My boyfriend Joe and I decided to finally get a place of our own. It had been long enough and we were doing well financially, with my shows and our cleaning jobs, that we felt that we could afford something small for the two of us. One of our cleaning clients happened to have recently bought a small property on Richards Ave. in Ventnor a block from the bay and she offered to rent it to us. We took the obligatory tour of the little one bedroom and immediately fell in love, it was very quaint with a porch, living room with a mantle, dining area and a kitchen to the left and a bedroom to the right towards the back of the house. The bathroom was tucked under the stairs going up to the apartment above but we thought that was charming, even though that meant taking daily baths since there was no room for a shower stall.
We moved in quickly, we didn't have that much to begin with so there wasn't a whole lot to haul across the island. We settled in, getting as domestic as a drag performer and tortured artist could possibly get in the middle of suburbia, since that's what Ventnor is compared to Atlantic City, although in condensed form. There was an attached garage and a little front and back yard that Joe quickly commandeered for his artistic needs and I cordoned off a bit of the porch to store my costumes and accessories. It was an idyllic time in our lives, the money was coming in, the rent was cheap and we were enjoying our lives as a couple. Of course in short time, our home became an end point for our nocturnal wanderings, we routinely came home with an entourage after a night at the Studio Six or wherever else I had been performing. Alcoholic libations were plentiful and we continued our party well into the mornings, watching the rest of our little block wake up to begin their day as we drifted off to sleep.
Halloween came that first year and Joe and I went mad with the decorations, transforming the entire driveway and front yard into a haunted house, with creepy sounds coming from the hidden speakers in the azaleas and crazy glowing televisions lining the lawn with bizarre images flashing on their screens, along with the copious spider's webs and insane decorations that we came up with to scare the neighbourhood children. We dressed up and frightened the kids as they came up to our front door, the panic was clearly evident on their faces but you could also tell they loved every minute of it. We had a blast decorating and giving them a good thrill for our favourite holiday.
I'm not sure when I saw him for the first time, but I clearly remember to this day the first time I saw the old man in our kitchen.
Actually, I think it was summer of that first year. I had fallen asleep on the couch watching the telly (no idea where Joe was) and when I woke up it was getting a little dark and, as I glance across the room, I saw an old man wearing a hat, shuffling back and forth in our little kitchen. There was no door to the room so I had a clear view. He would go to the sink and then stand in front of the washing machine and then turn and go out of view. Of course, I was startled out of my skin, I had no idea who this was in my house and how he got in! I jumped up and crept across the living room to see further into the kitchen and, curiously, no one was there. Confused, I walked across the dining room and turned on the kitchen light, nothing was amiss, and I looked at the back door and it was locked tight, from the inside.
Needless to say, I was freaked out a little. I ran through all the possibilities and could only conclude that I had dreamt the entire thing. But I couldn't shake the feeling that what I saw wasn't my imagination running wild.
Joe and I went about our lives, planning a big event at the club (I think it was our Fantasy Show, to benefit Dooley House in Camden) and everything was as normal as it could be in our lives.
One day, I came home from a cleaning job, unlocking the inner porch door and I went to put my supplies down by the doorway and when I looked up, there he was plain as day, the old man in a hat shuffling back and forth in the kitchen again. Of course, I jumped a little and gave a start but he didn't notice or respond. As he wandered to the back of the kitchen, that's when I saw him simply vanish, melt away into the air as if he was never there. This time, I was unnerved but more convinced that I hadn't dreamt him up and what I saw was a ghost. Of course, the scientific side of me continued to doubt what I saw but it was so real, and this was the second time, that I could come to no other conclusion.
I saw him more and more over the months and I finally had to tell Joe. Of course, he wasn't surprised at all, he had seen him, too. He told me he'd see him when we were snuggled on the couch, the old man would appear and do his little thing in the kitchen and then walk to the back and disappear. The sightings became so common that we just accepted that he was there and didn't give it any more thought. Of course, when our cat would come walking in from the kitchen when we had let her out the front door earlier, that would freak us out a little knowing that, somehow, our old man ghost was letting Lesco back in the flat.
After one after-party, we all staggered awake in the late afternoon, clearing our heads of the night before. I came out of the bathroom and our friend Michelle was on the couch, I asked her how she slept and she hit me and said, 'Why didn't you tell me about the old man with the hat in the kitchen!'
Well, we explained that we didn't want to sound crazy by telling people about our little ghost. And the fact that we didn't tell anyone and she saw the same thing only confirmed that we had an actual ghost in our home. He seemed to be benign and, over time, it became a badge of honour for our friends to see him. We were all in on the little secret, not revealing anything until someone said they saw him, each person confirming for the rest of us that our ghost was really there.
Joe was always out in the front yard, tinkering around, and one day I woke up to him covered in dirt and our entire lawn was missing. He decided to make it a wildflower garden and began transplanting bushes and flowers and landscaping the little patch of land into his new vision. In short time, it bloomed and blossomed into a beautiful little garden, flowers grew at different times, bursting with colours all over. The neighbours would come by and tell us how lovely it was and that's when we began to hear stories of the original tenants. They were an older couple who were very much in love. The neighbours said that the original couple would have loved the new front garden, they always had flowers around. We were happy to know that little bit of information and figured our ghostly old man was one of the original tenants, who simply wasn't ready to leave his home.
Time went on and, for whatever reasons, Joe and I eventually moved from our flat to other places. We had heard friends of ours moved in but hadn't seen them for nearly a year. Eventually, I saw one of them at the Studio Six one night and he came straight over to me in a beeline and playfully hit me on the shoulder saying, 'Why didn't you guys tell us about the old man with the hat in the kitchen!?!'
I guess our little ghost was still keeping an eye on things at Richards Ave.