“I thought you said you locked up this time!!” my dad growled, now nearly yelling at mom.
“I did! I made sure the lights were off and all the doors were locked before we left!”
Dad’s patience was wearing thin at mom because this had happened several times during our move. It was 1968, and our family was moving from our home in West Seattle to a small rental house several blocks away. The economy in Seattle in 1968 was getting to be pretty rocky, and times were hard for bigger families. My dad’s job was not paying nearly enough to support a wife and four little boys, so my parents sadly and reluctantly decided to move into a smaller, cheaper rental in order to try to make ends meet a little easier and to pay off some of the mounting bills.
Our family had moved into the house in West Seattle in 1964. It was the first home my parents were able to buy since they had gotten married back in 1957. Money had always been tight for mom and dad, especially since their boys started arriving in rapid succession, and this house had made a rather nice home for us during the four years we lived there. In some ways it was the ideal place to grow up and feel safe from harm.
The only other strange incident that happened in this house was something that happened one evening not too long before we had decided to sell the house and move. The house sat up on a hill, and the only way up and into the front yard was through a gate and up a tall cement staircase. One evening, mom just happened to look out the front window while closing the curtains for the night, and she noticed a man standing in the front yard, looking in the window. To her, the man looked like he was wearing a derby hat and the kind of clothes someone might have worn in the 1800’s.
“Bart, there’s someone right outside in the front yard,” she called out as she turned toward dad. By the time she turned back, he was gone. Dad went outside but never found the man.
But, other than that, nothing had happened out of the ordinary. That is why it was such a surprise when these strange incidents began to happen when we were moving out.
The first time it happened was when we had just loaded up a borrowed pickup truck with a bunch of our belongings in order to take them over to the new house. As we all piled in the truck, mom’s task was to make sure all the lights were off and the doors were locked before we went over to the new house to unload. She was certain she did that, but when we got back to the house to pack up another load, all the doors to the house were standing wide open and many of the rooms’ lights were on.
At first, dad naturally assumed that mom had simply forgotten to lock up. But she insisted she did, which frustrated dad even more. Dad had always been the kind of guy who feels that people should just be quick to own up to their mistakes and get on with the task at hand. But, mom was sure she locked the house. The doors to the house were the kind that required a key to lock and unlock. If you locked the door, nobody could open it even from the inside unless they used the key. And my parents knew that nobody else had a key to the house. So, they locked it again. This time mom turned the knob to make sure it was locked tight.
But, after the next load was taken to the new house, we were shocked when we came back to find, once again, that the doors were wide open and the lights were on. This time mom was certain she had made sure to check the doors and lights before we left. What’s more, dad knew it as well. They began to wonder if someone was playing a joke on them. But who? And How?