What I am about to tell you actually happened to me.
But, do I have the absolute right to say that a “ghost” called my name? No, I cannot. Declaring it an actual spirit from beyond the grave, requires scientific proof…and I cannot offer you any. But, I have no other word to describe the voice of the woman that night, the woman who called my name.
So many years ago…
I believe this happened on New Years Eve, as 1991 rolled over and became, in the moment past midnight, 1992. My wife and I decided to escape the noise of Manhattan and instead, spend a quiet holiday in a lovely little town in the center of New York State. It was to Cooperstown that we drove that cold day. We had booked a room for two nights in a quaint B&B on Chestnut Street. I will not reveal the name of the establishment. No, I cannot do that for two very good reasons: some inn-keepers would prefer not to have that kind of ‘stigma’ attached to their establishment. After all, there are travelers who would balk at the idea of spending a night in a house…with an unknown entity. The other reason is even more concrete. I simply do not remember the name of the place. So, let’s leave it at that. If you want to find this place, just drive along Chestnut Street and look for an old white Victorian-style home. It may be the very place where ‘she’ stood outside my door in the dark hours past midnight.
After checking in and putting our suitcase in the room at the top of the stairs, we chatted with the inn keeper for a few minutes. She was middle-aged and carried herself with grace and intelligence. Her husband was away for a few days. So was her daughter. It was just the three of us in the old white house.
We made the short walk to the main street and had dinner in a small restaurant.
The wind blew cold from the far reaches of Otsego Lake. (The outlet of the beautiful body of water, often called Glimmerglass, was a small creek that was to widen and become the great Susquehanna, the very river that flowed past my childhood home in Owego, NY.) At the mouth of the lake, you could toss a pebble across the water with the slightest effort.
We bar-hopped for several hours and watched the patrons prepare to welcome the New Year by donning those little cone-shaped hats. We decided that we would prefer to spend the midnight hour back in our room watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, again.
Around 1:30 am, I tired of reading (my wife had already fallen asleep) and turned off the light. The window was open a crack to let the fresh and chill air in to the room.
I pulled the covers to my chin, closed my eyes and in a few minutes I was lost in a dream.
I sat up suddenly an hour or so later. Someone had knocked on our door which was an arms length away from my pillow. A woman called out: “Patrick. Patrick.”
“Yes?” I replied and I slid off the bed and approached the door. “Yes?”
“Patrick,” was all I heard. She had called me three times.
I began to worry. If the inn keeper was calling me at this hour, then clearly something was wrong. Perhaps a small fire had been detected and she wanted us to get out of the house.
I stood at the door.
“What is it?” I asked. “Yes, what is it?”
I unlatched the door and opened it a crack…
There was no one there.
I opened the door wider and stuck my head into the hallway.
“Hello?” I called out.
Silence. There was no one in the hall. No one was near the stairs.
My wife was sitting up in bed.
“What did she want?” she asked.
“There’s nobody there,” I replied. “But you did hear her?”
“I heard a woman call your name several times.”
So, it wasn’t a dream. I was awake.
I fell back asleep. I would talk with the inn keeper in the morning.
At the breakfast table, someone else served us.
As we went through the parlor to get our coats for our walk to the main street, I noticed the inn keeper sitting at her desk.
“What did you want me for last night?” I asked.
“Pardon?” she said. “What do you mean?”
“You came to my door and called me…it must have been sometime after 1:30.”
“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t call you. I was fast asleep at that time.”
“Well,” I joked, “must have been the ghost.”
Her mood quickly changed. She looked away for a moment. Then she looked me in the eye.
“Well maybe and maybe I should tell you the story.”
“Yes, you see, shortly after we bought the house my daughter and I were raking the leaves and cleaning the lawn. My daughter asked me who the “lady with the grey hair tied in a bun” was.
“My daughter said she had just seen an elderly woman in a dark dress standing at the second floor window watching us. I told her that there was no one in the house except her father, and the two of us. We wouldn’t open the B&B until a month or two later. But my daughter insists she saw this woman. She described her just as I’ve told you…grey hair tied in a bun…the old-fashioned way. Later, my little girl and I went to the library to check out a few books. I took the opportunity to introduce myself as the new owner of the white house on Chestnut Street. I asked about who the previous owners were. She said she knew the house well. And then she said that one of the owners, many years ago, was a widow…elderly woman who always wore a black dress. I asked her if she could tell me anything else about her. She thought for a moment and said that she never met the woman because she died before she had become the librarian. But from things she picked up over the years, she could say one thing…she always, always wore her grey hair in a bun.”
I stared at the inn keeper.
“Guess, that was who called me last night, right?”
She smiled and said: “Certainly seems like it.”
Me? I can say only one thing for sure. I did not dream of the knock on the door and the voice calling my name.
So, I can tell you what it was not…it was not a dream. But I cannot tell you what it was or who it was.
Or, why a voice in a dark hall called my name.