Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Twelve Nights of Christmas

The Twelve Nights of Christmas

by T.R.Hart
     The Characters:
              The Anders Family - Bob and Jeannie, son Billy, and daughter Kathleen
·        Ed Sharp - Realtor and amateur historian.
·        The Cottlers - Eli and Rachel, daughter Elizabeth ("Lizzie"), and son little James.
·        Emmett Cottler and his sisters, one fat, the other thin.
·        Sparky Jacobs
- handyman.
Cape Cod 1965:

    Robert "Bob" Anders could hardly believe his luck when he first noticed that the old Cottler mansion at the end of town was up for sale while visiting his mother the summer that his father passed away, leaving her alone in the big house that he grew up in. His sisters Jan and Susan, lived within earshot of their mother's home. The Cottler house was a beautiful old Victorian just off of route 6, facing the ocean. The Cottlers, who lived there were long gone, but their distant relatives, who had hired caretakers to keep up the property, decided that it was too costly to keep. Bob made his decision then and there that the Anders family would be the new owners of the house with the "Widow's Walk"

   He had grown up near the Nauset Lighthouse, met his wife Jeanie at Nauset High School, got married, had two kids, and moved away to make his mark in real estate near the Boston suburbs earning a small fortune, buying, and selling properties for a handsome profit. He was so successful that he could retire when he turned fifty, but his goal was to run a successful bed and breakfast. Bob and his wife Jeannie dreamed about it for a long time,  but never had enough time or money to make it a reality.

   One night while he was watching some mindless television show sipping hot buttered rum and lying on the sofa, he said,  "Jeannie, I think that we should make a go of it before we are too old to try..." "Try what Bob?” she answered while rubbing her aching shoulder. "Jeannie, I want to buy the old Cottler place. I think I can get it at a good price and now is the time to buy ( it). I have a real good feeling that we could make it work. You can quit your nursing job at the hospital and do what you always wanted to do. You 're the best darn cook in Boston!" Joanie thought about it, patted Bob's ever-expanding waistline and said, "I think I'd be the best darn cook on Cape Cod too!" They toasted their decision, Bob with his rum and  Jeanie with a glass of  warm milk.  'Besides,' she thought, 'I never got over being homesick for the "Cape"'.

   Ed Sharp, a small fat man with horn-rimmed glasses, and a bald head covered by hair swept over with a very low part,  was the realtor handling the sale of the Cottler place He ushered Bob and Joan into a small room with a long table. It was here that the Anders met the last surviving relatives of the "Aristocratic" Cottlers for the house settlement. They were a strange little group, an old bachelor and his two spinster sisters. Emmet Cottler was dressed in an old fashioned double breasted woolen suit and an oversized straw hat with a wide brim. His sisters were attired in frumpy looking dresses concealed beneath their winter coats, which they refused to take off complaining about cold drafts even though the office was quite warm. Bob knew that he had a bargain at twenty- five thousand dollars. The Cottlers looked smug knowing that they had gotten their asking price. When the checks were signed and distributed, Emmet folded his check, pulled up his pant leg, and put it into his sock. "Cannot never be too careful," he said with a wink of his bushy eyebrows. "Never know when somebody would rob yeh!" His sisters looked bug-eyed at their checks and then, quickly followed their brothers example. They turned their backs toward the others and stuffed the checks into their bras. Sharp and the Anders could hardly contain their laughter. Well aware that her actions seemed ridiculous, the taller and thinner of the women snapped, "don't you be laughin' at us. You just bought a "haunted" house."

Bob and Jeannie stayed at Bob's mother's house for a little less than a week bringing family heirlooms that they didn’t feel comfortable having moved, while Billy and Kathleen would stay with their friends, finish their exams, and then make the final move.

   Jeannie left her nursing job of 25 years and was given a little party Friday afternoon, when two people involved in a car accident, were rushed into the E.R. The party was cut short. One of the drivers, a teenager, had minimal bruises, but the other driver, an elderly woman, who got T-boned when she rolled through a stop sign, would soon die from her injuries. Joanie wanted to stay and help, but was told to go home with well wishes from her friends and staff. Besides, there was nothing anyone could have done to save her.

   Bob pulled off a big deal that day and decided to celebrate by taking his wife to the movies. He wanted to see the new James Bond movie playing at the local theater, but there was a lot of buzz  about Doctor Zhivago and Joan desperately wanted to see it. He knew he was beat, and he thought to himself "it's probably a love story." He actually loved it!

 Tuesday, December 21st, 1965 - The First Night

      The Anders pulled their brand new Country Squire stationwagon into the driveway of their new home at about 11:00 A.M.  Bob pulled next to the mailbox which was being buffeted by the wind. He rolled down the window, opened it and stuck his hand in feeling around for any mail that might be there. ‘Empty!’ he grimaced. ‘You were expecting something dear?’ Jeannie laughed.

   Kathleen gave the house a long looking over and said: ‘Look at the strange balcony on top of the roof!’ Billy thought that it looked like a cage as it was surrounded by a cast iron railing. ‘That’s the “widow’s walk” laughed Bob. ‘It was made for the captain’s wife so she could look out for his return, but maybe I’ll lock your mother up there if she gives me any trouble.’ Jeannie gave her husband a nudge with her elbow. Bob feigned injury and swore that his arm was broken.

   Billy was the first to exit the car and immediately lost his hat to the wind. He ran after the hat and finally stamped on it with his foot and stopped it from flying away. Kathleen laughed at her brother’s frantic chase and tried to leave the car, but was pushed back into her seat by a terrific gust of wind. ‘Looks like somebody wants us to go home!’ she said. Everyone was in such high spirits, eager to enter the house.

   Bob made a fire in the hearth while the furnace kicked on, much to Jeannie’s relief. Within an hour the house was warm enough to be comfortable. The coffee perked away at the stove, and the delicious aroma of warm bread baked by Bob’s mother permeated the kitchen. Jeannie surveyed the enormous kitchen while making mental notes. Her house in Boston had such a tiny kitchen. She could move freely about without bumping into someone getting a drink or a snack. From this moment the kitchen would become her “office’.

   Billy and Kathleen could be heard running up and down the hallway searching for their rooms. ‘Don’t get too comfortable’ shouted their mother, ‘we’re going to need the larger front rooms for the guests!’ Kathleen wanted the north side room despite her disappointing view. From her window  the only thing that she could see was the cemetery.  It gave her an creepy feeling. Her father insisted that she was being silly, and that there was nothing to fear. Besides, he said: ‘You should be happy to have such quiet neighbors.’

   Dinner was a simple affair that evening. The menu would be hot soup and sandwiches. Hot chocolate followed and they couldn’t resist toasting some marshmallows in the fireplace even though Bob would have preferred chestnuts. The old house creaked and groaned under the force of a  northeasterly wind. At about nine o’clock it seemed to abate somewhat, but the weather could be expected to get worse. After all, today was the first day of winter.
   The Anders had retired after a long day at about ten o’clock. The wind eventually calmed down. The house became still, and quiet, but at about eleven  Kathleen woke to the sound of footsteps in the hallway. She left her bed and peeked out of her door. There was no one there. 'Perhaps Billy had sneaked down to the kitchen for a snack,' she thought. She closed the door and went back to sleep.

 Wednesday, December 22nd, 1965 - The Second Night

   Jeannie was delighted that her stove was still working perfectly despite its antiquated appearance. She rose early that morning enthusiastic and full of Christmas Spirit despite the unusually warm weather that December. The aroma of freshly perked coffee beckoned Bob from his well earned slumber. Billy was banging around the linen closet doors upstairs looking for more toilet paper. Kathleen came through the servant’s entrance with her hair still in curlers, rumpled up robe and overgrown slippers looking as if she had been up all night.
   ‘Whoa, this house is haunted after all!’ Bob laughed. The laughter was not returned. ‘Didn’t sleep well, honey?’ Jeannie asked. ‘I’ve been up half the night,’ she replied. ‘Didn’t you hear that noise on the roof? It sounded like someone was walking around up there and I heard moaning too!’ ‘Probably heard a cat,’ Billy said as he sauntered in the room looking for something to eat. Kathleen, who was already in a bad mood snapped, ‘what cat would be on the roof Einstein?” ‘A flying cat... Genius!’ he snapped back. Jeannie gave them the “arched-eyebrow” and the fighting stopped immediately. Bob just snickered a little and drank his coffee. He promised to take a look up on the roof after he rummaged in the attic for a while for any “treasures” he might find.

   Bob had been looking around the attic that afternoon when he found a large box hidden in the corner. He brought his utility light closer and saw some Chinese lettering on it. Realizing that he needed to bring it downstairs to open it he called for Billy to help him. After about two or three unanswered calls he thumped his foot several times on the floor. ‘You okay up there Dad?’ came Billy’s response. ‘No, I’m dead…get up here!’ he shouted. Billy popped his head from the staircase and said: ‘You look pretty good for a dead guy Dad!”  He ducked the playful head slap from his father.

   It took about 15 minutes to get the large crate down the attic steps and another ten down the main staircase to the spacious parlor which would someday be the lobby of their bed and breakfast. “Cool!’ shouted Billy. “What a find!” Bob hooted. Kathleen and Jeannie came in to see what the fuss was all about. Standing in the middle of the floor was a child’s rocking toy in the shape of a Chinese Dragon. It was exquisitely and delicately carved painted in red with gold leaf accents. The head was arched backward as if ready to spew fire from its fanged jaws, and the eyes were inlaid with semi-precious green stones. It was lacquered to perfection and must have been a very special gift for a child from a wealthy family.

     ‘What a beautiful antique you two found,’ Joan gasped. It looks like it might be from the nineteenth or maybe even eighteenth century.’ They all stood there in excitement at the prospect of other things they might find in the attic. ‘Well, this is going to need some cleaning…and it looks like the right ear has been repaired,’ said Bob as he inspected the rocker close up from head to tail. ‘You’ll have plenty of time after Christmas,’ Jeannie reminded him, ‘besides we have a lot of work to do before Christmas.

   The Anders house was bustling with activity that day. Everyone whistled and sang Christmas Carols while decorating the windows, staircase and fireplace mantel. Bob bought a ten foot tree for Christmas that looked enormous, but was dwarfed in comparison to the high ceiling. After setting it up they decided that they would wait until the next day to decorate it. Everyone was exhausted. They were content with warmed-up leftovers for dinner.

   All were in bed early that night except for Kathleen. She was sitting up in her bed reading her book when she heard footsteps in the hallway. She looked at the clock. It was eleven o’clock. She peeped her head from behind her door and saw nothing. Perhaps Billy was playing a joke on her, she thought. She decided that she was a little scared and went back to her bed. It was quiet for a few minutes and then she heard footsteps on the attic stairs. The hatch was heard opening to the widows walk and then crying. As the wind picked up, the crying died away. Kathleen covered her head and listened for a while but heard nothing. She soon fell into a deep sleep, exhausted by the events of the day.

Thursday, December 23rd, 1965 - The Third Night

   The Anders were awakened by a loud crash from downstairs at 2:42 A.M. Bob jumped out of his bed so fast that he forgot to put on his glasses and bumped into Billy as he went to flick on the light switch outside his bedroom door. Jeannie and Kathleen followed behind them in the dimly lit hallway. Billy was ready for any danger armed with his Louisville Slugger. His mother was relieved that it wasn't used on his father when the two men bumped into each other. Some of Kathleen’s rollers had fallen out of her hair ruining her Patty Duke hairstyle that she planned to wear for Christmas Eve.

  The Anders crept slowly down the staircase casting menacing shadows that looked more like bears than people on the wall behind them. When they got down to the parlor Bob flicked on the light switch revealing the Dragon rocker lying on its side with a broken right ear. The damage was minor as it was broken along the line of a previous repair. ‘Thank goodness the other ear wasn’t broken,’ said Jeannie, ‘it is such a lovely antique.’

   Bob Anders treated this as a crime scene. He forbade anyone to come near the Rocker and inspected every door and window. He noticed a cold wind coming from the fireplace. ‘Ah, I think I’ve solved the crime.’ He checked the fireplace. The flue was open. He pulled down on the cast iron door and gave it a tug. ‘We’ll have to remember to keep this closed when we aren’t using the fire place. Santa is just going to have to use the front door like everyone else.’ Realizing that he was the only one laughing he scratched his head, slapped his belly and said ‘Papa Bear is tired, let’s all go back to bed.’

   That afternoon Jeannie and Kathleen decided to look for more treasures in the attic while Bob, assured by his wife that the two women could be left unprotected, decided to do some last minute shopping. He dropped Billy off at an electronics store to pick up some parts for his transistor radio kit, and headed to the department store to buy some new tree lights. He felt “successful” that afternoon, watching his reflection in the store windows as he drove past them in his new stationwagon. He spotted Emmett Cottler walking down the street with his familiar jaunting gait. His long thin legs seemed to jump out of his long black frock coat, and, for a moment, Bob Anders thought that Cottler resembled "Marley’s Ghost". He remembered the strange remark about him buying a haunted house. He chuckled and said to himself: ‘Heck, Cottler and his sisters were the only ones that ever haunted my house!’

   There were many “treasures” to be found in the attic. Evidently, Christmas was a popular event in the Cottler home. Jeannie could hardly contain her excitement as she hauled box after box down the attic steps despite her chronic back pain and noticeable girth. She made numerous trips up and down the steps herself and decided that she had enough for the day, but Kathleen nagged her mother to come up one more time so they could take a look at the “Widow’s Walk”. The hatch to the roof was pretty heavy but the two women pushed hard to open it. A strong wind from the outside took hold of the hatch door wrenching from their hands.  ‘Well, that was convenient,’ said Jeannie and the two women giggled like schoolgirls as they climbed up the steps.

   The panorama from the widow’s walk was breathtaking. The ocean view was eastward, the town was to the south and west, and the cemetery was just below them at the northern end of the house. Kathleen, uninterested in “The Cape's” history was fascinated by the vista, but Jeannie felt something deeper. She was thinking of the Captains’ wife standing on her roof staring out to the sea searching for her husband, brother, or son’s returning ship. Many wives had suffered the hardships of an ocean voyage and understood the dangers encountered on each voyage which could last up to two years or even more. It must have been such a lonely life. Jeannie couldn’t imagine being away from Bob for even a week. He was her best friend, and the only man she ever loved since the day they met in High School. The wind picked up and blew the women’s hair in every direction causing them to make a hasty retreat into the house.

   Bob and Billy bounced through the front door with some packages and the tree lights late that afternoon. ‘Mmmm Mmmm, that smells dee-licious!’ Bob shouted. ‘Mom is teaching me how to cook,’ said Kathleen, wearing the new apron her mother bought for the occasion. Billy made some comments about the cooking but was sure to keep an eye out for the infamous arched eyebrow that kept him from going too far.

   The Christmas tree lights shone on each carefully placed glass Victorian era ornament discovered that afternoon in the attic. A well-pleased but exhausted Anders family were in bed by eight o’clock that evening. At eleven, a Kathleen woke from a deep sleep to hear the familiar footsteps and a woman’s weeping on the roof. Another set of footsteps followed…slowly ...then, a woman’s scream! Did she really hear a scream or was she having a nightmare?

Friday, December 24th, 1965 - The Fourth Night

   Everyone except Kathleen was in a festive mood at breakfast. She played with her hair and toyed with her food. ‘You’re not going to get it curled that way,’ Jeannie teased.
   'Mom …did you or Daddy  hear anything that sounded like a woman’s scream last night? I wasn’t sure if I dreamt it.’ Billy took his last mouthful of breakfast, and mumbled something like ‘too many mystery books before bed.’ Trying to comfort his daughter, Bob attributed the scream to a cat fight. The footsteps? …‘Just old Santa checking to see who was naughty or nice!’

   Bob and Kathleen went up to the widow’s walk and enjoyed the view. The weather was beautiful that day, but unusually warm for that time of year. While inspecting the railings for any weakness or damage, he noticed that something must have been bolted to the roof at one time. He remembered seeing a large metal tripod in the attic and realized it was probably a for lighting a fire to the keep watching widow warm on a cold night. 'We can use use it to barbecue,' he thought.

   Family members dropped by to visit around 6 P.M.  Later in the evening a group of Carolers from the local church were invited into the Ander’s home for some hot chocolate and fresh baked “goodies” from the oven. It was a joyous night full of laughter and well-wishes for the success of the bread and breakfast. All unpleasant thoughts of owning a haunted house were forgotten amid the revelry and good cheer.

   The last persons to arrive were the gloomy Cottlers. Jeannie pulled Bob to the side and said ‘I guess they're  here for the free refreshments.’ ‘Yeah, check the handbags for cookies on the way out.’ he whispered back. Emmet and his sisters gave a quick inspection of the house, grabbed some cookies and exited without saying a word, which was probably just as well.
   The last guest left at about 10:30 that night and the Anders were getting ready for bed. Kathleen waited for the eleven o’clock drama to unfold and was not disappointed although she had wished that she would be. The same scenario was being played out but this time everyone in the house was awake and heard the footsteps, the crying, and the scream!

   Bob and Jeannie ran out into the hall. Billy was fumbling around looking for his baseball bat. ‘See, I told you that I heard a scream. Now do you believe me?’ There was no reply but the look of terror on her parent’s faces told her that they were believers too. Bob and Billy went up into a darkened attic with a lantern looking for signs of cat, bat, or even an intruder. They opened the hatch to the widow’s walk and found…nothing. The wind and the cold went right through their pajamas and both men decided that they would do their investigating during the day. There were no more disturbances that night and the Anders slept soundly.

Saturday, December 25th, 1965 - The Fifth Night

   Billy and Kathleen rose at the crack of dawn to open their presents. Bob and Jeannie were already in the kitchen sipping their morning cup of coffee smiling at each other and savoring the moment. Billy was excited as he ripped open his presents to find a short wave radio kit, some electronic gadgets and an electrician’s tool belt which he suspected was a gift from his father. Kathleen was thankful for the clothes and hair accessories, but gave out a scream of her own when she unwrapped the heavy gift that turned out to be the portable typewriter that she had hoped for.  Jeannie encouraged Kathleen to be the family’s “Agatha Christie”.  

   Bob and Jeannie opened their presents which were “practical” and would be needed for their new venture. Bob, who was just as business savvy as he was handy, would declare their presents as necessary deductions from his income tax for the year.

   Everyone in the family celebrated Christmas Day at Bob’s mother’s house. There weren’t as many decorations since it was the first year that Mrs. Anders would spend the holiday without her husband of almost sixty years, but she put aside her grief for the day and cooked a huge turkey that fed three families. The Anders left at about 5 P.M. while Bob’s sisters stayed with their mother to help clean up.

   As soon as they returned to their house Billy and Kathleen disappeared into their rooms. The sound of typing could be heard from the hallway and down into the parlor. Jeannie was arranging some pots in the pantry when she smelled something burning. She looked into the parlor and saw that the tree was on fire. She grabbed the fire extinguisher that Bob had bought for the kitchen and began to put out the fire. Bob heard Jeannie scream and ran to parlor. Despite Jeannie’s quick thinking, the tree was still standing, but ruined. The beautiful glass ornaments were broken, lying scattered around the base of the tree.

   The Anders were cleaning up the mess and noticed that parlor suddenly became cold again. Bob checked the flue but it was shut tight. The parlor started to become warm again after about 15 minutes had passed.  He remembered that Ed Sharp, the realtor, had recommended Sparky Jacobs, the local handyman. Bob would call him first thing in the morning to check the furnace and get an estimate to do some rewiring and installation of a  a new fuse box. Bob cursed to himself thinking that the lights probably set the tree on fire. He checked every bulb but they were intact and, incredible as it seemed, the tree was unplugged.

   Jeannie was the last person to go to bed that night. She thought to herself as she climbed the steps. ‘I have to lose some weight. I’m going on a strict diet after the new year.’ When she got up to the top of the steps she thought she saw a ghostly image of a women dressed in Victorian style clothes pass through the attic door. Jeannie decided that she was just tired and decided to keep this to herself. There had been enough excitement for the day.

   Kathleen and her mother laid awake in their beds waiting for the nightly drama to begin. It resumed at eleven o’clock (they counted each church bell bong) and ended around a quarter of an hour later. They both slept very little that night.
Sunday, December 26th, 1965 - The Sixth Night

   "Sparky" Jacobs had already finished his fishing that morning when he showed up at the Ander's residence at 9 A.M. He was a remarkably fit man in his mid sixties. Bob felt a little ashamed of  the spare tire around his waist as he was only approaching fifty. Sparky was a typical taciturn Yankee and went right to work running up and down the steps like a teenager, taking measurements and jotting down information in the little notebook that he kept in his shirt pocket. Sparky was an old navy man who learned his trade on the fleet ships by climbing up and down the tallest masts and crawling in the smallest holds. Rewiring the house would be no mean feat and Bob was a bit nervous at the thought of the cost, but to his relief, Sparky's prices were very reasonable. . The two men struck a deal. Sparky's only condition was that he would be fishing if he got a nice day during the winter season.

   'How did you make out with the handyman?' Jeannie asked. 'Sparky's a helluva nice guy honey...gave me a very reasonable price, checked the furnace... said it was fine...didn't even charge me even though he spent almost a half an hour cleaning it!'

   As the Anders were cleaning up their dinner they heard  the sound of rocking in the parlor and a faint sound of a child's laughter. They all looked at each other. Jeannie held her finger to her lips signaling all of them to keep quiet. They crept into the parlor and were shocked to discover the Dragon rocking back and forth by itself. The laughter became louder as the rocking increased. Suddenly the rocker lurched backward and fell on its side with a great "thud". 'No draft would cause it to rock like that Daddy,' whispered Kathleen. 'I think I'd better call on Ed Sharp tomorrow morning,' he replied.

   At 10 PM that night the Anders waited for the ghostly woman to appear. Shortly after the hour she appeared seeming to float in the air ascending the staircase. Kathleen held her breath as the phantom passed by her within a foot or so. The woman did not seem to notice them as she made her way to the attic door and passed through. The same nightly scenario unfolded once again and ended with a bloodcurdling scream.

Monday, December 27th, 1965 - The Seventh Night

   Ed Sharp was taking his last bite of his egg sandwich when he heard a knock on his office door. He checked the clock and realized that he was almost ten minutes late and turned the sign over that said "Closed" to "Open". Bob Anders was standing there with a big grin as Ed apologized profusely. 'Been waitin' long Bob?' 'Nah,' he lied. Bob had been circling around  in his car since eight that morning unaware that the office opened at nine. He was reluctant to bang on the door earlier not wanting to bother one of his fellow Realtors, but he was eager to get information about the Cottler House. Ed Sharp was not only the town's most successful realtor, but he was also its most knowledgeable citizen, spending hours of his spare time in the local library examining Cape Cod's records and compiling them into several historical volumes. Using his G.I.bill he had decided to go to college where he majored in business, but minored in History.

If there was a birth, death, marriage, or real estate certificate to be found, Ed would comb over the town's ledgers which were being converted into micro fiches to save space in the library.
   Bob Anders got to the point and described the strange events that occurred since they had purchased the Cottler House. 'I'm surprised that you didn't call me already Bob. There's been lots of stories about the house being haunted, but I never believed it myself. It has a real interesting history I'd say...quite an interesting bunch of characters.' 'I believe it,' he replied, 'Emmet Cottler and his crazy sisters stopped by to take a look on Christmas Eve. They didn't say a word, but they gave me the impression that they suspected something was going on.'

   Business was slow during that time of year, so Ed decided to close the office for the day, and take Bob to the library to do some detective work. Bob , who was a head taller than his companion, regretted accepting a ride in Ed's tiny Volkswagen, the fuel efficient "Beetle", which always attracted derisive comments and the attention of curious onlookers.

   It took Bob a couple of minutes to restore feeling in his long legs after being cramped into the passenger seat for about 20 minutes. The trip to the library should have taken about 5 minutes but Ed was atypical for a "Cape Codder". He was a talkative type and would stop to chat with everyone he knew on the way.

   The Eastham Public library had been in operation since February 11, 1878, when $175 was appropriated for a library at a town meeting to  "enrich the lives, and to aid in educating the children of the townspeople." It had originally been the upper room of the small building that housed the post office. The population had more than doubled by 1960, but the circulation of its volumes had increased twenty fold. Ed was proud to be a member of its board and was active in the building campaign.

    Mrs. Wiggins, the sole librarian, whispered a greeting to the two men although there was no one else present at the time. Bob took it as a warning to observe their strict rule of silence. It wasn't long before Ed had found information on the Cottler house as well as its inhabitants.

   'It seems that the house was built in 1836 by Eli Cottler, married to Rachel Price in 1824. They had two children Elizabeth born 1826, and James in 1835.  Mr. Cottler seems to have begun his naval career as an able seaman on a whaling ship, but eventually rose to the rank of Captain. It says here that he  purchased "The  Puffin", a merchant ship, in 1825, and renamed it 'The Rachel". He must have done well to purchase a ship and a house like yours within a short time, Bob. He paid bank loans back then!'

   The two men spent hours searching for more information on the Cottlers. Ed was able to find other  information from the death records. Tragedy struck in 1841 when little James died unexpectedly. A year later, Eli set off for another voyage to the Orient but was never seen again. Mrs. Cottler  seems to have died in 1857, a victim of an unfortunate accident at home. Elizabeth never married, and died at the ripe old age of 82 in 1908.

   Bob returned home later that afternoon and recounted the information that he and Ed Sharp had uncovered about the Cottlers.  'That poor woman,' Jeannie thought.  As a wife and mother, she could not comprehend surviving the loss of a child and spouse within such a short period of time. She wondered how Mrs. Cottler had the strength to continue living.

   Jeannie had decided to stay up and read for a little while after the family had gone to bed. She soon fell asleep on the sofa with her book still cradled in her hands, but was awakened by the sound of someone or something close by. Thinking that her husband had come to take her to bed Jeannie opened her eyes slowly to find a ghostly apparition writing in a small book seated at a desk. The woman seemed anxious, turning her head as if she was afraid to be seen. She rose from the desk and walked directly to the fireplace mantel. She removed a piece of wood from its side panel and placed the book within it. The woman began her ghostly ascent on the staircase and through the attic door. Within minutes the scream was heard again. The time on the mantel clock read 11:15 P.M.

   Jeannie was surprised that she not afraid, but felt a profound sense of sorrow.  The Spirit had not tried to harm her. Perhaps, Jeannie thought, she was reaching out for help.  

Tuesday, December 28th, 1965 – The Eighth Night

    The Anders were seated around the kitchen table while Jeannie recounted her ghostly encounter. The mournful woman, the book, and the desk had all vanished with her. Kathleen was emboldened by daylight and eager to find the secret hiding place her mother described. She ran to the fireplace and began to feel around its edges, but found nothing. Bob had ascertained that the mantel of the fireplace, which was of a later Art Nouveau style from the late 1890s, could not possibly have been the original. The hearth had been resurfaced in decorative ceramics but the original thick oak beams surrounded by brickwork lay beneath it.
'Daddy, we have to remove the tile to find the book!' Kathleen pleaded. Bob argued that he wouldn't pull apart a mantel piece to look for  something that might not even exist. Jeannie begged him too and insisted that she hated the mantel and that it wouldn't be considered an appropriate period piece anyway. Sensing that her husband would not consent to her plea she decided to use her secret weapon...tears. 'Bob!' she cried, 'Rachel Cottler is reaching out to us from the grave!'

   Billy was abstaining from a vote but Bob knew that he was outnumbered. How could he refuse a poor woman's call for help from the great beyond? How could he live with two women who thought that he was heartless? Bob scratched his head, reaching into that thick bird's nest he called a pompadour and knew that he had his work cut out for himself.

   Bob was delighted to discover that the fireplace mantel had been installed in large sections. He was able to remove the mantel with little damage. He had been correct in his assumption that the original mantelpiece was made of thick oak timbers that looked as if they were ripped the hull of "Old Ironsides". Jeannie and Kathleen gave him quick hug and began to feel around the edges for any loose piece of wood that might be used to hide the book. 'You're welcome,' Bob teased.

   Kathleen detected an irregular seam in the woodwork. It appeared to run up and down with the grain of the wood but was darker in color. She picked at it with a penknife and became excited saying: 'It's not the grain but something like tar.' Jeannie ran over to inspect the wood while motioning to Bob to come look. 'It's pitch," he said. 'They used it to caulk the seams in the ships.' Kathleen began to dig into the timber finding the edges of a piece of wood that covered a hollow space. Billy had hoped for hidden cash but he stuck his hand into the whole and pulled out a small book. It was just as Jeannie had described it. It was a journal written by Rachel Cottler!

   The rest of the evening had been uneventful. Jeannie and Kathleen had been riveted to each page of the beautifully handwritten diary. The events of the night played out again that night, but there was no scream.   

Wednesday, December 29th, 1965 - The Ninth Night

   Sparky Jacobs was pulling wire through the floorboards and up the sidewalls early that morning. Late that afternoon he was working up in the attic and saw a small sliver of light coming from behind one of the walls. 'That can't be coming from outside he reasoned as it had become dark around 4 o'clock. The light had to be emanating from within the house. He dug deeper into the hole and realized that there was a small room hidden behind a false wall.

   The old handyman reported his finding to the family in his usual manner of fact style, but the family was instantly filled with visions of priceless antiques, a murdered soul, or perhaps, as Billy hoped, a treasure chest. The corners of Sparky's mouth turned up into a slight grin shifting his ever present cigarette upward and to the right. 'Eh, don't be supposin' that old Captain Cottler were a pirate, but ye never can be sure.'

   Kathleen and Jeannie were obsessed with Rachel's diary. The entry on Christmas Day 1840 read:
 'Our Lord had been kind to us this year. Eli has returned to us safely and with a successful procurement and delivery of a large shipment of sandalwood for the English market. Our providence has been rewarded by the almighty grace from Heaven's bounty"
'We are blessed all to be together and in good health. Little James was thrilled upon seeing the Dragon rocker that Saint Nicholas had brought for him. He spent the day in high spirits. Lizzie seems so sullen of late. She had been quite cross with little James as he has tried to cheer her on. I pray for her happiness as she has given me much cause for worry and consternation. - Rachel Cottler
  Bob and Billy set to work on tearing down the false wall in the attic. They had ripped enough of the boards down to reveal several boxes neatly placed on shelves that had been constructed on the southern exterior wall. Billy's joy had turned to chagrin when he opened a box only to find old sailor's clothing and nautical artifacts. 'One man's trash is another man's treasure,' quipped his dad. 'Ol' Ed Sharp is going to "go ape" when he sees this.

   Some of the smaller boxes contained copper plate photographs, called daguerreotypes, named after its inventor Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre. Kathleen found two small miniature paintings enclosed in lockets which portrayed  a youthful Eli and his betrothed Rachel.  A sad-eyed  Elizabeth, or better known as "Lizzie" depicted her as a toddler. Kathleen was admiring the largest of the paintings, a little boy in a sailor's uniform. 'Mom, that must be little James!' It was at this moment that a great shout reverberated throughout the house, bodiless footsteps pounded on the staircase, and the attic door which had been left open, slammed shut!

Thursday, December 30th,  1965 - The Tenth Night

   The Anders breakfast was a quiet affair that morning. Jeannie decided to take the kids out for a "breather" after the bone-chilling ordeal that they had experienced the night before. Ed Sharp, a confirmed bachelor, called early that morning to invite himself over to the house. He brought several articles and abstracts which he copied in regards to  the history of the house and Cottler family.

   Kathleen and Billy gave a quick hello and goodbye to Ed as they bolted for the car. Jeannie gave her husband a big hug, giggled a little and said: 'Say a prayer for us. Billy just got his permit and begged me to let him drive.' Bob responded by giving her a kiss on the forehead and made the sign of the cross. Bob guarded his stomach from being poked by his wife's finger.

   Earlier that morning Ed had gathered some information from Emmet Cotter and  his oddball sisters. He saw them walking down Samoset Rd. on the way back from the Eastham Town Library and offered them a ride. Emmet hesitated for a moment but his sisters squeezed themselves into the back seat. The fat sister yelled,' Get in  the car Em, you're letting the heat out!'

   Each of the Cottlers had their own story to tell. Eli was either lost at sea, fell in with wreckers of the Florida Keys ( How else could he have gotten rich so quickly), or as the thin sister insisted, ran away with another woman. Lizzie and her mother were left penniless it seems when Eli was either dead or had abandoned his family, so they decided to open up their home to board old sailors. Emmet and his sisters agreed that Mrs. Cottler had bouts of severe melancholy after the death of little James (What mother wouldn't), and committed suicide by throwing herself off the Widow's Walk in a fit of insanity. The fat sister couldn't resist the temptation to disparage Lizzie, the last surviving member of the house. 'She acted the saint, bet' she weren't no saint at' all. Those men who went to live there never lasted very long!'

   Ed was glad to drop off the Cottlers at their dirty little bungalow situated east of the old Cape Cod railroad trail. He wasn't surprised that they got out of the car and walked away without thanking him for the ride. 'Strange birds, those Cottlers,' he mused.

   Lizzie lived in the house for a little more than 50 years after her mother's death. Her obituary described her as a "kindly woman ,a generous benefactor to the community, and friend to all persons in need. Miss Cottler operated the Old Sailors Home from 1845 until 1888 when old age would prohibit her from providing the personal care that she had performed so dutifully.'

   'She must've been one helluva good woman,' Bob commented, 'She took care of her poor mother as well.' 'You wouldn't know that if you believed what Emmet and his sisters said, ' Ed replied. 'They said that she was a real beauty in her day, but she that was so mean and get madder than a hornet if she didn't get her way. No man wanted to marry her!' Bob laughed and said: 'Ah...they're a bunch of nuts!'

   Ed was leaving when Jeannie and the kids arrived home that afternoon. 'Anything strange happen when we were away Ed?', she laughed. 'Nope, nothing strange here but me and Bob!'

   Jeannie had brought a pizza home that everyone agreed was awful. 'I sure miss the pizza in Boston' Billy moaned. 'Didn't keep you from eating more than your fair share!' Kathleen snapped back. Within minutes of finishing their meal, Kathleen could be heard typing in her room, Billy's radio playing some Pop tunes, and Bob repairing the hole in the fireplace mantel.

   'Hey Honey, he said. 'I think I found another book in here.' It was another book they recognized as Rachel Cottler's. Jeannie and Bob flipped through the book and found that she had faithfully kept her journal until shortly before her death. The poor woman had been in mourning for little James who had been her constant companion when Eli was away at sea. She described him as a "bright and handsome little laddie" full of mirth, sensitivity and kindness.

    'It seems that mother and daughter were having some problems too.' Jeannie observed.  ' Rachel wrote here that she suspected her daughter of killing little James and that she was poisoning the old men too!'. 'Don't believe everything you read Honey, the poor woman may have been delusional.' 'No Bob, I believe it.She says here that Lizzie was insanely jealous of little James and was the last person to be alone with him when he fell from the rocker.' She lived in fear of her daughter who constantly taunted her with death threats. I believe that she was a real monster just like the Cottlers said.'

   As soon as those words left her mouth, Jeannie felt a cold draft pass by her. The bodiless footsteps stomped up the staircase and the door to one of the unoccupied rooms flew open. Bob and Jeannie ran up the stair huffing and puffing. Kathleen and Billy rushed from their rooms to see what the commotion was all about. Inside the room they witnessed the what looked like a flickering image of a man thrashing about in bed with his head covered by a pillow held by a  young woman standing above him. The woman turned toward them, angrily motioning them to leave, and disappeared as if nothing had transpired. The house was quiet again.

   The Anders were all shaking from their experience. They all decided to keep together that night in the parlor. Jeannie made hot chocolate and Bob lit a fire in case the house grew cold again. They took turns napping and watching the fire that evening. Kathleen and Jeannie watched the clock on the mantel and dreaded the Eleventh hour that would bring the nightly terror. As the Church bell began ringing in the distance Rachel appeared at her desk. It looked as if an old silent movie was being projected into the parlor. She looked anxious, turning her head from side to side as if she were in fear from something or someone. She hurried to the mantel and wafted up the steps. Once again the cold breeze blew throughout the house. A mist followed Rachel's ghostly image up the steps through the attic door and up to the widow's watch. They heard the familiar footsteps, then the second set, and then the scream!' No one slept that night.

Friday, December 31st, 1965 - The Eleventh Night

   Ed called Bob around 1P.M. He was surprised to find that the family had just woken up. Bob explained that they fell asleep at around six in the morning. Although he invited himself over, the Anders were glad to have any company that wasn't a ghost.

   Billy was working on the Dragon rocker's ear when he suddenly found himself thrown backward and landed on the floor. He was shocked to see the ghostly apparition of a young woman standing over him giving him a menacing look. Then, in an instant she was gone!

   The Anders were thumbing through some photo copies that Ed had brought with him. Kathleen found photo of a painting depicting a mature Eli Cottler. He wore a Quaker beard with shaved upper lip, and was dressed in a Captain's uniform. The painting had hung in the parlor of the Old Sailors home but had since been lost. There were some photos of the house as it had looked when it had been the home, but one in particular had several old sailors seated in front of a beautiful young woman with a hardened expression on her face. 'That's her!' Billy shouted, 'that's the woman I saw when the rocker threw me!' 'Surely you mean that you fell.' Ed insisted. 'No Mr. Sharp, I felt the rocker being pulled backward. I tried to break my fall but I landed on the floor. She was the woman I saw standing over me...and I was scared to death of her!' Kathleen wanted to make a joke but stopped herself. She realized that there was nothing funny about this.

   Ed was surprised to be invited to stay for dinner and the night if he chose to. He had nothing pressing at home since he lived alone, so he was grateful for some company. Curiosity had taken hold of his imagination as well, and he hoped to witness an actual  'haunting".

   For the first time in a week the Ander's house was filled with laughter. Jeannie had pulled out some noisemakers and decided that Ed would help them ring in the New Year that night. As the eleventh hour neared the Anders became nervous. Jeannie had been reading Rachel's entries but had kept the revelations about little James death to herself. Lizzie had been the object of her father's affections before little James was born. She had been spoiled by her father who brought her gifts from all over the world. Her jealousy grew as little James had become the focus of his parents' affection. Lizzie had been with the little boy as he rocked on his Dragon. Fearing that he would be harmed, Rachel scolded Lizzie several times before as she rocked little James faster causing him to yell out for her to stop. Rachel heard the scream that preceded the thud which followed immediately afterward. Lizzie was found standing over little James lifeless body.

   James's death had been deemed an accident, but Rachel still bore a hatred for her daughter whom she knew had killed her precious little boy. The Cottler's marriage suffered as Eli had become distant from his grief-stricken wife. It was beyond belief that his Lizzie could be capable of such treachery. Her mother was appalled at the lack of remorse that her daughter showed, but her contentment astonished her. Heated exchanges between the couple would end in hysterical crying and severe depression, then known as melancholia. Unable to console his wife Eli left her for the freedom he felt on the open sea. Despite her nightly vigils on the widow's walk, Rachel would never see her husband again.

   Lizzie was a murderess!.  Lizzie  had murdered little James. Jeannie was sure of it. Rachel had suspected that the deaths of the old sailors had been no accident as well. Lizzie had associated with rough types that her mother had reason to believe were of a criminal element. Perhaps Rachel wanted to report her suspicions, but who would believe her? She was rumored to be mentally unstable, but did she have knowledge that Lizzie feared would implicate her in the deaths as a murderess? Jeannie was convinced that the haunting was an attempt by Lizzie to conceal the awful truth!

   The church bells rang at eleven o'clock. Once again, Rachel's spirit appeared in the parlor. She was fearful and hid the book in the mantel. The drama unfolded before Ed Sharp's eyes as the hair stood  up on the back of his neck. He was surprised to find the Anders quietly observing the spectacle that was taking place. Rachel's spirit once again ascended the staircase followed by an angry pounding of footsteps in pursuit. The Anders chased up the steps to the attic and onto the roof. Ed followed in disbelief as he beheld the ghost of Rachel Cottler looking out towards the ocean, her hands clenched tightly to the rail.

   A violent wind began to blow. Rachel's ghostly image seemed to sway with each gust of wind.  Kathleen yelled, 'Look over at the cemetery!' Several apparitions of men in sailor's uniforms seemed to hover over unmarked graves. Rachel seemed to be tugged and pulled by a mist that transformed itself into the image of Lizzie Cottler! She resisted her daughters attempt to push her over the railing when suddenly and unexpectedly a cry of anger emanated from Jeannie Anders. "You Witch!' she screamed, as she ran to Rachel's aid. Her  fear had turned to rage! Lizzie lurched back from Jeannie's clawing fingers surprised by the bold intervention. 'Lizzie Cottler you are a murderess!' she spat out at the diabolical revenant. 'It was you who killed little James and the Sailors. Your mother was witness to your treachery, but unable to bring you to justice when you had murdered her as well. There was no suicide. We have all witnessed what really happened. Lizzie Cottler, it was you who murdered your own mother. Go back to the hell that you earned in life.' A flash appeared and a bolt of lightning struck at the haunting image of what had been Lizzie Cottler. A loud shriek and a clap of thunder filled the dark starless night. The images of Rachel and the men began to fade from view, but not before Jeannie had seen Lizzie's victim's faces change from sadness to joy. Their deaths had been avenged!

         The weather became calm and a crescent moon appeared over the cemetery. The Anders all hugged one another as the church bell began to ring in New Year's day. They descended into the parlor and shouted for joy ringing cowbells and blowing noisemakers. Ed Sharp wouldn't have traded that night for a million dollars.

Saturday, January 1st, 1966 - The Twelfth Night

   The New Year had begun with a renewed hope of peace and prosperity in the Ander's home. On the Twelfth Night of Christmas there would be no sinister re-enactment of murder. The Anders family warmed themselves by a crackling fire while the scent of the bayberry candle permeated the parlor.

   Jeannie and Bob would relate their story to the patrons for years to come. Reports of a rocking sound and a child's laughter were heard occasionally, most of them  were attributed to one of the Anders' grandchildren, or perhaps a guest of the bed and breakfast, now  known as "Rachel's Place'.


Merry Christmas!