I don’t know about you, but when I buy a house I’m always fascinated by the people who might have lived in it before me. This insatiable need to know the history of where I’m living probably harkens back to my childhood growing up in a 150 year old farmhouse. In that case, the same family had owned the house since it had been built. So we were only the second family to live in the house. Despite that, there was a rich history and a lot of information that my parents were able to glean from the family who sold us the house. I think it’s so great that they were willing to talk with my parents about what they knew and they even shared old photographs and historic documents that my parents have since passed on to the new owners.
It is that experience that has made me so interested in the houses I’ve lived in. Curious as I was, I never really explored the history of our two prior homes, other than checking out “Stalker.com” to determine who had owned it before us. That’s not really a web site (at least I don’t think it is) – it’s my husband’s nickname for the county government’s online property information database.
In Delaware we are blessed with a county government who values making it easy to find out information on properties. We have access to an online database called Parcel View, which lets you search by address and discover the history of ownership of a property as far back as the county’s records go. This web site is what my husband lovingly refers to as “Stalker.com” – which really is pretty appropriate since he uses it often to figure out who owns properties.
When buying The Duckling, Stalker.com was the first place we went before we even stepped foot in the house. We were curious about who owned the home currently and its history of ownership. But I have to say, just looking at that web site only paints part of the picture. Talking to the neighbors has been even more enlightening than anything we might have learned online.
Here’s what we knew before buying – the investor from whom we purchased, bought the house in 2008 from the estate of Alice Sanders. Alice had lived here with her adult son, Alan, until her death. The Sanders family (which included two sons, Alice and her husband) built the house in 1951. Alice was widowed for many years and died in the home. Her son went to live with other family and the estate sold the property to the investor from who we bought.
This is the information that Patrick and I can agree on. The other nugget that I swear our neighbor told us was that Mr. Sanders was a doctor. But we can’t agree on this, so it’s not part of the “official” story in the sentences preceding. However, I’ll leave you to decide who’s probably right on this fact (as if there were ANY question!).
Other neighbors told us that the two boys used to play in the “secret room” on the second floor and they made this their playroom. This “room” is in the eave above the master bedroom and is accessible through a little door in the guest room. It’s got shelving, a rod for hanging off-season clothes, a light and a window – so it really would have been the perfect spot for little boys to make their clubhouse.
Knowing this little bit about the original owners of the house, we’ve always been very curious about the Sanders family and their story. Our curiosity has peaked even more in the last few days because we are starting to wonder if Alice might still be around. And by around, I do mean AROUND.
Our jokes about Alice’s “presence” started last month when we were demolishing the shelving in the basement. We chuckled that Alice was probably sitting on the couch either laughing at how hard we had to work to get those shelves out or she was really PO’d that we were making changes to her house. But even as we were joking about it, part of me got the chills wondering if she really might be lingering….she did_die_in_this_house, afterall.
I’m not much for ghost stories, but the saga continued when Patrick mentioned the other day that he swore he heard doors creak the other day. Okay….that’s creepy, was my thought. Then this morning, it’s just me and Gavin in the house and I heard it too – and not just once or twice but a good five or six times. And it even sounded like the floor boards upstairs were creaking. It honestly scared the bejeezus out of me and made me think that we need to get Theresa Caputo, The Long Island Medium, down here ASAP.
So now I have an insatiable need to find out as much about Alice as we possibly can. I did manage to find her obituary today online, so we’ve got a little more information, but I still want to know more. Why, for example, did the Sanders family build a bomb shelter in the basement? They were en vogue in 1951, for sure, but what was that decision all about? We may never know….but in the meantime, here’s what we do know:
Age 85, of Wilmington, DE, passed away at her home on Tuesday, July 3, 2007. Alice was a devoted and loving mother and homemaker. She enjoyed art, literature and history.
She is survived by her sons, Alan P., of Wilmington, DE, and Richard, of Atlanta, GA; 2 grandsons, Charles and Jackson; and a brother, Francis T. Mooney, of Wilmington, DE. Alice is preceded in death by her husband, Paul A. in 1979; and 2 siblings, Mary Braun and William Mooney.
A graveside service will be held on Saturday, July 7, at 11:45 am, at All Saints Cemetery, Wilmington. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to American Heart Association , 15011 Casho Mill Road, Suite 1, Newark, DE 19711.
Arrangements by MCCRERY FUNERAL HOME
So it’s not much, but it’s a start. And until we know more, all we can do when the doors or floors creak is take a deep, calming breath and say, “well hello, Alice.”