As I walked up the long, shaded driveway that led to the front door, I felt as if I was being watched.
OK, fine, it could have been my imagination, but for more than a decade I have walked past the Baleroy estate in Chestnut Hill, and it’s always felt unsettling. And it was only just recently that I learned it’s (probably) haunted.
There are stories. Sounds of cars that never appear. Objects whizzing around rooms on their own. Little kid ghosts. That’s right, little kid ghosts.
Reaching the front door, I was startled by what turned out to be a robin taking flight from underneath the awning. Horror movie cliche? Check. A sign plastered on the front door gave simple instructions:
Beware of the Thing “Knock loudly, or call the house number.” I dialed and spoke with the homeowner, Jay Valinis.
How Baleroy became haunted
The house itself is more than 100 years old, built in 1911. The property was purchased in 1926 by the Easby family, and then things got paranormal. George Meade Easby (the great grandson of Union Army Gen. George Meade) and his brother Steven were playing in the front yard shortly after moving in when they wandered over to the fountain. Upon looking into the water, George saw his normal reflection, but saw his brother Steven’s transform into a skull. Shortly afterward, Steven died of an unknown childhood disease, according to the 2006 book Haunted Pennsylvania: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Keystone State.
After his parents’ deaths in the ‘60s, Easby and his visitors claimed to have experienced some form of paranormal activity, the most common of which came from George’s brother Steven. David Beltz and his friend were hired as landscapers at the time, and while working in the backyard they saw “a young boy with blond hair,” looking at them from an upper floor window. They knew no children lived on the property, and after the incident, Beltz’ friend refused to work at Baleroy, according to the book.
Other tales of hauntings at Baleroy include Easby’s mother, President Thomas Jefferson, a chair that kills people who sit in it, an unknown elderly woman, a monk, random objects flying around unprovoked, unexplainable electrical blackouts, and nonexistent 1930s phantom cars heading up the driveway, according to the book. Almost all of the furniture and antiques were sold at auction after Easby’s death in 2005, and it seems that most of the spirits haunting them went with them.
Why would someone buy a haunted house?
During my day at Baleroy, Valinis was incredibly polite. He invited me in and gave me a grand tour of his house, apologizing for the “mess” that their renovations have caused. He showed me old photos of the house in its Gatsby-esque glory days, and explained all the work that has to be done to restore the mansion. Valinis, who owns a web design firm, and his wife Susie purchased the house in 2012 from Easby’s friend Robert Yrigoyen, and moved in that year. He had heard about the alleged ghosts in the house, but Yrigoyen had informed them that in all the time he had been at the house, he had never experienced anything troubling.
Valinis is skeptical of spirits in the mansion, but the building is not without its eeriness. He admits that there are “old house noises,” what we all call unexplainable sounds that we hear in our homes. At one point during my tour, a loud knocking was heard several times, which Valinis said was “probably just a breeze,” before jokingly adding “Or a ghost.” That was the extent of my “paranormal” experiences, and as the tour continued, the ominous feeling I had initially dissipated.
Despite Valinis’ skepticism, it seems that young Steven still wanders around the house. Though he personally has not seen it, Valinis’ wife and friends have claimed to see the boy. While talking in the living room, two of their guests turned simultaneously toward the dining room. They claimed they had seen a young boy walking around, but both of the Valinis kids had been in bed for hours. Susie Valinis claimed she saw the reflection of a young blond boy in a mirror, but when she turned no one was there. Additionally, nonexistent cars can be heard coming up the driveway, plants cannot be kept alive, blackouts occur randomly, and the motion-sensor alarm in the foyer is tripped at night despite nobody being downstairs.
Steven seems to be a pretty nice ghost, though
But, there’s nothing evil in the house. According to Jay, the house is home and there is nothing to be afraid of. Steven, if he’s truly there, means them no harm. Also, Valinis has no problem if Steven is there. As long as the ghost stays out of the way of the repairs Valinis said he’s fine with it.
Just in case, however, Jay and his wife did have the house blessed. “We’re Catholic…just for good measure, you have it blessed when you move in…even if it’s not a haunted house,” Valinis explained, “but we did tell [the priest] to take his time.”
Editor’s note: The author is a Masterman High School student who spent his two senior mentorship weeks with Billy Penn.