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The Treasure House

By Katie Mullaly

    Since I will be popping in from time to time, I feel like I should properly introduce myself with one of my favorite experiences.  I am Katie, and If there is anything that I think people should know about me, it’s that I love ghosts, and I love hunting for vintage treasures.  It should then surprise no one that I work for an estate sale company when I am not writing books and articles about ghosts. I have had a few fellow vintage-inclined friends relay eerie experiences with odds and ends acquired through estate sales and curbside finds, but I was most excited when it happened to me.

Walking up to this particular house, the debris and stacks of bricks could not have prepared me for what lay beyond the front door.  Turning the knob was like setting the dial on a time machine to the mid-1960s and, for a vintage-loving girl like me, I couldn’t have been more excited.  That has always been the upside to the sometimes-morbid job of setting up estate sales - literally getting to go through someone else’s stuff. Old stuff.

    I ran through the house with the unbridled enthusiasm of a child going to Disneyland for the first time; I had to see and touch everything.  The Danish teak dining room set, the colorful glass hanging lamps, the vintage Halloween decorations tucked away in an upstairs storage room - I couldn’t take it in fast enough.  We had only a few short minutes to take it all in before the arduous task of sorting it all, and we were two days late getting the keys to the house. Mikal (my husband) began working in an office area, and I headed for the master bedroom.  As I turned that hallway corner, the energy shifted completely. The air became still and silent as I approached the room at the end of the hall. What had been light and happy became terse and serious. I stepped into the room to a flurry of strange events.  The room was heavy with a flowery perfume. The ceiling fan swung back and forth violently after only just being switched on. A plastic slat from the vertical blinds flew unassisted from a window sill and landed several feet away.

    In that moment, I knew I wasn’t alone.  I spoke to her by name. “Hi, Mrs. Oldman*, I’m Katie.  I acknowledge that you are here and I promise that I will be very careful with your things.”  I have been around enough haunted locations that it doesn’t even seem abnormal to me to include the deceased if I get a sense they are still around, especially considering that I am digging through a lifetime of their belongings.  I still felt her in the room, so I talked to her as I worked. I told her how much I loved her clothing (some of it dating back to the 1940s), and how I bet she was quite a dish back in her heyday. I made it clear that I especially loved her purses, because vintage purses are my Kryptonite.  I chatted and sorted. I began clearing a dresser-top, sorting trash from treasure, and I picked up a box from some sort of car/phone adaptor. It felt empty, but I opened it. I don’t know why I opened it, because it looked and felt like trash.

Inside of the box, I found $154.  I laughed. I showed everyone. I had never found a big chunk of cash like that at one of these houses, so it was kind of a big deal for me.  I turned the money over to the supervisor and continued working. I started working in the bathroom, which was huge and filled with everything under the sun.  I sat down in the center of the room and continued sorting. It is amazing how many combs, brushes, curlers, and hair pins one can amass in a lifetime. I sorted lots of trash and lots of items to be donated.  One item in particular, a travel mirror in a thin, plastic snap case, was giving me grief. The case had snapped open just fine, but it refused to snap shut again. I finally relented and took the mirror out completely.  When I did, I notice a blue bag at the bottom which was causing an obstruction, so I removed it. When I opened the bag, I got goosebumps up my arms and down my back. I let the hundred-dollar bills just flit from the bag into my lap.  44 of them, to be exact. $4400. You always read about these situations and you wonder what you would do. Here is what I did: I let out a sigh, collected up the money, and turned it over to my supervisor (but not before I played the guess-how-much game and then “made it rain”).

I finished tending to the bathroom and was just about to leave, when I thought, “Damn it, I bet that medicine cabinet is full.”  I opened it. It was. Row by row, I just swept the contents into the trash. I couldn’t quite reach the top row, but I noticed two very old medicine bottles tucked into the corner.  Straining, I pulled them down. One was dated 1972, the other 1969. They had clearly been there since then. I took one more look to see if I missed anything. Through the glass of the top shelf, I could see something in the corner behind where these bottles had been.   I climbed on the counter to reach it. I figured it was just some piece of trash.

A diamond ring.  This time it was a huge six-diamond ring.  Now, finding this stuff is amazing, but it’s not for the weak-willed or faint of heart.  Honesty mocks good sense in these situations, especially when you have about a hundred different ways you could use that kind of money and valuables.  I can safely say now, without hesitation, that I am not a thief, even when doing so would have been so easy.

I had never seen a ring like this in my life.  It’s the type of ring that gets handed down for at least a few generations, and certainly nothing I would ever receive as an inheritance.  For the third time, I approached my supervisor to hand over the goods. I wanted the ring, though. I wanted the ring so bad that I swear I could taste it.  My boss told me I could have right of first refusal if no one bought it at the sale.

I finished up the master suite, and I continued to chat with Mrs. Oldman.  Frankly, I think we got along really well, particularly given that I clearly proved my trustworthiness.  I couldn’t stop thinking about that ring, though. The day of the sale came, and, because the house was an absolute time capsule, it was quite a crowd.  Items moved fast, and I was sure someone would snap up my ring.  By the time we did our first discount for the day, I was sure I’d missed out, but at almost that exact moment, my boss came back and said, “Here’s your ring.”  I got it for a song.
When lunchtime rolled around, Mikal and I went to the off-limits-to-customers upstairs storage room, and we ate as I chirped about how excited I was about my new ring.  Suddenly, a music box began playing Somewhere My Love. The room was empty.  It had been cleared out days ago.  We opened up the closet, but there was no music box.  We could scarcely hear the customers milling about downstairs, let alone a sharp, crisp, clear tone from a music box.  There is no doubt from either of us, to this day, that the music was coming from inside that empty room. It gave me a warm fuzzy to think that maybe she was thanking me for finding (and not keeping) her life savings.

When I told my boss the whole story, she was hardly surprised.  “That’s why we couldn’t get the keys right away. Her daughter said she was still here.”

Yep, I think Mrs. Oldman liked me just fine.


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