This Christmas, we’re expecting Marley & Marley

We’ve survived another Halloween, but some of us more painlessly than others.

Assaults by ghosts can be expected in this spooky time of year, and not just by badly behaved children wearing cut-up bedsheets and lugging plastic jack-o-lanterns door-to-door.

I mean the real thing.

A carpenter named Timothy Morse Jr. was laid to rest in the Old Linebrook Cemetery, where Linebrook Road bends and Newbury Road begins, half a mile south and west of my house, a house which Mr. Morse built for himself and his family in 1817. After a couple hundred years’ worth of corpses were deposited in said cemetery, the “new” Linebrook Cemetery was established next door to the house. The remains of Mr. Morse, however, were not relocated. When his ghost wants to revisit his 205-year-old work of art, he has to float half a mile north and east.

I imagine Mr. Morse visits from time to time, particularly when he’s offended by some so-called “upgrade” to his masterpiece. Take the problem with the front door, which I inherited when I arrived from Arizona and bought the house. The entire place was beautifully preserved by the prior owner, but the front door was, shall we say, a lost cause. It appears that Mr. Morse may have scavenged a door that was already 175 years old by the time he hung it.

In any event, by the time I took possession of this front door, it was a rectangle of weather-beaten some-kind-of-wood, which complained noisily when you tried to open it and even more noisily when you tried to close it.

After some time, a persistent draft in the front part of the house made it clear that the “historic Morse door” was rotting from the bottom up. It would have to be replaced. Not just the door, but the threshold, the frame, the works.

A North Shore artisan was retained, the work was done. Beautiful. Here’s a brand-new-but-historically-appropriate front door to accompany the adjacent “Timothy Morse. Jr. House 1817” plaque affixed by the Ipswich Historical folks before I ever came to town.

My neighbors must have been pleased. Finally, they wouldn’t have to look at that wretched old washboard of a front door.

I don’t think Mr. Morse was pleased.

Our front door doesn’t get much use, really. Typically, it’s just where I lean out each morning in my bathrobe to mount our humble American flag in its wall-bracket next to the door.

But cometh Halloween … and the new door won’t open. (Cue spooky music.)

There’s a latch, not a doorknob (in keeping with the “old New England” spirit of the house), and the latch seems to be jammed. I can turn it a little bit, but not enough to release the door and open it.

Undaunted, I head back through the house, bathrobe swishing dramatically, emerging from the mudroom in my fuzzy slippers, traipsing down the driveway, clomping through the front yard, mounting the front steps, and taking hold of the fancy new front-door latch.

The new door still won’t open. (Spooky music swells.)

At this moment I’m really hoping nobody comes by with a camera, because an agitated full-grown man in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers clearly engaged in breaking-and-entering through the front door of a house on Linebrook Road is absolutely an Internet meme just waiting to happen.

My wife works at the century-old Crane Estate, where tour guides swear that Mrs. Crane (d. 1949) sometimes messes with the locks on the doors. I don’t think Mrs. Crane simply skulks about the mansion on Castle Hill. I think she offers workshops for fellow ghosts, maybe signs autographs afterward.

And when Mr. Timothy Morse Jr. chatted her up, she had a word of wisdom for him:

“Lock their doors. It makes them crazy.”

Doug Brendel cowers in fear in his antique house on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow him, but not too close, via

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