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!