The Opening Under the Stairs

In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn’t creak.

– Tom Robbins

Although Casita Alegria had been transformed into a lighter, happier little house, I had to face the fact that I was sleeping in a haunted adobe. While lying awake during my first night alone with the ghost, I remembered an unusual conversation with a friend on the West Coast who had recently hired a ghostbuster. It seemed strange at the time, but I decided to call her the next morning.

The Ghostbuster

Before: The patio and adjacent garden and low perimeter adobe wall
Before: The patio and adjacent garden and low perimeter adobe wall.

With phone number in hand, I thanked my friend and dialed the ghostbuster, who answered on the first ring. I told her my name, who referred me, and the location of the ghost.

“How much do you charge to remove a ghost?”

“One hundred dollars,” said the husky voice with an Oklahoma twang. “But Honey, you have to give me a few days to see what I’m dealing with,” she insisted between drags on her cigarette.

“Don’t you need to come to our house?”

“No, Honey. I live in Colorado and I do ghost removals from right here all over the country,” the raspy voice affirmed.

The Portal

Before: Two sets of french doors in the dining room open to the small patio and walkway
Before: Two sets of french doors in the dining room open to the small patio and walkway.

Forty-eight hours later, the phone rang.

“Honey, you not only have a ghost, you have a portal,” her voice crackled at the other end of the line.

“What’s a portal?” I asked innocently.

“It’s an opening under your staircase that has entities coming in and out.”

“Well, are they good or bad?” I implored.

“They’re both!  So Honey, I not only have to deal with the ghost – and he doesn’t want to leave – I need to round up all those entities and clear them out of there, then close that portal,” she announced breathlessly.

“How much does that cost?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“Another hundred dollars,” she coughed into the phone.

“You got a deal,” I said with a sigh of relief.

“But Honey, you have to stay out of that house for three weeks, “ the ghostbuster added.

“No problem, but can I still work in the garden?”

“Sure you can, Honey, just don’t step foot in that adobe,” she warned as she took another drag.

More Ghosts

A few days later, I moved to the renowned La Posada hotel in downtown Santa Fe. It didn’t take long to hear the staff telling tales about the infamous Julia Staub, a ghost who lives in the old part of the hotel. I learned she had been featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries, and a book had recently been written about her, called American Ghost. I bought a copy and devoured it at night in my room in the new part of the hotel. By day, I enthusiastically worked on the garden design and installation with a team of talented masons, plumbers and gardeners. But I made sure that absolutely no one entered the Casita.

Before: A stone pathway runs between the adobe and a raised garden area
Before: A stone pathway runs between the adobe and a raised garden area.
American Ghost, A haunting story about Julia Staub
American Ghost, A haunting story about Julia Staub.

I was surprised to also learn through the hotel that Santa Fe has several ghost tours, some of which had been around since the 1990s. On one hand, I was comforted hearing about Julia and the other ghosts, as it seemed hauntings weren’t unusual in Santa Fe. Then, I started to feel guilty about calling a ghostbuster.

He Didn’t Want to Leave

After: The enclosed garden with concrete pavers, a banco and higher perimeter adobe wall
After: The enclosed garden with concrete pavers, a banco and higher perimeter adobe wall.

After all, the ghost, who I was told wore a blue striped suit typical of 1930s attire, hadn’t really done anything bad. In fact, pulling the flower out of the vase was kind of a sweet gesture. But I was troubled to hear that the ghost continued to animatedly believe he owned our old adobe, and defiantly refused to leave.

After a while, the crusty ghostbuster convinced me that it would be in the ghost’s best interest for him to vacate the property. He had been stuck in the house for decades, and it was his time to go.

And so it was that the ghost of Casita Alegria finally departed, and with him all the entities from the portal under the stairs, which was now closed. I thanked the honest Oklahoma ghostbuster, who cleared the house in less than three weeks, charging only $200 for the whole package, as she put it.

Casita Alegria Felt Different

After: A kiva fireplace, arbor and banco separate the patio from the back yard
After: A kiva fireplace, arbor and banco separate the patio from the back yard.

The house felt different when I returned – lighter and fresher. I opened all the windows and doors, and invited friends for dinner in the new garden. We gathered on the crescent-shaped banco for wine and cheese, and had dinner next to the fountain. Afterwards, we warmed ourselves by the fireplace, enjoying coffee and chocolate, while admiring the garden with its newly extended adobe wall topped with a coyote fence. The evening ended with ghost stories.

The New Garden

After: The landscaped garden with seating area and coyote fence topping the adobe wall
After: The landscaped garden with seating area and coyote fence topping the adobe wall.

I have included before and after pictures of the garden, which unfortunately don’t match up. The before images were taken from the backyard right after we completed the interior remodel. The after images were shot from inside the adjacent garden after it was enclosed. The photos reflect the garden over several years, as the plants have grown in and flourished.

I Can Sleep at Night

After: A custom-designed wall fountain installed under the new arbor
After: A custom-designed wall fountain installed under the new arbor.

While you’ll need to use a little imagination to piece together the garden layout, I think you can clearly see how this magical space filled with nature greatly expands the lower floor of Casita Alegria, and provides an enchanting place to read the morning paper. At night, the sound of the fountains drifts upstairs through the balcony doors and lulls me to sleep, even when I’m home alone.

Yours in the name of unsolved mysteries,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
I'm not afraid of ghosts
I'm not afraid of ghosts!
Showing 17 comments
  • Meaganne McCandess
    Reply

    Who is that amazing ghost buster?! What a gorgeous transformation, I loved reading the whole saga.

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Unfortunately, the phone number I have for the ghost buster has been disconnected and I don’t know how to find her or if she is still ghost busting. Thanks for your lovely
      comments on the remodel and for reading my blog!!! Linda

  • Kirby
    Reply

    I’m with Toby… I’m not afraid of ghosts! Anyway, who would want to leave beautiful Casa Alegro, ghost or otherwise?!

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      So happy to hear you are not afraid of ghosts too. Toby wants to give you a Hi-Five!!!
      Hope to see you at Casita Alegria, the Grand Dame or somewhere in Santa Fe the first weekend in August! We could go to La Posada and see if we get a glimpse of
      Julia Staub? Can’t wait!!! xoLouise

  • Laurie Larsen
    Reply

    Linda, You are such a creative woman — with an exquisite eye and intuition for beauty! Aphrodite must be your middle name!

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      So great to hear from you Laurie. Thanks for your gracious comments about my creativity. I believe a “back at ya” is in order for all your years of painting,fabulous story telling and writing about myth! xo, Linda

  • Jean Bennett
    Reply

    What an awesome ghost story with a bittersweet ending, I can’t help but feel a little sad for him, but I am happy for you to have peace in such a beautiful space, inside and outside, you are a creative genius!!! Everyone should feel comfortable in their own space 🙂

    Jean

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Thanks Jean! But I truly think that it was his time to move on and he is doing well wherever he is. I do pay tribute to him in my upcoming blog so hope you will tune in.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Warmly, Linda

  • Howard Settle
    Reply

    A beautiful home in a magical place. Your talented hand shows all over the home. Ghosts are a bother. I might need that number. Best Howard

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Thanks so much Howard for your wonderful comments! I hear you, about ghosts being a bother. And I honestly think he is better off leaving as the ghost buster affirmed. However, I have paid tribute to him in the next blog so hope you enjoy!
      Linda

  • Jenny Duffy
    Reply

    So beautiful….a magical place filled with beauty and charm. Thank you for sharing.

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Thank you Jenny! So appreciate hearing from you again. More photos coming in the next blog so hope you’ll take a peak! Happy Summer! Linda

  • Jody Serritelma
    Reply

    What an awesome ghost story, and such a beautiful transformation of your casita.
    Of course, sweet Toby would not be afraid of ghosts!
    I’m not sure my Willy would be as brave!
    Jody and Willy (the Brussels griffon)

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Hi Jody and Willie! Always love hearing from you two and so does Toby! And thanks again for reading and responding to our blog in such a positive way. I hope that garden of your’s and Willie’s is filling in. Linda and Toby

  • Marla P
    Reply

    A terrific saga! Wow that dinner party sounds magical and the photos so stunning. Thanks for sharing🌻

  • Linda Applewhite
    Reply

    Thank you Marla! So appreciate your gracious comments! Linda

  • Linda Applewhite
    Reply

    Thank you Marla! So appreciate hearing from you again. More photos coming in the next blog so hope you’ll take a peak! Happy Summer! Linda

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