I can pass an abandoned building anywhere and Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow plays in my mind.

Is it haunted?

All houses wherein men have lived and died

Are haunted houses. Through the open doors

The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

Who had lived here? What did they do? Where did they go? Did anyone care about them? Miss them? Think about them?

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,

Along the passages they come and go,

Impalpable impressions on the air,

A sense of something moving to and fro.

Was it their presence I felt on the breeze that caused gooseflesh to raise on my arms? Did they see me peering in the windows?

There are more guests at table than the hosts

Invited; the illuminated hall

Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,

As silent as the pictures on the wall.

Are there silent celebrations happening that I can neither see or hear?

The stranger at my fireside cannot see

The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;

He but perceives what is; while unto me

All that has been is visible and clear.

What would it have been like when people lived here? Did they feel the presence of those who owned it before them?

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;

Owners and occupants of earlier dates

From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,

And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

Why does this house stand empty? Does no one see the potential?

The spirit-world around this world of sense

Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere

Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense

A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Or does the presence of something hang on the air?

Our little lives are kept in equipoise

By opposite attractions and desires;

The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,

And the more noble instinct that aspires.

Are the forces inside out of balance? Omnipresent? Wanting to be elsewhere? Disturbed by my interruptions?

These perturbations, this perpetual jar

Of earthly wants and aspirations high,

Come from the influence of an unseen star

An undiscovered planet in our sky.

Does my presence make them uneasy? Can they sense my increased heartbeat?

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud

Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,

Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd

Into the realm of mystery and night,—

Do they long for moonlit skies, filled with twinkling stars? Do they delight in the shadows they create?

So from the world of spirits there descends

A bridge of light, connecting it with this,

O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,

Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

I don’t recall how old I was the first time I read this poem, but I think I might have been in 7th or 8th grade. This poem caused me to think about things that went bump in the night. Walking to the bus stop in the morning in the dark and hearing a strange whistling in the wind was suddenly more than a little scary and being alone in a house after dark made me hyper alert to all the house sounds that suddenly were no longer normal.

Curious how a poem, a vivid imagination, and the mystery of an abandoned building can make Halloween come to life!

As always, Carole and I would love to have you join us on our Thursday writing journey! You can sign up here – and we promise it won’t be scary!

**Featured image courtesy of RWTurenne

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