When I was a child, my grandfather had an old farmhouse that had been built onto in sections over a period of 175 years. My aunts always believed that the back chambers of the oldest part were haunted by a long-dead young woman named Charlotte.
I don’t know the details of the ghost story, but I do know the spooky back chamber’s attic was where, years before I was born, they found — as well as the Cupid oil lamp that I’ve told you about — a variety of very peculiar objects, much older, hidden in the wall and beneath the floorboards.
(My mother still has an old leather boot that her brother found when he replaced the plaster of a closet wall, stuffed in with the mouse-droppings and old newspapers that served as insulation. We couldn’t imagine how it came to be inside the wall!)
Nothing as odd as a mummified cat carcass, however… or “witch bottles” filled with urine… or even a mysterious pagan symbol drawn in candle-smoke…
Ian Stapleton, who specializes in renovating and restoring old houses, sheds light on such strange discoveries as these. Apparently, they were intended as ritual objects placed in old houses and other buildings to protect the occupants from witches and evil spirits.
These objects have been found in the UK, Continental Europe, Australia and North America. The majority of such objects are found in buildings constructed before 1800 but they have been discovered in buildings dating from as late as the early 20th century.
It’s important to document your find with notes and photographs, he says, and details some of the most types of common ritual objects to look for when you’re working in an old house. After all, that’s a piece of cultural history that tells more about the lives of our (quite recent!) ancestors than any public monument ever could.