The Homesick Ghost
By Christopher Doty
There is nothing sadder than leaving a family home you love.
And in the case of Beatrice Sims, that love extended beyond the grave, across four decades and into a battle between two wills on opposite sides of the afterlife.
Ken and Eleanor Davis had no foreshadowing of that struggle when they moved into that same north London home in July 1967 with their three young children.
At first, the entire family was delighted with the red brick Victorian house -- with the exception of Kemo.
The family's Belgian husky began guarding the head of the double staircase at night, growling at something unseen.
On Halloween night, the dog disappeared and never came back.
Eleanor and her husband soon understood why. The couple began to hear disembodied voices calling out their names. The front door kept opening.
There was a constant feeling of a presence in the house. One night, Eleanor Davis was giving the baby her 2 a.m. bottle when she heard someone or something coming up the stairs. The footsteps would reach the point on the stair where the person would come into view -- and then stop.
"I couldn't call my husband because I was so scared," says Davis. "I just froze and I had the bottle stuck so far in the baby's mouth that I'm surprised she didn't choke."
Marsha Grassie, at that time a 13-year-old schoolgirl, was hired to babysit the Davis children on several occasions. She still gets tense talking about it after all these years.
"I've heard creaks and groans from older houses, but there was a definite pattern to this," says Grassie.
"You don't hear footsteps up and down the stairs just because it's an old house. There's not a doubt in my mind. I was at my wit's end. I said, 'Eleanor, I'm not babysitting anymore. There's too many strange things happening here!' "
Information about earlier hauntings failed to materialize. The previous owners angrily denied there was anything supernatural about the house. Then the Davis family learned about Beatrice Sims.
Sims had served as a deaconess at the London Gospel Temple.
According to a friend, the Sims family had lived in the house during the late 1920s. After the father's death, the family was forced to move into a cramped apartment. Beatrice was supposedly bitter about losing the house and vowed to return to it one day. She died in 1962 without realizing that dream.
By a strange coincidence, the Davis family had moved into the house on the fifth anniversary of Sims' death. They later searched their attic and turned up books that had belonged to the Sims family. Oddly, Eleanor was glad to put a face on her unwelcome housemate. She even tried to communicate with Sims.
"I felt that the person in the house was friendly. It wasn't a bad spirit," she explains. "When I heard about Beatrice Sims I thought that she had come back to protect the house and make sure that everyone in the house was okay.
"That was the impression that went through my mind -- that she wasn't out to hurt anybody."
"Unfortunately, the needs of the dead and of the living are often in conflict," historian and amateur ghost buster Orlo Miller summed up in 1977.
"Beatrice Sims' efforts to re-establish herself in her old home merely served to terrify the new owners and so . . . she went away for good and with, I am sure, a great and uncomprehending sadness."
The visitations ended in February 1968 without so much as a sance.
A year later, Free Press columnist Joe McClelland wrote an article on the Sims ghost.
Sightseers came to gawk at the house and neighbourhood children began to refer to Davis as "a witch."
The National Enquirer wanted to do a story.
Davis stopped answering the phone, feeling the matter was closed. She was right. Whoever or whatever had shared the house with her never returned.
But like all good ghost stories, the facts are often at odds with the legend.
There is no hard evidence that Beatrice Sims ever lived at the Davis house.
Furthermore, author Richard Lambert wrote about an unnamed property in the neighbourhood that was subject to hauntings, but his work was published seven years before Sims died.
So how did those books get into the attic of the house? If there was a presence, who did it belong to? Why did it only torment the Davis family?
No subsequent homeowner has heard so much as a chain rattle and, according to the current residents, the rooms are filled with "good feelings."
Incredibly, Eleanor Davis still likes to consider the place as "her house."
"The house was me. I belonged in that house. I can't explain that. It was my house."
Beatrice Sims knows how she feels.

This Site Served by TheHostPros