Tuesday, July 27, 2010


                                                - Donna DiPietro


In 1956 I moved with my family to the top floor apartment of a three-family home in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was a spacious square-shaped red brick building set upon a hill. Being the highest house around, we could see for miles over the rooftops of buildings, and had a great view of Boston, Cambridge and the surrounding area. Each level had seventeen steps to the next floor, and since the house was built on a retaining wall, it had another thirteen steps to reach the first floor. We had to climb forty-seven steps to reach our apartment. There were old gaslights that no longer worked, hanging on the walls of the inside stairway. Each of the three apartments had seven large rooms with high ceilings. Our reception room had a lovely working gas fireplace that was surrounded by green marble tiles, etched with the faces of ancient Romans. Above the fireplace was a mantle where we hung our Christmas stockings. An old upright piano sat against a wall in the living room. There were large porches on one side and on the front of the house on all three floors. Our floor didn’t have roofs on the porches, which gave us the benefit of enjoying sunny summer days and a clear view of the starry night sky. The house was very intriguing and I loved it the moment I stepped inside. I was the youngest of six children, and my two eldest sisters were married and did not live with us. So there were my parents and my sister Bess, who was a school teacher, and my two brothers Robert and Douglas, six altogether. I can still remember the smell of Pinesol as my parents cleaned the apartment in preparation for our move in. My eldest sister lived directly across the street with her husband and  three children.


Our house, built in 1875, had some unusual characteristics. When we were in the kitchen or dining room, many times we would hear the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs and stopping at our front door. The sound of a key would be heard going into the lock and turning, and the sound of the door opening and closing, and footsteps walking into our reception room, past the fireplace, down our inside hall towards the kitchen, dining room area. We would look up, expecting to see a family member, and many times there would be no one there. The footsteps would always stop at the kitchen threshold, except for one time. This would happen off and on, perhaps once per week, and not again for months. We were mystified at first, but over the years we got used to our invisible visitor. One summer day, my father was home by himself, enjoying the sun on the outside back porch and doing a crossword puzzle which he loved to do. He had just washed some dishes and had hung a wet dish towel on the spring of the screen door to dry. After awhile, as he sat with his back to the door, the door opened wide and slammed shut with great force. He jumped up and turned around, expecting to see perhaps my sister who lived across the street or another family member, but there was no one there. The weather was calm and there was no wind. The spring on the screen door was jumping up and down and the dish towel was swaying wildly. My father opened the screen door, went inside the house, and walked from room to room, and there was no one there. That was the one time the visitor walked past the kitchen. It was a mystery until a few years later when my mother and I got a Ouija Board. We were sitting in the living room using it and my mother asked the board who is walking in the house. The Ouija Board spelled out “Charlotte”. After that, we called the ghost Charlotte and for years, whenever something happened that we couldn’t explain, we would say it must be Charlotte.

There were big radiators in the rooms, and even in the summer sometimes they would clang and bang as though heat were coming through, even though the valves were closed and the radiators were cold. One evening, as my mother and I watched television in the dining room/den, the wallpaper began to peel off of the walls. The wallpaper had been on the walls for at least ten years, and all of a sudden started to peel and actually fell to the floor. You could hear it peeling, as though invisible hands were working to remove it.


I lived in the house for many years until I got married. When my husband Al and I were engaged, we were visiting his parents in Florida for a few days. Early Sunday morning, I heard my parents calling my name. They were saying “Donna, is that you, why are you home?” It woke me up, and I realized I wasn’t home, I was in Florida. It was so unusual that I wanted to make sure of the time and I looked at the alarm clock and at my watch, and it was 7:10 a.m. I called my parents a few hours later and my mother answered the phone. I asked her if anything unusual happened. She said that I had better talk to Daddy. My father got on the phone and told me that they were in the kitchen having breakfast and they heard someone come up the stairs, turn the lock with a key, open and close the front door, walk down the hall, go into my room and shut the door, and they heard me talking. They called out “Donna, is that you, why are you home? You’re supposed to be in Florida”. They rushed down the hall from the kitchen to my room and the door was open and there was no one there. I asked what time this event happened. They said around 7:10 a.m.


My parents lived in the house for twenty-nine years, until they moved to my sister’s house across the street where they had their own first floor apartment. When they decided to move from Charlotte’s house, more strange things occurred. One day, my father was washing the bathroom floor and put the small bath rug in the living room on the wall to wall carpet to get it out of the way. When he went to get the bath rug hours later, he noticed it was quite wet. It was dry when he put it there. The next time he washed the bathroom floor, he again put the rug in the living room, and again it was quite wet when he went to get it hours later. He thought it very strange and decided to do a test. One night, he put the dry bath rug on the living room floor on the wall to wall carpeting. The next morning when he went to check it, it was sopping wet. He tried this at least five more times over a few months, and in each instance the bath rug was sopping wet. The wall to wall carpeting underneath the bath rug was always dry. They had no pets, there were no leaks, and it was just my two parents living there. The room was completely dry except for the bath rug.


In 1991, we celebrated my mother’s 88th birthday at my eldest sister’s house, and the owners of our old house, Mr. and Mrs. G, were at the gathering. The landlady said to me “Donna, your father mentioned Charlotte many times over the years whenever something unusual happened in the house, and we also have had our share of strange events, one of which happened recently”. Mrs. G went on to tell us that she had purchased a new Electrolux vacuum cleaner that spring, and one day she was vacuuming the hall in her first floor apartment. As the vacuum went over the area of the hall entering the master bedroom, she noticed something being pulled from under the threshold. She gently pulled it out and picked it up. It was an old Christmas card with a drawing of a child dressed in a snowsuit pulling a Christmas tree. On the card was written “To Papa Colgan, from Charlotte 12-25-21”. The card had been hidden for seventy years. The landlady went home, across the street, to retrieve the card, so she could show it to me. She also brought over a 1907 newspaper article from the ‘Somerville Journal’. The article was about the house being a surgical and convalescent hospital from 1899, and run by a nurse/superintendent named Hattie C. Wheet. It mentions the large sunny rooms and operating room. Now I know why there were built-in cabinets with glass doors in some of the bedrooms, as they were probably used to store medicines. Many times over the years, when I was outside, and no one was home, I would look up at the house and see someone dressed in white looking out the third floor hall window. I wondered if it was my imagination, but now I’m not so sure.


If this were the end of the story, it would be considered another unusual tale passed down over the years. But this isn’t the end of the story, it is another beginning. In May 2008, I began working at a RE/MAX Landmark real estate office in Acton, Massachusetts. Our company has eleven locations and one of them is in Lexington, Massachusetts. One of the employees who works there is a nice lady named Rhonda. Rhonda and I speak to each other a couple of times each week.  One day in September 2008,  Rhonda asked me where I was from originally and I said “Somerville”.  She said she was also. Then she asked me what part of Somerville. I told her near Porter Square.  She said she was from that part also. Then she asked me what street and I told her. She screamed and asked me if I was Donna Grover and I asked her if she was Rhonda G. It turned out that she and I grew up in the house at the same time, she on the first floor, and me on the third floor. We hadn’t seen each other or had contact with each other for almost forty years. We now used married last names so didn’t realize our true identities for the four months we had been speaking with each other. Her father still owned the house and her mother had passed away. We started talking about Charlotte. Rhonda said her father sometimes worked the night shift as a fireman and her mother would be home alone and would often hear footsteps going down the hall past her bedroom door. My family, on the third floor, would only hear the footsteps during the daytime. Rhonda said that she was with her mother when she was vacuuming the hall and Rhonda was the one who picked up Charlotte’s card as it was pulled from under the threshold. I asked her where the card is. She said it was framed and hanging in her father’s apartment, along with the 1907 newspaper clipping from the Somerville Journal.


I did research on the house and found out that a man named Daniel Demmon (sometimes spelled ‘Damon’) lived in the house in the 1880s. He became very wealthy in copper mining and real estate. He eventually moved to Beacon Street in Boston (his home, still standing, is the original location of Emerson College). One of his daughters married into the Gardner family and I wonder if this was the same Gardner as Isabella Stewart Gardner, since she lived nearby on Beacon Street at the same time. I know that the daughter travelled to Egypt around the same time as Mrs. Gardner. I e-mailed Rhonda the research papers I had accumulated. Rhonda said there was also another Damon who lived in the Somerville house - Matt Damon, the actor. Matt Damon was from nearby Cambridge. His brother and sister-in-law rented my family’s old third floor apartment for about five years in the 1990s, and Matt stayed there between movies when he hit the big time. I wonder if Matt ever heard the sounds of footsteps, a key turning a lock, a door opening and closing.


Charlotte’s name comes up on a Ouija Board in the 1960s, and then a card from Charlotte, dated December 25, 1921 is pulled from under a floor board in 1991. Rhonda and I make contact years later,  and I find out that she is the one who picked up Charlotte’s card from under the threshold.

A man named Daniel Damon lives in the house in the 1880s and becomes very successful. Over one hundred years later, another man named Damon moves in and also becomes very successful. Both Daniel and Matt were originally from Cambridge.

Daniel Damon’s daughter married a man with the last name ‘Gardner’ and moved to Beacon Street, Boston in the late 1800s, at the same time that Mrs. Jack Gardner (Isabella Stewart Gardner) lived in a nearby house on Beacon Street.

Over one hundred years later, in 2008, I started my psychic investigation of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum relating to the biggest art and personal property heist in the world (one half billion dollars). You can read the exciting details of my investigation on this blog under April 2010. I posted it on April 14th – Mrs. Gardner’s birthday.

After Daniel Damon left Beacon Street, Boston, he moved to a large estate in Weston, Massachusetts. This estate is now the home of Regis College. I drive by Regis College often since it is nearby to the town that I've lived in for the last thirty-five years.  What was once Daniel Damon's house is now the home of the President of Regis College.

A connection through the centuries – waiting for someone to communicate with – it certainly is a possibility. My logical mind discovers that some things may not seem logical, but that is because we are still in a primitive state of discovery and some day, many years from now, these things will make sense – if humans are given enough time to evolve. In the meantime, we take each step as a step closer in learning the mysteries of life and the ways of the universe.


  1. Dear Donna,
    Thank you for sharing another exciting story. I look forward to each and every one. Your writing shows that you were brought up in a wonderful loving family. I love the way you describe the house in this story and the adventures that happened over the centuries.
    A Fan

  2. Dear Donna,
    I enjoyed this experience as though I were there as I read this story. Your writing is very personal and brings the reader into the details and surroundings. It is very soothing. Thank you.