WORDS: JACOB KARLIN '17
It was a rainy night a couple of weeks ago, when my water bottle flew off my dresser and my desk lamp mysteriously blew out, that my suspicions about Russian House were confirmed: the house was haunted, and the spirits were coming to get me. In one night, I was not only converted from a dumb skeptic to a firm believer of the supernatural, but I also became responsible for ridding my room of the paranormal forces that sought to torment me. I had to get to the root of this haunting before it was too late.
Earlier that night, a former resident of Russian House validated my suspicions about Russian House as we walked from Washington Street towards the intersection of Church and High. I had recently moved into 163 High Street, and within the first few days noticed that I felt uneasy walking in the house alone late at night. Prompted by the sight of Russell House (thinking back to the ghost hunter video filmed in Russell House), I asked my friend if she thought Russian House was haunted. “Oh, it definitely is,” she said, and I paused. I stared at Russian House, now in sight and partly obscured by the rain.
I asked her to elaborate.
“I don’t know, generally odd vibes from all the old furniture, weird noises, super creaky floors, but nothing concrete.”
I parted ways with my friend, and made it back to RuHo. I ran up the precariously steep staircase and opened the door to my open double. I scanned the room as I entered, and to my relief saw, not a ghost, but my roommate Misha on his bed.
“Misha, is our house haunted?” I asked.
“Oh yes, it is very much haunted!” he exclaimed, and explained to me that last semester, at a very late hour, he had been in the downstairs kitchen when he heard footsteps coming from the room above. It was late August, and no one else had moved into the house. He had gone up to investigate the footsteps, but there was no one there. Misha stated that “the steps were very clear; it wasn’t just noise.”
A few minutes later, my lamp blew out as I sat at my desk discussing the paranormal energy in the house with a friend on FaceTime. My friend and I shrieked. The next morning, when Misha and I woke up, he asked me how I had slept. I told him I slept fine.
“Oh, I thought you would be freaking out last night. Because I started freaking out when I woke up in the middle of the night after the water bottle flew off the dresser.” And it was at that moment that I turned into a steadfast believer of the spiritual world.
I threw up during my only previous interaction with the paranormal on the Halloween tour of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California when I was 6. Before Wesleyan, I had never even performed a séance! Far away from Los Angeles, where I grew up and where every building is fairly new, I am now on the East Coast, which has more visible cemeteries, meaning more haunted spaces. “Why is Connecticut so haunted?” is one of the top Google searches about the state. The Hartford Courant states “Connecticut is said to be one of the states with the most paranormal activity in the country”. The Connecticut Post recently reported on a survey reviewing the U.S.’s 200 largest cities for the number of reportedly haunted houses and concentration of cemeteries. Nearby Bridgeport comes in at a spooky #4 on the list.
I did some research on Russian House. Officially recorded as the Karl Harrington House, this haunted house was built in 1875 and originally owned by Reverend J.L. Dudley. I could not find any more information about the Reverend. Ah! The house then went under the ownership of the Harrington Family: first to Calvin Harrington, then his son Karl Harrington. Both Harrington’s were Professors of Latin and Greek at Wesleyan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was just a few more Google searches later I found that Calvin Harrington died at the house in 1886. In the book, “Memories of the Life of Calvin Sears Harrington, D.D.: Late Professor of Latin in Wesleyan University”, Eliza Harrington tells the life story of her husband, Calvin. She devotes a chapter of the biography to the slow decline and eventual death of her husband. He died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends. Fine. But the mystery of J.L. Dudley continued to irk me. Where did he go? When did he die? Who was he? I don’t know.
I asked my housemates if they had experienced anything unexplainable or paranormal. Most people responded that they hadn’t. One person responded, “that there’s some sort of ghost that shuts down our heating.” Ha ha. Funny if this were some sort of joke! I wondered why the spiritual world had come to contact me. Was it because I am Jewish and living in a dead Reverend’s house? Did the spirit know I lied on my program housing app? Was it because I threw out the pocket Bible I found in my room?
I reached out to former residents of Russian House. They recounted, with very little detail, that they believed Russian House to be haunted as well. Jules Lighter ’16, former resident, said “that shit is real” and Ruho is “haunted as fuck”. The house manager told me he himself had not experienced anything paranormal. However, he told me that when he went down to the basement of RuHo with Fire Safety, he found a chair sitting in the middle of an empty room. Was this the center of the bad energy? Was it J.L. Dudley’s chair?
I went to Google once again to figure out what to do with the spirit in my room. I posted a Facebook status about the haunting of my room, and was flooded with inboxes from my believer friends. After hearing the details of the haunting, my friends gave me various sets of instructions regarding the contact and possible removal of the spirit from my room. We were able to concentrate the source of the haunting in the closet. A few days later, following the instructions I received, I found myself speaking prayers into the closet and scrubbing the top right corner of my shower with some lime juice I had bought to make drinks.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the night my lamp blew out and the water bottle fly off a dresser, and honestly I do not have answers to the majority of my questions I have posed regarding the supernatural in Russian House. I do not know why I am being haunted. I do not know who J.L. Dudley is. I do not know if the chair in the empty room in the basement belongs to Reverend J.L. Dudley, but it might. Only time will tell.