GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT, the "Campfire Tales" episode. My name is Glynn Washington. And right before the break, I promised you that we were going to explain everything. I lied, but it's not my fault. There is no explaining certain things. You see, everyone that I know has a ghost story that they keep in their family. Our next story is about an entire family itself from beyond the veil.
KATHLEEN MCCONNELL: I'm Kathleen McConnell. I live in Louisville, Ky. I'm a certified professional secretary. I have been the executive secretary for the presidents of three different corporations in my career.
ANNA SUSSMAN, BYLINE: In 1966, Kathleen McConnell would take the bus every day to one of her earliest secretary jobs at a bank in downtown Louisville. She would pass an old brick house.
MCCONNELL: The house just had a draw for me. And I could always see this little girl standing in the front window. She appeared to be 10, 11 years old. She would always hold her hand up to the window glass, and I would do the same thing. I thought she was waving at the bus, and I would just hold my hand up to the glass on the bus.
SUSSMAN: Five years later, Kathleen and her husband were looking to move, and they ended up buying that old brick house.
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SUSSMAN: They moved in with their four children, including their 8-month-old baby, Duncan.
MCCONNELL: Well, the first night was uneventful. But the second night, we'd gone to bed a little after 1 o'clock. It was like thunder in the house - boom, boom, boom. And that's just exactly the way it sounded. And I woke up instantly, but I'm thinking did I dream that or did I hear that? And then it happened again - boom, boom, boom. My husband said, did you hear that? I said, well, of course I heard that. What do you think it is? And he said, I don't know, but I'm going to find out. So he slips out of bed and pulls his trousers on, and he gets a handgun that he keeps under the mattress. I think, well, it can't be burglars. Burglars try to keep quiet if they're going to break into a house.
So I got out of bed, and I walked down the same hallway to the landing of the steps. And George is standing there, frozen in the spot, and just watching the front-door entry. And the inner doors of the house were opening wide and banging against the wall and closing and opening again, and banging the walls and closing. You could see that the outer doors - they were double doors, inside and out - but the outer doors were latched down. And then finally, it quit. And George and I stood there, and then stoically, we just walked back to the bedroom - didn't say another word, got into bed. And I lay awake all night, and he went right back to sleep. And I thought, there's no way I'm going to sleep tonight. Something's going on in this house.
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MCCONNELL: There's no explanation, but you know it's obvious. You know there's somebody else in your house that you can't see. I knew we'd moved into a haunted house. The next day, I knew what I had to do. So I went from room to room, asking whoever was there not to hurt my family, not to hurt my children. If they didn't want us there, we wouldn't be there. But we had just sold everything we owned and bought this house. So if there was any way we could live together, we needed to do that. Had anybody seen me, I'd have been carried out with a butterfly net because I could see myself and the insanity of it.
SUSSMAN: Throughout the day, she tried to piece together what she knew of this puzzle. She thought of a conversation she'd had earlier with her husband.
MCCONNELL: That morning when George came downstairs, he said, did you bring my shoes downstairs? And I said, well, no. And he says, well, I can't find my shoes. And he said, well, I'll wear something else this morning, but while you're picking up the house, see if you can find my shoes. I said, OK. Well, as I sat there folding diapers, I knew I had yet to go down in the basement, into the cellar. It was a cellar. You had to go outside to get into it.
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MCCONNELL: I opened this big, heavy cellar door, and it did allow a little light into the room. It was just a big, big, dark room. It had one light bulb in the center with a chain on it, I saw. I stepped on something squishy. I thought, oh, jeez, it's an animal, there's an animal in this cellar. And so I pulled the chain down and looked to see what I had stepped on, and there was George's shoes. I mean, I jumped so fast, I think I missed all the steps and ran back into the kitchen, realizing then that whomever was in this house, it had to be children. Only children would play a prank like that 'cause that's a childish prank. They moved the shoes, took them to the cellar.
So I sat there a little bit, and then I was elated, really. But that was the first, last and only time I was ever scared in that house, was before I found out who and what was in it.
SUSSMAN: She ended up thinking it was most likely a group of kids. Sometimes she felt like there was a baby. Bottles would go missing. Toy balls rolled around the floor. Other times, she says, it sounded more like a teenager playing basketball in the attic. And she was pretty sure that that girl she used to see in the window was one of these spirit children.
MCCONNELL: Well, I came to know that there were three children in the house. There was a baby. I never did know how old, but I knew it was a toddler. There was a little girl about 10 or 11. And there was a young boy about 13, 14. When you're a mother and you're already mothering four children, and you realize there's another youngster in your house, it's kind of just instinctive that you're going to mother these other children. As the days went on, I would be scolding sometimes, and sometimes I would just be Mother. And I thought they would come and take me away if they saw me talking to someone that I really wasn't sure was there.
The first Christmas we were in the house - I know how ridiculous this sounds - I did buy Christmas presents for these three children. I bought the little girl a makeup case, and I bought perfume that was called Heaven Sent. The baby, a little receiving blanket.
SUSSMAN: And she bought the one she thought was a boy a Nerf basketball set, hoping the loud bouncing sound she heard in the attic would quiet down.
MCCONNELL: Because I thought, if he's going to continue to play basketball, he doesn't need to make all that racket.
SUSSMAN: She brought the gifts, along with a little ceramic Christmas tree, up to the attic.
MCCONNELL: And so I asked them all to come around me, and I could feel the warmth. It was no longer cold. And I just kind of made it in my mind that they had warmed up to me, and so the air was warm. And I gave each one of them their gift. And I sat the little, yellow blanket beside me, opened it up and flipped it out, and explained that, you know, Duncan has one like this. And as I sat there, I could see the yellow of the little receiving blanket crumple up. So I knew either the baby was crawling on the blanket, or the children were sitting on the blanket. But either way, I talked to them and told them about the gifts and about how you play the Nerf basketball.
I had one critic to tell me that my story was tooth-achingly sweet, and she did not believe for one minute that I bought Christmas gifts for these children. And I said, well, I didn't tell the story for your benefit.
SUSSMAN: And then there were times when she thought these spirit children were protecting her own baby.
MCCONNELL: One evening, I left Duncan in the bathtub in the upstairs bathroom when I walked down to the nursery to get Duncan's pajamas. While I'm coming back - this is a deep, claw-foot tub - and the water was just pouring into the bathtub, like, maybe he held onto the faucets and he turned them on higher.
SUSSMAN: She says she sees both faucets on full-steam, filling the tub higher and higher.
MCCONNELL: But by the time I got in there, Duncan is suspended. He is being held above the water. The water is still rushing into the bathtub. I instantly grabbed my baby, but he is suspended above this water. I knew one of the children was holding Duncan above the water. I went into the bedroom, laid Duncan on the bed and started drying him off, and I'm still a nervous wreck. I'm shaking all over 'cause I feared for my baby was - I could see he would've drowned. And then all at once, the smell of Heaven Sent was around me. Heaven Sent is the perfume I gave the little girl. And all I could do was wrap him in a towel and thank them. I just - thank you, thank you, thank you. You saved my baby.
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SUSSMAN: For the next five years, Kathleen acted like a mom to what she called her spirit children in the old brick house. And then, Kathleen's mother got sick. And her mom lived out of town and alone.
MCCONNELL: I knew I needed to take care of my mother. I needed to be next to my mother. We had to move. We had to move. My mother was not well. And I had to have a talk with the children. I think it was the day before we were moving. I had gone up to tell them we had to leave. I always had the meeting place in the attic. I was very emotional, just really trying to get their acceptance and comfort them at the same time. And then all - just out of the blue, this Nerf ball comes hit me square in the head. And it was like, it'll be OK, it'll be OK. I had to laugh because the Nerf ball was - just came flying through the attic and hit me square in the head.
The morning we were going - the actual last morning, I had gone through the house and explained everything. And as I did, I heard someone crying. I heard some soft sobs, just soft sobs. And it was like looking through water or looking through smoke. And it was the first time that I actually saw these children. The little girl - she was a very pretty little girl. She had the baby on her hip. She had a white nightgown on. And the baby looked like the Gerber baby almost - little chubby cheeks, and he had the bottle in his mouth and little blonde hair. And the little boy was slender, a little over five feet, looked like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, actually because of the way he was dressed. It was good. It was just good that I was able to see all of them that one morning.
People tend to think if you have an experience like this, you're either a liar or you're a crackpot. I'm here to tell you there's more in the world than what you can see. I know what happened in that house. And all I can say is keep an open mind, just keep an open mind. There's more in the world than what you can see.
WASHINGTON: Big thanks to Kathleen McConnell for sharing her story with the SNAP. You can find a link to her blog, "Don't Call Them Ghosts," on our website, snapjudgment.org. That story, it was produced by Anna Sussman with sound design by Renzo Gorrio.
You've been listening to SNAP JUDGMENT, "Campfire Tales II." And if you like scary stories, we'll have a link to all five SNAP spooked episodes from whence these stories came on our website, snapjudgment.org. Subscribe to the podcast to have your stories delivered each and every week.
SNAP is produced by myself and the most unhelpful group of camp counselors the world has ever known. Please say hello to Jason himself, the uber producer, Mr. Mark Ristich, Pat The Hitchiker Mesiti-Miller, Anna The Vampire Sussman, Julia Sees Dead People DeWitt, Joe The Damned Rosenberg, The Slasher Nancy Lopez, The black guy who gets killed at the beginning of every movie, Davey Kim, Renzo The Undertaker Gorrio, The Undead Eliza Smith, Ana Adlerstein, Leon Morimoto, Jazmin Aguilera is standing right behind you right. Matt Ducot is not.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is no place to offer the goddess Isis a blood sacrifice of several farm animals, and I don't even know where we got the keys. My apologies again to the CPB. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, who rushed out of the mirror when we screamed, Blood Mary, Bloody Mary three times at midnight. What have we unleashed? Prx.org. WBEZ in Chicago is hiding something wicked. I'd check the staircase - the other one. And this is not the news. No way is this the news. In fact, you could lay the uber producer, Mark Ristich, down on the floor right here with a bunch of people gathered around and whisper, light as a feather, hard as a board, light as a feather, hard as a board. And you when you fail to move him even 1 inch, you'd still not be as far away from the news as this is. But this is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.