Ready for something spooky to put you in the Halloween mood? How about a throwback to an 1881 haunting in Northwestern Pennsylvania?
August 5th, 1881. It was an uncharacteristically cool week at the beginning of August, the height of the summer. A ghost was about to chill Warren to its core.
The Herald reported:
“It is sometime since ghosts and spirits formed a portion of the population of the world and regularly took up their abode among the terrestrial mortals.
It is somewhat to be regretted that they were not enumerated in any census, for we might then speak more definitely as to the parts they most frequented and their ratio to the population.
We, however, have abundant evidence that at one time they found a worldly residence – to say the least – pleasant, and were regarded by people generally in the light of permanent boarders, for having once fixed their abode they seldom, if ever changed it. They were decidedly conservative.
The very fact that save on extremely rare occasions did they change either their costume or its color, should establish this fact beyond all question or doubt.
So much for that epoch which remained in a state of transition until, if anything can be deduced from the reports that have been handed down to us, this feeling of conservatism, died out among the inhabitants of Ghostdom and one of love of change replaced it. Later on we find ghosts and their visits more transient, and those spirits which for so long had exclusively honored the town or village of A— or B— with their presence were not found by the sorrowing inhabitants of that place to be promenading or dancing among the tombstones of C—.
Gradually their visits became shorter and at longer intervals of time, their former favorite nooks and retreats became deserted, and at last the place which had once known them, knew them no more.
Whether like earthly mortals they had tired of the sameness of things or some more attractive region in the Unknown allured them to itself, it is difficult to state with any amount of correctness.
The bewitching hour of night comes around now as regularly as heretofore, but the churchyards
have ceased to yawn, and the graves no longer give up their dead, nor do we doubt but that this arrangement is just as well.
A fugitive ghost, however, reports himself on earth now and then, and at this moment our city of Warren is greatly startled – so long is it since such things were in the course of every day life – at the fact that in the shades of night a visitor, bent double with years, clothed from head to foot in white raiment [clothing], revealing merely his ghastly face and fiery eyes, is seen on Mack’s farm, just outside the city, near Quaker Hill, in Glade township.
The elder Mr. Mack died about eighteen months ago, and much to the chagrin, not to mention the disappointment of the other portion of the family, left all his property including the farm, to his son. Fred, a married man about thirty-five years of age, who with his wife, mother (who, by the way, is a Spiritualist), and two or three other relatives, live on the farm.
Things have progressed smoothly (at least as far as is known to the public) until a couple of days since, when it was rumored that a ghost had made its appearance nightly, knocking at the doors and rattling the windows of the barn as if demanding admission, but when spoken or pursued, vanished.
Mr. F. Mack upon being questioned admitted the fact, while the old lady, his mother, firmly asserted that it was her former lord and master, and gave directions that any injunctions he might have were to be implicitly obeyed; at the same time she showed her respect and loving remembrance for her liege by strenuously objecting to see him even in ghostly form, and at the appointed hour of his appearance (10 o’clock) with a warning to those who remained up ‘to be careful as to what he might say,’ she retired.
For the last three nights bus loads of people have gone up to the farm grounds, and many said, and respectable citizens have sworn that they saw the ghost, old, feeble, and ghastly, gliding – not walking – in the property that once he tilled.
Last night over fifty persons went up in three buses, and the greater portion testify that they saw the apparition.
Mr. Wilcox, boldly sat up to watch it, doubting its existence. His valor was rewarded. He was found, insensible at his post, and when he recovered asserted that the ghost approached him within ten feet. He remembers no more.
It has been chased unsuccessfully by parties who, while they have seen it, believe it to be some practical joker in ghostly disguise. Last Wednesday, after a run of thirty rods, the spectre vanished.
Mr. Ludlow brought a revolver and sent six swift messengers of lead after the ghost. It vanished then, nor do we blame it. Old Mrs. Macks, however, strictly prohibits shooting, for though she has no wish to see her lord’s spirit, she objects to having it murdered.
Mr. George W. Cogswell, another citizen of Warren, had anything but a successful encounter with his ghostship.
If we analyse this story there is no doubt but that an apparition is there, the evidence to support this fact is too strong to be denied.
People, however, have set about to definitely settle the matter, and we have no doubt but that it will be discovered that some practical joker, with sheet, lantern and a little phosphorus, is the would-be ghost after all.
Apparitions of the nether gloom have surely long been buried by intelligent people down, down among the absurdities of a dark superstitious age, and yet there are many people in this city who believe that old Mr. Mack is visiting his farm once more, and there is a far greater number who vacillate between belief and doubt in this, the supernatural.”
So, what do you think? Do you think the people of Warren really saw a ghost? Did Mr. Mack come back to haunt his farm? Or were you simply amused by the serious use of the words “Ghostdom” and “ghostship” and the prospect that Mr. Ludlow wanted to twice kill the undead? Let us know what you think!