Home Is Where the Haunt Is

ImageMy nephew just sent me a real estate listing from our old home town. By first accounts, the house in question, a classic 1850s Victorian, promised vintage charm — original hardwood floors, large living and dining rooms, stain glass windows, library, etc. — in a quiet, well-kept location. Enchanting.

But then this:

Slightly haunted. Nothing serious, although, e.g., The sounds of phantom footsteps. A strange knocking sound followed by a very quiet (hardly noticeable, even) scream at 3:13 am, maybe once a week. Twice a week, tops. And the occasional ghastly visage lurking behind you in the bathroom mirror. Even still, this occurs very rarely and only in the second floor bathroom.

And farther down:

Large unfinished crawl space behind concealed door hidden in bedroom closet. Very strange area but perfect for storage.

My first thought was that my own visage in the bathroom mirror is ghastly enough, especially at 3:13 a.m. (The horror…)

Then I wondered what kind of self-respecting, chain-rattling spirit worries about waking the neighbors so much that it restricts its knocking and “hardly noticeable, even” screaming to “twice a week, tops” at an hour when most of the living would likely sleep right through it.

And what about that storage space behind a concealed door in a “very strange area”? That couldn’t have been built just to stow granny’s rhubarb preserves.

Finally, I thought, the ad might be a Halloween prank or, more likely, some homeowner pitching a locale for one of the reality TV ghost shows—Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Kardashian Ghost Vacations, etc.

Whatever it was, it didn’t look like a winning sales strategy. How many folks are actively seeking habitats that come with bumps, shrieks, and ghastly mugs in the mirror? So, why add these features to a public listing?

A good question. So I decided to check what realtors think about phantoms roaming the corridors, and I learned some surprising legal and other facts. Continue reading


RIP: Common Sense

An obituary printed in the London Times

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain
– Why the early bird gets the worm
– Life isn’t always fair
– And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). Continue reading

Maidan Mania


Poor Ukraine. It’s suffering a national bout of political dyspepsia, and almost no one seems to care.

Well I do—it’s a subject close to the homefront.   So, for the sake of domestic tranquility I offer this wildly partisan analysis of recent events there.

The capital city, Kiev, has since November witnessed huge, sometimes violent demonstrations in the city’s main plaza, Independence Square, the so-called Maidan, as police clash with protestors and different factions confront each other.

At odds are two unyielding blocs of the Ukrainian people separated by politics, culture, language, future ambitions and, largely, regions: Eastern and Western Ukraine.

The protests erupted when Ukraine’s president, Victor Yanukovich, scrapped a deal that would have brought closer economic ties with the European Union. Instead, he chose to favor the country’s traditional patron, Russia. This was, so to speak, a red flag for millions of mostly Western Ukrainians, who have long sought closer ties to Western Europe.

Eastern Ukraine, for its part, feels a strong kinship with Russia and a strong measure of nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Many Soviet leaders had roots in Eastern Ukraine, including Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Kirichenko. During the Brezhnev era, over half the members of the Politburo claimed Eastern Ukrainian origins, and the old Red spirit still haunts the region. Even now, as the country seeks to revive and make Ukrainian the undisputed national language, Easterners cling to Russian in their daily conversations, official transactions, and historical loyalties.

Continue reading