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Chatting with Pill Hill Press About Their Resident Ghost

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Here’s something you don’t run across every day: a publishing house with a resident ghost that specializes in horror, suspense, dark fantasy and science fiction. But that’s exactly the story at Pill Hill Press.

I have to give credit to my friend Chris Verstraete for bringing this to my attention. First she sent me some info about anthologies PHP had open submissions for. But then she wrote back asking if I’d noticed that they operate out of a “haunted house” and how that would make a good story.

I went back and checked out their main page. It said “We bought a ‘haunted house’ in 2007 in Western Nebraska and decided to convert part of the old, spooky Victorian into a small press that celebrates speculative fiction.”

Oh yeah! That would make a great story! I shot off an email requesting an interview and Jessy Marie Roberts wrote back almost immediately saying, “I would be delighted.”

I’m really excited to share the Q&A that followed. So without further ado: here goes!

What’s the meaning of “Pill Hill”? Was the house already named that or was that a name you came up with for the house?

Our house is called the “Pill Hill House” because it is located on a hill where the town’s original hospital was located and doctors resided.

Did you know the house was haunted before you bought it?

Yes, we had heard the rumors circulating about “The Pill Hill House” long before we ever bought it. It was one of the first things the realtor told us when we were doing the first walk-through.

If it wasn’t haunted, would you still have picked this house?

Absolutely. The house is very unique and I fell in love with it the first time I drove past the house (about 12 years ago when I first moved to Western Nebraska). I used to drive by the house with my friends when I was in college and point out the window and tell them, “Hey, there’s my house!” Everyone would laugh — it was an ongoing joke. My husband and and I lived in upstate New York for a little while, and when we decided to return home to Nebraska, we looked online to see what was for sale in our area. When I saw “my house” I was ecstatic, but didn’t really think the house would still be available when we moved home (or in our price range). We lucked out!

So do you both live and work out of the house?

We both live in the house, but my husband is the Director of Youth Services at our local library. I work out of my house — both in property management and running the day-to-day operations of Pill Hill Press, my small, independent publishing business.

The local library is where I found the obituary outlining the details of a suicide that occurred in my house circa 1920. Here is a copied version (original can be found in the miscellaneous obituaries folder at The Chadron Public Library):

BULLET DID THE WORK


Tragic Death of a Leading Phy-

sician of Chadron


DR. R.K. LANGSON TOOK HIS OWN LIFE


Skilled in Medicine But Could

Not Cure His Depression

Dr. Rufus K. Langson committed

suicide at his home in this city at an

hour which will never be known but it

was sometime Sunday evening or that

night. His body, cold and lifeless, was

not discovered until late Monday morn-

ing when John Thompson called at the

residence for medicine. Word was

quickly passed from one to another over

the city, and an inquest was held by

Sheriff Birdsall in the absence of Cor-

oner Elmore.


The proof was such as would leave

not the slightest doubt in the mind of

any. There lay the motionless body as

it fell instantly after the deadly shot

had been fired, with the head lying on

the little platform connected with his

static machine, a wound in the right

temple from which the blood had formed

quite a large pool, a 32-calibre revolver,

only one changper emptied, at his side.

But nothing established the fact more

conclusively than the letters addressed

to each member of the family bidding

them goodbye.


Mrs. Langson and the children, with

the exception of Miss Frances, who was

staying at the home of Mr. and Mrs.

B.F. Pitman, had left only Sunday

morning for Broken Bow, where Mrs.

Langston’s parents reside, and this ac-

counts for the doctor’s being left alone

at home. Telegrams were sent Mrs.

Langson and to the aged parents

who reside near Milwaukee, the former ar-

riving Tuesday night accompanied by

her sister, Mrs. Bean, and the doctor’s

mother and one of his sisters, Mrs.

Plumb, Thursday morning, the father

not being able to come on account of

enfeebled health.


Funeral services were conducted

yesterday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock by

the Rev. J.H. Andress of the Congre-

gational church, a large number of

sympathizing friends of the family being

present. The remains were taken east

last night by the mother and sister and

will be interred in Milwaukee.

What a cool thing to find! Thanks so much for sharing it with me. So was it always your intention to convert part of it to use as a press, or did the ghost inspire you?

It was not my intention to convert part of the house into a small press. Both my husband and I are lifelong readers and writers, and creating Pill Hill Press was just an extension of our love for creating and reading quality fiction. If the ghosts of this house have somehow inspired me to celebrate speculative fiction, I’m forever grateful to them!

Does your ghost have a name?

Not that I’m aware of. There have been several spectoral sightings at the house — it was the original hospital in our area, so a lot of people died here (plus there was the patient who hanged himself from the rafters in our basement, the doctor who committed suicide, and the previous homeowner who filled up several large deep-freezers in the basement with dead cats wrapped in plastic bags). If the ghosts have names, they haven’t introduced themselves yet!

Have you had paranormal investigators out?

No, we’ve never had paranormal investigators to the house.

Do you give tours or hold ghost hunts? Also, I think you mentioned in one of our email exchanges that your house was part of a historical walking tour? Is that tour still happening and do they still come past your house?

We don’t do official tours or ghost hunts, but we host mystery dinner parties for close friends and they enjoy walking through the house looking for spooky things. Our house is still on the historical walking tour, but they just walk by and talk about the house and haven’t asked us if they can come inside. Here is the information listed in the historic walking tour pamphlet:

Copied from Walking Tour of Historic Chadron, Nebraska:

25. Pill Hill – Southeast Corner of 4th and Mears

This home was built in 1889 by a wealthy Wyoming cattleman. The original lawn extended east to Morehead Street. On the south side of the house, the property contained gardens, a large orchard, in addition to a carriage house and barn.

The property was sold at the turn of the 20th Century to Dr. Hargrave and his family and then, later, to a group of physicians who used the property as a clinic and hospital. The west section of the courtyard at the rear of the house was used to add additional rooms for medical care.

One physician who used the property was shot in the small office connecting the original house with the addition, and another resident was found hanged from the basement rafters. Clinic staff at the time told of seeing apparitions, as did local residents.

The residence was left abandoned during the Depression. It was later purchased in 1943 for $600 by Ursula Gore Cleaver, who remembered the grandeur of the home. The Cleavers took four years to restore the home, but it fell into disrepair again and was converted to apartments in the 1960’s. In 1995, the current owners began restoration back to its original Victorian grandeur.

Thank you so much again, Jessy, for sharing all of your house’s fascinating history like this!

Yes, we had heard the rumors circulating about “The Pill Hill House” long before we ever bought it. It was one of the first things the realtor told us when we were doing the first walk-through.

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her on a tennis court somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
http://www.courtneymroch.com

6 thoughts on “Chatting with Pill Hill Press About Their Resident Ghost

  1. Very cool. I love when people fall in love with a place in spite of any “sensations” it might exude. That they wanted to know the history shows a real love for the house and its uniqueness. My mother fought long and hard to get Aspen Grove onto the historical register and protected and when I hear people wanting to know about the past generations that filled the halls, I always smile.

  2. This article is fascinating to me. My husband & I lived in one of the 3 apartments in Pill Hill as college students in the early 70’s. The place was unique to say the least. After several town people told us about the history and that it was haunted, it became a very creepy place to live. Maybe it was just in my mind, but the home seemed to exude an eerie ambiance even during the daylight. In the pantry I discovered the medical bag that I assumed belonged to the ill-fated doctor. We had neighbors report seeing apparitions. But they were high on weed most of the time so who knows. I heard the place was also haunted by the spirits of victims of illegal abortions.? One thing for sure
    -we were happy & relieved to move from Pill Hill. It made for some good story telling tho.

  3. My name is Joanne Stewart. My family bought the house in 1995 and it was only a shell of a house a the time. No walls, no wiring for electric and was definitely abandoned for a long while before we got there. My father Charles Stewart rebuilt it to the beautiful home it is today. We loved the house dearly my hrandmother also passed away there in the side apartment, her name was Blanca Lopez. My mom and dad spent their entire life savings to bring the house back to life. While my dad was in construction of the place he definitely woke some of the resting spirits there. I remember seeing and hearing alot of things I could not explain. Im happy that someone was as much in love with it as we were and still are. If you ever wanna sell please look me up.

  4. Oh what a neat comment to find!! THANK YOU, Joanne, for sharing the history of this house and your connection to it. WOW! Super cool to hear from someone with this kind of intimate knowledge of the house!

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