Scent of a spirit recalled

Former resident recounts encounters

The scent of lavender and a gentle touch on the shoulder are hardly the stuff of Amityville-type Halloween hauntings, but one woman said those were the signs she came to know of an otherworldly presence when she owned a home in North Granville. 

Anne Murray, who now lives in Queensbury said she was a skeptic before she owned the home built in 1790. Murray said someone told her just before she took over the home with her late husband, Edward, that it was haunted.

She scoffed, for about 24 hours.

The house was in need of repairs when the couple moved in and a piece of ceiling in the bathroom had fallen in just after they moved in.   

While cleaning up the debris in the early morning hours, Murray said, she suddenly smelled the strong odor of lavender and felt a tap on the shoulder. “It was not rough, it was a ‘Hey, I’m here’ that kind of thing,” she said. “That’s how you knew she was around,” she said.

It was 2:30 in the morning.

Turning, expecting to see a family member (there were two others in the house both asleep), Murray saw only empty air. Murray said she told her husband, who suggested she was tired. But the incidents and interactions continued over the years even as the Murrays kept the tales to themselves.

“We didn’t want people thinking we were daft,” she said.

For a while, almost two years, nothing much happened until Murray’s oldest daughter was home from college on vacation.

She stayed up late working in the home’s parlor – what would become a common point for many of the encounters over the years. Murray said the next morning her daughter recounted her eerily similar experience, a tap on the shoulder at roughly 2:30 a.m. Her daughter was a little rattled by the experience and asked her mother to never leave her alone in the parlor at night again.

“It was the same exact spot and time,” she said.

Over the years guests would relate tales of tapping to the Murrays — unusual for the simple reason they stuck with their “don’t tell” policy. “No one it ever happened to had been told,” she said.

Murray said two different exchange students, one from Argentina and another from Poland, felt a presence in the house. “I remember he came up to me and said that there was someone else with us in the house,” she said of the Argentinean youth.

The Polish student lasted only 24 hours and she went elsewhere, Murray said. “They weren’t fly-by-night people; these were legitimate people,” Murray said of all of those who related experiences to her about the ghost whose name she would come to discover was Isabel.

The presence was not apparently limited only to the wee hours of the morning as Murray’s brother-in-law Dan, who was taping a gathering in 1992, found out.

The next day as the two spoke, Dan asked her about the guest named Isabel, who had introduced herself to him the night before.

When told there was no guest by that name the 30-year military veteran was a little freaked out, Murray said. Shaken as he was he offered a clue to the identity of the spirit occupying the residence: Her last name was something to do with water. “He was the only one I ever knew she talked to,” Murray said.

As the host of frequent gatherings, Murray said, the presence often made itself known to guests even if they didn’t exactly realize it.

“She just loved parties; she’s very social,” Murray said. It would be some time before Murray was able to determine just who “she” was. Guests would often turn to someone near them and ask what they wanted because they had just been tapped on the shoulder. Or they would catch the scent of lavender in the room and comment on it.

Murray kept silent about what she knew was causing the party high jinks.

Although the presence and its interactions with people were benign, they sometimes disturbed those caught unaware.

Murray said in 1994 she had hired a man to do some painting and wallpapering while the couple was on vacation. They returned to find the job unfinished, supplies in place and no sign of the man. Murray said because the painter had a long commute they allowed him to stay at the house while working and he was a reliable contractor they had worked with before.

A call to the man’s daughter revealed what had happened. One night a sound woke him up and as he went downstairs to check on it, he turned to see a figure on the stairs behind him. The painter was able to describe the woman he saw in detail, Murray said.

The painter spent the rest of the night in the car, she was told, and would not go back to the house afterward.

For a history buff who restored the 1790 house and led numerous tours of North Granville, the encounters presented a mystery to be solved. Murray said she wanted to know whom she was sharing the house with.

Research into the past of the house showed the likely presence was that of a woman who died in 1942 by the name of Isabel Welland Chandler. Welland, her maiden name, was the connection to water her brother-in-law mentioned, Murray said.

Murray said Isabel had come to North Granville with her husband after the financial crash and had not been happy there, accustomed to the Chicago lifestyle. Tales she uncovered had Isabel spending long hours gazing out at her gardens through a window in the parlor — the same place many of the encounters occurred.

Isabel wasn’t a freeloader. One night she earned her room and board by saving the house. Murray said one night her husband heard something and got out of bed to go check it out. He could never explain why he did it, but he went to the basement, seemingly guided there.

It was a very good thing, because the house was on fire.

A storm had knocked down trees and damaged power lines coming into the house. The lines outside had been fixed, but those inside in the electrical box had not.

They shorted and caused the fire. Due to the construction of the house the Murrays said the couple saw no signs of a fire that threatened to consume the house if left unchecked any longer.

“We always said that Isabel saved the house,” Murray said. Murray said she regrets it, but she sold the house after her husband died. The last encounter she recalled having with Isabel was shortly after her husband’s passing. Returning home she smelled the now familiar lavender scent and asked her houseguest for a break.

“I said, ‘Isabel I’m having a really tough time right now, could you please leave me alone?’ and it was like this great sense of peace came over that house,” Murray said. The sense of peace would remain until she parted with the house.

The encounters, while they spooked some, were never the stuff of Hollywood horror, Murray said.

“It was all very pleasant and sometimes laughable,” she said. 

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