Over the past seventeen years, while completing research for essays, lectures, and tours, I have stumbled across hundreds of eerie and unusual stories, including tails of unsolved mysteries, unexplained occurrences, horrible deaths, and, of course, ghosts. I have copied these gems and filed them in "Unusual Stories", just in case they might prove to be useful for the future project. Recently, the Westcott Center for Architecture + Design has begun offering a variety of tours and programs that focus on quirky and unusual stories in Springfield's past. For the 2016 Lecture Series, as part of this project, I prepared and gave a talk titled "The Graveyard Ghost and Other Unusual Tales". Below is one of those stories (please note that the text has been edited for readability). I stumbled across the story while completing research on the Westcott family for their new Docent Manual. Woman’s Form Seen at Window was published in the 17 January 1909 edition of the the Springfield Daily News. It was part of a reader-submitted ghost story contest, which ran under the headline Playing with the Supernatural. Unfortunately, most of the stories do not relate to Springfield -- this one does. Enjoy!
Woman's Form Seen at Window
There is a haunted house in Springfield, where, I will not tell, for fear of injuring property… enough to say that it is a double frame house only a few squares from the Esplanade, and was a station on the Underground Railway during the war. There is an old-fashioned wide fireplace, whose width downstairs was long ago bricked up to fit a modern open coal grate. Upstairs there is a space by the chimney that has been boarded up, and no visible entrance of any sort exists to the chimney.
Friends of mine lived in this house for years. They were religious, cultivated people, with a healthy disregard of ghosts, and who believed that all such manifestations could be accounted for by natural law.This family was more interested than annoyed by footsteps that, each night, after the family retired, mounted the steps in the old home. Walking heavily up the stairs they came, step by step, never missing the creaky one half-way up, until the second step from the top was reached, when the footfalls abruptly ceased. Never but twice did the steps come clear to the top and pass into the front bedroom and across to the old fireplace. So little fear did these noises create in my friends that they used to call each other, wagering guesses as to whether ‘It’ would come all the way to the top or stop short. They would even invite ‘It’ to tell the story of its life, but never had a reply.
One very beautiful moonlit night the younger sister went upstairs without carrying a light. What was her surprise when she entered her bedroom to see a woman standing by the window apparently holding something at arms length, at which she was looking at most intently. The gown was loose with flowing long open sleeves that almost reached the hem of her skirt. It was a grey-white in color, and very soft and clinging. The ghosts hair was unbound, and the figure gave the impression as if reading for retiring. My friend asked, “Why Margaret, I thought you were downstairs reading, how did you get here ahead of me?” … for the girl did not dream that it was anyone but her sister masquerading in some old fashioned gown she had found somewhere in the house. But the figure, started as if aroused from some deep study, glided quickly to the boxed up fireplace and disappeared into it. This was the only time the family ever saw the ghost, but the footsteps were heard as long as they live in the old house.
The 17 January 1909 edition of the Springfield Daily News. Note the headline in the bottom right corner.