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  • Cathy Tonkin

A Haunting of Oakwood Manor, Part 2

Part 9

I looked up hauntings in the area and learned that many folks believe that Duluth’s Enger Tower is haunted. While the park is mostly known for its beauty, hiking trails and flowering plants, it can boast one more notable thing – a ghost. Visitors to the park have reported seeing a man on the fifth level of the tower. But when they climbed to the top, the man was gone.

I also read that the Duluth Public Library may be for more than just checking out books. Over the years, staff have reported a few strange incidents, including papers strewn about the floor not long after they’ve cleaned up and books falling off shelves. There have even been reports of apparitions of a man and woman seen throughout the library.

The Duluth Depot Cultural Center may be haunted. With nearly 130 years of history, The Depot has several ghost stories told about it. At the height of its operation, The Depot served seven major train lines and thousands of passengers, and now serves as a multi-use cultural center. The ghost sightings, however, span across all uses of the space. Visitors have recorded video of hazy silhouettes and orbs vanishing into thin air. A frequent sighting is that of a little girl dressed all in white. There is even photographic evidence of her. She was spotted in the background of a wedding photo. The bride noticed the little girl because there were no children at the wedding.


Part 10

During one of our get togethers Lea told me of an awful Cornwall family story.

“Pearls resentment of her mother progressed to a dreadful incident. On a day when her siblings were getting ready for school, she faked an illness to be able to stay home. After she heard her father and siblings leave the house she came downstairs and found her mother in the kitchen. Pearl asked her, ‘Mom, would you please come with me to the attic. I want to know which old toys we should give to the church jumble sale.’

Tressa said, “You should be in bed my girl. You are ill.” Pearl responded, “I promised the church ladies we would donate to their sale today and I don’t want to let them down,” so her mother agreed.

When Tessa went up to the attic, Pearl held her down in a chair and tied her up then put a gag in her mouth so she couldn’t yell for help. Then she went downstairs and locked the door behind her. She didn’t ever want to see her mother again and wished she would die up there. Tessa was locked up there for many days. Pearl would check on her mom once in a while to see if she could hear her at all, but never brought her food or water, hoping that she would soon die. 

Lea said that when her siblings asked where their mom was Pearl said, “She went to church.” They were busy with school and their friends so didn’t take much notice. Pearl would put food out for her siblings so they wouldn’t notice their mom wasn’t around. 

When her mother was close to death Pearl brought her down to the big bedroom and got her into bed. She then told James and Franny, “Mom hasn’t been feeling well for a while and they should come to see her. She looks like she’s not long for this world. You know she has missed dad so much that I think she wants to join him.” 

James sat on the edge of his mom’s bed and held her hand saying, “Please get-well mom, I need you,” But Tessa was delirious and couldn’t respond. The next week Tessa was dead, and James was in shock. “It all happened so fast. I can’t believe she’s gone. And what did she die of? I didn’t know she was ill.” Pearl responded, “She died of a broken heart,” which could have been true, Pearl breaking her mother’s heart with her horrible treatment.

Tessa’s funeral was a small one with just the minister, the three siblings and a few neighbors. James sat by her grave and sobbed. He had never felt so alone. Franny tried her best to console him, but nothing helped. 

James decided he couldn’t stay in the manor any longer. It just reminded him of his mom which was very painful for him. He packed up and left to work on the freighters as a sailor on the great lakes. Franny said, “Please don’t go James. I’ll miss you so.” But he said he had to leave, and he was gone the next day. Pearl and Franny never saw him again.


Part 11

I had my close friends, Barb and Kelly, over and I told them of hauntings that happened at our house. “We have Griffin’s grandparent’s cuckoo clock hanging at the bottom of our stairs. When we first got it we ran it, but the ticking was too loud so we stopped the pendulum from swinging. One day, after work, we saw that the clock was running again. We each thought the other had started it up. Neither of us had and Griff thought that was a bit funny.”

“Then we had issues with our phones. We have two extensions upstairs and three downstairs. Sometimes one of the upstairs phones would ring but none of the downstairs lines would and there was nothing on the caller I.D. and no dial tone. 

The gals loved to hear these stories and asked if there were more. I told them, “One morning I woke up at six a.m. and saw a strange blue light in the TV room. The TV had turned on by itself and the screen was a glowing blue. It continued to turn on by itself once a week for a couple weeks. Griff and I would talk of these hauntings, but they weren’t as upsetting anymore. We were getting used to our visitors.”

I told them of a time when Griffin was out of town, and I was home alone upstairs in our bedroom and I heard what sounded like a snowblower or some kind of motor going on and off three or four times. Later when I went into the kitchen, I smelled that metallic burning wire smell. I checked the appliances and found that the coffee grinder was hot to the touch and had that smell. That is what was going on and off until it burned out and died. We wondered if maybe it was the old house wiring, but we had had the kitchen totally gutted and all new wiring put in, so that wasn’t it.

I went on. “Griffin had an experience when I was out of town on a trip for work. He noticed that some things on his desk had been moved off the top shelf to the desk below. And before I left town, I had tidied my side of the bedroom with my shoes lined up by the wall. Later in the day when he went into that room, he saw my shoes scattered all over the floor.” 

I told my friends another story that was a bit scarier than the usual hauntings. “Once again while reading in bed I felt the mattress sink down next to me as if someone was leaning in and looking at me. I jerked upright and was breathing heavily not believing what had just happened. I had to calm down and try to relax hoping to fall asleep, but it took me quite a while to settle down.” 

I said that “A couple of nights later the same thing happened next to my hip as if someone had sat down next to me. This time I just said hi to the spirit and asked if they would go hang out in the attic so I could get some rest. I told Griff about these hauntings, and he just laughed. Part of him still didn’t believe in the hauntings.

Our son Derek had also experienced some strange things that occurred at the manor. One year, when we were traveling and he was house sitting, he heard a noise upstairs. He said it sounded like Griffin’s desk chair on wheels was rolling around his office. When he went up to check, the chair was in its usual spot by the desk, not moving. 

Two days later, while he was watering plants, he heard what sounded like pans rattling down in the basement but when he checked there were no pans to be found and there was nothing out of place. This freaked him out a bit being alone in the house. I had told him about our experiences with the ghosts, so he was ready for the visitors. He said he had a hard time falling to sleep that night. 

The next day Derek heard what sounded like a rubber ball bouncing on the bathroom floor. When he went upstairs, he saw a glowing light under the door but when he went in, there was no sign of a ball or a glowing light. He later told us these stories and we said it was becoming the norm.


Part 12

A few weeks later I told my friends another Cornwall chapter. “There was a time when Pearl was irritated with her sister once again. Franny would go on and on about missing their mom and after a few weeks of this Pearl was fed up and confronted Franny in the kitchen.” 

“I’m sick and tired of listening to you whine about mom. Knock it off or you’ll be sorry.”

Franny shot back, “How can you be so cold?! Mom is gone forever, and you don’t seem to care.”

“I don’t care if you must know. There I said it. I don’t give a damn. What do you think of that?”

“I think you are a horrible person.”

With that, Pearl grabbed the cast iron pan off the stove and whacked Franny on the head with it. Franny fell to the floor hitting her head on the sink on her way down. There was a lot of blood and Franny was unconscious. Pearl left her there hoping she would bleed to death, which is exactly what happened. 

Pearl called the police and said, “My sister had fallen and hit her head and she isn’t moving.”

She was told not to touch anything, and they would be there soon.

The police arrived and found that Franny was dead, so the coroner was called. As they carried her sister from the manor, Pearl thought to herself, “Good riddance!”

I told my friends that the coroner concluded that Franny’s death was an accident. At her funeral people kept telling Pearl how sorry they were for her loss and worried about her living in that big house all alone. Pearl just nodded, smiling inside and not saying much.

Pearl finally had the manor to herself. Lea said she was happy on her own which was a good thing because she really didn’t have any friends. 



Part 13

Lea and I were out to lunch the following month and I told her of some of our experiences in the manor. “After about a year of a quiet house, Griffin was shocked to see a woman in white standing in the big bedroom. The apparition was a filmy white and it soon evaporated into thin air. He finally believed the house was haunted. I was so glad that now I wasn’t seen to be batty. He said that on the same day there were a lot of strange noises around the house, knocking and what sounded like floorboards squeaking.”

I continued, “A year later when Griffin and I were in bed reading, we heard something in the next room, his office. We looked at each other and listened and heard it again. He got up and went into his office to see that the printer had turned on by itself. He checked to see if he had left the computer on, but no he hadn’t. He also checked the wiring and cables, but all seemed normal. Griff was still freaked out by these incidents, but I always said, “I love these visits as long as they aren’t too up close.”

One weekend when we had Griffes parents over for dinner we were listening to the radio, and it changed channels in the middle of a song. Griff checked to make sure that the song had not just ended, but no it hadn’t. The radio had changed channels on its own. His parents just thought that there was something wrong with the radio, but Griff and I knew it was the spirits greeting them.

I told his mom that I had another spooky episode while I was reading in bed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a light blink. A TV and DVR player were across the room on a table and turned off. As I watched, two words flashed on the DVR front panel. First, “rewind” and then “play.” I just laughed and said, “Hi guys. Thanks for not sitting on the bed.” She thought the story was 

interesting but didn’t believe in ghosts and changed the subject.

A few weeks later we had a funny experience. Griffin and I were sitting in the sunroom reading, when the stereo receiver went on by itself. It was on a radio station we never listen to and the song playing was “Hit me with your best shot.” We looked at each other and laughed out loud. It was the first time something happened right in front of the both of us.

I bought a little light-up tree at Christmas time and had it on the kitchen counter. On New Year’s Eve I had it on during the day and that night I turned it off before we went to bed. I saw in the morning it was back on. I guess the spirits must like the tree lit up.


Part 14

Lea continued her story of the Cornwall’s. “Years after Franny’s death, Pearl was talking to a woman in the neighborhood who she considered a friend. This turned out not to be the case. Her neighbor lady Lois said, “You must be lonely in that big old house. Don’t you miss your sister?”

Pearl stupidly told her, “No I don’t miss her at all. In fact, I made her go away by myself. Best thing that I’ve ever done.”

Lois was shocked to say the least and said, “But she didn’t go away. She died.” She got no reply from Pearl, just a smile. She quickly went home and told her husband, Ron, what Pearl had admitted to. Over the years Lois and Ron had seen Pearl and Franny arguing on many occasions in their yard or on their front porch. Lois remembers seeing Pearl slap Franny during one of their heated arguments. They knew that Franny was a very nice woman who gave their kids art supplies, and they knew that Pearl could be quite difficult and cranky.

Ron called the police and reported what Pearl had admitted to. The police opened an investigation and brought Pearl in for questioning. 

She lied and said, “My sister fell and hit her head, but I did nothing to harm her.” 


Part 15

Lea told me that Pearl decided she wanted to have a family of her own. She was tired of living alone and thought it would be nice to have a child to raise in the manor. She wanted to have this child take care of her in her old age. She started the process to adopt. 

Pearl went ahead and adopted a little girl with brown braids and skinny legs. The girl looked malnourished and very sad. She named the little girl Grace after her grandma. 

Lea told me about the life of Pearl and Grace. They lived in Oakwood Manor for many years. When Grace was small Pearl hired help to raise her so she could avoid the day-to-day child rearing issues.

Pearl had inherited some money from her parents so could afford to have people come in to do work on the manor.

The two went on with their lives, Grace going to school and Pearl taking care of the manor. She hired contractors to deal with the aging homes repairs and upkeep and had a cleaning lady come in twice a month so she wouldn’t have to clean the house. 

Leas said, “When Grace was in her twenties she moved to an apartment of her own. She wanted to get away from her crabby mother who complained about everything every day. It got to be too much, so she left. Pearl was livid with her and didn’t understand why Grace would leave her alone in the manor. She didn’t speak to her daughter for months and carried on with her lonely life.” 

Whenever she heard from Grace, she would demand that she move back in to the manor but Grace always had an answer about her busy job and full social life and not having the time to move. She didn’t say she just didn’t want to live with her. 


Part 16

During coffee one afternoon, Lea went on with her tales of the Cornwall’s. “When Pearl was turning 80 her daughter said, ‘We must sell the manor now Mom. The stairs are too dangerous for you. I want to find you an assisted living place because you are having a hard time getting around.’”

“I’m not leaving my home,” Pearl snapped back.

“Well, it has become a dangerous place for you mom. I’m worried you’ll fall and hurt yourself on the stairs,” said Grace. 

Pearl fought her daughter on this for weeks until the day she had a fall that bruised her hip. Grace said, “If you had broken your hip, you could have died.” So, Pearl gave up the fight and was moved into St. Ann’s Home for the Elderly. Grace put the manor up for sale and then went back to her job and rarely visited her cranky mother. 


Part 17

Sometime during our 5th year in the manor, we heard from Lea’s mom that Pearl had died. We wondered if something had happened because we started to have trouble with the phones again. Then the electrical outlets in the kitchen stopped working on and off so no toaster, no microwave, and no coffee maker for a time. They each would stop working for a bit then start again. We thought that maybe Pearl's spirit had moved back to the manor and wanted us to know she was there.

I notice that strange electrical things happen after I’ve been writing about the Cornwalls or even if we are just talking about them. I think they may be stopping by to check on us and see what’s new at the manor. We enjoy most of their visits and will greet them and say, “You are always welcome. After all, it's your house.”

About Cathy Tonkin:

Cathy LaForge Tonkin is an award-winning graphic designer and artist, who worked in that field for thirty years. She enjoys watercolor painting, pottery and writing. She has written 3 previous books, ‘Leave ‘er Lay,’ ‘Kids on the Porch,’ and ‘Upside Down and Backwards’ and many short stories. Cathy lives in beautiful Minnesota with her husband Gary.

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