Real Estate

Exorcizing an exercise-machine spook

My friend Laurie and her new husband Dave probably shouldn’t have bought the three-story house because he didn’t like it. It wasn’t the age of the old colonial (circa 1810); it had been recently renovated and passed inspection, including the old third-floor treadmill left behind by Cyrus, a marathon runner and the last of the descendants to depart. Dave had an uneasy feeling he couldn’t explain, especially on the third floor.

But Laurie, a professional writer, was drawn to the federal-style colonial with white vintage-brick façade, low-pitched roof and black louvered shutters. There was something nurturing, she felt, about a home that had sheltered eight generations of the same family for 200 years. Although she didn’t tell Dave, the old treadmill was a factor in her decision.

Dave finally gave in when Laurie promised to make the down payment from her recent inheritance and also make half the mortgage payments from her freelance earnings.

Weeks after they moved in, Dave, regional sales manager for a large software company, left on a business trip. That night, Laurie awoke suddenly at 2 a.m. and realized someone was using the treadmill in the room above, averaging about a 12-minute mile. Terrified, she forced herself up the stairs, but the exercise machine stopped when she entered the room, so she went back to sleep. When it happened the same time the following night, she called the serviceman who found no problems despite the treadmill’s age and couldn’t explain why it happened. Neither could the exterminator who said he’d never heard of bats or rats running on a treadmill unless they were drunk or in training.

Laurie decided not to tell Dave when he called later that day; he would have attributed it to a nightcap or teased her about ghosts. “If they are ghosts, I wish they’d use our treadmill during the day,” she joked to her neighbor the following morning.

Elsie, a 70-plus film buff, did not find it amusing. “Your treadmill tale reminds me of that really scary old movie ‘Gaslight’, where the young bride, an heiress in Victorian England, thinks she’s losing her mind.”

Laurie laughed. “What does that have to do with the treadmill?”

“Well, every time her old husband leaves the house, the gaslights dim; they come back on minutes before he walks in.” Elsie paused to stare meaningfully at Laurie. “Turns out he’s been trying to drive his wife crazy and then have her committed to an asylum so he can get control of her fortune.”

“That’s preposterous,” Laurie said. “Dave had a feeling about the house from the beginning.” Her neighbor finally smiled — or was that a smirk?After Elsie left, Laurie rented a “Gaslight” movie and learned the husband not only tried to drive his new wife insane but had previously murdered her aunt for her precious jewels. Laurie shivered.

She waited a few hours after Dave returned and then told him about the treadmill. He laughed and responded as she expected: “What did you have to drink?” and, “Maybe life in the hereafter is too sedentary for our live-in ghost.”

That night, Dave sprung up quickly in bed; it was 2 a.m. “Laurie,” he called out. “Are you up there?”

“I don’t think so,” she laughed from the other side of the bed. “I can’t be in two places at the same time.” She was ecstatic her husband was innocent, but there was still an unsolved mystery on their hands.

The next morning Dave complained to the police and was asked about his sleeping habits. Laurie couldn’t keep a straight face. The officer refused to come, noting that unless the perpetrator — if there was one — isn’t a real person or animal, the police can’t help. He suggested they call a ghost-chaser.

Laurie telephoned Elsie who’d anticipated her call. “I’ll give you the number of Madam Gigi, a ghostchaser I met through a friend who kept hearing noises.” “Did it help?”

“Hard to tell,” Elsie said. “My friend has tinnitus.”

Madam Gigi, after sniffing and sneezing, confirmed there was at least one paranormal presence or poltergeist (noisy spirit) that she identified as Cyrus, who died on the treadmill. The ghost chaser recommended Madam X, an exorcist. “An exorcist should be able to exorcize the exercise-machine demons, get it?”

“I thought we were talking about ghosts,” David said sharply.

“A demon is merely a ghost with an attitude,” she explained.

Laurie was fed up. She told Dave, “That presence was not disclosed when we bought the house. We’ve got to evict our unwanted live-in guest, I mean ghost.”

So the couple consulted real estate lawyers Michael Sandman and Nicole Mariencheck, reputed to be the top ghostbusters in the field of paranormal legal experts, aka spook eviction specialists. They suggested holding a meeting to negotiate “in the natural light of a full moon with an owl or some other nocturnal critter as interpreter.”

The encounter took place one moonlit night on the third floor. In place of the owl, booked for the Halloween season, an old bat agreed to interpret. Unfortunately, he was prejudiced in favor of the defendant and the only concession he got the mean-spirited Cyrus to make was to “train” at 2 p.m. every day instead of 2 a.m.

Actually, that worked out (pun intended) very well. Laurie and Dave capitalized on the arrangement by opening their home for $25 a person each day during Halloween season to view the haunted treadmill sprint up to an 8-minute mile. The entrepreneurs made additional money serving spirits at the event.

Hope your Halloween works out well too.

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