An Ancient Haunted House


1) Several ancient authors wrote ghost stories that have been read and enjoyed through the centuries. One of the most vivid and dramatic was written by Gaius Plinus Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger), a Roman.

2) Best remembered for the interesting, entertaining, and often informative stories contained in his numerous letters, Pliny corresponded continuously with his friends, superiors, and acquaintances.

3) Pliny once wrote to Lucius Licinius Sura, a wealthy friend of the Roman emperor Trajan, asking Licinius his opinion about ghosts and the supernatural. As the letter continued, Pliny related to Licinius several authenticated ghost stories, including one about a haunted home in Athens, Greece.

4) There was in Athens a spacious and large home that was nevertheless dreaded and plague-ridden. Reports said that in the silence of the night the sound of iron and, if one listened more closely, the clanging of chains could be heard far in the distance, gradually coming closer and closer. Soon a ghost appeared, a thin filthy old man with an unkempt beard and shaggy hair. As he walked, the shackles around his ankles and the chains around his wrists clanked.

5) The fearful and miserable owners of the house kept constant watch throughout the dreaded nights. Because of lack of sleep, disease overcame them and, as their fear increased, death followed for some. Although the ghost did eventually disappear from view, the memory of the creature constantly wandered before their eyes. Their fears became greater than the cause of their fear. Finally, they abandoned their haunted house and left it to the solitude of the specter. However, they thought they might be able to sell it or rent it to someone who was unaware of its horrible inhabitant.

6) Soon there came to Athens a philosopher named Athenodorus. He read the advertisement about the house with great interest but delayed making an offer after hearing the very low price. Once the owners told him everything, his interest in the house increased. Therefore, he offered to rent the house for a price higher than what was being asked. An agreement was reached and the brave philosopher moved into his new home.

7) That night as the sky grew darker, the philosopher first ordered that his bed be brought into the front part of the house. Next he asked for his writing tablets, a stilus (pen), and a light. He then ordered his servants to remain in the interior of the home. Meanwhile, he concentrated his mind, eyes, and hands on his writing for he knew that he had to deeply involve himself in his studies. In this way he could control all his fears. Idle time would only allow him to think about the tales he had heard.

8) At first the night was silent. Then came the sounds of iron shaking and of chains rattling. Athenodorus did not raise his eyes, nor did he put down his stilus, but rather concentrated even more diligently on his work. The noise gradually increased as it came closer and closer. He could sense the "noise" as it crossed the threshold into his room. No longer able to concentrate, Athenodorus turned.

9) Immediately he saw and recognized the ghost about whom he had been told. There across the room stood the old man, pointing with his index finger as if calling to the philosopher. Athenodorus calmly motioned to the ghost that he still had work to do, therefore, he, the ghost, would have to wait. Totally unperturbed, the philosopher again returned to his tablets and stilus. However, the ghost became increasingly impatient. He began to rattle his chains over the head of the philosopher who was still writing. Again the philosopher turned and saw the ghost beckoning. This time Athenodorus did not delay but picked up his light and followed the thin figure. Slowed because of the weight of the chains, the old man dragged himself through the house. After he turned into the open courtyard of the house, he suddenly vanished from view, leaving a bewildered Athenodorus. The philosopher then placed twigs and leaves on the place where the mysterious departure occurred.

10) On the next day, Athenodorus approached the city officials. He advised them to come and dig up that area. After agreeing to his request, the officials left for the haunted house. As they began excavating the area Athenodorus had marked with leaves and twigs, they found some bones hopelessly entangled in chains. These bones were carefully gathered and buried according with the religious funeral rites of the ancients. The home was never again haunted since proper and fitting burial rites had finally been given to the poor deceased man's bones.