Keene Ghost Census
The title of this book “Keene Ghost Census” was inspired by an attempt in 1894 by William Thomas Stead and members of the Psychical Research Society to conduct a census of ghosts by conducting interviews with the living. One of the conclusions reached was that 10% of people have the ability to experience ghosts, though of course the Psychical Research Society and William Thomas Stead were firm believers in the existence of ghosts. While Stead and his followers conducted their census in England, the team that worked on this book felt that Keene also deserved a ghost census. We were tired of reading paranormal or historic books, that repeated the same old stories over and over again. We felt Keene had to have more than just the same few stories and decided to ask the public for their ghost stories. What we found is that it is almost impossible to write an account of every suspected ghost in any given area.
The first problem is that there is no real agreement on the definition of “ghost”. Ghosts could be the spirit of the undead, trapped here on Earth. Ghosts could also be simply a memory or imprint of an occurrence that took place at one time, both violent and also happy. A bump in the night to some Keene residents means the cat has knocked something over. To others it means the ghost is out and about. Reported ghost we found could be evil, happy, friendly, lonely or just the product of an living person. Ghosts were reported to be violent, ghosts were reported to be helpful. If nothing else, what living humans define as “ghost” covers quite a broad spectrum.
The most interesting result was the number of animal ghosts reported. Keene is a very animal friendly city today, so a few animals ghosts should have been expected. Also, the people of Keene aren’t interested, in most cases, in getting rid of their ghosts. Many ghosts were reported where the person wanted their ghost story documented, but not reported in a book form. The living human was afraid someone might try to exorcise the ghost that was a more than welcome member of their family. Sharing your house with a spirit in Keene is not uncommon at all. One family reported “She was here long before we were, we just tolerate her moods as she hates a thunder storm, but she’s a part of the family and we would miss her if she were gone.”
The stories reported here are of course unproven. The stories chosen for the book include those where there were multiple people reporting, often without knowing the other had reported the story. We also those that were just too interesting not to report. The stories should be considered folklore, not proof of life after death.
Names have been changed and some locals are not given. The reason is that while a family may be fine with sharing a ghost story today, tomorrow they may wish to sell their home. While Keene is tolerant of ghosts, a new home buyer may not be. We did not wish to inflict any monetary or mental anguish on any of those kind enough to share their stories with us.
The census is far from complete. There were ghosts we heard tantalizing hints of, but that are jealously guarded by those that are busy ‘investigating’ them. We also enjoyed hearing so many stories that were family secrets, but not ours to share. Respecting the privacy of the living was our number one goal, while also giving Keene a richer documented ghost folklore history. We hope these stories will give the ghost enthusiast a better appreciation for the ghost lore of Keene, instead of just the the same old stories currently in numerous New England ghost guides and books.
Please enjoy the “Keene Ghost Census”, and get to know your other neighbors. Some are friendly, some are not, but all are part of the rich history of Keene.