October 31, 2010

Freeman: They say the house is haunted

Born in Randolph, Massachusetts on October 31, 1852, Mary E. Wilkins later married Dr. Charles Freeman (they soon separated). As a girl, she began writing to support her family, ultimately publishing over 20 novels and short story collections. Perhaps it is appropriate that a woman born on Halloween wrote several ghost stories. One such story, published before her marriage, was "A Gentle Ghost" (1889).

In the tale, four women are traversing a cemetery in the spring. Just when they are ready to turn back, they discover a small child all by herself at one of the plots. She tells them her name is Nancy Wren and that she is ten years old.

"It's nobody I know," remarked the questioner, reflectively. "I guess she comes from — over there. She made a significant motion of her head towards the right. "Where do you live, Nancy?" she asked.
The child also motioned towards the right.

To the right of the cemetery is the almshouse. The girl points out several plots and claims this is where her family is buried. One of the women is dubious. "It's the Blake lot!" said she. "This child can't be any relation to 'em." But Nancy claims she used to play with Jane Blake.

"She died forty year ago this May," said she, with a gasp. "I used to know her when I was a child. She was ten years old when she died. You ain't ever seen her. You hadn't ought to tell such stories."

The women, shocked and unnerved by the child, leave her and make their way towards the exit of the cemetery. On the way out, they notice the home across the street, the home of the Dunn family.

"Say," said she, in a mysterious whisper, "I want to know if you've heard the stories 'bout the Dunn house? ...I heard it pretty straight — they say the house is haunted."

The haunted house of the Dunn family soon has a connection to the almshouse next door — and little Nancy Wren and even the deceased Jane Blake...

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