A bit about the Keene Ghost Census

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.   

Harriet Huntress Just Wants Respect

 

Keene has many ghost stories, but the most popular seems to be that of Harriet Huntress, the namesake and resident ghost of Huntress Hall on the campus of Keene State College. An abandoned wheelchair in the attic of the Hall appears to be part of the inspiration for the ghostly legend.

 

Huntress, motivated perhaps by anger at co ed living arrangements during WWII, or just plain old otherworldly boredom, can be heard wheeling her chair through the hallways. Of course, no one is sure just who the owner of the wheelchair was, or why it’s sitting in the attic, but it makes for a great story.

 

A local paranormal group did an investigation of Huntress Hall in 2008, and found nothing. That doesn’t mean the case is closed. Old homes and buildings inspire ghost stories. Evolution has made us afraid of the dark, there might be bears, and also there is still that creepy wheelchair. Still even believers in ghosts couldn’t find proof for Harriet’s haunting.

 

One story reported by several former students is that Harriet Huntress does not like to be made fun of. Students that dress up like her for Halloween, usually in a gray wig and some sort of wheeled chair, find Harriet is not amused, and she will have her revenge. Things happen to those that make fun of Keene’s best known ghost. The next test, despite having been studied for, is failed. She’s also supposed to be fond of tripping any student that makes fun of the wheelchair. She seems to be suggesting those that can walk should not be imitating of those that can not.

 

There is almost always some form of retribution, especially to those that would imitate her ghostly presence. Huntress saves her more extreme revenge for those that wheel a cart down a hallway trying to scare others. A student that with his friends took part in making mysterious noises in an attempt to hoax a group of fellow students, found himself with a broken leg shortly thereafter. He says he did not believe in Huntress or any curse before he took part in the hoax, but that the three students that also participated in the hoax with him all had accidents within the week of the hoaxing. One student had a bad car accident, another had a car that simply wouldn’t start and needed expensive repairs. The third hoaxer slipped on an ice covered sidewalk and threw out his back so badly he needed to use a wheelchair for the rest of the semester. The student felt that Harriet saved this especially appropriate revenge for this student as he was the leader of the hoaxers.

 

Does Harriet Huntress still roam the hall that bears her name in a wheelchair? Perhaps, or perhaps she just doesn’t like people making fun of her. No matter what, it’s better to be just polite, and not make fun of people, even if they are dead.

 

 

The Mirror’s Reflective Predictions

The Mirror on Court street

 

Court street in Keene is known for the beautiful old mansions found there. While many are now cut up into apartments or offices, there are still a few privately owned homes. The setting for this next story takes places at one of these mansions, that is now just a shadow of the home it was long ago. A visitor will notice a bit of gingerbread trim has fallen off, slate shingles have slid off parts of the roof, and the front stairs lean a bit to the side. Stepping on the front porch, a visitor will find the boards creak loudly announcing your arrival before you even have a chance to ring the old fashioned winding doorbell, located in the center of the large oak front door.

 

My visit was to find out more about a mysterious mirror, that has been on the 3rd floor of this home for over 100 years. This is yet another of the mysterious story of Keene that leaves one wondering, is it the home haunted, or are the people residing there haunted.

 

I was welcomed by a home health care assistant. She had called me, saying her client that lived in this home had a story to share. Mary, the aide, wasn’t sure she believed the story of the mirror, but informed me “I’ve never been brave enough to go see it for myself!” Mary warned me her client, Ava, was quite old. I was not to “Expect too much” from her, but she thought Ava would “get a kick” out of sharing her story.

 

I was shown into a quiet bedroom on the second floor. The room has a hospital bed, but the rest of the furniture seemed as old as the inhabitant of the room, Ava. It was all of a dark carved wood. I saw no mirror above the dresser with the bow front drawers, and also no paintings or prints on the walls. It is simply a plain room with sheer curtains over the windows. The room was dark, despite the sunny day I visited, because the trees were in full foliage and gave the room a green comforting glow, reminding me almost of being inside an aquarium.

 

Sitting in an old fashioned padded rocking chair was the woman with the story, Ava. Ava waved a hand at a cane bottomed chair nearby and invited me to sit down. I explained I wanted to document her ghost story. Ava laughed, she like Mary didn’t quite know if her story was a ghost story or not. Still, she was happy to share as long as I promised that I wouldn’t “bring people around, they can believe me or not, I don’t care. But I’ll tell you as long as your promise to go see the mirror.” I had no clue what the story would turn out to be, but I was skeptic enough to take her challenge. I agreed to see the mirror.

 

First though, Ava had to tell her story.

 

Ava said when she was younger, she and her siblings lived on the third floor. It was the nursery. There had been 5 children, and they all slept together in two rooms. There was a third bedroom for the woman that helped looked after the children. “We didn’t have a nanny” Ava pointed out, “We had a woman that helped our mother run the house and chase after all of us!” Ava and her sister, Jane, were the only girls. The 3 boys slept in one room, and she and Jane shared another room.

 

The 3rd floor is still filled with all the old furniture, from this home that has been owned by the same family for generations. The girls bedroom still has the old fashioned iron beds, two twin sized ones, that Ava and Jane slept in. Ava said their room also has the mirror. No one was sure when or how the mirror came to be in the house. All Ava knows is that one day when Jane was looking around in the attic, she found the almost full size mirror. Jane got her brothers to help her drag it down to her room, and cleaned it up so she would have someplace to “preen and look at how pretty she was!”

 

However, Jane soon found the mirror had some weird characteristics. While Jane could see how beautiful she was, Jane also claimed that if you kept looking at the mirror, it would slowly change to show you what you would look like in years to come. Jane found herself changing from young teenager, to old woman, if she looked long enough.

 

I asked if their frightened Jane, and Ava assured me that at first it did. Jane told Ava, “She told me everything, we were born 10 months apart, we were often mistaken for twins. She liked to boss me around, but she also knew she could tell me any secret.”

 

Ava suggested Jane ask their grandmother that also lived with them about the mirror. Ava said her grandmother was in her late 80’s at the time, and knew “All the family secrets” The girls went to their grandmother, and the grandmother told them the mirror had been hidden away as it “disturbed people.” When pressed her grandmother admitted some felt the mirror had the ability to “Show people how they will look when they die. It reflects you are you will look when you die.”

 

Ava said after that her sister didn’t mind the mirror anymore. The refection was that of a very old woman, and that was all that Jane needed to feel she was invincible. She felt she could not die before she was very old indeed. Ava said Jane began to take risks and became “Wild!” The mirror gave her the courage though to travel and take chances, and Ava admired her freedom.

 

I asked Ava what she saw when she had looked in the mirror. Ava laughed, “I forgot to tell you, when I was a child, I was almost completelyblind! That’s another reason I was so close to Jane, she was my eyes to the world!” Ava said that things changed when she had an operation in the 1970’s that allowed her to regain part of her eyesight. “Jane wanted me to go look in the mirror. She wanted me to see if I was also going to live to an old age!” Ava said she was rather nervous, but Jane was “Bossy as always”.

 

Ava assured me she had regained only partial sight, but it was enough that she could look in the mirror and see clearly reflected her own self, “I was so happy to be able to see that I wasn’t tired of looking at myself yet!” she joked. Then, just as her sister had claimed, Ava saw image in the mirror slowly began to change. Ava found herself looking at an old woman. Jane she said was standing beside her, and suddenly Jane began to become angry. Ava said that Jane did not see herself reflected as an old woman anymore, but simply as she was. Ava said she and Jane were middle aged then, and Jane finally started screaming ‘Why am I not OLD? Why are you OLD?” Jane became so upset she hit the mirror with her fist, cracking it slightly.

 

Ava and Jane were the only two family members still living in the home at that time. They hosted their brothers and their families during holidays, and kept the place up the best they could. Ava said that while Jane was “difficult” they had always been close. But after the mirror incident, Jane was only angry toward Ava. “She thought somehow I had stolen her reflection from her, perhaps because we were almost like twins. Perhaps the mirror had been confused or mistaken. All I know is that Jane changed. She began to be more careful, and she became afraid to leave the house. Just when I was ready to do things in life because I could see, Jane gave up on life.”

 

Sadly, the mirror did not lie, as Jane did die in a car accident 6 months after her reflection refused to age. Ava sighed, “I blame myself, as I told her to stop moping around and go out. She went to visit our nephew, and died in a car accident while she was in Arizona visiting his family. She was in her early 60’s, and I try not to feel too sorry for her. She lived a really exciting life because of that mirror. It doesn’t matter how old you live, it matter how you live. She didn’t need a mirror to teach her that!”

 

At this point I was rather nervous, but I was still willing to go up another flight of stairs to see the mirror. Ava showed me up, “Mary is too scared to even look!” Ava chuckled. Sure enough, it was all as Ava said. The old iron bed, and the mirror in a corner. The mirror was spotted with age, and the silver backing seems to be coming off in places. There was even the small crack where Ava claims Jane had hit the mirror when she was dissatisfied with the prediction given. It’s not a very good mirror anymore, for reflecting reality that is. I went over with Ava to look, and saw just myself. I wondered if that was a good or bad sign. The darkened room with the poorly reflecting mirror began to play tricks on my eyes though. I thought I saw myself, but with more wrinkles and slightly stooped over. The longer I looked, the less sure I was about what was being reflected. The spooky atmosphere and story combined with my imagination to create a reflection that seemed to change every few moments. I found myself looking away with relief, unsure of just what I had seen, or not seen. Was this simply the story of a delightful older woman that enjoyed telling a scary tale? I still didn’t know what to think, other than I had been quite scared there for a few moments.

 

I asked Ava what she saw, she stood before the mirror. “I see an old woman, just what I’ve been seeing all those years since my eye operation. She hasn’t changed a bit!”

 

I took Ava back down to her room and thanked her for her hospitality. Ava assured me I probably hadn’t looked at the mirror long enough to know my fate, but reminded me “It didn’t do Jane any good in the end. You have to live like you have a long life waiting for you. You can’t hide away from whatever might happen. The only thing we know is we don’t know how long we’ll be here!”

 

Or in the case of Ava, she knows her time is up soon but I am glad she still had time left to share the story of the mysterious mirror!

Where’s there’s Smoke, there’s Tom and Jack

 

Not all the ghosts of Keene are human. People often talk of a beloved pet, usually a cat or dog, that they sense are still loyal companions long after the pet has died. Soft footpads, almost silent meows, and doors that are mysteriously pushed open are considered signs of a pet spirit. There have also been reports of dog’s barking, awakening their families to danger, only this is the eternal vigilance of a dogs long dead still protecting their loved ones.

Tom and Jack however weren’t pets, but they did belong to the entire city of Keene.

They were a beautiful set of gray horses, used to pull a fire engine, and saved lives and property with their well trained strength. The fire horse had to be a very special horse. Strong to pull the engine, swift as speed was of the essence with a fire, and also brave, as most horses will shy and run away from fire and smoke. Tom and Jack were the pride of the Keene Fire Department for their beauty and sense of duty. Photographs of the horses proudly marching in parades can be found in historic records from the time.

Fire, while a danger today, was especially frightening before the advent of smoke alarms and fire sprinkler systems. It was only the watchful eye of a neighbor or sheer luck if a fire was discovered at night. The amount of work to put out a fire, without modern equipment, often meant every citizen had to pitch in when needed. Early residents of Keene were required to own a certain number of leather buckets, to be used in case of fire. Fire fighting was a concern for all, not just the professional fire fighter.

A tour of Keene today shows how important the horse was to daily life before the advent of cars. There are many barns inside the city, some are just attached to homes and serve now as garages for cars. Some Keene barns have been converted into apartments or homes. At one time, Keene was full of horses, conveniently located for their owners when needed.

Horses naturally avoid fire, and many a horse making loud whinnies of panic warned humans that a fire had started at night. This is perhaps why when horses were still fairly common in Keene no one mentions the ghosts of Jack and Tom. Jack and Tom served Keene as some of the last fire horses, as the horse power came to mean a motor and not an animal. 1920 was the last year fire horses were used officially used in Keene.

Today though Jack and Tom may still be protecting the citizens of Keene. People have reported awakening to the sound a panicked horse or horses, and then smelling smoke and knowing there was a fire. Keene doesn’t have many horses close to downtown, but reports of mysterious noises of horses awakening owners to the danger of a night fire persist. Of course, people aren’t sure what the sound was, only they often are quickly reminded of horses by what happens next.

One fire survivor reports what happened to him “I awoke to this loud screeching sound. I had no clue what it was, but could tell my house was filling with smoke. I got up quickly and awoke my family and we ran out of the house. We then looked up and I saw, in the smoke, the shape of two horses. Gray horses, gray like the smoke and fire. It was just the heads and front legs and then the shapes slowly disappeared as the flames grew.”

The family survived, despite not having their smoke alarms working, but the home was a complete loss. Other people report seeing the shape of two horses in smoke from other fires, sometimes even a simple backyard bon fire or leaf burning. It seems Jack and Tom can not resist a fire of any type. The description is always of seeing the shape, and more than one person noticing the resemblance to horses, before it quickly dissipates.

If you awake in the night to the sound or horses, pay attention and don’t roll back to sleep. Tom and Jack might be trying to tell you something. Also, please make sure your smoke detectors are working, because to depend on ghostly intervention for fire protection is foolish indeed.

Robin Hood Park, and Keene’s Own Alice

Robin Hood Park is Keene is an oasis for children of all ages. In the summer there is a playground and a chance to hike trails gentle enough for even a preschooler to manage. Winter brings ice skating and many Keene children over the years have learned to skate on the water reservoir located there.

The park was founded by one of the more altruistic of Keene’s citizens, George Wheelock , as a place for generations of children to enjoy nature and the outdoors.  The original 12 acres he donate were named “The Children’s Wood”, and a later donated 83 acres were called “Robin Hood Park”.

Still, even this most child friendly of parks has a reported spirit or two still living there. The spirit of this story is, as befits Robin Hood Park, a child. Several mothers have reported stories of a small girl along the paths, dressed as if she were going to a fancy party. She peeks out from behind the trees and many large boulders in the park. While older versions of the story, from parents of the 1940’s and 1950’s, don’t find the child’s attire out of place, more modern parents do. Children now wear jeans and shorts for climbing and hiking and sneakers, while often pink, are the safe shoe of choice. The little spirit girl seems stuck in time, with her flat leather shoes and white or light color dress.

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Children seem unafraid, and she has at times been called “Alice” after the famous “Alice in Wonderland” for her peculiar garb. Alice is often times seen wearing an apron to cover her dress, which was the custom long ago to help protect a dress from stains when playing. Still, while children are delighted with glimpses of Alice, parents aren’t always so comfortable.

One mother, Elaine, told me the story of her daughter Molly. Molly was a typical tom-boy, until one day she wandered off to explore the pathways of Robin Hood Park. Elaine explained “I would sit on a rock, bring a book and just keep an ear out for her. We would go fairly early in the morning when the park was very quiet. I could always hear Molly chatting away saying ‘Hello’ to squirrels and talking to herself.”

Elaine noticed a change one day when Molly came down wearing one of her Disney Princess outfits. “Her grandmother would send them to her, and Molly had little interest in them. I would dress her up in the costume and take a photograph to send my mom. Molly was a dynamo then, my little tornado, and wearing a dress would just have slowed her down!”

Elaine questioned why Molly would want to wear a princess dress to the park, and Molly explained her new friend “Alice” wanted her to wear a pretty dress so they could “look alike, like sisters”. Elaine knew there were usually no other children at the park so early, “I would often go then just so Molly could wear herself out, and when we went back later on in the afternoon she was much calmer playing with the other children.” Elaine, being an easy going mother, allowed Molly to wear her princess dress but insisted on her wearing sneakers.

Molly began to insist on wearing dresses for her early morning park explorations each morning. Elaine also began to hear stories about “Alice”. Elaine figured that Molly had a wonderful imaginary friend. She knew Molly had seen an “Alice in Wonderland” movie and also that she had been looking for a rabbit hole at Robin Hood Park. When Elaine began to pay more attention to what Molly was saying at the park, rather than just focusing on her book, she claims she began to grow more nervous.

“Molly had long conversations with Alice”, she shared. “They would talk about school, pets, it was all one sided, but Molly would do long pauses and seemed to be replying to direct questions from Lizzie” Elaine worried this was perhaps too much imagining, so she began to put down her book and tag along.

Elaine was intrigued when she decided to walk with Molly, and Molly painted to a rock and said the name of the rock was “Jumbo”. Elaine, laughingly replied it was indeed a jumbo sized boulder, but Molly said “No the rock is name Jumbo, Alice told me.” Elaine looked at the rock more closely and noticed there seemed to be some carving on the rock. “I took out my car keys, and scraped away at the letters which were covered with some sort of green moss.” Elaine was shocked to find the name “JUMBO” clearly carved into the boulder. Molly began to name other boulders, and each time Elaine looked she could find the faint etchings of the name carved. “I never even knew the rocks had names, or that someone had the names inscribed on the rocks.”

When Elaine asked who had told her the names, Molly would insist “Alice did, she knows all the rocks!” Elaine said she even lost her temper with Molly, sure that some adult had told Molly the names and stories of the boulders of Robin Hood Park.

Elaine decided that perhaps the early morning visits should be better supervised. Elaine talked to a few of the other parents at the park. She said some of them claimed to get a “creepy feeling” when walking the paths. Elaine said she didn’t stop going, because the park is wonderful. “ I enjoyed finding out some of the rocks have names. But I kept a close eye on Molly, and saved my reading for when she took her afternoon nap.” Elaine also still took Molly to the paths where Alice spoke to her, because she felt if Alice were a real ghost, of a real little girl, then “Alice might be sad with no one to visit her. I thought if anything happened to Molly, and she were stuck here as a ghost, I would want her to have friends.’

Elaine said that Molly still spoke to Alice for the rest of that summer, and would ask her mother why she couldn’t see Alice. Elaine told Molly to ask Alice. Molly laughed and said that Alice said she could only appear to children, and one day even Molly wouldn’t be able to play with her anymore.

The next summer, Molly went to the park in her shorts, t shirt, and sneakers, and didn’t mention Alice at all. Elaine said she asked Molly about Alice and she looked at her mother and said “Oh I must have grown up too much!”

If Alice is truly a playful,if well dressed, spirit at Robin Hood Park, I hope she finds many future generations of children to play with until they “grow up too much”.

Woodlawn Cemetery, Keep it Clean

The most haunted location in Keene is reputed to  be around the Knight Summer Chapel, which is part of Woodlawn Cemetery. A spirit of a little girl is reported, that will peek at you from behind tombstones and trees. The area is a favorite for those with cameras trying to capture photographs of orbs and other ghostly subjects.

Traditional folklore says you must never curse near the chapel, or you will taste soap in your mouth. This soapy discipline comes from a ghost that objects to cursing, and will try to wash you mouth out . This rumored ghostly punishment means that people are often around the chapel, cursing away hoping for a ghostly, if soapy, encounter.

So many stories abound, that it’s hard to choose just one to feature.

This story can perhaps be representative of all the strange happenings that take place near the chapel. A group of teenagers, bored during the early evening hours, decided to go to the Knights Chapel to see if they could have a ghost wash their mouths out with soap. Keene has often been described as a lovely town but a bit dull for young people, though I’m surprised this was their best option for entertainment.  Still, what could be more fun than to test this ghostly myth, and so the 5 young people piled into a car and parked near the chapel.

The 5 were all teenagers, and 2 of them were a new couple. At first everyone just cursed away, with 3 claiming “I can feel the soap, it’s really awful!”. The taste did not stop the teens from cursing, as could be expected it made them curse even more! The only 2 that did not claim to be able to taste the soap were the new young couple.

They were teased by the others, that they were “too sweet” for the ghost. The couple just claimed they were too smart to fall for this trick. They were sure the others were just imagining the soapy taste. Finally the couple was challenged to really curse as much and as creatively as they possibly could. The couple then faced the chapel and yelled out curses and insults for almost a full minute, and at the end they just laughed and claimed to taste nothing. Their friends suggested the couple French kiss, so they could taste if there was soap in each others mouths.

What happened next at first seemed very innocent. The couple kissed deeply, embracing each other tightly. The couple kept kissing and kissing, until their friends began to joke “get a room!” Still the deep kiss continued.

The couple then began to not embrace, but instead to try to push away from each other. Soon they were using all their strength to try to break off the kiss, even digging their feet into the ground. Their deep kiss was endless, their lips locked together, as if a powerful magnetism held them together. The three friends at first thought the couple was joking, but soon were convinced by the terror in the eyes of the couple.

The friends ran over and began to physically pull the couple apart. It was only when one of the group shouted “They are sorry, we’re sorry! We won’t do this again, let them go!” that the couple broke apart.

The couple fell to the ground, exhausted and catching their breath in deep gulps. They later said they did not taste soap, but tasted ashes. “It was like eating smoke from a campfire or from hell.” They claimed they could not break apart, and were having trouble breathing. The young woman claimed she could feel as if a bony hand were holding her head in place, the young man refused to talk about the experience ever again. The group left the cemetery, and warned their friends not to bother the chapel ghosts.

“It just seemed like a lot of fun, but cursing in a cemetery is a bad idea”

So, go visit Woodlawn Cemetery, but please be respectful. If you aren’t, the residents there will be sure to let you know they like to be left in peace.

The Zombie without a Heart

Fortune tellers and psychics sometimes comment that they have a tough time in Keene.  A few have reported they have better readings outside of Keene, and that they sometimes have nightmares after attending a psychic fair in Keene.  Things go wrong, batteries run out of power, lights flicker, things they were sure they packed go missing.  Some claim their dreams are of 2 young men, that are angry at all those that cast fortunes.  Others though dream of what we would now call a zombie, a dead young man, looking for his eternal rest and also very unhappy with those that would cast fortunes in Keene.  Perhaps they have good reason to be angry, if those young men are Seth, Adam, Issac and Samuel who lived in Keene in the early 1800’s.

Seth and Adam’s brother Issac was dying. They knew this because they had recently lost another brother, Samuel, and the symptoms were the same. Consumption, or what we would now call TB, was a leading killer before the introduction of antibiotic treatment in the 1940’s.

The endless coughing, that would bring up blood, was a sure sign that death was near. Since the cause was unknown, except that it would often decimate families, attempts to cure varied widely and were almost always ineffective. Still, Seth and Adam, having lost one brother already, were willing to try anything. Desperate for a cure, they went to a fortune teller in Keene and asked for advice.

When traditional medicine fails, even today people will seek the help of alternative medicine. This however was the early 1800’s and your local doctor could often do as much harm as good. The fortune teller the young men turned to was more than willing to take their money for her bad advice. When the local doctor said there was nothing to do, the fortune teller gave the boys something to do. Hope was bought at a high price for this working class family.

The fortune teller gave the young men a cure that was gruesome, but she swore it would work. Seth and Adam were to dig up the body of their recently deseased brother Samuel. They were then to take out his heart, and feed it to their ill brother Issac. The brother Samuel the fortune teller claimed was not at rest. His spirit was still alive. If they family could feed that spirit, via the heart, to Issac, he would regain his strength.

The fortune teller claimed that Samuel had cursed the family for not curing him, and that only by destroying his heart would his spirit rest and leave not claim the life of his brother. If this was not done, each brother would die off one by one, and the spirit of Samuel would haunt Keene forever.

The brothers followed the fortune tellers directions, digging up their brother from his grave in the middle of the night, to try to hide it from watching eyes. They were shocked to find their brother’s body looking as if they had just buried him. Some versions of the story even claim that Samuel looked even better than when he had been buried an emaciated corpse, Samuel looked like the fit and strong young man he was before his illness.

The brothers worked quickly, cutting into the body and retrieving the heart. The heart itself was not withered and dry, but was plump and wet. The brothers then reburied the body, and went home to make a meal for their sick brother of the heart. When the brothers cut into the heart, fresh liquid, perhaps blood, spurted out.

Sadly, the cure did not work, for Issac soon died. The brothers were angry, the fortune teller had not only taken their money but she had caused them to desecrate the grave of Samuel. They went to demand their money back from the crooked seer, but could find no sign of the fortune teller. The small hut where the fortune teller lived was empty, but it looked as if it had been ransacked with the small bits of furniture smashed and broken and the plates broken and smashed. The brothers were accused of having attacked the fortune teller, as she was never seen again, but they always claimed someone else with a grievance had cheated them of their revenge.

The brothers prepared Issac for his burial much as they had done for Samuel not long before. The night Issac had died, a frost had come and the ground had frozen. As is traditional even today in parts of New Hampshire, Issac’s body was put in a grave vault to await a thaw when the ground could be opened to receive his body.

It was then that that the problems started for Keene. Young men walking late at night would feel a sudden chill, and turn around to find another young man following them. The young man appeared to be normal, except there was a hole in the middle of his body. Since streetlights were not around, the descriptions are based on what could be seen from a carried lantern or just the moonlight. Also since many of these young men were returning from taverns, the stories were treated as a joke.

There was one young man, tipsy enough, to challenge the man with the hole in his chest. The brave ,but drunk, man claimed he was then attacked by a demon, that tried to “tear out my heart!” The sightings stopped soon after this, and people wondered were the stories just imaginings or had something else happened?

Spring and a thaw came and Seth and Adam were preparing to oversee the internment of their brother Issac. When the body was brought out from the grave vault, to the surprise of everyone, Issac’s body was found to have been mutilated. Where his heart should have been, was a gaping hole. The brothers quickly buried their brother, and the story remained buried in family legend until now.

Did Keene have a zombie? Looking to replace his own stolen heart? Also why was the body of Samuel so fresh? It could be the cold chill of Fall weather, preserving his body, or was Samuel one of the New England vampires of legend?

Fortune tellers of the time were known to recommend such remedies for curing illnesses. There are many written accounts of this happening all over New England, but this family story of what happened next is especially chilling. Let’s hope Samuel continues to rest in peace.  Even if fortune tellers and psychics of today may still be haunted by the brothers!