A note about this: I wrote it before the Reunion.
After visiting the town
again, I am asking myself how much was "true"
memory and how much was
"created" memory. As it is supposed to be fiction,
I guess that doesn't
matter...except to fellow FCers. For example,
the plaque is not in front of
Dow, it is in front of the Town hall. Was it
always there? Excuse what may
seem to you to be errors, and read for amusement.
The Dow Academy Ghost
Dow Academy was a residential boy's school from the mid 1800's until
early 1900's in Franconia, New Hampshire. Later, it was part of Franconia
College. Three stories high with mustard colored walls, it has
cornices and trim. It has a classic New England clock tower looking
over the town. And it has a ghost.
I don't remember whose idea it was, but someone suggested we sit in
clock tower as it struck midnight, the bell just inches away as it
There were five of us, three guys and two girls. We'd heard stories
noises and "bumps in the night" from fellow students who worked in
building, late at night. But what old building didn't have a story?
gathered in the attic, and waited. It was a cold, clear night,
didn't want to sit exposed to the wind, up in the slatted tower.
We'd go up
just before the first stroke of midnight.
The attic was a huge room with large, rough beams extending across it.
us was a low ceiling, we had to walk in a crouch. In the middle of
a heavy ladder-staircase led to the trap door of the tower.
In a darkened
corner, we were quiet as we waited, sitting on beams. Among the graffiti.
And among the names.
As a private school, Dow Academy had been filled
with young boys.
They went to school there, lived there, grew up there; it was their
It was not too hard to imagine the boys sneaking out of their rooms
to get away from strict school administrators, and finding a place
own. They found the attic.
You could see, on the beams and on the plaster
between, dozens of
names, written in chalk or thick pencil, a few carved with penknives.
Nicknames, first names, and a few full names. Dates going back
some more than seventy years, mixed with candle wax drippings.
picture them, years before our grandparents were born, sitting in a
glow, telling schoolboy lies, laughing, and placing their mark upon
At the front entrance to the Academy there was a bronze plaque with
flags. It listed the names of boys who had grown up and gone
off to fight
and die far from home, in World War I. Some of the names cast
matched the names scrawled on the beams in the attic, where we sat
dark, waiting for the midnight peal.
We heard the sound of a door opening, then closing. We were certain
the only ones in the building, but, as we heard more sounds... another
door?...we became less certain. Then we became aware of someone
into the attic. We could hear the footsteps on the staircase.
We called...whispered, actually..."Who is it? Who's there?" and shined
flashlight toward the staircase. No one was there. The flashlight beam
clicked off, and in a few seconds we heard...very distinctly...footsteps
the attic. We didn't whisper; we barely breathed. These footsteps
clear, distinctive sound, like leather boots. Sometimes a scuffling
as if one of the big beams was being stepped over, then heavy footsteps.
Solid. Real. And right there.
We aimed the flashlight directly at the sounds, but saw nothing.
clicked off again, and the steps resumed. They circled us, at
a distance of
about thirty feet. Twice more, during their walk, we aimed the
flashlight...and twice more the sounds stopped. Each time the
switched off, a few seconds passed, and the footsteps resumed.
The steps went completely around us, and then stopped. We felt watched.
we sitting in the favorite hiding place - the secret place - of a young
who had gone to Dow Academy? Was his name here, scrawled on a
downstairs, on that plaque?
Without word or gesture we rose to leave. We clung to each other,
linked. I don't remember leaving the building, but I know
we must have run
down dark halls and unlit stairwells. I do remember that we ran
grassy field, away from the Academy. The night-sky was coldly
piercing stars. Our panting breath was visible in the streetlight.
remember looking in someone's eyes and thinking, "Did that just happen?"
none of us spoke. The bell had begun to ring midnight.