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I’ve Been In This House Before… January 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

ballacullish house

There is a rare subsection of Forteana where a sensitive woman (at least in all the examples we know) visits a mystery house in dreams and then, after a long period of nightly wandering, finds herself, amazed, at the front door of her dream house on a random visit to the countryside: again the examples we’ve found all take place away from urban centres. On the visit she then proceeds to impress the owner or resident with her knowledge of the geography of the house as it is, but also of her knowledge of the house as it was: she points to the wall in the sitting room and says ‘I thought that there was a door there’ and the amazed resident admits that there was until it was blocked a couple of years before.  The story repeats itself with such conformity to details that there is the strong burning petrol whiff of urban legend. Its best use in fiction, incidentally, comes in the so often mediocre Agatha Christie. Read the first pages of Sleeping Murder with Gwenda’s disturbing memories of her new house, a house that somehow she knows. The book goes rapidly downhill after the brilliant beginning though so hold back from those Amazon buttons.

In any case, leaving Miss Marple to her senility, Beach recently came across a new version of this tale that excited him. This was paraphrased by a British writer and was taken from an article called ‘La Maison’ by André Maurois (minor post war French author), which we have not seen.

[AM] describes how a young woman, who frequently dreamt of a certain house, at last saw the very house while motoring through the Rhone Valley. She found it to be identical with the house envisaged in her continually recurring dream – identical even in the details of the white gate offering admittances to the lawn in front of the house. Poplars and limes, violets, periwinkles and anemones were there, precisely as she had dreamt. But she had not seen before the ‘To Let’ sign. She approached the familiar steps and rang the doorbell. The caretaker who answered told her that the house was to let because it was so haunted. ‘Today, I have seen the ghost’ the caretaker concluded. ‘It is you!’

Love this story. There is a Scottish version of this tale which is more elaborate and a bit too circumstantial and self satisfied for our tastes. It revolves around one Ballachulish House (pictured). The Boulton family was taking over residence from the Beresford family at the end of the nineteenth century. Mrs Boulton refused the offer to be shown over the house because she knew it from her dreams. Lady Beresford (it is a big house) recognized, meanwhile, Mrs Boulton as ‘the little lady… who has haunted my house for years.’ The story came from the son of Mrs Boulton, one Sir Harold Boulton (obit 1935).

Other examples of I’ve-been-in-this-house before with a twist or otherwise: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

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26 Jan 2012: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes in: Your post on “I’ve Been in this House Before” reminded me of two stories I collected for Haunted Ohio III. Here they are: DREAM HOUSES One of the oldest chestnuts in 19th-century ghost literature is the story about the woman who dreams nightly of a beautiful house.  One day, out in the country, she sees the same house and finds that it is for sale.  On making inquiries, she finds that the house is haunted—by her, says the caretaker.  Here are two similar stories; only these happen to be true… Pat had a recurring dream about a house since she was ten. In her dream, she was showing people around the house.  She would walk up a stairway into a turret and, looking to the left, she would see a stained glass window.  Upstairs, there were four-poster beds in all the rooms.  But one of the doors terrified her.  She could never open that door.  During the summer of 1993 Pat found a picture of her Hancock County dream house for sale.  “A friend, her daughter, and I went to look at the house.  When I saw it, I was filled with an overwhelming sadness.  A lot of the things in the house were just as I had seen them in my dream: the layout was the same; a railroad track ran out back; upstairs in the attic hall was a copper-lined cistern.  The bedrooms even had four-poster beds.  But just as I got to one of the bedroom doors, I felt electricity and I couldn’t open the door.  My friend had to do it.  I felt like I was going to scream.  I was shaking.  Behind that door was the attic where we found a four-poster bed. There was an electric feeling in the attic. I was terrified, but I felt I had to explore the room.”  Pat wonders if she maybe lived—or died—there before. Rosi Mackey, my ghost-hunting friend, had a recurring dream from her earliest years: “I’m going upstairs in an old house.  In my dream, I know I’ve been here before.  I see old-fashioned poster beds, antique dressers, old pictures.  I know nobody lives here, but there is no dust.  Somebody is taking care of the place, but I don’t know why.  At the end of the hall on a table is a turn-of-the-century wedding picture in a frame. “I talked about this dream over the years to many people, including my husband Steve before we got married. After 12 years of marriage, Steve’s father moved to West Lafayette, a town I’d never visited, with his new wife, who took us to visit her father’s house.  “It came to me as I was rounding the bend of the stair: This was the house.  There were the bedrooms, the furniture, the wedding photo.  The house had not been occupied for about a year, since her father was ill and staying with her sister.  But someone came in to take care of it.  I finally understood why my dream house was empty, although cared for.  But I still don’t know why I dreamed of it for so many years….” Cory remembers this: I can’t add to your latest “haunted house” post — but I was fascinated to see it. When I was perhaps nine or ten, I heard a version of the “to let” form of the story being read over the radio.  It ended with a more dramatic presentation of the last line, where the dreamer asks, “How could this lovely house be haunted?” and the response is, “You should know — you’re the ghost!” For some reason, that totally freaked me out.  Perhaps whoever read it on the radio was playing up the spookiness of the situation.  Or perhaps it was the comedown when what seemed like it would be a story of a dream fulfilled turned out to be more like Alice being told by Tweedledum that she’s only a “sort of thing” in the Red King’s dream.  It makes you wonder, “Am I myself real, or am I just an unwelcome ghost haunting someone else’s house?” And now I’m wondering whether that creepier final line comes directly from the Andre Maurois version, is from another source, or was simply distorted by the imagination of an overly-sensitive ten year old. Judith writes in with this experience: There have been several experiences like that in my own life – the most relevant (edifice-related) one involves my once having opened a heavy book in a second-hand bookshop, right to the page showing a photo of an ancient Chinese “chess pavilion” high in the mountains.  This pavilion corresponded exactly to recurring visions I’d had at that point in my life, of walking both inside and the along the portico of this building, looking out over those same mountains.  I was so excited I almost dropped the book; I Xeroxed that page (the book was far too expensive) and actually knew where that Xerox copy was for a while. Another striking but slightly off-base experience involves my meeting and recognizing an extraordinary Ecuadorian woman whose job it is to take us tourists to Ecuador’s historic sites as well as to the rainforest.  I had envisioned precisely this same woman years earlier, and I enclose my painting of this vision (I admit to having added the Condor, Jaguar, and Anaconda, though; and embellishing her bodice with certain favorite mystical symbols) [beautiful painting!! Beach] which is now a portrait of a living woman, but the setting and period costume are as in my vision, and odd conclusions may be drawn.  When I mentioned my recognition to her she was not in the least surprised, as she lives in a world of visions and shamanism, herself.  As we know — magic and alternative realities are alive in South America. And here is GOPartisan: I don’t know if these were his actual words, but in the movie “Patton” the general speaks of having been, in a previous life, at the Battle of Zama: http://www.reversespins.com/patton.html He speaks of ‘Arab women’.  Oops! the populace of Tunisia were not Arab until the Arab conquest a millennium later.’ Thanks Judith, GOPartisan, Chris and Cory