Woman In Black Ghost
December 18, 1886
"Cape Cod is not unlike any other section of the country [when] becoming aroused to a considerable degree, especially on some subjects. We do not pretend that its people are any more courageous than those residing off this sandy stretch of land.
The inhabitants in the quiet old town of Barnstable have been in a state of intense excitement, but at this moment quiet seems to prevail. Not long since the attention of the good people here was directed to the nightly appearance of a Woman In Black, not a woman in white, as is usually the custom, but simply black. This garb made it all the more difficult to detect or to withdraw from her presence, and, before one was aware of her company, she immediately appeared off the scene.
She would walk along leisurely, and before any one could give an alarm she would make good her escape. One night in particular, the Globe correspondent is told, she was noticed near the residence of one of Barnstable's well-known families, but before a younger brother could notify the occupants of the house to come out and see her, this supernatural being had taken eagle's wings, as it were, and flown to other parts of the shore town.
Another time, she was seen walking down the 'old lane,' and was followed for some distance by brave and handsome William. He soon abandoned the pursuit, however, having taken in the situation and a possibility of a super-human combat, and returned to his employer, to whom his startling but daring adventure was related. His employer, by the way, is part owner of a flourishing general store on the main thoroughfare, and, although of a general disposition, does not possess the physical frame of Boston's John L. [Sullivan].
Ed, who is always ready for any emergency, proposed that Will should follow this spook with a gun. This proposal was talked over for a time, when, at last the gun was taken from between the boxes near the back door and put in readiness for next appearance. History does not show whether or not the gun was discharged, but anyway it's still loaded.
This woman in black was frequently seen on Unitarian Meeting House hill. Residents in that neighborhood, who evidently had not initiated into the secrets of freemasonry, thought perhaps she had escaped from the lodge room near by. This idea was soon exploded when Brother Matthews, who is supposed to have been the first to see this spook, said that he could not explain who she was or where she came from, he is too well booked in the secrets of this ancient order to expect other than the goat to be out at that time of the night.
A popular young man who had been spending the evening with a lady friend returned quite late one night, and, as he put his foot on to the piazza, the Lady In Black walked off the opposite end. At first he thought he would give chase, but after a moment's careful consideration decided that it was not prudent. He, as well as everybody else, are well aware what country gossip is. Yes, it would truly look bad for him to be seen trying to overtake this Woman In Black, especially as he had just left his faithful one, and she of course had no reasons to believe otherwise than that he was faithful and true to her, and of course believed him to be in the blissful arms of dreamland.
It was some time before the people here, especially the young men, dared to venture out after dark, and in consequence the church fairs, bazaars and the stores were poorly patronized. Only a few nights since the Globe reporter had occasion to be in Barnstable over night, and we should believe the people had not got over their fright, for the streets were deserted and the stores closed bright and early.
In some respects this fright was a blessing, inasmuch as the town 'gossips' were contained to their homes and could not mingle together and talk about their neighbor's affair.
Up to this day the fear is a mystery, and cannot be explained. Although a vigilance committee has not been organized, it is generally understood that there has been sold a considerable amount of firearms and large quantities of powder. What creates this sudden demand is a question, but should this Woman In Black show up again the roar of cannon and musketry would be heard for miles around old Barnstable."