Sitting in the back seat of the car, after looking at a pre-war building built in 1908, we rolled down Fifth Avenue in silence while I studied our itinerary for the remainder of the afternoon. Then, she spoke: “I see the value in purchasing in that building…but it felt haunted.” She paused, and then added, “Heather, I feel like the haunting is still on me.” I was taken aback by hearing this, not knowing exactly how to respond to her. Mainly because I’ve never had a client in Manhattan offer-up such a confession, and even though I’ve had my own experiences with such feelings of “hauntings,” believing in earthbound spirits and so on, I still did not want to be known as Gotham’s Sylvia Browne of real estate. I glanced over at her, with a slight, reassuring smile, I finally stated, “Well, then that’s not the building for you,” and left it at that.
With All Hallows’ Eve approaching, I thought I’d go on record, declaring that: Yes, I believe in spirits. I believe if you feel them, then they are present; and yes, I’ve had quite a few encounters with ghosts dating back to 1995.
It all started in when I flew back from St. Louis to Ohio to get married. I sat on my mother’s back porch, of the home in which I had grown up in, assembling the favors for the guests of my soon-to-be marriage, when my mother nonchalantly said, “Heather, I had spirits in my house. I called a woman to get them out.” I was twenty-three years-old at the time, and I had thought my mother was wackier than I had already experienced her to be over the years–also wondering if empty-nest syndrome was causing this enhanced batty-ness. I could only respond, “What are you talking about???” My mother’s tone was very serious, recalling upon her paranormal experiences and the details of the woman named Mary Ann who had sent the spirits to “the light,” eliminating them from my childhood home. I laughed and said, “Mom, you’re crazy.”
About a year later, my husband was relocated back to Ohio for his job and I was now a mother. It was time for us to purchase our first home together, for our little family in Lakewood, Ohio. Shortly after we made our purchase and moved into our charming Arts & Craft-styled bungalow, built in 1920, I had noticed that our dog, Huckleberry, wouldn’t go down to the basement. He was terrified, shaking uncontrollably in the cellar every time I forced-carried him down there. I had tried everything to persuade him to go down those stairs. I even cooked a juicy roast and put it at the bottom of the stairs, tempting and assuring him that the floor below ground was A-okay. At the top of the stairs, looking down at me at the foot of them with a beefy feast, he wouldn’t budge. Nothing worked. I voiced my frustrations over all of this with my mother. “You have a spirit. You need to call Mary Ann.” I still thought she was crazy, but I talked it over with my husband, Jon, who had asked how much this Ghost Buster would costs us. I told him $100. He responded, “If it gets Huck to go downstairs, then do it.” Out of desperation, I called Mary Ann. Over the phone, she told me, “Yes, you have a spirit. It’s a man,” and described certain pieces of furniture in my home and where they were located. I had thought, maybe my mother had phoned her prior to our conversation, informing her of such. I was skeptical, to say the least. Yet, I scheduled an appointment for her to come over—to get the said spirit out of the cellar.
When Mary Ann came over she asked me if I wanted to ask the spirit anything. I said no. Of course my mother, who thought she was now a spirit-expert, had a few questions, so she asked away. I just sat there listening, holding my baby girl close to my chest and far away from the crazy women in my home. After the inquisition was over, Mary Ann educated me on a few things–since it was obvious to her that I was a budding antique collector, telling me to be careful when purchasing used furniture items, such as mirrors and old prints. I listened to her, but still wasn’t buying all of this ghost stuff. Then she asked, “Are you ready for me to send him to the light?” Yes! The cleansing ceremony, if you want to call it that, took about two seconds, and he was gone—according to Mary Ann. She had also given me a few quince seeds to carry in my purse and tape above the entrances of the house, including the fireplace, to keep spirits away. Before she left she had said, “It may take Huck about a week before he goes down those stairs.” To this, I secretively thought, I was just scammed out of $100 Buck-A-Roos. Jon is going to kill me!
Once Mary Ann had left my little house, I brought Huck back in the house from frolicking in my backyard, and threw a Milkbone biscuit down the basement stairs. To my surprise, he went down them, promptly, wagging his tail as he sniffed the cellar floor. It was $100 well spent, and I was, at that exact moment, a believer of earthbound spirits.
Over the years, I started to pay more attention to my gut-feeling, and listening to the signs Mary Anne had told me about when she visited my Arts & Crafts-styled bungalow back in 1996. I’ve become very perceptive, actually. And when I began selling Cleveland real estate, I used Mary Ann to “clean out” properties that seemed to have that weird energy—those I was unable to sell—and priced at market-rate. Believe it or not, as soon as she sent those spirits to-the-light, I had an offer on the “property,” usually by the next buyer who viewed the house–after it was cleaned-out.
Fifteen years later, after viewing thousands of houses and apartments, I’ve never spoken to my customers or even colleagues in Manhattan about my beliefs and sensitivities to ghostly matters. They’d think I was crazy. Thus, I’ve kept mouth shut. But, I feel them, and have had that weird feeling a lot when viewing real estate, especially in NYC.
Crazy or not, I’d like to hear your ghost stories this Halloween.
To find out more about Mary Ann Winkowski, click Here. (Yes, she’s now kind of famous, consulting for TV shows such as The Ghost Whisperer)