Blog Tour Guest & Contest: Mariah Stewart

A lot of readers have asked me if I believe in ghosts because there’s a thin ghostly thread that runs through the Chesapeake Diaries. Not enough to make the books feel paranormal, but just a hint. There’s Alice, the ghost of the elderly woman who suffered from agoraphobia and who, some in St. Dennis suspected, practiced witchcraft (nothing evil, of course). Then there’s Rose, the wife of eighty-five year old Curtis Enright, who died about twenty years ago but whose presence is still manifested in their home by the scent of gardenia whenever she’s around. And there’s Grace Sinclair, who is very much alive and very much in touch with the aforementioned ladies, mostly via her trusty Ouija board. She’s the keeper of the Diaries, and often writes about her spirit friends.

I don’t know what happens once we cross into the next dimension. So I can’t say that I believe in ghosts. Then again, I can’t say that I don’t.

My kids both swear that the old house they grew up in had several ghosts. I never saw or felt anything in the nineteen years we lived there. I did have stuff disappear and then reappear, but maybe I’d just been forgetful. It didn’t seem like it at the time, and I am a little absent minded sometimes, so who’s to say?

So while I can’t say that I’m a believer, and I can’t say that I’m sensitive to such things, there was this incident about fifteen years ago that I can’t explain any other way except to say…well, let me tell you about it exactly as it happened:

Background: There was an old house in the town we lived in – one of those places that you walk past and are dying to see inside. I think it was built around the turn of the century – maybe a little later. It had a tall black iron fence around it and dense overgrowth of shrubs out front so you could barely see the front. EVERYONE was fascinated by this place, because hardly anyone had ever been past the front door. Lorna, the reclusive woman who lived there was in her seventies (I think) and had one friend who ran errands for her, took her to doctor’s appointments, etc. When Lorna died, the friend inherited the place, but the upkeep was high and she was eager to sell it. Of course, we immediately made arrangements to see it.

Oh, the house was every bit as fabulous as I’d imagined – needed a ton of work! – but it had already been sold. The contents, however, were for sale.

This is where it starts to get weird.

Lorna’s mother – Prudence –  had been a stage actress in Chicago around the turn of the century who met and married a banker. He moved her and their daughter to the Philadelphia area, and after he died, Prudence “downsized” to this lovely home in my town (complete with a very fashionable and authentic Japanese garden – very chic back in the 1920s-30s).

It’s very difficult to adequately describe what I found in that house.

It was obvious that this woman – Prudence – had been a total fashion plate. Every room –  I think there were 4 or 5 bedrooms on the second floor and several more on the third – was crammed with Prudence’s clothing. Every dress – and there were a staggering amount of them! – had shoes, a hat, a parasol in some cases, and jewelry. There was a room filled with hats –  just hats – and another with racks and racks and racks of dresses and coats. The excess was simply overwhelming. I’d never seen anything like it.

Did I mention that ALL of Prudence’s clothes were made by a dressmaker? Nothing off the rack for our girl!

And yet there was so little of Lorna, the daughter, in this house – it made me so sad. It was as if she’d kept a shrine to her mother all those years.

Anyway – I bought a few vintage pieces that I thought were representative of the times and when I went back to take one more look before the house went to settlement, a friend of mine – we’ll call her Helen because, well, that’s her name – came with me. We were in a room on the second floor that served as a sitting room, and Helen was looking around in a cabinet while I was looking at the gorgeous Mercer tiles that surrounded the massive fireplace. All of a sudden, Helen shoved what she’d been looking at back into the cabinet, slammed the door and said, “I’m ready to go. Let’s go now.” and made a bee-line for the stairwell.

We were in the living room, saying goodnight to the woman who now owned all this grandeur, when suddenly I felt as if a huge block of ice was pressing up against my back, head to toe, cold air breathing down my neck. Did I mention it was a hot August night? No air conditioning?

I knew without question that it was Prudence – I could feel her, and she sure wasn’t happy, which I thought it was odd, since I’d been in the house several times before without incident. I looked at Helen, who was wide-eyed and white as a sheet, and I knew she felt the same presence I did.

The two of us fled for the door at the same time.

Now, we laugh about this today, but that night, we all but got stuck in the front doorway trying to get out of that house! We ran through the tangle of shrubs and through the open gate, got into my car and locked the door.

“You felt her too,” Helen gasped when we were safely in the car.

“Prudence, definitely, but why tonight and not before?” I wondered.

“That case I was looking at upstairs? It held her stage make-up. She got right up behind me and let me know that I’d gone too far. I touched her make-up and that apparently was the last straw. Her clothes – hats – shoes – jewelry – she was okay with all of that stuff. But not her make-up. I think she followed us downstairs to make sure we’d leave!”

True story. Every word. Just ask Helen.

And for the record – though I admit the thought has occurred to me – I’ve never followed Grace’s leave and tried to get in touch with Prudence via a Ouija board. My one contact with her – if that’s what it was – was enough for me!

* * * * *

About Mariah:

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and their dogs amid the rolling hills and Amish farms of southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she gardens, reads, and enjoys country life.

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28 thoughts on “Blog Tour Guest & Contest: Mariah Stewart

  1. Dawn Roberto says:

    I have felt my grandmother’s presence at my mom’s house after she died, giving comfort or just playing tricks on us when we were younger.

  2. Connie Que says:

    I believe in ghosts. I have been to the Myrtles Plantation and St Augustine lighthouse and I had experiences of paranormal nature.

  3. JoAnne says:

    I’m not sure I believe in ghosts but I do believe in an after life and a connection to those of us left behind as our loved ones pass on. I’m not a fan of the paranormal genre but do enjoy this series.
    I like books that are set in the Chesapeake area. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading this book.

  4. erinf1 says:

    Congrats to Mariah on the new release! Thanks for sharing. I don’t believe in ghosts in real life but I still think they are fun to read about 😉

  5. Leanna H says:

    I never really had any thoughts about ghosts ubtil I moved to a new place and lights turn on by themselves and the computer started playing music by itself. So I do think they are out there. I eould like them to be friendly.

  6. Virginia H says:

    Congrats on your new release! I am not sure how I feel about ghost. I have never seen one before. I am one of those people that believer seeing is believing, but I am not sure I really want to see a ghost.

  7. Rita Wray says:

    What a fabulous post, that must have been scary. Yes I believe in ghosts, things have happened to me where there is no explanation. I love stories with ghosts in them.

  8. I believe in ghosts because there have been several odd experiences at the houses we’ve lived in. In one house, the owner passed away in it, and my family thought that he had been following us to each subsequent house because of all these unexplained instances.

  9. Linda Mc says:

    Wow! That’s a great story. I love it. It’s great that both of you felt the same thing. I think there are many unexplained things that it is totally possible that ghosts exist. We rented a vacation home one time and a fire started in the fireplace (we had not made a fire). Kind of freaky. Loud banging noises at night too from inside the house that we could never figure out. And we actually stayed there for 3 nights!

  10. Tina M says:

    I believe in ghost..Thanks for a great giveaway..Love the cover of your book and I can’t wait to read it..

  11. That house sounds amazing…and just my cup of tea. I’ve had an experience with a spirit myself, in college. I think the spirit and I both scared each other! lol. More recently (college was a long time ago) I’ve been on a ghost hunt with paranormal researchers. Very interesting. We even got an EVP from a question I asked! As for Ouija boards-don’t mess with them-you’ll never know who answers! Thanks for the chance to win…and I really wish I could have seen that house!

  12. Mary Jo Connell says:

    I do believe in ghosts. I went to an art show in an old home by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and when I got to the 3rd floor. I felt something and I knew I had to get out of there. It was the eeriest feeling.

  13. Personal experience with a ghost actually saved my life. And I think you were more than correct about the make up connection. Pru would not want anybody messing with her most personal stuff…what she needed to become the characters she portrayed.
    Imagine what it would be like had you dared take the stuff out of the house!!!

    I am way behind on the series, Mariah. Gotta correct that ASAP.

  14. Denise Z says:

    I think I vacillate between believing and not in ghosts. I certainly know there is more going on than what my puny mind can fathom and I am enjoying exploring the possibilities, although since seeing the Exorcist I too feel the Ouija has no place in my life 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us.

  15. S Lavoie says:

    I do believe in ‘ghosts’ or ‘spirits’…..I have a wooden reindeer that my late husband made, when you push his red nose, it plays Christmas tunes. I usually take it out during the holidays but haven’t taken it out for a couple of years because it was still in storage from having moved. I did take it out this year and was surprised that it still worked. One evening while I was reading, it started playing on it’s own. No sonic booms or sudden movements……….no strange thumps. It made me smile. I like to think it was his way of saying ‘Merry Christmas love’. It’s always been a special holiday for us. So, yes, I believe.

  16. Helen says:

    This ghost story is not just an entertaining tale spun by a talented writer. The details are not embellished for effect. It happened just as Mariah wrote it. My name is Helen. I was there.

    I eagerly accepted Mariah’s invitation to join her for a last-look at Lorna’s. I’d lived on the same street (our lots were right next to each other) but as Mariah explained, Lorna was a recluse so I’d never been in the house. I, too, was amazed by Prudence’s clothes collections – from the Victorian-era to the Eisenhower administration – I’d never seen anything like it.

    The evening progressed just as Mariah described it – from happily choosing vintage pieces for our collections to the moment I said that we needed to leave…now! I’d never felt so threatened. Menaced is a better word, actually. I felt the pressure and the cold – nothing like bitter winter cold – but bone-chilling, penetrating cold. This was something I’d never felt before and I’ve never felt since. It was Prudence. I knew it that night and I know it now.

    Fortunately, Prudence didn’t travel with the things I acquired that night. Trust me, the Gatsby-era lawn-party dress and hat wouldn’t be upstairs in my guest room closet if she had.

    The house has changed hands, but the previous owners – the ones who purchased the estate, restored the house and Japanese gardens – generously opened it several times for civic events and fundraising house and garden tours. I’ve been in the house as a guest and a “sitter” many times since that long ago August night and Prudence never made an appearance – that I know of. Then again, I always asked to be assigned to the first floor and I was never tempted to visit the sitting with the beautiful Mercer tiles and the cabinet that held her make-up case. This girl doesn’t need to be told twice.

  17. marlene dickerman says:

    Beloved it or not A ghost unlocked a car door for my daughter one time. I saw it myself or I would not have believed it myself. I do believe in ghosts.

  18. Stephania McKinzey says:

    I don’t necessarily believe in “ghosts” however, I do believe in angels and know first hand that they exist. After my grandfather passed away (I was in 6th grade), a week later I woke out of a dead sleep to find him laying at the foot of my bed. He told me everything would be fine and to go back to sleep. He was watching over myself and my sister.

  19. I’m not sure if i really believe in ghosts, but i definitely think you can feel someones presence if you are in a place they lived or touching something that was there’s.

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