The Ghosts of Pickering Trail
When Frank Milliken died in his home, his wife Janet and their two children couldn’t bear to live among reminders of him. They left their home in California and moved to Pennsylvania to start over in new surroundings. The house they bought, an airy colonial on a quiet street, seemed idyllic. But once they moved in, things started to go wrong. Odd sounds, strange sensations, whispers from the neighbours; the Millikens began to suspect that their ghosts had followed them across the country. When they discovered that their house had a dark history, they went to court to battle the sellers, and found themselves entangled in a drawn-out legal battle. At its core lay an issue more suited to priests than to lawyers: how to define our relationship to the dead. “The Ghosts of Pickering Trail” is an intimate chronicle of the Millikens’ harrowing attempt to escape the memories of a home, and how we put a price on death and loss.
In the spring of 2006, following a long illness, Frank Milliken died in his home. His family—his wife, Janet, and their two children, Ryan and Kendra—took the death hard. For three years, they’d watched Frank slowly waste away from pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes the lungs to thicken and scar, blocking the flow of oxygen to the blood. In the last months of his life, the illness had confined him to his bedroom. After his death, the character of the Milliken house seemed to change. Physically, it was the same: a big, comfortable rambler in Concord, California, with a red-tile roof and a copse of fruit trees in the backyard. But the house felt different. After Frank passed away, the memory of his death lingered. Janet took the kids to a hotel for a few days, but when they returned it was no better.