This is my haunted plant, Chris Plant.
He came to the office on Friday as part of a Halloween promotional collaboration between the handyman / odd jobs app Handy and the Dr. Best House and Medical Museum in Middleburgh, New York. He was delivered in a white paper gift bag full of black tulle and bubble wrap. In general I’m not that into promotional stunts executed by on-demand labor apps, but the idea of a startup inviting trapped, unhappy spirits into the equation is appealing to me. Ghosts — the original disrupters!
Chris Plant is a cutting from a calendula plant, which is commonly known as a marigold. He doesn’t have a flower on him, but he may have a ghost in him. Bobbi Ryan, the director of the Dr. Best House told me that plants often harbor “residual echoes from the past.” The past she’s referring to in this case is quite tragic. The haunted house my plant was mailed from was built by Dr. Christopher Best in 1884. It’s a Victorian-era Italianate full of old medical apparatus and also ghosts, allegedly. If you’re wondering: no, I didn’t know Dr. Best’s first name when I named my plant “Chris Plant.” Double Chris! Double spoopy!
Ryan assured me that she has “desperately tried to be a non-believer [in ghosts] because I’m at the museum alone quite often. It behooves me to not believe.” But over the years she’s heard voices, watched a Victrola levitate and then crash to the floor, and noticed a ghostly outline of a woman in a sunbonnet in the background of a photograph. That woman, she says, is likely to be Dr. Best’s second wife Ursula, who was known for loving the gardens, spending long afternoons in them, and having a villain’s name.
You can request a haunted plant through the Handy app or online all day today, though the museum will be distributing only about a dozen plants via lottery. All of this year’s plants are being doled out in New York state, but Ryan says that they’ll broaden the geographic distribution next year if all goes well.
“I certainly don’t want you to get a poltergeist or anything,” she said, “but I hope it opens the door. Dr. Best loved his patients and he loved traveling, he loved the gardens. The entire romantic notion of him being able to travel in some way is very near and dear to my heart.”
If you can prove that the plant you were delivered actually carried a ghost into your home and that the ghost subsequently haunted you and disrupted your day you can receive 10 percent off all of your Handy transactions for a year. Handy would also like you to know that they are not legally responsible if a poltergeist ruins your life.
I uploaded this photo four times and it won’t stop appearing upside down. Are you frightened?
The Dr. Best House itself is open tonight for trick-or-treaters, and Ryan says they might let some people go down into the basement: “If you’ve seen Blair Witch Project, the basement is very reminiscent of the final scene. You’re gonna say ‘cool’ and it’s not. It’s creepy.”
It’s funny that Ryan would say that since when I read about the practice of ordering free haunted plants via an app I thought “cool.” It’s not. It’s creepy. I don’t want to alarm you, but I accidentally left Chris Plant in the Verge offices alone all weekend with no food or sunlight and he looks exactly as alive as he did on Friday. It doesn’t seem possible.