Mrs. Woodman – Friend or Foe?

After renovating a centuries-old Victorian home with many gables and a wonderful wraparound porch that encircled the entire house, George and Rebeccah Franklin moved in along with their five-year-old daughter, Emma. It had been over one year since they purchased the grand place, and the family was quite excited to be finally moving in. While George and Rebeccah unpacked the kitchen, and as young children often do in a new home, a wide-eyed Emma ran all over the vast house searching for the room that was going to be hers. As she explored wonderful nooks and spaces to hide, her joyful shrieks and yells carried back to the couple.

George chuckled. “Somebody is going to fall asleep at the dinner table.”

Rebeccah collapsed an empty box and cut open the top of another. “I think I can make it to seven.”

He stepped over to his wife, put his arms around her, and whispered in her ear. “I was talking about Emma.” He paused, cocking his head. “Speaking of, you hear that?”

Rebeccah leaned back. “Hear what?”

George darted toward the entryway into the dining room. “Exactly.”

Rebeccah followed him to the foyer and up the stairs. “Emma, honey?” she called. “Where are you?”

Silence.

George hit the second-floor landing. “Emma?

Right behind him, Rebeccah continued on to the stairs leading to the third floor. “I’ll check upstairs.”

“Okay.”

George raced from room to room, checking each closet and under every bed, continuing to shout her name.

Rebeccah’s voice reached down to him as she frantically searched the third floor. “Emma? Emma?

George didn’t find the little girl on the second floor so he tore up the stairs for the third.

A panicked Rebeccah met him at the top. “Emma’s not here,” she said, her voice trembling.

George glanced up the final flight of stairs. “She’s gotta be in the attic.”

They ran up the stairs calling their daughter’s name as they went. At the top, the attic door was ajar.

George pushed it open and stepped into the space, Rebeccah following him. Although the overhead lights were off, sunlight streaming in from a double window at the far end was more than sufficient to see.

Little Emma stood in the middle of the floor, her headed tilted up. “And what’s his name?” she asked. Nodding her head, Emma replied, “That’s a nice name.”

Rebeccah stepped toward the child, her hand out front. “Emma, honey. What are you doing?”

The little girl turned around to face her mother. “Talking.”

Rebeccah took in the attic. “To who, sweetheart?”

Emma turned back to where she earlier faced and pointed. “Mrs. Woodman, silly.”

George approached Emma, crouched beside her, and looked to where she was pointing. “There’s nobody there,” he said softly.

Emma continued staring upward. “She’s right there, daddy.” Her face grew attentive, head nodding. “I understand.” She turned to her father. “Mrs. Woodman said only I can see and hear her.”

A prickling sensation tore across Rebeccah’s scalp and raced down her spine. Her chest tightened as she joined George on the other side of Emma. Putting an arm around the child, she spoke quietly. “Who’s Mrs. Woodman?”

“She used to live here with her family,” Emma replied matter-of-factly. “Now she stays up here by herself.” She finished with a shrug.

“When did she live her?” George asked.

“A long time ago.” Emma looked back up toward Mrs. Woodman. “Uh-huh. Okay. Bye now.” She faced Rebeccah. “Mrs. Woodman says we need to leave.”

George stood, picked Emma up, and cast a wary glance toward where she had been looking. “That’s a great idea.”

How I imagine Mrs. Woodman to have looked back in the day

They hurried out of the attic, closed the door, and retreated to the kitchen.

Rebeccah took Emma’s hand and led her to a round oak kitchen table. “Let’s sit and talk.”

Emma clambered up onto a chair. “Okay, Mommy. Let’s talk.”

George and Rebeccah sat on either side of their daughter. They exchanged a glance before Rebeccah put a hand on Emma’s forehead. “You don’t feel warm. Are you feeling okay?”

She pushed Rebeccah’s hand away. “I’m not sick.”

George leaned toward Emma. “What were you doing in the attic?”

Emma giggled. “Talking with Mrs. Woodman, silly.”

“There was nobody there,” George said.

“Uh-huh,” Emma countered.

“Tell me what she looked like,” Rebeccah said.

“She had white hair piled on top of her head and a long dress.”

George’s gaze flicked to Rebeccah, then back to his daughter. “Was she tall?”

Emma shrugged. “Don’t know. She was up in the air.”

Rebeccah’s eyes widened. “You mean like floating?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What did she tell you?” George asked.

Emma scrunched her face up. “Well, she’s a mom. She loves children and said I shouldn’t be afraid. She has seven. Five boys and two girls. Their daddy’s name is my daddy’s name. George. He was a doctor.”

George gently turned Emma’s shoulders so she faced him. “Now, Emma. What have we told you about making up stories?”

“I’m not,” she insisted. “It’s true. She looks like a grandma.”

“Did Mrs. Woodman say why she’s staying here?” Rebeccah asked. “In the attic?”

“Mmmm, not really. Just that something bad happened to her and she couldn’t leave.”

George stood. “How about if we go get ice cream and we’ll talk about this later.”

With a squeal, Emma jumped down. “Yea.”

That evening after Emma went to bed, George got on the Internet and searched the public records for a Woodman family while Rebeccah continued to unpack boxes. “Hey, Beck, you’re not gonna believe this, but a Dr. George and Jane Woodman lived here around the turn of the twentieth century.”

Rebeccah froze. “You’re joking, right?”

George slowly shook his head. “Wish I was. Take a look at this.”

She set a stack of books on an end table, stood behind her husband and peered over his shoulder at the open laptop. “What is that, an old deed to the house?”

“Yep.” With the cursor he circled around the address and the names Dr. George and Jane Woodman. “Let’s see what we can find in the 1900 census.” He manipulated the mouse, brought up a webpage, typed in the names George and Jane Woodman, and hit enter.

Rebeccah gasped. “Do you see that?”

“Sure do.” George looked back up at his wife whose face had paled. “Five boys and two girls.”

Note to the reader: This post is based upon a true story. For about five years, Mrs. Woodman visited and talked with the little girl, whose real name is Julielle Kahn. And although the visits eventually stopped, Mrs. Woodman continued to let her presence be known by turning on the television or dishwasher with nobody nearby. I don’t know about you, but I would have hightailed it out of there!

Happy Halloween!

And have a terrific day.

-B.T.

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