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'Scary house' isn't so scary, downtown man says

Chip Travis points to where he saw an apparition go under his fence. (click for larger version)

At the time this photo was taken, Chip didnít realize there was a ghostly mist around him. He believes this smokey cloud might be his ghost, Sarah. (click for larger version)
October 24, 2012 - Chip Travis thinks he's seen and even interacted with a ghost in his house in downtown Clarkston.

"I've seen the ghost three times," he said.

Travis describes what he sees as a smoky apparition that feels chilly when it wisps past, but why his house? One possible answer came in the form of a visitor who walked by his home one day.

An elderly woman wearing a long, old-fashioned dress stopped to talk to Travis while he was repairing his porch steps. She was with an old man who wore a bowler hat atop his head and never said a word.

The lady told Travis when she was a little girl, she swung from a rope tied to the tree that still stands in his front yard.

"We called it the Tarzan tree," she said.

The tree's low branches grow away from the trunk in U-shapes, allowing for easy climbing.

She stopped swinging from the tree after a tragedy struck the family living in the house. Sarah, one of three children who resided there, died unexpectedly, the old woman told Travis.

After Sarah's death, neighborhood children called her home "the scary house." It took on the new name because Sarah's family continued to set the dinner table with five plates, the old lady explained. Even though Sarah had passed, one place setting was left where the young girl used to sit.

Intrigued by the old woman's story, Travis invited her to come in and share more history about his house, but she refused.

"We're heading to the cemetery, but we'll stop by on our way back," she said.

Travis watched the lady and man walk down the sidewalk toward the cemetery but never saw them return.

Since the elderly couple's visit, Travis has taken to calling the ghost Sarah and believes she has left him gifts. One day a golden, heart-shaped charm appeared on his dresser. He placed the charm in a wooden box he made that's also heart-shaped, but the golden piece of jewelry doesn't always stay inside.

After placing the heart charm inside the box and closing it, Chip sometimes finds it on the basement floor, and it isn't the only item that has mysteriously appeared.

While working in his backyard, a ping-pong ball flew over Chip's shoulder and bounced along the ground.

"Who is there?" Chip asked, but no one answered.

His neighbor's house was vacant.

When walking out of his bathroom, another ping-pong ball came bouncing along the marble floor as if it was tossed. The balls are dirty, scarred, and dented, and Travis doesn't own a ping-pong table.

Peculiar ping-pong balls and heart charms aren't the only ways Sarah interacts with Travis. She has also left messages in the steam of his bathroom mirror and shower door.

The notes have been written in German and say, "welcome," said Chip who has watched them appear all at once. The words are made of "little droplets of water condensed in script," he said. "It's not something you can do with your finger."

Travis tried writing back without success, and although he took a photo of the words in the mirror, the picture that developed showed an odd, gleaming orb floating in the air. When he wrote the messages down, the paper he used would go missing.

"You can excuse things," he said with a shrug, but he's certain some sights and sounds aren't tricks of his imagination.

He describes walking down the hall passed a small side room and startling a smoky, shapeless form. "It zipped through my arm and went through a tear in the screen," he said.

Something similar happened while he was outside on his back porch. As if frightened, the hazy, formless smoke "went through the fence," he said.

Although the ghostly smoke feels chilly, Travis doesn't feel threatened by it. In fact, he likes Sarah's presence and finds it entertaining.

"It doesn't want to scare us," he insists. In some cases, Travis believes the ghost listens to him and responds to what he says.

For example, he would find his front door opened on its own. Fearful that his dog would wander outside, Travis said aloud, "You can't open this door." Since then, Sarah has left the front door closed.

Travis also remembers having a conversation about replacing his front windows with a door to restore the house to its original lay out.

Soon after the discussion, Travis saw his welcome mat move from one part of his porch and around the corner to lie beneath the windows.

As if Sarah overheard Travis's conversation and agreed with the idea to renovate, she dropped the mat right where the home's first door was located at the top of the steps that once led to the entrance. The original stairs can still be seen beneath the house.

Along with the steps, Travis's home, built in the 1880s, has other odd architectural features. In the basement, where he's found the missing heart charm, is a room that "has no explanation," said Travis. "There's no entry, no exit." The room is constructed of stone, but covered up with cement. With a chuckle, Travis calls it "the crypt."

There used to be an outhouse where his pool sits now and a "creepy barn where the garage is," said Travis. There's a tombstone too.

In Travis's backyard, a broken grave lies along a brick walkway. Cracks through the words and dates make it impossible to tell when the white stone was placed there or whose name was etched onto it. Travis has been careful to never disturb the grave.

Spooky architectural features and odd phenomenon haven't discouraged Travis from staying in his home, however.

Instead, he considers Sarah a welcome houseguest and eagerly awaits his next close encounter. See video of Chip Travis and his haunted home in a special Halloween episode of "Seeing Green" on Clarkston TV at www.clarkstontv.com.

Clarkston News reporter
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