances. 

    There was little doubt to us that Ben had worked long and hard to put this seminar together in his usual expert and efficient manner, so Brad and I were certain his surprise had a great deal of thought behind it as well. As we approached the “castle,” Ben expressed his regret that we had not been able to view it first during the daylight hours.  Any question he might have had regarding our approval of this overnight stay as opposed to our normal hotel accommodations was dashed before he was able to complete the rest of his sentence in declaring, “This is it.” I let out a squeal of delight as Brad simultaneously said, “Wow!  You weren’t kidding.”

    We could see why Ben referred to the Bed and Breakfast as a castle.   Even through the black hues of  a dark and stormy night the proud, looming structure betrayed its magnificence as it beckoned us into its Victorian elegance and enticed us with her secrets.  It almost seemed destined that we should arrive on a stormy night with the stage set for an experience we were never to forget.

    We entered through the kitchen where the owners greeted us warmly, expressed their delight at our being there, and graciously made us feel at home.  Promising a more complete tour of the mansion the next day when we wouldn’t disturb the other guests, (many who were most likely already asleep), we were escorted to the room reserved for us --passing the most incredible antiques and luxurious decor at every twist and turn along the way through the halls and up many stairs.

    During their many global expeditions, the owners spared no expense in acquiring some of the most elaborate and unusual antiques I had ever seen.  And all these treasures had been carefully selected and transported to the Bellingham Bed and Breakfast.  Representing what seemed to be every culture from the farthest corners of the earth, there was nary a square inch that didn’t have some interesting intrigue or history associated with it and a story to tell. 

    Differing themes embellished the guest rooms --each one decorated in an elaborate, unusual motif and eclectic style reminiscent of a bygone era, but styled with immense creativity. 

    After showing us the bathroom we would share with other rooms on our floor, they opened the door to our most amazing room.  The wallpaper, drapes, bedspreads, lampshades, overstuffed lounging chairs, as well as a canopy of sorts over the head of the bed, were all done in a matching pattern with deep blue hues and an Asian flair.  Although lush, the room was illuminated by low lighting and it was somewhat dark, so it was suggested that we leave a light on all night, in case we needed to get up.  We said our goodnights as we settled into our room after a very tiring day of traveling.  At that time in our lives, we were traveling so much that it wasn’t unusual for Brad and I to awaken in the night and forget which city we were in--so we readily agreed to the wisdom of leaving a light on.  We chose the floor lamp with a large Victorian shade next to an overstuffed chair on the other side of the room from our bed. 

    It was late and we were exhausted, so knowing we were going to be up early, we settled into the comfy feather bed and promptly fell into a deep sleep.  A few hours later, I was awakened to the pull of the bed covers to Brad’s side of the bed.  I started to tug some back to cover me, then noticed that Brad seemed restless.  Thinking he was just trying to get comfortable in a new bed, I fell back asleep.

    Once again was awakened, only this time when I rolled over and looked at Brad, I saw that he was sitting up on his side of the bed, holding his head in his hands.  Thinking he must have a bad headache or not be feeling well, I asked him if he was okay.  Getting no immediate response, I asked again, only a bit louder this time.  Suddenly I was startled beyond belief when Brad answered me--from a prone position still under the covers and apparently not happily awakened by me! 

    “Weren’t you just sitting up on the side of the bed” I asked somewhat confused. 

    “What are you talking about?” Brad muttered.  “I’m trying to sleep!”  

    Shrugging it off as being overtired, I watched as Brad pulled the covers back over his head and went back to sleep.  With his movement of pulling the covers over his head I could clearly see he definitely was not sitting on the bed--now at least--and I drifted back to sleep.

    Sometime later, I awakened again and saw that Brad was not in bed.  Looking around the room, I saw him sitting in the chair next to the lighted lamp.  His demeanor was grim and it looked as if he was in a great deal of pain with his head down --cradled in his hands--almost like he was crying.      Concerned, I cried out to him.  “Honey, what’s wrong? Do you have a headache? Can I get you some aspirin, water or something?”

    There beneath the covers next to me, grumbling with great dissatisfaction that I disturbed his sleep yet again, Brad uttered loudly, “I am trying to sleep, for heaven’s sake!” 

    With the sound of Brad’s voice, the solid image of the man in the chair vanished!  I dared not say another word.  At this point I was grateful that Brad fell asleep immediately, but I lay there for a few minutes, pondering what in the world was going on.

    This strange state of affairs continued on and off on three or four more occasions.  Two of the times I distinctly saw Brad--or so I thought--pacing the room, back and forth, back and forth, each time acting extremely upset and disturbed.  Another time, he was sitting in the chair again, holding his head and shaking it.

    Finally, convinced that Brad was just not wanting to worry me, I blurted out shrilly and loudly enough so that I was worried that I’d awakened whoever was in the rooms next to ours:  “Honey, please, please ...tell me what’s wrong!” 

    With that outburst we were both awakened to a shocking realization that the physical being I thought was Brad in distress was not him at all.  Aware that Brad was now really awake, I told him what I had been seeing and experiencing.  Without too much further discussion, we decided if we were going to be at all coherent for our lectures the next day, we’d better try to get some sleep.  Suggesting maybe we both had better take some aspirin, somehow, we managed to doze off once more.

    Mercifully, another few hours passed, allowing us to sleep peacefully, until I was awakened by Brad’s hand clasping mine ever so gently under my pillow.  Thinking it odd that he would awaken me, yet guessing he was just reassuring me--or himself --that we were both really still there in bed, I squeezed his hand.   

    Dozing off, I felt the squeeze of my hand again.  This time, I raised up my head from the pillow, sputtering, “Why are you grabbing my hand?”  Then looking over at Brad, I saw that he was facing the other direction with his arms and hands on the opposite side.  There was no way he could have just squeezed my hand, and furthermore, he was sound asleep.

    How I was able to drift off to sleep again, I really don’t know, but I did, and thankfully, Brad didn’t seem to awaken even with yet another of my outbursts. However, the tranquility was not to last. 

    A short time later, an electrical sensation pierced my entire body as I was literally shocked into feeling something or someone trying to get my full attention with yet another squeeze of my hand.   This time it was with a jolt that startled me to the point of full consciousness. I was wide awake. 

With total wakefulness, an awareness hit me and I absolutely knew that the hand that had been squeezing mine under my pillow was a baby’s hand.  I could literally feel teeny, tiny fingers wrap around mine and give a gentle squeeze.  Seeing that Brad was still lying still and facing the other direction, I knew that even if he had been capable of grabbing my hand and rolling over fast in hopes of not being detected as some kind of joke, his hand was ten times larger than the one I felt clasping mine.

    Just before the owners of the bed and breakfast had said goodnight to us after showing us to our room, they described a spectacular breakfast feast of homemade goodies that sounded too good to miss.  The meal was served in a formal manner in the dining room at an appointed time, and as I glanced at the clock after this final rude awakening, I knew it was time to get ready if we were to be there on schedule.  Sitting bolt upright with the many occurrences of the night surging through my mind and body, I didn’t quite know what to do next. 

    Brad rolled over and upon seeing me sitting up said, “I guess it’s time to get up if we are to make that early morning breakfast.”   
    “Honey,” I said, “I don’t know how much you remember of what happened last night, but I have to tell you about it.” 

    Quickly I described the events from beginning of the evening to the present --ending with the squeeze of my hand by what I felt to be a baby’s hand.  I asked if he would convey my apologies to our hosts for not making the breakfast, as I had looked forward to it, but that I felt a guidance to stay and pray and meditate. 

    Brad’s first concern was for me, that I would need to eat before our lecture and seminar, but he was persuaded that whatever was going on was indeed more important for me to figure out.  Acknowledging that he remembered my awakening him with the weird proclamations of his pacing, his sitting holding his head, and his squeezing my hand, he asked what I thought it had really taken place since it certainly was not he who had done these things.  My answer was that I needed to go into prayer and find out.

    Brad dressed and went on down, telling me he’d try to at least bring me coffee or something to nibble on.  Telling him not to worry, I went into prayer for guidance.  It came to me that there was an infant that truly was clasping onto me for help and that it was somehow “stuck” between worlds not knowing where it was.  I filled and surrounded myself with light and a prayer for protection as I was urged to pray the baby into the light.  Praying that God’s will be done and that I be led to what to do next, I felt a baby’s hand grab onto me again and then felt the arms of a blessed angel gently lift the infant with immense love and understanding and carry it off to free it from the earthly realm of confusion.

    An hour and a half must have passed before Brad entered the room to find me still in prayer.  His presence was exuberant as he could hardly wait to tell me of the discussion that had ensued at the breakfast table.  Brad and Ben met before the others joined in, so in addressing Ben’s surprise at my not being there, Brad explained a few of my experiences.  When the others, including the owners of the bed and breakfast, were all gathered at the table, Brad explained my absence by saying that I had a rather sleepless night.  Ben laughed and added that he wasn’t surprised at what I had picked up on, said, “Wow, that’s why we wanted to put you guys in that room!”

    With that, the owners of the mansion were too intrigued to allow the details to wait, so they asked if Brad would mind sharing what I had happen throughout the night.  As Brad was recounting the rest of the discussion to me, my first impulse was that of dismay that this strange uncanny episode of mine was being made public when I wasn’t even certain of what it was.  But then, when Brad described what the owners had told him at breakfast what had really happened in that bedroom to the original owners and builders of the mansion, my heart skipped a beat!

    The original owner’s love and devotion for his wife took form in the physical manifestation of his building the mansion for her, and the two of them had eagerly hoped to fill it with the laughter of children. The expectant  joy on the night that his wife was giving birth to their first child was suddenly turned to horror when what seemed at first to be the normal screams of child labor changed to screams from the midwife at something gone very wrong.  As the cry of a newborn baby taking its first breath of a life beginning, the wailing and weeping of the midwife revealed the giving up of the last breaths of the beloved mother’s life.  The husband watched grief-stricken as his dear wife’s life was terminated in what seemed a sacrificial act of giving birth.  It was as though this terrible scene was etched in the memory banks of the very walls of this bedroom where the terrible tragedy took place.  It may have been that I had picked up on the extreme emotions of a sorrow and grief beyond measure.

    It was said that the owner was in such despair that he constantly paced his bedroom, back and forth, and frequently sat in his chair, holding his head in disbelief and anguish. 

    The second tragedy that I may have experienced was when the child, while still an infant, succumbed to the dreaded Scarlet Fever and died in its crib in the middle of the night in that very room.  The Father’s grief was so overwhelming that he was able to do little more than pace and pace and sit on the side of the bed or in his chair, holding his head, and no doubt his heart was broken.

    Later, I was asked by the owners of the mansion, who attended our lecture, if I would mind telling my story first before we began our presentation.  Because the owners had found it amazing that without any prior knowledge whatsoever of the history of the house or of the previous owners that I had seemed to pick up on so many details as though I had seen it as it had occurred originally.  Whether it was an experience where I traveled back in time or was sensitive enough to perceive an energy that was  recorded in the ethers of time and space --like a record or tape --or if ghostly manifestations had called my attention to their unfortunate tragedy, it was without any doubt a sleepless night in Bellingham--and one that neither Brad nor I will ever forget!



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