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MAITLAND HOUSE

Location: At least thirty miles from Bridgeport, Connecticut, Winterhaven is a picturesque town with a small population of around eight hundred in its surrounding communities. It enjoys much of its prosperity from the local Winterhaven Skiing Lodge in the county. Located off of Rural Route 10 in Winterhaven, the Old Maitland House is located on the hill over the town.

Description: A rural white two-story house with a full attic and basement, the New England-style structure has a full staircase and balcony with three bedrooms upstairs and half-moon windows. It was briefly re-modeled Retro New Age, but has been converted back to its natural Colonial innocence.

Ghostly Manifestations: In the Spring of 1988, widower Charles Delaware Deets was a burned out Manhattan accountant looking for peace and quiet. His second wife, Delia Rathburn-Deets is a known eccentric Lower Manhattan artist known more for her out-spoken public tirades than her art. Dragging along his wife and daughter, he abandoned the fast-paced big city life to live the slower relaxed life he recalled as a boy from North Carolina. He leapt upon the Maitland's old house after reading about it in a real estate magazine and purchased it shortly after the deaths of the previous owners in a car accident. Almost immediately, Delia started remodeling the house in her own eclectic style and personality, which according to her stepdaughter, Lydia, did not sit well with the spirits of the Maitlands, the former owners.

At that time, Lydia Deets was a Gothic wearing teenager in the Eighties. Possessing a short range of psychic awareness, a trait she had inherited from her mother who was half-Jewish and partially Cherokee Indian, she is now a newspaper columnist with a side career as a Gothic authoress. She also occasionally uses her psychic skills to help the police on difficult cases or tag along on haunted house investigations with paranormal researchers, such as the CGS or the Trans-Allegheny Mountain Paranormal Society (TRAMPS). Her life in the Old Maitland House helped her to open up her psychic awareness.

“My first encounter with the ghosts was rather………” She slightly bobs and sways her head of long dark tresses as she looks for the right word.  “Anti-climactic." She adds. "I was going through the house shooting pictures to keep a record of what it looked like before my mother trashed it, and one of my pictures showed two faces staring down from the attic. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe they were my parents or workmen looking down on me, but the truth is that the attic was locked, and we didn’t get up there until about a week later. That and the fact no one was in the picture when I snapped it sort of told me that the images were something else. I even showed the picture to people who knew the Maitlands, and they agreed that it looked like them.”

Lydia’s stepmother, Delia, also had her experiences, but she was not as rushed to openness with the afterlife as her stepdaughter. She and her half-brother were busy going through the house to convert it to garish New Age when she saw a brief glimpse of someone rushing through out the corner of her eye. She barely acknowledged it and went on with her business. When they started going through the closets, they remarked later on about a cold spot “as if dipping your hand into frozen water.”

During the renovation, workmen constantly lost tools. Objects vanished and turned up days later all the time. There were two painters who refused to work at the bottom of the attic stairs. They described feeling watched by something they couldn't see, they were sent to work elsewhere. Two more sets of painters were sent to work upstairs, and they two could not stop to turn and look up the attic stairs expecting to find someone there.

The plumber who installed the specialty sink in the bathroom also had an experience. He turned the water off to install a new faucet, but as soon as he had the old faucet off, the water came back on and attacked him. He'd go turn it off again, return back upstairs and a minute later the water came back on again. He'd go turn it back off, ask someone to watch the main pipe then return to work. A few minutes later, he came running back down screaming the water was back on, and yet, no one had turned on the water.

A similar experience happened to the electrician who was electrocuted while trying to install specialty lights. During lunch one day, everyone was sitting on the front porch eating, talking and comparing notes when someone came running down the stairs and toward the back of the house. No one got up to look in the house they knew was supposed to be entry, and no one every came out the back door. 

It was soon becoming apparent that someone they couldn't see was disturbing and trying to stall the renovation.

For the entire time, Lydia and her family lived in the house around the tools, plastic wrap and paint cans in their way. She carried on taking constant pictures excited by the prospect of living in a haunted house. Most of her instant Polaroid pictures showed nothing, but then two photos out of a whole sequence showed vacuous floating shapes almost similar to people with sheets over their heads. Dark holes even appeared where she expected their eyes to be.

“For the most part,” Lydia recalls in retrospect. “They were harmless, but they really hated my stepmother. She viciously rearranged their home and they retaliated by acting out. The shower turned hot on her, things she put away vanished from her never to be seen again, doors suddenly locked on her and kept imprisoning her in parts of the house……….” She grins a little devious smile. “I loved it. I rooted for them.”

Lydia has seen them often passing though the house. In the beginning, they looked like fleeting shadows to her and gradually like transparent and disembodied figures, but now she can see them as nearly human-like, just as they looked in life, but with more wispy qualities. On one occasion, she was them dressed in their bridal clothes floating in the living room.

Lydia’s father, Charles, emerged through it as an untouched witness as Delia screamed and blamed his daughter even when she was away from home during the activities. She eventually gave in and switched the style of the house back to its original New England charm and the hauntings abated. Lydia said the ghosts retreated to the attic except for one.

“Beetlejuice.” She leans back with a grin. “My spirit guide. I don’t know what his real name is, but that’s what I call him. He's responsible for most of the mischief in the house like hiding things, but he also lurks in the basement and screams out in the middle of the day.” She pauses. "I don't think he's a real poltergeist in the definite sense, but he sure acts like one. He started appearing a few days after the Maitlands, but I see him much more often. He's not dangerous, but he is unpredictable." 

Over the years, Lydia has traveled to California to get away from the cold New England winters and has rented the house to guests who like the local skiing. Every time she comes back, her renters describe having problems with the plumbing or the thermostat which changes temperatures by itself. One tenant kept looking for another person she believed she was sharing the house with, and one woman woke up screaming someone was in bed with her.

"Every time I leave the keys," Lydia confesses. "I tell the guests the house is haunted and not to be afraid; the ghosts won't hurt you, and they look at me like, "Oh, yeah, whatever you say...ghosts..."" She scoffs and rolls her eyes imitating their disbelief. "But when I get back, they are first to complain about not being able to get any sleep because of the voices, footsteps and sounds at night. They always think I'm double-renting with someone else, but..." She lights up with a chuckle and looks around. "But they never find anyone!"

"I've got this..." Lydia wraps her description of the house. "...large ornate cuckoo clock on a table of the living room. It's old and I think it might have another spirit connected to it. Guests are always scared of accidentally breaking it and are always storing it in the closet shelf while they're here, but as often as they put it away, it keeps returning to the table. Last year, a lady staying here put it away, left the room and came back to find it back on the table. All under one minute..."

History: The moderately old farmhouse was built sometime in the 1940s by a local architect named Fredrick Bozeman, although one old-timer thinks it might have built as early as 1838. If so, the house could be on a much older foundation. It was the home for several families before the Maitlands, a young couple that lived in the house for a brief few months before they died. They were driving back to the house one day when their car crashed through the wooden bridge over Winterhaven Creek and dropped them into the water. Medical records show if they had not been struck unconscious in the accident that they might have survived, but instead, they drowned while trapped unconscious in their submerged car. A stone bridge now replaces the wooden one where they died; it's now known as Maitland Memorial Bridge. 

Lydia Deets now owns the house, although she often rents it to vacationers when she's away from home. One of her renters in recent years was Constance McAllister, Sarah Maitland's twin sister.  

"Do I believe my sister haunts the house..." She pauses to consider her response. "Nothing happened while I was there... Well, nothing that I noticed."

Identity of Ghosts: Most of the activity seems centered on the restless spirits of Adam and Sarah Maitland. The poltergeist that Lydia named Beetlejuice may also be connected to the house. She thinks he was a member of a previous family that lived there. She comments that he is quite a practical joker who likes moving and hiding things

Comments: Beetlejuice (1988) Hauntings based loosely on the motion picture.


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