Thursday, April 30, 2015

James Thurber’s Ghost Story

It was at the Thurber house where a ghost got in and a grandfather reliving the Civil War shot a police officer.

James Thurber
James Thurber was an American author and cartoonist. His writings were witty and his cartoons, which were often published in The New Yorker magazine reflected his genius.

Thurber lost his sight in his left eye in a childhood accident and by 1952 he had to stop drawing because he went blind in his other eye--but he continued to write by dictating to a secretary.

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During his college years James or Jamie Thurber lived with his family in a home they rented in Columbus, Ohio. This home located at 77 Jefferson Avenue was built in the early 1870s. The land that it stood on was once a part of the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum.

After the original building burnt down the land was divided into lots for homes. From 1913 to 1917 James,' “ large wacky family” lived in this neighborhood.

Thurber House
Jamie’s family included: his father Charles and his mother Mary Agnes better known as Mame. James’ mother was a frustrated actress and comedienne who would launch into performances for whomever happened to be around.

James had two brothers, William the oldest and Robert the youngest. His Grandfather Fisher--who claimed electricity dripped from every open socket in the house--also lived with the family. His bedroom was in the attic.

The family also owned a plethora of dogs.

James’ family was a rich source for many of the stories he wrote. Here is is one about a ghost, he, his mom and brother heard in this home.

The Night the Ghost Got In

In November of 1915, Jamie’s father and older brother went to Indianapolis for the day. His mother and younger brother were both in bed sleeping as he took a bath.

As he was drying off he heard footsteps in the dinning room downstairs. It sounded like someone was quickly circling the table. At first, Jamie thought his father and brother must have returned but the noise persisted and no one came upstairs.

Jamie became concerned that it might be an intruder in the house. He awakened his younger brother and they both listened at the head of the stairs.

For a while all was quiet but the running footsteps started again. The two brothers then heard them come partway up the stairs but when they saw no one they freaked out and slammed the door at the head of the stairs with a loud bang.

Young Mame Thurber
This awoke their mother who came out demanding to know what was going on. Before the boys could explain the noises began again. She like the boys initially concluded there was a burglar in the house.

Neither brother wanted to admit to her they thought it was a ghost.

Mrs. Thurber exclaimed they must call the police. But the phone was out of reach--downstairs. Mrs. Thurber then rushed into her bedroom where she opened her bedroom window. Directly across was the neighbor’s window.

Mrs. Thurber proceeded to throw shoes at this window until one crashed through the glass. She had quite a time calming Mr. Bodwell down-- since it was 2:00 a.m. in the morning--but she finally got his attention long enough to request he call the police.

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When several policemen arrived the family would not go downstairs to let them in so these officers smashed a beveled glass door and entered.

As they rushed up the stairs Mrs. Thurber with a theatrical sweep announced to them there were at least 2 to 3 burglars in the home who had been banging on all the doors and windows.

Skeptical, the police checked all the doors and windows, which were locked. They found no one. As they moved to leave however they heard a loud thud that came from the attic.

Before the family could explain that was just Grandfather Fisher turning over in bed they rushed upstairs. As they charged into his room they woke him up.

His latest hallucination was that General Meade’s men were deserting the rest of the Union troops on the frontline. The police immediately realized they had made a mistake but Grandfather Fisher didn’t recognize them.

He roared. “Back ye cowardly dogs. Back t’ the lines, ye bleeping lily-livered cattle!”

Thinking they were soldiers abandoning the cause he managed to grab one of the officers' guns and fired a shot at another. This bullet grazed the shoulder of this police officer. The cops then made a hasty retreat back downstairs.

James Thurber stated afterwards he regretted that he had started the whole mess.

The Thurber House is open to the public and they offer a variety of tours--including a ghost tour.

Recent paranormal activity observed in the home includes:

A piano playing by itself, and a radio that changes stations at will.

When the Dinning Room chairs are moved in order to vacuum staff often finds these chairs back in place.

Clock that
A broken clock on the downstairs landing is heard chiming four times.

The home’s kitchen cabinets are heard rattling, especially at night.

Apparitions have been seen in the attic. The shadow of a hefty man is seen crossing in front of the attic window and one visitor while looking in a mirror in this room saw a man wearing a bowler hat staring back at her. When she turned around he was not there.

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