It’s a windy, rainy Beggars’ Night tonight — which makes it very difficult to keep our jack o’ lanterns lit. Although the weather isn’t ideal, we’ve had a decent number of trick or treaters this year — but out of an abundance of caution and a fear that we’re going to be stuck with gobs of leftover candy, we’ve also moved to the “take a handful” approach earlier than normal this year.
It was the summer of 1976. I had just finished my freshman year of college and was working at the Alpine Village resort in Lake George, New York with a bunch of other high school and college kids — along with one 30-something guy named Jerry, a Vietnam War vet who captained the Alpine Village boat and who was focused with laser-like intensity on achieving meaningful dalliances with every unescorted mother bringing her two kids up for a week-long stay at the resort.
Jerry’s family owned a house that was located nearby. It was the old family homestead, a sprawling, century-old house back in the woods that was still fully furnished, although no one lived there. It was a convenient place for Jerry to take those lonely young mothers.
One night Jerry invited the lot of us to the house for a clambake and sleepover. The house was like a scene from Arsenic and Old Lace or a Vincent Price movie, complete with creaky floorboards, odd family memorabilia, portraits of long-dead relatives whose eyes seemed to follow you when you moved, dusty drapery, and unexpected alcoves where you might be startled by your reflection in a mirror as you passed by or the sight of a stuffed raccoon. It was a creepy place, and Jerry told us without much elaboration that family lore had it that the place was haunted by at least two ghosts — a weeping woman who had died during childbirth in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and a boy who had been killed by a fall into a well out back.
We chuckled at the story, gobbled our clams and burgers, and drank more beer than a responsible person should.
That night, I awoke after I thought I heard an odd noise. It was black as pitch, and the wind was blowing. I stuck my out of the bedroom door and out of the corner of my eye noticed some movement down at the end of the upstairs hallway. I didn’t have my glasses on, but something seemed to be moving down there. The floorboards creaked, I suddenly felt cold, and the hairs on my arms stood on end — then I retreated to the room, shut the door, and got back into bed, soon to fall into alcohol-assisted slumber without further incident.
The next morning I explored the other end of the hallway. There was a mirror and window, and a table with some old framed photographs. Perhaps I saw myself in the mirror, or curtains blowing in the early morning breeze? I’m not sure.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Quoth the raven: “Nevermore!”