She grew up listening to her father and grandfather’s ghost stories, and she’s been telling stories since she was a teenager.
“We love our resident spirits,” said Rafuse. “They’re actually on our (the museum’s) website.”
The resident spirits have lived in the Queens Country Museum for a long time. The ghosts and staff share the building happily.
Rafuse started working at the museum as a volunteer in the mid-1980s, and that’s when she saw her first spirit.
“It was a gentleman who walked past the desk when I was out at the front desk during lunch hour,” she said.
Alone in the building, Rafuse initially thought the man was another staff member. When she got up to check, though, no one was there.
Over the years, Queens County Museum staff has learned there’s a gentleman in the main gallery and young girl in the gift shop. There are also an older and a younger woman in the research centre.
“The older lady always hangs around the bookcases,” said Rafuse.
Rafuse sometimes hears the spirits talking. She might be in the research centre and no one is in the gallery, but there will be two women speaking. She has also heard a man and child conversing.
Sometimes, footsteps go across the deck on the Liverpool Packet. Other times, Rafuse has been in the gallery and heard what sounds like a researcher flipping through book pages.
“While I was here one day, sitting at my desk, one of the books flew out of the bookcase,” said Rafuse, who had her back to the bookshelves and heard a clunking sound.
Rafuse stood up to investigate and found a book lying on the floor that had fallen from one of the higher shelves.
“We’ve lived with these resident spirits for so many years that we’re very comfortable with them and they’re very comfortable with us,” explained Rafuse. “We say good morning to them when we come in the door.”
A mystery girl
Not far from the Queens County Museum, there is another ghost. This one is in Milton, across from the post office. There was a gas station and above that was an apartment. That’s where Rafuse grew up.
At first, Rafuse’s family would hear a little girl laughing. One of the girl’s favourite places to be was in the kitchen. Rafuse remembers following the family dog’s gaze in order to know where the girl was.
One morning, Rafuse was asleep in the bedroom she shared with her two sisters.
“She (the spirit) woke me up,” said Rafuse. “It was like her hand was on my shoulder.”
Rafuse continued to feel a hand shaking her but would not turn over.
“All I heard was this little girl’s voice saying, ‘Come play with me, come play with me,’” recounted Rafuse.
Rafuse thought it was her sister, so she told her sister to go back to bed. When the little girl persisted, Rafuse turned. That’s when she realized it was not her sister.
“She had this beautiful, little white cotton dress on,” said Rafuse.
Almost 50 years after seeing that little girl, the image is still vivid in Rafuse’s mind. The spirit was about six years, had a teddy bear tucked in one of her arms and had long brown hair.
“I just looked at her and thought, ‘You’re not my sister,’ and she was gone,” said Rafuse.
That was the only time Rafuse saw that spirit.