In order to find out more about the history of our home, I went down to the Fargo title company and took possession of our abstract, a thick, three hundred page document, worn at the edges and bound at the top with brass fasteners. I sat down at the table and thumbed through it, eager to put names on the families who’d come and gone before us.
Before there was a house on this plot of land in North Fargo, it was owned by a familiar cast of characters. Charlemagne Tower, Northern Pacific, the Hector family. Fargo residents who’ve examined their home’s documents have probably seen one or more of those names — Tower, for whom Tower City, North Dakota is named, was a land broker who dealt in lands originally deeded to the Northern Pacific, and the Hector family were early settlers. The International Airport in Fargo now wears their name.
There were hundreds of pages of this… the Dakota Territory land our home now rests on changed hands several times before any Europeans had even laid eyes on it, but our home’s occupied history begins around 1947.
The property was owned by Even and Clara R. from 1947 to 1950. Although the home we now live in was not yet built, it’s unclear whether there was a structure on this property during that three year span. Then in 1950, they sold the home to John and Betty R. of Fargo. They were the first to occupy the home we now live in, and their mortgage was $9,400.
I took out a sheet of paper and started making notes as I paged through the document until I had a list with dates. This is how the home’s ownership breaks down:
- Even and Clara R. — 1947 to 1950
- John and Betty R. — 1950 to 1953
- Harlan and Gloria W. — 1953 to 1957
- Elwin and Bernice F. — 1957 to 1969
- Erwin and Rosa F. — 1969 to 1972
- Leon and Kathy P. — 1972 to 1976
- Peter and Julie O. — 1976 to 1990
- Willie and Gayle H. — 1990 to 1995
- Warren H. — 1995 to 1997
- Troy and Janie R. — 1997 to 2007
The room was dark except for my reading light and my cat was sitting in my lap, as he so often does.
After I started researching some of the names in the document, I learned a few things about several of the families. Erwin F. was a well-known Fargo baker, and we found a small point-of-purchase display rack in our attic that may have been from his bakery. I also discovered Peter O. was the man who built the addition on our house where our kitchen and dining room are now. My elderly neighbor tells me Peter did the whole job himself, and dug out the foundation with a shovel, by hand — a really big job. Interesting curiosities, but nothing more. I was engrossed in the document and didn’t notice that my cat had jumped down and wandered off.
Another thing that struck me when I looked at the list of names was the rather short duration that most families lived here. Of the ten owners, only three stayed for ten years or longer. Most of our home’s former residents lived here from 2 to 5 years. Perhaps they all moved on rather quickly because the home was small, a common starter home, and they quickly outgrew it. Perhaps there was another reason.
From behind me, the floor creaked. I noticed the cat was no longer in my lap, and since he was a fat cat who frequently made the floor creak, I reflexively looked back, expecting to see a round fur ball approaching to reclaim his place in my lap. Instead, I saw a gray shape the size of an adult, without features, like a silhouette, leaning over my shoulder, as if to see what I was reading. I jumped, skittered the legs of my chair backward and stood up. The shape was gone.
I wouldn’t realize it until later, but that was my first encounter with something else, different from the child-size thing we had been encountering already.
I didn’t do much more research that night, but I eventually found a few interesting things regarding the history of our neighborhood, things that would become much more interesting when a paranormal investigation of our home turned up EVP recordings that sounded like carousel music.
Troy Larson is a father, author, and photographer originally from Minot, North Dakota, now residing in Fargo.