4 min read
Well she was just 17. And you know… she was a ghost. At least, that was the story. But it didn’t seem to matter that she was a ghost. Like all teens she loved cell phones. Except… she texted from another dimension.
Amanda liked to dive inside the phones and take up residence there. Something to do with drawing energy from the phone’s battery. That’s how it was explained to me.
I was in Bentonsport, Iowa, at the behest of my clients, the owners of the Mason House Inn. The place was reputed to be haunted. Very haunted. There were reportedly 5 or 6 regular spirits that shared the rooms, the beds and the parlor with the guests.
In fact, people came from all over to stay at the inn with the hopes of a having a supernatural encounter. The owners, a lovely couple, even organized ghost-hunting classes.
I was there to create marketing video for these quiet, unassuming proprietors. They wanted to publicize their 170 year-old inn. Maybe get some spooky moments for the morning news shows as Halloween was approaching.
The Mason House Inn, built by Mormons in 1846, is one of America’s oldest continuously run inns. It has seen its share of the dead and dying, having served as a hospital during the Civil War and as a station on the Underground Railroad.
The owners claimed they often got glimpses of the ghosts as they went about running their business. Passing through the parlor with a load of linens, they would suddenly spot a spirit resting upon a settee watching them. And then just as quickly, it would vanish.
Cookie jars were raided and moved. Fog and mist would appear. And of course, plenty of footsteps were heard at night. Whatever. I’m not one to rule this stuff out, on the other hand I didn’t believe in spooks.
According to the owners, some of these ghosts have distinct personalities. There’s a young boy who waves to guests, knocks on doors and sets off alarm clocks. His name is George.
Up on the third floor attic, an elderly female spirit in a white gown, often rummages through the storage boxes there, looking for something.
And then there’s Amanda. She was a teenager in the late 1940’s. The owners say she likes to inhabit guests’ cell phones.
So far my phone is working fine. And I haven’t seen any ectoplasmic spirits passing through walls. Actually, I’m enjoying running around the inn with my cameraman, “coaxing” ghosts from closets, empty rooms and under bathtubs. We crawl around the staircases at night and go up to the ancient roof looking for errant spirits.
We knock on walls. Peer under beds. I even check my phone for spooky voice mails. No ghosts – no dice. We’re clearly not in tune with these non-paying residents. Perhaps they don’t appreciate us invading their space. For us, the inn is a job. For them it’s a life-style or… afterlife-style.
So What’s This About Air Tankers?
The inn is a beautiful example of the Federal style and seems hardly changed (except for things like toilets and light bulbs) since it was built on the American frontier in the first half of the 19th Century.
Acquiring this property was a dream for the owners. They had planned and they had saved. He was retired Air Force. Driving me around the little town of Bentonsport, he told me he had flown air-refueling tankers.
This is the daring aerial ballet where immense tanker planes, heavy with aviation fuel, lower a boom through which they refuel other planes to extend their missions. It's dangerous and exacting work. My guess is it would require a very steady hand.
What has all this got to do with historic inns and ghosts? I have no idea. I’m sure there’s a connection somewhere if we dig deep enough. If you can connect the dots, please let me know.
But this is what happens when you travel. All sorts of people, ideas and situations come at you like a thickly layered dream. But it’s all real. And you come away richer with some cool stories to tell.
Speaking of Dreams
For all my nonchalant attitude about ghosts, (Do you suppose ghosts are nonchalant? Maybe the ones who died on divans.) I was feeling a bit uneasy when I tucked myself in at night. I was even a little hesitant to turn out the lights in my room.
The first night I slept badly and was fairly certain I heard footsteps and the like. But I could have been dreaming. Some of my dreams are very pedestrian. No pun intended.
Every room at the inn had a big cookie jar. I’d take one at night and maybe another in the morning. Before breakfast. I have a sweet tooth. But when I reached for my morning cookie there seemed to be a lot fewer than I remembered from the night before.
I reported this finding to my client at breakfast. She nodded and laughed,
“Yeah, they do that. Could have been that little ghost, George. Any of your stuff missing?”
I had no idea but I wasn’t buying the cookie ghost conspiracy. There were a dozen explanations including an owner who’d probably like to enhance the inn’s spooky reputation.
However, the owners hadn’t always been public about their haunted house. In fact, they originally kept quiet – concerned guests would stay away. It wasn’t until a group of school kids and their teacher toured the inn that things went public.
It seems the teacher took a group photo that unexpectedly included “one more kid in there than she had in her class”. It was probably George.
Ok, so we didn’t photograph any actual ghosts or even imaginary ones. But, we got enough squeaky doors, rocking chairs rocking, flushing toilets and flickering lights to create some spooky Halloween stories. It would make a good travel segment on a morning news show somewhere.
My clients seemed happy and I related all this when I phoned my wife the last night at the inn. I recounted the missing cookies and my fitful sleep. I also shared the story of the teenage ghost who had discovered cell phones and took up residence in Blackberry’s, Nokia’s and now iPhones.
We laughed and I speculated whether this Amanda was listening in now on our cell phone conversation. Had she jumped into my phone and was she planning to make prank calls from the other side?
We found the idea of this ancient ghostly teen and her obsession with our mobile devices… amusing.
I made some cracks about Amanda glomming on to our friends and family rates. You know, your usual telecommunications/ghost jokes.
It was about then that I heard a loud crackling sound in my phone. And the line went dead.
Ok…. I called back but it took a few attempts to get the phone to ring. My wife finally answered, “Holy crap! What just happened!!?”
“What do you mean?”
“You were talking when I heard this ungodly screeching sound. The phone got hot and the screen turned white! Everything went dead…”
I looked around the room. For what, I didn’t know. And then my phone crackled again.
“Has that ever happened to your phone before?”, I asked hopefully.
“Ha, Ha. Maybe it’s Amanda.”, I joked. And the phone crackled yet again.
I ventured, “Did you hear that? That crackling sound?”
“No. But my phone is really hot. I’m gonna hang up..”
So we made our goodbyes and I promised to drive and fly safely. I checked around the room again and then stared at my phone, “Amanda?...”.
I was tired and had to get up early. I plugged my phone into the charger and touched the screen a few times but it didn’t seem any different.
I fell asleep quickly and had the best night’s sleep since arriving at the inn.
I don’t believe I reported the phone incident to the owners as I departed the next morning. I was more concerned about my two-hour drive to Des Moines and making my flight. That was typically me – always looking on to the next thing and the next.
Also, in the light of day I may have been dismissive about my close encounter of the spooky kind.
We Are An Adaptable Species
Back home I began viewing the footage of the inn with my editor. There was a good chance we could get this stuff aired for Halloween if we hustled.
Of course, everyone wanted to know if I had seen a ghost at the inn. No sightings I reported, but one sounding – I told them about Amanda, the teenage Ghost.
Some people were amused, others looked like they had just seen a ghost. For the most part, I was still amused.
Not long after this I called one of my co-workers on my cell phone. When the call connected, damn if I didn’t hear that same crackly sound on the line that had punctuated the call with my wife.
It was annoying – she could hear it too. I hung up and called her back. Same thing.
“It’s probably Amanda.”, she suggested. I was doubtful. “Amanda, cut it out!”, she demanded.
The crackling stopped. OK. This was creepy. But, if I’m to be honest… sort of fun? If it was real.
Well, something was real. Because, it started happening more and more – my phone calls would begin with the static crackling of Amanda clearing her spectral throat.
Taking the cue from my friend, I would insist, “Amanda, cut it out!”, and it worked. Alright, she was a teenager, so sometimes the crackling would continue as if testing me.
“Young Lady, you will stop that right now or I’m cutting off phone privileges!”, I barked, like a 50’s dad. And she stopped! I don’t know if she went off someplace to sulk but she was quiet until the next call.
In this manner, many of my friends, family and business associates became acquainted with Amanda, though some likely believed I had become unhinged.
We are creatures of habit and so it just became habit to chase Amanda off my calls. But sometimes I let her hang out for a while, crackling and hissing away. Teens deserve some party time too.
What amazed me was not Amanda’s presence and behavior but my own… how I just took her in stride. This was undoubtedly the most amazing supernatural discovery of my life and here I was stupidly annoyed by her interference with my every day phone calls.
We are such adaptable beings. I so easily took it for granted that my phone was haunted by a teenage ghost and soon came to deal with it as one would a noisy neighbor. More pest control than sense of wonder.
Perhaps that’s our nature – we so quickly take things for granted. If we could suddenly levitate at will, it would probably become routine within a few days. And after a week we’d start complaining when we couldn’t float even higher.
But I did have a fondness for Amanda and her regular presence had a familiar and comforting feeling. Not quite human – I couldn’t understand her language… maybe a little more like a pet.
However, like all technology, in time this phone was replaced by a brighter, shinier new cellular device. The old phone was put down in a drawer with my other used tech stuff. Its battery withered away. I never heard from her again.
I suppose Amanda drifted on to a new home, perhaps one whose owner was younger and hipper.
Unless I’m completely wrong about the way things work in her world. In that case, she is still waiting patiently, timelessly in the old phone, lying in the drawer of my nightstand, next to where I sleep. Just waiting for me to plug it in, charge up the old batteries and give her a wake up call.