I first arrived at 412 South Hospital Road by accident. I was lost; looking for another house in another neighborhood. There is a reason I’ve been called “Wrong Way Roger”. This accidental meeting between house and human was kismet though. Nearly six months later, I bought the old farm house that no one seemed to want.
The house sat on nearly three wooded acres; a huge piece of property by Michigan suburban standards. As my husband at the time went off to the airport for work, I settled in to start the unpacking. That is when I met Madge.
My daughter was the very first person in our family to meet her. She was four and saw nothing wrong with playing with the lady who sat on the front step with her. It meant nothing to my little girl who so whole heartedly left out cakes for fairies at night and thought that mushroom rings might be a portal to new lands, that Madge was a ghost.
In the beginning, I admit, she scared me. She threw knives on the floor when my husband at that time decided to cook. She emptied out closetfuls of clothes during the night whilst we slept. But eventually, I learned that Madge was telling us something. Sometimes it took me weeks to decipher what it was that she was saying, but in the end I pieced it together. There were things we should know. There were rules to living in HER house with HER.
Children were not to be yelled at was the first rule. She often made noise in other rooms to take me away from the kids when I would scold them. Her position on this idea changed as the kids grew to be teenagers, I must add. Second, no men cooking in her kitchen. She did eventually allow bread making on the holiday, but aside from that, she was slam door, throw knives and all out frighten men who tried to cook. She also didn’t like drunk men and made it known to several through the years during parties. Candles would burst with wax and once even the legs of the buffet table collapsed next to a rather drunken man who was getting obnoxious.
As the years passed, Madge grew quieter and I listened harder. There were times I could hear her whispering to me. She woke me when teenagers didn’t come home on time if I fell asleep on the couch waiting up. She played with my dog. She protected me by locking doors when I needed help. She was my friend. And I once was so grateful to her for watching over me and my children that I promised I would protect the home that we grew to love and the friend who lived there with us.
Fast forward seven years from that day. Since the day of my promise, my life has taken a huge turn. My marriage fell apart, the small little children who came to Hospital Road no longer wanted to read stories under the apple tree, they wanted to go away to college. I fought for fourteen months to keep the house and my promise to Madge, but regrettably, I lost it in foreclosure. When I told Madge we had to leave, that my savings were gone trying to save the house, she did not take it well. She threw books. She flung pictures and shattered glass. I heard her cry and I joined her. I begged her to come with me. But somehow, I knew what I was asking was impossible.
It’s been almost two years since I closed the door to the farm house and left with my children. For this article, I decided to go back and see if my old friend might talk to me like she had so long ago to me as well as to a select few visitors she came to love. The following is a transcription of the recording that I took while inside of the house.
412 South Hospital Rd; 5pm, November 2010
I stand outside and take in what nature has done to a 100 year old house in less than 2 years. The gables are broken, the siding is peeling, paint chipping and the flower beds have weeds that are higher than I am tall. I fumble with the lock box of the door and go inside.
Ok. It’s freezing in here. I thought that the county would keep the heat on so the pipes don’t freeze or maybe the bank would keep it warm enough so the house doesn’t fall into disrepair so quickly but I guess that’s just a rumor. Ok. I’m turning on my little phone recorder now.
Mrs. Moore? Madge? Are you here? It’s me, Michele.
I’m standing down here in the music room. Gosh. I used to play the piano in this room. I wonder how many piano lessons I have taught in this room? Do you remember Madge?
(listen to my footsteps echo on the hardwood oak floors) Here we are in the dining room. For twelve years, I served Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Winter Solstice, Easter and countless birthday parties in this room. At least the old light fixture is still here. I loved that light.
Oh my gosh. When did this happen? Oh Madge. I’m sorry. It looks like someone broke out the window to your reading room. This was your reading room according to some of the old farm wives who are now in their nineties. It was a huge pantry when I lived here. It doesn’t look like it has rained in here yet. Did this just happen?
(there is a huge banging noise in some other room and I gasp)
Crap. Why did I decide to come alone? It’s getting dark in here already and (I try the light) there is no electricity. Soon, I’m going to be walking around here by the light of my cell phone.
This was the kitchen. This cupboard was my friend Katy’s. She gave it to me right before she died. Do you remember that Madge? You kind of threw a fit when we redid the kitchen.
(The old coffee maker that my ex left falls over in response).
Madge, I’m holding this phone and its recording us. Is there anything you want to say to me? Sometimes the recording will hear you even if I can’t.
(I wait to give Madge a chance to respond. I feel cold but I don’t know if its my imagination or not)
Well, there is the door to the basement, but its way too dark now to go down there. So much for my career as a ghost buster. I didn’t even remember my flashlight! (I laugh nervously)
Now to my favorite room. This is a huge room. 20by20. I used it as a library. I think we had something like 2000 books in here at one point. It’s hard to believe I’m down to something like 50 of my own books now at my new place.
(I scream! A huge, old dictionary that I left behind has landed in a cloud of smoke on the floor behind me.)
Madge. I just came to say that I’m sorry. I know I let you down. Please forgive me. I can tell you are angry. It feels heavy all around me in here. It used to be my favorite room and now all I want to do is run out.
The feeling is getting worse. (I cough) I gotta get out of here.
There were some basic closing sounds but really, I just ran out in a fit of tears. All night, I told myself that it was just the emotions of seeing the place again. When I played the recording back to myself the next day, all I heard was one phrase in a whisper that sounded female. It was when I was in the library, when the heavy feeling was overpowering me. All she said was, “Mine. My house!”
I have been thinking about it, and I can only guess that Madge has taken it upon herself to protect the old farm on her own now. If it was forgiveness that I was looking for, there is none to be given by Madge Moore. Upon research, Mrs. Moore was a farmer’s wife who lived just down the road from the TB Sanitarium. Thus, the reason why the road was named Hospital Road.
Mrs. Moore’s husband died young. Law said that she was a woman and could not own property. If she wanted to keep the farm, she had to remarry. She refused. Instead, she got an education via postal mail, found a loop hole in the law and remained single for the remainder of her life, running the farm with great success.
In true fashion, Mrs. Madge Moore is looking for further loop holes in order to take care of her beloved land in Waterford, Michigan.