Home. Made. Podcast Graphic Episode 9

My Roommate, The Ghost

July 19, 2021

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The Overprotective Spirit

Steve (whose name has been changed, to protect the haunted) makes his living being rational. So, when he first started hearing strange noises in his Brooklyn home, he looked for a rational explanation.

It started with the sound of footsteps coming from his baby daughter’s room. But they didn’t sound like a child’s footsteps, and when he went to investigate, his daughter was fast asleep.

He looked for other possible explanations, like the heating system or the floorboards. But he couldn’t seem to find the cause.

Then, he’d hear random crashing noises. Or the sound of his wife calling for him – even when she was out of town.

So, he tried a new approach. Steve enlisted the help of a friend who’s a professional tarot card reader.

The friend said he sensed a spirit in the house, and that it had an issue with Steve. Specifically, it was trying to keep Steve away from his daughter.

Steve is his daughter’s primary caregiver, a proud stay-at-home dad. But from the responses they were getting through the cards, it seemed that the spirit didn’t like that. Steve wondered if the spirit came from a time period when men typically weren’t the ones who stayed home to take care of their kids, and if the spirit was trying to protect his daughter from him.

Could it be possible that the source of all the unexplained noises and disruptions in his house was … a sexist ghost?

Ramona, The Comforting Ghost

Trigger warning: This story includes mentions of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Soon after moving to the ski town of Telluride, Colorado, with her boyfriend, Krista Diamond found herself falling into a depression.

They’d moved there to change things up after having spent the summer camping in Death Valley. But in spite of all the beauty of the area, she had trouble adjusting to her new home. Her job was difficult, she struggled to make friends, and she and her boyfriend worked opposite shifts, so they didn’t get to spend a lot of time together.

“For me, depression has always felt like – this is an odd metaphor – it always feels like kind of a thick sap in my veins,” Krista says in the episode. “So, I always felt heavy and tired, and I did cry sometimes. But I, for better or for worse, have always been pretty good at compartmentalizing depression.”

But being so isolated made it hard for her to manage her depression. She was spending her nights alone in their apartment. She started to think about suicide.

That’s when she first sensed Ramona’s presence.

When they’d moved in, Krista’s landlord had told her and her boyfriend that their apartment used to be a brothel, and that it was haunted. They hadn’t thought too much about it at the time. But now, she felt like there was someone else in the apartment with her.

“Suddenly it felt like there was somebody there, not in this scary ghost story way, but in the way that, like, a roommate coming home feels like,” Krista says.

After doing a little research, Krista learned about Ramona, the playful ghost who locals say haunted the area. According to an exhibit Krista came across at a museum in Telluride, Ramona used to work at the brothel and had likely died by suicide.

Image of vintage housing and a mountain in Telluride

Krista’s apartment in Telluride.

Suddenly, her apartment wasn’t so lonely anymore. With winter snowstorms making it difficult to get to therapy appointments, Ramona helped Krista until everything thawed out and she was able to get out of town to receive the help she needed.

To hear Steve and Krista’s full stories, listen to “My Roommate, The Ghost” now.

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Learn more about the host of Home. Made., award winning journalist Stephanie Foo on our host page.

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Episode Transcript

STEPHANIE FOO: One night, shortly after moving into a big, old house in Brooklyn, Steve heard noises coming from upstairs. Footsteps. Oh, great. His baby daughter must be up and playing again. With a sigh, Steve put down his book, got up from the couch, walked slowly up the creaky stairs to her room, opened the door quietly and his daughter was lying in bed fast asleep. That was weird. Steve went back downstairs. But the noises started again, and this time he could tell: that definitely didn’t sound like a child’s footsteps.

 

STEVE: It would be like if someone had really long legs and was able to take two footsteps and run through a room.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Like someone is stomping?

 

STEVE: But it's spread out.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve started hearing these noises every night. More so when his wife was away on business. And then things got weirder.

 

STEVE: If I was watching baseball and someone's throwing a pitch, like right when the catcher would catch it, you'd hear something fall in a back room.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Oh, wow. OK. OK, that's creepy as hell. What's your emotional reaction to all of this?

 

STEVE: Can you hear me?

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve? Steve?

 

STEVE: I can't hear anyone.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve are you there?

 

STEVE: Oh, no.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: This is Home. Made., an original podcast by Rocket Mortgage® about the meaning of homes, and what we can learn about ourselves in them. I’m Stephanie Foo.

 

STEVE: Does this sound crazy to you?

 

STEPHANIE FOO: No, it doesn't sound crazy. It sounds scary.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: In this episode, two stories about haunted houses. And the way ghosts made the people living with them feel more at home. Back to Steve. That’s not his real name, actually. We’re using it because he’s worried about what people might think about all of this.

 

STEVE: I'm a behavior analyst. So if I can't see it, it's mentalism and it's outside the realm of what I do for work.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: He makes his living being rational. Rationalists don’t believe in ghosts. And yet things kept happening Steve couldn’t explain. After he moved in, he heard those footsteps always near his daughter’s room almost every night. He tried desperately to find the source – checking the heating system, the floorboards, everything – but there just wasn’t a scientific explanation. At first, Steve treated the footsteps like a joke. He loved horror movies, and so it was fun to pretend he was a character in a film. But then things started to get a little weird. Especially when his wife was out of town. He started hearing her mouse clicking from the study all the time when she wasn’t there. And then ...

 

STEVE: My wife calls me baby, you know how couples call each other baby, sweetie, honey, I would hear, "Baby, baby," like a little sing-song-y voice. That's how she talks to me. But I would know that it's not her. I mean, that gives me goosebumps just to talk about now.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: That wasn’t as fun for Steve. He was starting to feel unwelcome in his own home. But he didn’t want to leave.

 

STEVE: I'm very attached to this house. I didn't think I would ever be able to have a mortgage and live in Brooklyn. I didn't grow up with a ton of opportunities for things like that. It's one of the things that I'm the most proud of.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: So after several months of hearing noises, he enlisted the help of a colleague who was a Brooklyn history nerd. She found two old newspaper listings for wakes held at Steve's address. It seemed the house was zoned for business when it was built in 1919. But Steve couldn’t find out what businesses had existed there. And that’s just kind of interesting, considering the enormous, dank basement.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Hmm. Huge basement. Makes me think of a funeral home or something.

 

STEVE: I know and it's weird because there's a massive, massive sink in there. It's strange.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: This wasn’t just a big sink. You could easily bathe a large person in it. But beyond that, she didn’t find much else. A contractor confirmed the house wasn’t settling, the floorboards didn’t need replacing. The neighbors hadn’t heard anything. The previous owners hadn’t mentioned anything. And his wife could hear some of the sounds. But she didn’t pay much attention to them. She would just roll her eyes and go back to whatever it was she was doing. But Steve was sure he wasn’t hallucinating. He started to believe there really was a ghost there. And he’s not alone: I mean, 20% of Americans insist they’ve seen or felt the presence of ghosts. None of that can be definitely proven, but it’s a pretty big number. So, after exhausting the rational investigation, Steve did something less scientific. He turned to a good friend of his who is a professional tarot card reader.

 

STEVE: I mean, he firmly believes in it. I'm a little bit on the fence with it. It's kind of a cold read to me, but I think it's interesting.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: The friend brought his cards over and started to lay them out on the table. Right away he said he could sense a spirit in the house, and that it would answer yes or no questions through the cards.

 

STEVE: So I'm like, "Does the spirit have a hard time with us being here?" It's yes. "Does the spirit have a hard time with my wife?" No. "With the baby?" No.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: And then Steve asked about the only other person living in the house.

 

STEVE: I'm like, "Does it have a problem with me being here?" Yes.

 

STEVE: So from the reading, it was indicated that the spirit was protecting my daughter from me. That when I was downstairs, it was trying to keep me downstairs, away from her.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve is a very active, loving parent. He’s the primary caregiver, largely a stay-at-home dad, and he was really proud of that. Proud of the way he interacts with his daughter. So it didn’t make him question his parenting. He knew he wasn’t a threat.

 

STEVE: But it made me question more about the spirit or the history. Like, what is it that has happened here? Why is it still trying to protect someone in the house?

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve’s first thought was that this was the ghost of a woman or girl, abused or hurt in his house, and was now trying to protect other women from the same tragic fate. That’s a fair supposition if you believe in ghost psychology 101. But the tarot card reader was picking up another option.

 

STEVE: He's going through why it's just me, that it doesn't agree with me spending so much time with my daughter and that it feels like that's not my role.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Hm. I see. So it was really just a gender thing?

 

STEVE: It's someone that's just very protective of children and comes from a time period where maybe having the man putting the daughter to bed and changing diapers, it feels like that's not my role.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: It seems that the tarot cards were channeling the spirit of an old-fashioned, sexist ghost. But keep in mind, these were tarot cards, followed by Steve’s rationalizations based on those cards. At the same time, the ghost’s presence was always louder and more active when he was spending the most time with his daughter, when his wife was away. There was one time that the ghost actually, really made its wishes clear to Steve. One day, he was doing dishes. He and his wife had decorated the kitchen with a geode, one of those rocks with colored crystals in it. It sat firmly on a cabinet near the sink.

 

STEVE: And it fell off the top of the shelf and it hit the sink. It was a big rock, a 10-pound rock. And it came so close to my head that it brushed my head.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve insists there’s no way the rock could’ve worked its way to the edge of the cabinet over time.

 

STEVE: I remember my hands shaking. It wasn't like this, "Oh my God, I almost got hurt” thing. It was like, "That was really scary, I don't understand why that happened."

 

STEPHANIE FOO: When the rock almost fell on your head, how did you respond to the ghost?

 

STEVE: See, this is when I'm going to sound unstable. I'm talking to the spirit. I'm saying out loud, "It's OK for you to be here. I'd prefer if you weren't, but if we're going to stay here and coexist, you can't do things that are scary or dangerous."

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve had had enough. He was angry, but cautious so he confronted the ghost politely. And after he said those things, the ghost got quieter. Almost like it was listening to him. A few weeks later, it came back. The running from room to room. Things falling for no reason. But something was different. The relationship between the two had changed. It was doing more innocuous things. And it would stop doing something if Steve chastised it. Like now, when he told the ghost to stop saying “baby,” it would.

 

STEVE: If something would fall, I would giggle and just think, "Oh, that's the spirit again. OK." Because I felt like the spirit was adhering to my plea for it to just be, "Don't hurt me. Don't scare me so bad I can't sleep. Don't make me worry about my daughter upstairs sleeping, or something in my house breaking." It seemed like we had found a common ground.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Steve started to rethink the ghost’s role in his home. Maybe it wasn’t an enemy so much as it was an accomplice.

 

STEVE: It seemed like something in my mind that I could shape, that this is an extra thing in the house to help keep my daughter safe. Another set of eyes.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: So you were actually pleased about this.

 

STEVE: I would say yes.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: And the ghost started shaping Steve’s idea of himself and his place in that home.

 

STEVE: We've been in this house 11 years. How many families have lived in this house? It seems very imperialistic to just come in and be like, "No, everyone has to get out. This is mine." That seems selfish.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: It's like you're really renting this space or taking–

 

STEVE: That's the word I would totally use, renting.

 

STEPHANIE FOO:  –care of this space.

 

STEVE: Right. It's my turn. Someone else will own this home after me, it's not mine.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: What is your standing relationship with the ghost now? Is it bad? Is it good?

 

STEVE: It's like having an annoying neighbor that you like, but is really loud. Someone that plays drums at night, but they'll make you brownies on the weekend. It's like a love, hate thing, but it evens out.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: We assume that a home is yours for as long as you live in it and then it passes to the next inhabitant. But Steve came to understand that that isn’t always the case. Spirits might linger, in different ways. By accepting that the previous re sident, the ghost, still needed to live in that big old home, Steve himself became a deeper part of the story of that house. And in learning to respect it’s past, Steve felt like he was better stewarding its future. After all, he’d appreciate it if one day, generations from now, someone would have the kindness to do the same for his spirit.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: But while Steve’s experience negotiating shared space with a ghost isn’t that unusual, in our next segment, that relationship goes even further. It’s about someone who didn’t just put up with a ghost but actually became friends with it. A trigger warning for this next one though: There are mentions of depression and suicidal thoughts.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: About 10 years ago, Krista Diamond and her boyfriend arrived in Telluride, a picturesque ski resort town, and playground of the rich and famous. They had spent the summer camping in Death Valley, one of the hottest places on earth. So they wanted to switch things up and experience the exact opposite: snow and ice in the mountains of Southern Colorado. They found a quaint, small apartment on Telluride’s main street, with an antique, black potbelly stove and an old clawfoot tub. Krista’s landlord showed her the space, and then…

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: He was like, "Oh yeah, this was a brothel." And by the way, there was like a ghost that haunted who probably died nearby, and that was pretty much it.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: There was even a plaque above the tub: original tub, circa 1840, Silver Bell Bordello.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Were you like, "Oh hell no," when you heard that?

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: So we were caught off by it, but just dismissed it because I don't think either one of us really had much of an opinion on ghosts.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Honestly, Krista and her boyfriend were exhausted and queasy, still adjusting to the high altitude. They were just happy to find a place and eager to join the local community. Krista started waiting tables at a high-end bistro, and her boyfriend found work at a hotel. Pretty quickly though, things started to go downhill for Krista. To start with, she wasn’t really into winter sports. Telluride is a ski town, and the staff at local businesses received free ski passes.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: They were pretty judgmental about me not doing that, that's what they all did together. And my co-workers thought that that was really weird and as a result of that I was never invited to hang out outside of work.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: So Krista struggled to make friends. And the fine dining job was high pressure. Her boss would scream at her most days. And she never got to see her boyfriend, because he worked the night shift. He was leaving for his job when she got home. And he was sleeping when she woke up. It was surreal. Here she was in paradise, but she was miserable.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Yeah, so I saw Kelly Ripa, like, more than I saw my boyfriend for a period of time. I saw Jerry Seinfeld a lot, I saw the cast of “Duck Dynasty.”

 

STEPHANIE FOO: What?

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Yeah, they're good tippers.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: At night I felt really sad, especially when I would come home from work. And then in the morning I would wake up and I would often feel, like, really anxious, having my partner there sleeping and knowing that I could like wake him up and tell him how I was feeling, but I didn't really want to do that.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: And even worse, once the snow settled in, Krista was trapped. Telluride is very remote in the winter. Far from other towns. And it sits in what is called a box canyon. Tall cliffs on either side of it, so it’s easy to get snowed in. Krista didn’t have a four-wheel drive, so over time, she became as isolated as the town. And the apartment became like a prison. But the sadness she just mentioned wasn’t just sadness. It was turning into actual depression. Something Krista had suffered from most of her life.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: For me, depression has always felt like – this is an odd metaphor – it always feels like kind of a thick sap in my veins. So I always felt heavy and tired and I did cry sometimes. But I, for better or for worse, have always been pretty good at compartmentalizing depression.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: But the creeping isolation was making it harder to do that. It started to remind her of the time in college when she was so depressed, she attempted suicide.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Telluride was the first time since I was 20 that I felt like I might actually do something.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Yeah, making the plans is really, really scary.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: People don't talk about how scary that is, like even if you want to do it, it's still scary.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Yeah. I mean, it's just being like, "Oh God, am I going to do it?"

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Mm-hmm.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Since college, Krista had learned how to manage her depression by eating lots of foods rich in omegas and iron, drinking lots of water and exercise. Going to therapy. But in Telluride at the time, there were no therapists, and being snowed in meant that she couldn’t go find one in a nearby town. So her depression got worse. But someone came to her aid on Thanksgiving of that year.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: I just remember going home by myself, holding this big box of mashed potatoes, which feels like the saddest thing in the world to be holding when you're just trudging down the street. And I just really started to feel that that dread creeping in and I went to bed alone. And suddenly it felt like there was somebody there, not in this scary ghost story way, but in the way that, like, a roommate coming home feels like.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Something, or someone else, was in the apartment with Krista.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Can you describe that? It's hard for me to picture it.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: It's almost mundane, which is why it was so unique to me because it's a ghost, so it should be, like, alarming it should be, like, scary. It should be like crashing and weird things breaking. But it just felt like, “Oh, just a person, you know, roommate or friend came over and now they're sitting on the couch next to me.” It's just like a slight shift in the atmosphere of the room and it doesn't feel drastic or big, it just feels like comfortable.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Did it feel like a female or …?

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Yeah, it did. It felt like having like a girlfriend over.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: After that, Krista felt the presence all the time. So when she came home every night to her empty apartment, it didn’t feel terrifying and lonely. It felt warm and welcoming and lived-in. Krista wanted to know more about this new girlfriend who was keeping her company. She remembered the plaque above the bathtub, and she looked up the Silver Bell bordello. During the gold rush, Krista’s neighborhood was called the sporting district, a red light district full of casinos and bordellos, where miners would come to carouse. And then one day, while she was visiting the Telluride Museum she saw an actual exhibit about a ghost in the Silver Bell building. The ghost’s name was Ramona. She’d been young, she’d worked at the brothel. And she had likely died by suicide. Now that she had a name, Krista started asking her neighbors about Ramona. Everyone agreed: Ramona was a friendly ghost.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: So what were her interactions with the other people that you learned of?

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: It was all very playful things. I knew that she really liked the color pink and that she really liked flowers and that she would do kind of silly things like hide something from someone or move something. But it's interesting to me that she had such a tragic end to her life, possibly a tragic life, but then she remained there and has been such a positive force in people's lives in such a lighthearted and comical way.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Krista experienced one of Ramona’s pranks, too. Just one time.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: I was cleaning the apartment and I noticed that this glass rose that we had had on the bookshelf was missing.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Months later, Krista reached up to a super high cabinet, one she had to get a stepladder to reach. Neither she nor her boyfriend had ever used this cabinet for anything. But inside, there it was. The rose.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: So it was just so strange and there was no reason for that, but it felt similar to the stories that I had heard from other people that have lived in that building of her hiding things and her moving thing. And then of course, I thought about how she liked flowers and she liked the color of pink. It was just so strange and kind of fun and very playful and very her.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: But it wasn’t Ramona’s playfulness that Krista was coming to rely on. It was her steady warmth. She was feeling her almost every night now.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: More and more, the worse I felt, the more I felt that presence. And it felt like this bubble from the rest of the world and this place where I could just breathe and I could just lay down and I could just feel like I was being cared for by that. And it was like the walls of the building were like enveloping me and caring for me.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: That's amazing.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Krista never tried to talk to Ramona. She was kind of nervous to. She knew she wasn’t in the best place mentally, and blurring the lines of reality seemed scary. But at the same time, she didn’t need to. It seemed like Ramona understood what she was going through. And maybe she did understand. After all, Ramona had died by the thing that scared her, too. Ramona’s steadiness, her presence, seemed to be communicating something important to Krista.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Being with Ramona reinforced that having these moments where you feel close to the edge, having something, no matter what it is, to just take a little step back and just say, "OK, maybe not tonight” is crucial. And also just to remember that these periods of time where depression is really, really bad, it's not going to last forever.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: It was as if Ramona was reminding Krista to break her days up into manageable chunks. When things became unbearably dark, to hold on until things lightened again.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Did Ramona help you survive that winter?

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: Absolutely that is the case. Otherwise, I don't know what I would do.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Finally, that long winter in Telluride passed. With Ramona’s help, Krista was feeling much better. The hills came alive with flowers. Krista took advantage of summer activities she loved like hiking and camping. But then the aspen trees started turning yellow, and the mating calls of the elk signaled the onset of colder weather. And Krista knew that whereas Ramona had been an amazing short-term solution for her chronic depression, she wasn’t a healthy long-term solution. She decided to move to Las Vegas, where it would be easier to make friends and find resources for her depression. But before she left, she took one last walk around town. She found a beautiful pink bike with flowers on it, and she bought it. She named it Ramona.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: I was like just wishing that I could take her with me and not just this bicycle, but knowing that she really would be there forever and is probably still there.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: But riding the bike gave Krista a similar feeling to the one she felt in that apartment with Ramona. A sense of freedom and possibility, both physical and emotional. Krista’s boyfriend eventually joined her in Vegas. They’re married now. They love where they live. They have a dog. Krista doesn’t miss Telluride, but she misses Ramona. She still relies on the lessons that Ramona taught her about taking it one day at a time and waiting for the good things to come.

 

KRISTA DIAMOND: I miss that apartment. Even though I was not happy living there in that town, that apartment was just such a lovely space and was just filled with so much warmth so much love. And I would love to be back in it just for a night and be taking a bath in that old clawfoot tub and be feeling her presence. And I feel a bit sad that she will be there forever, but I hope that she can be meaningful to the people that are there.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: Yeah, well that’s, that’s really beautiful and I think that’s just a gorgeous story. This might be my favorite ghost story.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: I guess sometimes it takes a dead person to convince you to keep on living. People believe in ghosts or they don’t. But whatever you believe, most homes come with a past. For Steve and Krista, it was the playful and protective ghosts speaking to them from the great beyond. For others, it could be the simple wear and tear, the nicks and scratches in the walls. The way a stairway creaks as you climb it, and the artifacts you might find left and forgotten in an attic. All of these little details connect you not just to your home but to what this home meant to the people who lived here before you.

 

STEPHANIE FOO: You’ve been listening to Home. Made. by Rocket Mortgage. You can reach us at rocketmortgage.com/homemade. And I’m Stephanie Foo. Thanks for listening.

 

ANNOUNCER: Equal housing lender licensed in all 50 states. NMLSconsumeraccess.org #3030

 

GHOST: And remember: Rocket Mortgage cannot be held responsible if the house you purchase is haunted ... OK, baby?

Home. Made. Podcast

Home. Made. is a new podcast from Rocket Mortgage® hosted by Stephanie Foo. Inside every home, there’s a story.

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