There are many cases of haunted houses in the world, ranging from the odd to the truly bizarre. Yet going beyond merely just being the lairs of ghosts and specters, what of those houses that seem to be specters in and of themselves? There have long been tales of whole houses seeming to dissipate from view, to blink into nothingness, often to reappear just as mysteriously, and here are some of the strangest.
One instance of a pervasive tale of a phantom house occurred in the early 20th century in Versailles, France. At this time two women by the names of Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain went for a visit to the Petit Trianon, which was a modest house situated within the Trianon gardens on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. There they experienced a classic time-slip, witnessing the house as it had appeared in the 18th century, seeing buildings and structures in the area that no longer existed, and even sighting ghosts walking about in antique clothing, including that of none other than Marie Antoinette herself.
In the wake of this decidedly strange experience the two women researched the history of the area and returned to the same house for their investigation. However, when they arrived there was no trace of any such house having ever been there, nor even the path they had walked along to get there. All they could see were droves of tourists, none of whom had any idea of what they were talking about when asked. The women would write of this strange anomaly in a book entitled An adventure, but it was mostly written off as mostly a delusion at the time.
In the late 1800s there was also the tale of a phantom house that seemed to randomly warp about in the region of Suffolk, England. On one summer evening in 1860 one farmer named Robert Palfrey was baling hay when he suddenly was overcome by a biting chill despite the otherwise warm air. When he looked up he claims to have seen a majestic and pristine red brick house surrounded by green gardens looming nearby, which he had never seen before in all of his years in the area. The house then vanished into thin air just as suddenly as it had appeared right before his eyes, melting away into nothingness.
This particular house would be seen on and off again in later years. In 1912, Palfrey’s own great-grandson, James Cobbold, was in the very same area when the air became frigid and he claimed to hear a loud whooshing sound, as if a great amount of air had been abruptly displaced. When Cobbold and his companion looked up they noticed an opulent, three-storied, double-fronted, red brick, Georgian-style house surrounded by lush, blooming gardens, even though just moments before there had been nothing their but open expanses of open farmland. After a few moments, the house was ensconced with some sort of a fog or mist, before blinking back out of existence.
Then in 1926 a young teacher and her student were walking through the same area when they claimed to have come across a massive house with a wall around it, imposing iron gates, and verdant gardens. When the teacher later asked local residents about the estate she was informed that no such home had ever existed anywhere near there. The teacher returned to the area with her student the following spring to find that indeed the house was not there, and she would say of this:
My pupil and I did not take the same walk again until the following spring. It was, as far as I can remember, a dull afternoon, with good visibility, in February or March. We walked up through the farmyard as before, and out on to the road, where, suddenly, we both stopped dead of one accord and gasped. "Where's the wall" we queried simultaneously. It was not there. The road was flanked by nothing but a ditch, and beyond the ditch lay a wilderness of tumbled earth, weeds, mounds, all overgrown with the trees which we had seen on our first visit. We followed the road on round the bend, but there were no gates, no drive, no corner of a house to be seen. We were both very puzzled. At first we thought that our house and wall had been pulled down since our last visit, but closer inspection showed a pond and other small pools amongst the mounds where the house had been visible. It was obvious that they had been there a long time.
This incident was notably written of by Edward Bennett in his 1934 book Apparitions and Haunted Houses. Yet another sighting was made by a young man named Edward Bentley in the early 1940s, when he was out passing out catalogs along Southall Street for the clothing store he worked for when he came across a large Georgian style house set some distance back from the road. He called out to his employer, a Mr. Aubyn Davies, but by the time he arrived there was nothing their but brush and weeds, with no sign whatsoever of the grand house that had been seen.
Suffolk seems to have had a good number of sightings of mysterious phantom houses roaming about all over the place, especially in the area of Rougham, and this has earned these spectral dwelling the nickname “The Mirage of Rougham.” The phenomenon has been reported well into modern times, including as recently as 2007, when a Jean Batram and her husband were driving though Suffolk along Kingshall Street in Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds, when they spied a stately Georgian house complete with a picturesque blooming garden. On their way back, they wanted to see the stunningly beautiful house again but it proved to be gone, with nothing but a field where it had stood. She would later learn of the area’s history of sightings of ghostly houses, and Batram would say of her experience:
I know I saw this house, I can see it now and could sketch it if I needed to. It was a lovely big Georgian house with a whole row of long windows and trees at the back of it. I have talked to other people and they have heard of it and people in Rougham have heard of the tale. I would just love to get to the bottom of it. At the time it happened, I knew nothing about this house at all. I was looking across some ploughed fields when I noticed this great big house and remarked to my husband how nice it was.I had a quick look and saw these lovely big windows and then thought I would see it again when I came back. But when we drove back, there was no house there.
The spectral house of Suffolk has been covered in numerous publications on the paranormal, including the books Spectral Suffolk, by Chris Jensen Romer, Eric Quigley and Nicola Talbot, as well as Ghosts of Suffolk, by Betty Puttick. One theory is that the house is nothing but a fleeting mirage, a trick of the eyes, while others suggest that is is a dwelling that usually resides in another dimension, occasionally briefly popping through to ours. Nothing is conclusive, and it remains an odd, unexplained phenomenon that continues to be one of the more well known strange hauntings of the Suffolk area.
Moving over to the United States, one odd tale of a mysteriously disappearing home appeared in the book The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories, by L. B. Taylor, and concerns a witness by the name of Kathleen Luisa, of Falls Church Virginia. She claims that she had driven past an old manor called the Stone House, situated near Sudley Road, many times and had always wondered about its history. The house was located amongst some of the old battlefields of the American Civil War, and was absolutely steeped in history, as well as being a common landmark in the area.
One night in 1986, Luisa went out to one of the old battlefields along with her mother and grandparents in order to gaze upon the passing Halley’s Comet, but as they approached the intersection where the Stone House should have been looming it simply wasn’t there. The baffled witness turned the car around and was finally able to locate an empty lot where the house should have been standing, yet there was not a scrap to suggest it had ever been there at all in the weed-choked lot. The only thing that remained were the well and some fences.
The puzzled witnesses figured that the house must have been unexpectedly torn down or relocated sometime very recently without their awareness, even though it seemed as if the lot of land was relatively untouched and did not display the sort of activity that one would expect from such an undertaking. There was no rubble, no scars in the earth from machinery or vehicles, no holes in the ground, no foundation walls. It seemed to be merely a lonely expanse of land that had remained there open to the elements for some time, the only sign at all that there had ever been anything there that well leading down into the dark. The group milled about the lot for some time trying to figure out what had happened before dejectedly continuing on.
Two weeks later, the same group drove by the same intersection and was absolutely baffled when she saw that the house was there once again as if it had never been gone. They all swore that they had seen the empty lot, and were equally befuddled as to how the house could be there. She would insist that she had been living in the area her whole life and had definitely not made any mistakes about the location. In the same book was another odd story concerning the Stone House, this time with the testimony of a Beverly Kish, of Merrifield, Virginia, who claims that in January of 1997 she had her own unusual experience concerning the structure, which she felt compelled to share upon hearing of Luisa’s experience. Kish would say:
I experienced a ghostly encounter of sorts in January 1997, but I didn’t know about it until I read about the lady (Luisa) who said she drove by the location of the Stone House and the house had disappeared. The same thing happened to me! I was living in Manassas at the time and wanted to take a drive one night. It was clear with the moon out. It wasn’t pitch dark. I was alone. Having lived in the area tenty years, I know exactly where the Stone House is. In fact, I took a tour there a couple of years ago, yet on this night it was gone! I even turned the car around and said to myself ‘That’s funny, I’m at the right intersection,” and all I saw was a patch of grass with the glow of the moon on it where the house had been. And you can’t miss this house. It’s close to the road, so I can personally vouch for what the other woman saw- or rather, for what she didn’t see.
Also in the United States is the spectral house of Cuba Road, in Lake Zurich Illinois, in the United States. The road in question meanders through the affluent towns of Lake Zurich and Barrington, and is already imbued with all manner of tales of the strange with the many reports of inexplicable and eerie spook lights reported from the nearby White Cemetery, as well as numerous specters and ghosts. Perhaps strangest of all is what supposedly lies along a side street called Rainbow Road. The area was previously the home of an abandoned mansion estate that was so expansive that it has frequently been claimed to have been an old asylum that has gates that inexplicably change position. The estate sits right by the infamous White Cemetery, which dates to at least the 1820s and known for numerous hauntings and bizarreness, including phantom vehicles, dancing orbs of light, and shadowy wraiths, and one particular house in can certainly add to this.
It is said that there is a modest shack that occasionally will appear in the woods right next to the cemetery, and which is inhabited by an elderly woman who is sometimes reported as holding a lantern. It is said that if one is to approach the house it will simply vanish into thin air, along with anyone who happens to be too close to it when it does. The house is often reported as being wreathed in spectral flames as well, leading to the theory that it is perhaps a ghost structure that was somehow imprinted onto the area in the wake of a tragedy, probably a fire that most likely took the dwelling’s occupant with it.
Is that is what is happening in such cases of spectral vanishing houses? Have these structures somehow been etched into the location through some mysterious means, as if an image burned upon film? Can a place have the memory of a house pervading it? Or are these instances of time slips, in which scenes from different eras become visible for brief stretches? Could it even be that parallel realities are bleeding over into our own, with these houses being denizens of another dimension temporarily crossing over into our own reality through some thin spot in the veil that separates us? Perhaps it is just mistakes and memory glitches? These are questions for which we have no real answers, and we are left to merely speculate on what is going on with these houses that seem to flicker in and out of existence at will.