Monday, September 28, 2009

Ghost Stories

So I helped a man named Andy Stettler out with a piece he's doing for the Montgomery County free newspaper about Ghost Stories around PA. I went to Arcadia University for college, and we're chock full of Ghost Stories. I wrote my piece and had my good friend Jackie Sherman edit it to fix some grammar/spelling/wording so I sounded smarter. I'm really excited for the piece, but I know that Arcadia's PR, Andy, and the paper itself will probably change some wording / water it down / make it worse (in all actuality, Andy and the Paper will probably make it better. Arcadia will make it worse.) I figured, however, I'd post my original work here so that you guys could read my unedited ghost stories. Here's what I submitted to Andy just ten minutes ago:

In order to understand our ghost stories, first you need to know a bit about our campus. Grey Towers Castle was built in 1898 by William Welsh Harrison, who gained his wealth through ownership of a sugar refinery. The only happy point in the Harrisons' marriage was their wedding night, and by the time they moved into the Castle they split the castle in half, with Mr. Harrison's quarters on one side and Mrs. Harrison and the children on the other. There are many secret passageways in the castle and surrounding buildings, one of which in particular was likely used to sneak maids into Mr. Harrison's quarters. That, of course begins our first story.

I want you to imagine a circular room painted white. You look up and see a circular balcony above you. There is no way out of this room, other than the door that Mrs. Harrison is blocking. She has a look in her eye... Does she know that Mr. Harrison has been fooling around with the maids, including you? You can't tell. Mrs. Harrison comes closer, and pulls out a long, sharp kitchen knife. You beg and plead, but it's too late. Mrs. Harrison has made up her mind.
According to legend, the bloodstains never came out of the white walls, no matter how many times they tried painting over them. Eventually, they painted it over in red. That circular room is now known as the Red Room.

I recently spoke to a friend of mine whose now-deceased relative worked for the Harrisons. According to the relative's daughter, that particular legend is completely true.

Let's walk from the Red Room over to the second floor hallway that once housed Mrs. Harrison's quarters and the nursery. Supposedly, if you waggle a flashlight around quickly in the nursery, you'll see children running in the mirrors. Continue down the hall, up the back staircase, and onto the third floor. According to the Beaver College / Arcadia University 150 Year History, no one is quite sure what the third floor of Grey Towers Castle was used for. Mrs. Harrison's side seemed to be filled with rooms that could have been spare bedrooms for guests. One room in particular contains several mirrors, and hosts our next ghost story.

According to legend, Mr. Harrison's lecherous ghost will sometimes appear in the mirors to watch girls change. My first year, I knew the girls that lived in that room. One of them told me that she thought she saw an old man in her mirror, but he disappeared when she tried to look at him. She shrugged it off to stress. She hadn't heard the story.

Let's go back to our staircase. Often times, you'll hear students run down the back stairs as fast as they can. One day, the Harrisons' daughter had a friend over who was running down the back staircase when her scarf got caught on the banister. She flipped over the banister and hanged herself. Many students report the feeling of someone pushing on them to slow them down as they run down the staircase, and believe it's the ghost of the friend making sure they don't suffer the same fate.

Now that we're back on the first floor, we'll move on to the Mirror Room. This ballroom contains the most legendary tale of the Harrison estate. There are many different versions, but the one I've heard most often says that if you turn all the lights off and dance with the person you're supposed to be with for the rest of your life, the Harrisons will appear in every mirror but one - the Bad Luck Mirror. If they appear in that one, your relationship is doomed.

Before we leave the castle, be quiet and listen closely. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can still hear Mr. Harrison pounding the floor, demanding that his maids get him his whiskey.

As we cross the grounds, we head over to what is now called Murphy Hall. While it currently houses many of our Communications and Art classes, it used to be the stables for the Harrison estate (Some people say they can hear horses late at night). This building is definitely haunted by the ghost of a very young stable boy. There have been many reports, including a few during my time at Arcadia, of people who claimed that they saw a young boy, around age ten, at the end of a hallway. They'll speak to him, ask him where his parents are, and when they turn around and look back at him, he's disappeared.

Now, before you leave Arcadia, do you remember the little girl who accidentally hanged herself on the back staircase? Well, as legend goes, when the girl's mother came back to pick her up, Mr. Harrison said that the girl and his were out in the fields, hunting. So, Mr. Harrison and the mother saddled up to go find them.
Only Mr. Harrison returned.
Some say they can still see the ghost of the woman in her long, flowing dress, searching the woods and what are now the baseball fields, looking for her daughter.

Of course, no one knows the validity of any of these stories. After all, they're only stories... Or are they? Many people say that the Harrisons were a twisted, corrupt pair who would do anything to get what they wanted. Nobody would put any of these stories past them.

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