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Boo: Haunting of the Shannonhouse-Lister home

Marjorie Berry.jpg

Marjorie Berry

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By Marjorie Berry
MOA Columnist

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Everyone loves a good ghost story this time of year. One of the best-known ghostly tales around here is that of the Shannonhouse-Lister house that was located in lower Weeksville.

The house was built in 1816 by Thomas Shannonhouse, and his son John inherited it. Among John’s 10 children was a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Elenora, who was fatally injured when she was thrown from a horse in 1866. As she lay dying, her grief-stricken father proclaimed this curse, “I hope all who inhabit this house may know the pangs of death which so pain me!”

Well, they did.

Soon after Elenora’s death, the house was sold to Ephraim Stanton. Two of his children promptly died of diphtheria. In 1870, local farmer Elisha Lister bought the house. Three of his eight children died there.

Elisha Lister’s granddaughter, Beverly Markham Small, is my aunt by marriage. Since I was a child, I have thrilled to the tales passed down to her by her mother, Goldie Lister Markham.

According to Goldie, whenever a death was about to take place in the house strange things happened. When Elisha Lister died, Goldie was sitting with him, along with a neighbor. Both of them reported hearing the clock strike 13, 14 and 15 times. Since Elisha’s death, the clock has continued to work perfectly. Today, it occupies the home of Beverly’s daughter, Anita Small Oldham.

Other deaths in the house were preceded by odd noises. Snapping noises emitted from the walls of the back bedroom, and the sound of trunks moving around in the attic were heard by the inhabitants— sounds that ceased when a death occurred.

Some inhabitants reported seeing a mysterious figure in white right before a death.

When Goldie married Fred Markham in 1920, they moved into the house. The Markhams took in two orphans to help with the farm chores. The brother contracted tuberculosis and, in the throes of death, hemorrhaged on the floor of the front bedroom. The floor was scrubbed and scoured to no avail -- the blood remained.

Goldie and Fred Markham suffered loss themselves, while living in the house. Goldie was sitting on the front porch with her first baby, Elisha, when she saw a figure in white approach the house. She got up to greet the visitor — who instantly disappeared! Baby Elisha died the next day.

The Markhams left the house in the mid-1920s, moving to Elizabeth City. Their second son, Fred Jr., was sickly and needed to be near the hospital. Beverly was born in Elizabeth City.

The house was subsequently rented to tenant farmers. Each family suffered a death, and each death was preceded by mysterious sights and sounds. One family reported an empty rocking chair rocking itself right before a death.

Beverly Small believes the house really was haunted. Her mother was a level-headed woman, not given to fantasy. In the late 1960s, Beverly visited a tenant in the house, requesting him to sign a petition to consolidate the county schools. The tenant said, “I better sign it now, Beverly, I might not be here next week.” Then he went in and sat down by the stove. When his wife came in a few minutes later, he was dead.

The house was vacant for several years in the 1970s, attracting ghost hunters who had heard the stories. One Halloween night in the 1980s, some teenagers set the house afire and it was destroyed.

Given all the ghostly activity over the years, maybe Elenora never left the house — until it was no more.

Marjorie Berry is a Public Information Specialist at Museum of the Albemarle.

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