Cemetery Spirit or Hoax?
October 3, 1886
"Wait a second. Here let us crouch behind this tombstone. It will return. See, there it goes! Can't you follow it with your eyes? No, don't stir. Ah' it is approaching. Now you can see it distinctly. Don't shake so, guess it won't hurt you. [Raise] up your courage to grab it; now, are you ready? By Jove! It's disappeared."
"Thanks; we won't wait for it to return. I'm quite satisfied." And the last speaker as he attempted to steady his quaking limbs while wiping the perspiration from his face, made a ghastly attempt to laugh —
The place was the cemetery on Washington street, and the participants in the above dialogue were [from] a skeptical townsman, who pooh-poohed all stories relative to spooks, and the Globe correspondent, who had seen what others had ridiculed, and who gave the non-believer his first view of things supernatural. But when the ghost or spirit which has been seen by more than one reputable resident disappeared, apparently disseminating in the thin mist which slowly enveloped the deserted place, he made vigorous and successful endeavors to place as much ground between himself and the ghastly visitor as genuine fear and still shaking limbs would admit.
The surroundings were well in keeping with the object of the visit. The night was black, and the thick masses of rain-laden clouds, as they rolled across the heavens, shut out completely the segment of the silver moon which struggled desperately to pierce the darkness and shed its brilliancy in the gloom beneath. Not a sound could be heard, save the chirping of the cricket and the rustling of the sturdy maples, as they bent beneath the wind, while at intervals, as a strong gust would sweep across the open lot a mournful sighting, as though even the wind feared the gloomy regions, completed the dismal scene.
Slowly from across the river came the chimes of the distant clock tolling out the hour of midnight, and before the last echo had died upon the air the lanky spirit form now in full view, and now hidden in the hollows or behind some moss-covered tablet. It was there without a question, whatever it was, and its presence seemed to cast a weirdness about the place that no physical exertion could counteract.
To describe the being would be difficult. Tall and without definite shape, apparently enwrapped in snow-white garments, that clung limp and motionless to the form, it conveyed a mystery that was powerfully attractive, and as the shrouded figure stalked in and about the dismal grounds, stopping occasionally, as though to examine the epitaphs that marked the stones, one might easily imagine it the spirit of some departed one, "doomed for forty years to walk the night."
When the subject was first broached of seeing for one's self the spirit which had invaded this quiet town, it was met with ridicule and no amount of argument could change the opinions of the staid old residents, who looked upon the rumors as foolish, too foolish for consideration, but as night after night some belated pedestrian would report the appearance and mysterious disappearance of this unwelcome visitor, these opinions changed and something closely akin to credence was given the stories which later were on every tongue.
Then another ruse was resorted to by the unbelievers. On the corner of Washington and Hunt streets, not a dozen rods from the famous graveyard, is the residence of A.D. Wilde, who devotes a large portion of an admirable garden to the cultivation of vegetables. The frost of the last week threatened to play havoc with the squash, and an old sheet was brought into requisition to prevent frost-bite. There was a second sheet, yellow with age or disease, an eye-sore to members of the family, and this was given an important place in the front garden to bleach.
Now Weymouth, is not naturally a wicked place, and though its youngsters like fun and are inclined to mischief, no more serious charges could be brought against them. When Mister Ghost, however, advertised his presence the leaders of those promising youths, proposed a duplicate during the absence of the original, and clandestinely engaged the two sheets to assist in their deception. Enshrouded in these hastily improvised garments, the urchins secreted themselves, so the story goes, behind convenient hedges, and, as each passer-by hurried home, they popped up before them, cut figures after the most approved dime novel style and as suddenly disappeared to cover, to chuckle over their successful disguise and gleefully [chat about] the wonderful powers invested in a harmless bed cover. Fortunately for them they at first appeared before women only, so there was little detection or harm, depending on feminine [strength] to protect them; but, finally their success made them bold and they grew reckless.
Rumor says that Michael Griffin, employed in the shoe factory and residing on Washington street, near the graveyard, while returning home one evening shortly after 9 o'clock, encountered one of these pseudo ghosts and made chase. The youngster was too quick for him, but to facilitate flight, dropped his "skin" and escaped, leaving the tell-tale sheet, the only evidence that the figure hidden by it was human and not a [ghost].
Then again it was told that a figure some nights after while prowling about J.W. Hart's residence on Front street, was detected and pursued. The pursued and pursuer fled through the garden, up Front street to Washington and past Mr. Griffin's, and then the latter gentlemen joined in the chase. At length the trio brought up against a rail fence, the alleged ghost a little in advance, and here transformation was necessary. The covering was hastily flung aside, and the youngster leaped nimbly over the fence and disappeared, leaving the two astonished and much-winded pursuers staring in astonishment at the white thing before them. These are but rumors, Mr. Griffin does not authenticate them, nor does Mr. Hart.
Again, it was stated that this spirit, whoever it might be, was employed as a reminder to young fellows and girls of the town that it was time to be home, but the young ladies here require no such warning, so that fallacy is evident.
However, so determined were the authorities to unravel the mystery, which they evidently believed existed beyond the mischievous youngsters, that ultimately George Cushing and Constable Oliver Houghton held consultation, for the latter for some nights watched the district of Baker's Corner, though without success. The ghost did not return for some days, and just as it was being believed that the whole affair was a joke, his ghostship, as ghastly and weird as ever, reappeared before the astonished eyes of the persistent watchers, whose comments open the story.
Now it is a question how long he will remain and pending his stay, the ladies are careful not to remain away from home after dark, while the male portion of the residents sigh in vain for but one opportunity in which to test the being which has caused this genuine sensation and determine whether he be "a spirit of flesh or goblin damned." Patience may reward their perseverance."