No Visitors Allowed — A Haunting

The lovely bride and I moved from the mountains of Colorado to the vineyards of Eastern Washington about six months ago. Our new home is located just west of Walla Walla on 20 acres surrounded by farm land. It offers a beautiful view of the rolling hills of the area with the Blue Mountains punctuating the horizon. The remoteness of the locale provides me with the perfect refuge from the bustle of airports and urban traffic that accompany my travel. For us, it is Shangri-La.

Next to the home, we have a small garden cottage. Our plan is to one day convert the structure to a wine room for the storing and tasting of our collection. For now, it is vacant and serves essentially no purpose; save for one curiosity. On occasion, the door is open. It is an odd phenomenon that only occurs overnight. At random mornings, I will awake and let the dogs out and spy the open cottage door. Each time I close the door, test the latch, slam my shoulder into the door to test it and find it sufficiently solid. And within a few days, the experience will repeat.

After two months, my sister and a friend visited us; our first guests in our new home. The morning after their arrival, I awoke and embarked on my morning ritual including letting out the dogs. I was only slightly annoyed that the light in the utility room had apparently burned out since it did not come on when I flipped the wall switch. As is often the case, I had to go out and find Bob (who has always marched to his own beat) to bring him in to eat. After locating Bob in the yard, I returned to the same door that I had left the house through. It was locked. On the door handle.

We have never locked the door handle. Further, when one turns the door handle to walk out of the house, the door unlocks. No one else was up in the household. How in the world could the door be locked? Perplexed, I made my way around to the back of the house to tap on the glass sliding door in our bedroom to awaken Lori to let me in. As I did, I happened to notice that the garden cottage door was open. Tentatively, I peeked in. No one — no “thing” — there. Once inside the house, I returned to the utility room to let the dogs in. The light came on. The door was unlocked.

With the exception of the occasional unexplained garden cottage door ajar, no further episodes occurred. That is, until our friends Barry and Brenda Kooser visited two weeks ago. This marked the second time we have had guest stay with us. On the evening of their first night we returned to our house from dinner to find the gate to our property closed and latched. While there was a stiff breeze that day, it was not sufficient to push a heavy gate (that is not aerodynamic since it is not a solid object) uphill, through a divot in the ground designed to catch the wheel, onto a piece of concrete and latch itself. We did not close the gate when we left, since the dogs were in the house. We were all struck by how odd, enough that I inspected the house for intruders. There appeared to be no evidence.

The next morning, as I began the routine of the morning, once again the light in the utility room did not work. Again, the door handle was locked when I tried to re-enter the house. And again, the cottage door was open. These three mysterious experiences had only happened once before; the other time we had guests. I shared the spooky story with the Koosers and we all thought it was confounding. Within an hour, no further thought was given to the ghostly mischief.

Last week, I returned home from yet another of many trips around the country to speak. My lovely bride shared with me a chilling development. Earlier in the week, she had discovered one lone key laying in the middle of the bed. A made bed. How did a key get in the middle of a bed that had just been made that morning? She showed me the key. Immediately, I went to the utility room door…the door out of our house that is closest to the garden cottage.

The key is for the lock on that door.

If you are thinking of visiting the wonderful wine country of the Walla Walla Valley, we would love to take you on a tour. We already have many favorite wineries and are discovering new ones each week. But if you come, you should probably stay in a hotel. Visitors may not be welcome at the Mitchells’ new home.

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