Episode Page Episode 16…How Pukwudgies got Wikied

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Episode 16…How Pukwudgies got Wikied

In preparation for their summer trip, Natalie Crist and Christopher
Balzano look into the origins of the Pukwudgie legend.

puk7Now one of the most popular figures in the supernatural world, Balzano goes into his early research into the legend and how it came to grow and become what it is today. They explore some of the early references before tackling some of the errors in the lore that have
twisted in recent years.


In fact, since the beginning of Tripping on Legends, the creature has been making guest appearances from time to time, from an odd story coming out of Astor, Florida, to a potential transformation into an animal in Indiana.

Watch an interview with a recent Pukwudgie experience in Indiana…



Excuse the section on Harry Potter…something unseen decided to chime in and was caught on tape.  See if you can figure out what it’s saying.

If you hear more than we do, e-mail us at spookytripping@gmail.com.

Keep visiting the site for the trip log of our travels and other urban
legends at: www.trippingonlegends.wordpress.com

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Twitter: @naynaymyfriend @SpookyBalzano
Instagram: @SpookyTripping



The Lady in White

This story appeared, although a little differently, in my first book Ghost Adventures.  As a few more details have come out over the years, as well as being further removed from the situation, I’m now able to reveal that this story takes place in my old house.  The people involved are my parent, but I had changed their names in an attempt to avoid that old idea that peole who look into ghost stories ALWAYS have stories that involve their experiences.

Linda and Leo lived in their Goffstown, New Hampshire, home for eighteen years.  Located in a rural section outside of Manchester, it seems the ideal sight for something supernatural to happen, but it wasn’t until the death of a close family member that they were visited by a mysterious and comforting presence.

IMG_E4678“It wasn’t her.  Even when she was young, Millie had a chubby face.  Always had that heavy look.    She was dainty.”

Shortly after the death of Leo’s aunt, Linda was lying on the couch in the den when she felt someone in the room with her.  After a few seconds she looked up to see a young woman dressed in white standing at the doorway, looking up with a blank expression.  “She looked like she was lost and she didn’t realize what was going on.”  After a few minutes, the woman moved a little backwards and disappeared.

Linda described the woman as all in white, wearing a nightgown of see-through linen.  She was in her thirties, was of average height, with long curl red hair that came out the bottom of a scarf or something else on her head.  Linda most remembers the expression on her face, “like she was just passing through,” and the fact she could see through her.


The location of the stain…and me back in my rock and roll days.

Over the next year and a half Linda saw the woman about ten more times, always at night, always at the doorway of her den.  “I would stare at her.  I would try to figure out what she was doing there and then she’d be gone.”  Linda says there was nothing that would preface the woman arrival and it happened during any season.  She would just appear.  The woman never tried to talk to Linda.  In fact, Linda says the woman never seemed to see her there and never tried to interact in any way.  She does say that the appearance of the ghost was comforting and soothing.

Linda had had other experiences but she had explained them away.  Once, when her husband was in trouble while taking a trip in West Africa, she had sensed something was wrong and, “sent my guardian angel to help him.”  When he arrived home safe he said he had felt something at the moment she had sent it.  Then there was the mysterious stain on their ceiling that remained although they painted over it several times, bleached it and investigated to find no pipes or trails of water leading to it.

Leo, who is in security, is much more of a cynic and still has trouble explaining away his experiences with the woman in white.  He saw her several times, at the foot of his bed and in the same den and his description of the woman is the same.  She never looked at time but stared straight ahead, with a blank expression, and then be gone in a few seconds.  He doesn’t like to talk about it.  Neither Leo nor Linda mentioned it to until they moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, two years after the appearances started.

Village-Augustina-Postcard-2.pngBoth feel if they had not moved, the woman in white would still visit them.  This leads me to believe the spirit must have something to do with the sight.  When Leo and Linda moved in the house was only two years old.  The first owners have moved out shortly after moving in, but Linda claims it was not under any unusual circumstances.  Before that, the land was undeveloped and owned by a local Catholic school.  The school had a convent which housed several dozen nuns although over the years their numbers have reduced.

goffstownCould one of the nuns who enjoyed walking in the woods behind her convent still remain tied to the land?  Linda feels this might be a good explanation, but is quick to dismiss the head piece as a habit, or the woman, while comforting, as particularly religious.

The current owner of the house says the only trouble with the house has been trying to plow the rock driveway in the winter during their early years there.  They have added a garage to the property and have nothing but good things to say about the property.

Scary Story a Day…The Guard at the the Door

These next few we’re going to call the Jenna Chronicles.
 Jenna was my roommate for years and got this whole thing started for me.  We sat down together that first night and set up http://www.geocities.com/chrisandjenna441/Massachusettsghostsandlegends/, the precursor of Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.
In addition to being willing to talk to anyone and egg me on to do the same, Jenna was a magnet for activity. She was part of the background for the Mr. Mustache story and the Haunted Majestic legend and experienced the FedGov and Charlesgate cases with me.  By the time we made our first trek into the Bridgewater Triangle to look into haunted Rehoboth, she had already experienced enough odd things to fill a book.
If you have a story or legend contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com.


Sometimes it takes a while to piece together the little things that happen on a day to day basis and realize there might be something else at work.  Sometimes when spirits don’t get their due they pop their heads up and tell you they’re there a little louder.

Jenna and I were living in an apartment together on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton.  It was a small apartment with a tiny room for a front entrance that had an intercom system and a door buzzer.  We centralized the phone there and soon found Jenna’s cat, Karma, was fond of playing near the front door.

There were two locks on the door, but I never locked both of them, even when nobody was in the apartment, because the same key that unlocked one unlocked the other.  Anyone who could break into one could easily get into the other.  I soon became annoyed at Jenna.  She would double lock the door when she went to bed and then double lock it when she left in the morning.  I was getting bored having to open both locks every time I wanted out or in.  After a few months I asked her to stop.  Her eyes sparkled when she told me she never touched the lock, but was getting annoyed that I was always double locking the door.  This continued until the day we left.

1412During the same time, Karma would often jump at the wall in the front entrance, playing with something that wasn’t there.  The intercom would often buzz and there would be no one needing to get in.  We didn’t think about it too much because the apartment building was filled with younger people like ourselves.  Whether drunk or just trolling for someone to let them in, it would not have been unusual for people to hit an apartment that wasn’t there’s.  Our phone would ring at all times of the night and day and there would be silence on the other end of the phone.  Several attempts to contact whatever was there failed to give us any solid proof of a spirit, but we knew they were there.

It wasn’t until my friend was coming to stay with us that we experienced fully what the ghost was capable of.

My fiancé at the time, Jill, had come to stay with us over the summer.  She and Jenna were at home waiting for my friend to arrive from out of state while I was working down the street.  Jenna was working at the computer in my room and Jill was sitting on my bed.  They were talking when they heard something in the front hall.  They stopped, and heard the door lock by itself.  They looked at each other, and Jenna screamed and jumped on the bed.  They heard it click several times, and then the buzzer went off.  After arguing over who would get the buzzer, Jenna went out.  It was my friend.  She buzzed him in and unlocked the now locked door, opening it a bit so he could get in.  She then ran back to my room and on my bed.

Several seconds later there was a knock at the door.  The door was now closed, and the deadbolt locked.  They both walked to the door, arm in arm, and let him in.  When I got home an hour later, to a double locked apartment, they were all still on the floor of my room.

Scary Story a Day…The Glen in Woburn

Old true stories that are meant to just give you a little chill as you go about your day…
Keep checking in to see the new one every day…
We’re going to start this week with a series of stories that all take place in an area of Woburn, Massachusetts, know as the Glen.  We already told one story that’s related to the neighborhood, and our story on Horn Pond has gotten some interesting feedback, but there are several more we’ve collected over the years.
It makes you wonder if certain places are more haunted for a reason, and what those reasons might be.
If you have a Woburn story or legend, contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com.

There are places where the paranormal events are more extreme and more frequent.  Whether it is because of energy in those places or some event that has trapped spirits due to trauma or joy, they become magnets for activity, like the Bridgewater Triangle or Salem.

An area known as the Glen in Woburn is such an area.

The Glen was originally apple and cranberry bogs when the town was first settled.  It lies close to one of the first Shaker settlement in Massachusetts, a settlement eventually forced to leave.  The houses were originally nothing more than shacks, like bungalows, and as the area expanded, there became less farming and the houses were built on.  There are very few houses that stand as they stood when the town was formed.

Upon first looking at the Glen, you might think the numbers are consistent with other neighborhoods in Massachusetts, but a closer look shows something unusual lies on the street.  Even in a town with a sorted health history like Woburn (read or see Civil Action), there is an unusual amount of cancer in the people that live there.  There is also an anomalous amount of divorce and domestic abuse.  Diane, being more sensitive than the average person, feels the energy around her, and her house has become a weigh station for spirits passing through and for those who have chosen to settle.

One house she used to own is now my sister’s, a house she owned but refused to live in because it felt “evil”.  (Read Mr. Moustache) Although she feels there is something darker in that house, she counts several family members as the unseen residents in her own.  Di often works nights and sleeps during the day and relies on her dog Bo to keep her company.  Bo often walks up out of a dead sleep and follows things with his eyes that aren’t there.  “If you ever had a dog you would know,” she says.  “They have a perception of spirits.”  He takes off down the hallway after things that cannot be seen, but Di doesn’t need to see them.  She hears them.  When she is home during the day, or even at night when she gets home, she hears the front door open and footsteps go into her Mother-in-law’s old room.  The spirit that does the walking has changed though.

When they first moved in they lived with her husband’s father.  Diane would often hear the footsteps and feel that something was watching her.  She even began seeing things out of the corner of her eye.  The father got sick and died in 2000, and the activity became more frequent and took on a slightly different feel.  Although it was a much bigger room, they never moved into his bedroom, instead turning it into a “guest room”. Di and her husband bought the house from his siblings and gutted the place out.  Di feels that her father-in-law doesn’t like that.  They would disagree when he was alive about things having to do with the house.  He struggled when he became sick and did not want to die.  Di believe these two factors have caused an angry man to replace a curious wife in the house.

“When we bought the house we gutted it.  Every time I was doing something I would feel guilty.”  She thought it was in her head, but eventually the feelings become more “odd” than just guilt.    “I know he’s there.  It is a different energy.  He didn’t want this stuff removed when he lived here, I don’t think he wants it out now.  The air gets so thick I have to open the windows.  I Never felt uneasy when it was her.”  She still hears the footsteps and sees things she cannot explain and often wakes to think there is an intruder in the house, and once she even saw something hovering over her bed when she woke up that disappeared when she looked back.

She notices the activity most late at night and in the mornings.  She also feels the two spirits have found each other, and that the mother is trying to help the father deal with the changes in the house and with his own death.  “She would have liked the changes.  I think she tells him to chill when he gets mad.”

People have gotten odd sensations in her house, but no one had heard anything until her husband was home alone one night.   He was watching television when he heard someone open the door, close it, walk right by him and then down the hallway.  He then heard the “guest room’s” door open and close.  He stopped making  fun of Di after that.

Di also feels the energy in the area allows her already sensitive spirit to call upon her father and sister.  She feels the room change when they arrive and sometimes hear them out loud speak with her and often hears there voices inside answer questions she asks.  She knows it sounds crazy, but it makes her feel closer to them.

That Other Case from That Other Warren Book


One of the most bizarre cases of demonic possession on record occurred in Massachusetts in the mid-eighties.  The case involved a farmer living in Warren, Ma and was witnessed by reliable sources, including a police officer, and was ultimately resolved by the Ed and Lorraine Warren, New England’s most infamous paranormal investigators.  The entire case is documented in the book Satan’s Harvest by Michael Lasalandra and Mark Merenda with Maurice and Nancy Theriault and Ed and Lorraine Warren published by Dell Publishing (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.) in 1990.

Like most cases of demonic possession, this case begins with a person who unwittingly invited forces into his life.  As a child Maurice “Frenchy” Theriault lived a hard New England life, suffering long hours working on his family farm and dealing with his father’s abusive attitude.  His father alternated between neglect and anger, becoming more and more violent towards his son as Frenchy became older and expecting more from him than can be expected of a young child.  Frenchy began to ask for help at this time, calling upon anyone who would help him and then unknowingly asking Satan to help him through his situation.  It was also during this time that he witnessed something horrific in the farm’s barn that is never explained fully but which is only hinted at as involving sex of some kind.  Frenchy was forced to watch and participate in acts although with who or what we do not know.

Frenchy began to notice differences in himself.  He was able to lift things that no teenager, or full grown adult, should be able to lift and had knowledge of things he had not formally learned.  He eventually was forced to quit school and work full time on the farm.  He tried to join the army when he came of age but was foiled by his father.  He eventually left the house and floated around New England for years doing different jobs and suffering through several relationships.  He settled down in Warren.

In the spring of 1985 the town noticed the first signs of something unusual going on with Frenchy, things that had already began to dominate he and his wife’s lives for years.  He turned his guns in to the sheriff and asked him to not give them back.  At the farm they suffered unexplained terrors.  Blood would randomly appear in the house and on Frenchy.  His unusual strength continued.  The family would hear voices where there was no one around and things would move throughout the house and farm.  Frenchy would often drift away and lose chunks of the day.  Fires broke out on the property, bringing the family to the attention of the local police.

The most disturbing activity involved the appearance of the other Frenchy.  He would be in one room and then appear to his wife outside or in another room.  When she would try to follow her husband he would be gone and she would find him in the room he was in originally, unmoved and unaware of leaving the room.  This sometimes happened in view of other people or when the witnesses could see both men within seconds.

After physical examination and psychological test failed to bring any solution to the situation, the Warrens were called in.  The Warrens were gaining popularity as investigators of the paranormal and had already worked on several famous cases, the most known being the Amityville Horror case in New York that was made into a book and several movies.   Ed Warren had already been classified as the only lay demonologist in the country.  They brought their team in and witnessed dozens of examples of the evil presence and the longer they stayed the more intense the experiences began, often following members back to their houses.  The activity ranged from low level poltergeist activity to physical attacks.  All of the team members, even some stout nonbelievers found themselves involved in activity and uncharacteristic mood changes that could not be traced to normal roots.  Frenchy’s attempts to turn to God for help resulted in more physical attacks.  One night while trying to recite the Hail Mary to make the possession stop he became so violent he tried to choke his wife.

The Warrens made the decision that this was not a normal haunting but a case of possession and called in Bishop Robert McKenna who agreed to perform the exorcism although it had not been official sanctioned by the Church.  After examining Frenchy, Bishop McKenna began the ritual.  During the battle of wills, the demon identified itself by name as “I am what I am” and “You say I am proud” and also invoked the name of Kingdom, often referred to by demons as the legions of evil forces that try to corrupt human.

The exorcism was successful, although Ed Warren almost lost his life and several smaller haunting still occurred on the farm.  There are still questions about what happened on the farm in Central Massachusetts and Frenchy later reputation and activity has cast a shadow on what might have occurred there.   Frenchy was later arrested for sexual abuse of a minor and had much to gain from the insurance on his failed farm that he received from the damage the demon had done.  There was also the money from the sale of the book and notoriety he gained from it.  Those on the inside of the case consider all those involved as being trustworthy and honest in their accounts of the events.

The Bill for Nothing

One of the most frustrating aspects of computers is trying to get a bill paid or have someone answer a question on the phone. We make our way through automated phone directories like mice in mazes looking for cheese. It’s something we’ve all experienced, and this makes it the perfect situation for a good urban legend to be born.

One such urban legend had its birth in Massachusetts. The story is said to have happened in Newton, Massachusetts in the early nineties, just as computers were gaining their foothold over our lives. A man opened a new account with a credit card company, but before it could use it, he received a bill for $0.00. Not thinking much about it, he threw the bill away and placed the card in his wallet. The next month he received another bill for $0.00.

He showed the bill to his friends who all got a good laugh out of it. They suggested he go buy something to get a real balance, but when the man went to the store the next day, his card was declined. Assuming there had to be some error, he called the company to see what was wrong with his account. He spent thirty minutes on the phone, but was only able to reach an automated system. A friendly but prerecorded voice told him a balance of $0.00 was due on his card and because it had yet to been paid his account was on hold.

The man immediately cut up the card and decided to get another. The next month he received a notice from the original card company telling him his $0.00 was now in collection and refusal to pay would affect his credit. He smiled as he thought of how to beat the company and wrote a check out for $0.00 and sent it out.

A few days later the man received a call from the bank. They had received his check, but because it was for $0.00 it had caused there whole system to crash and they had lost all the transactions that day. They would be charging his account for making their computers crash and they would not honor the check.

The man paid the bank fees, and the next month he received a bill from his credit card company saying he owed $0.00 and that the account was now in the hands of a collection agency.

While this story does not have the chill factor of other urban legends involving ghostly hitchhikers, homicidal babysitters or college stalkers, it says as much about what we fear on a daily basis. The story draws us in because of its exaggeration of a situation that aggravates all of us. No one gets hurt it this tale, except of course for the man’s credit scores, but its effect tells us about our society.

Since its first appearance in 1992, the story has been told countless times, sometimes taking place in Massachusetts and other times in other states and locations. Credit card companies say they would never send a bill for a zero balance, never mind allow it to get in collection. But there are other elements to the story that show it as an urban legend.

The original tale named the city as Newtown, which is a misspelling of the suburb. In later stories it is referred to as a town outside Boston or as the correctly spelled Newton.
In the tale, there is no name given to the credit card company or the man who acts as the hero of the story, a sure sign of a legend in the making. The story has also appeared in other places, giving it a more universal appeal and adding details to the lore. In one story that takes place in Australia, the man actually brings the company to court and wins a big settlement. The story has appeared in columns, newspaper articles and talk shows, but the facts have never been confirmed.

Haunted Tradition: Ghosts, Legends and Tradition at Smith College

Ghost stories have their roots in the tradition of oral storytelling.  Told around the fire to explain the unseen, they evolved and changed with people’s culture and taught generation what to fear.  The way the stories were told influenced them as much as the words spoken and those tales became the bonding force of the society.  Listening was not passive.  The weight of remembering and retelling helped to form identity.  The relationship between those that spoke and those that heard connected the group and signaled an informal initiation.

The tradition is not dead.  The passing of ghost stories, whether they are true or not, still has the same effect.  No longer is the telling crucial to maintaining the social structure, but its value as part of an initiation lives in sleepovers, camp outs and in the spreading of local legend.  To believe is to belong and to be part of the tradition means to be part of a group.

At Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, tales of lost love and ghosts forge a special relationship between those that search today and those that found generations ago.

In 1700 John Hunt built a house for his family outside of the main military complex in Northampton.  The area was still a prime location for attacks from the Native Americans in the area, so like most houses of its time, it was built with a secret passage to hide the family from any invaders.  The passage perhaps was also designed get them out of the house safely.  Some say the passage leads to a nearby pond, but few know for sure. Those that do keep the secret well.

The house passed through different hands over the decades and was finally purchased by Ruth Session in 1900.  To earn extra money for her family, she rented out rooms to the students at nearby Smith College until she finally sold them the property in 1921.  Sometime before then she is said to have found the secret passage and the legend of what had happened there was born.  In the next few years the story grew, and although peopled with actual figures of the day, the truth of what lives in the darkened hallway is only hinted at.  The young women who now use Session House as their dorm fully embrace the legend and participate in passing it on to the next generation.

It’s the traditions and rich lore of the campus each student experiences that the online universities of today are lacking.

The story of the hauntings differs depending on the source, but the most accurate account comes from the play put on every Halloween in the dorm.  General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne fought against the colonist and was eventually caught and held prisoner in the house, then still owned by Hunt.  The war raged on, but the general found comfort in Hunt’s daughter Lucy.  The young girl quickly fell in love, but the Generals motives are hinted at as being more out of boredom than passion.  Her family was strongly opposed to Burgoyne’s political and military alliances and they were forbidden to see each other.  Lucy knew of the secret passage though and encouraged him to meet her there.

Eventually Gentleman Johnny was sent back to England, promising to return for young Lucy.  Upon his return he was returned to active service and sent to Ireland never to return to her.  Lucy was heartbroken.  She eventually married into a passionless marriage but never got over her first love.

grandma3Ever since, the ghosts of the two lovers has been seen and heard from the passageway.  There is not much detail about the nature of the hauntings, but what is interesting is not the ghosts that might exist in the hallway but the ceremony that has evolved around the them.  Every Halloween the young women at Session House are allowed to search for the hidden passageway and the souls that are suppose to haunt there.  They are presented with the figures of their past and are invited to become part of the story as actresses dressed as the ghosts that preside in the dorm perform a play of the tragedies that have become legend there.  Then for twenty minutes on that night only they search the nooks and crannies of the house without any light looking for the passage that contains the spirits.  If they find it, a senior who has found it in one of her previous years is there with a flashlight to congratulate her.  She must tell no one that she has found it and must sneak downstairs unseen during the night to tell the house mother.  Her accomplishment is announced at the Thanksgiving dinner and for the rest of her college days she cannot reveal the location to anyone who does not know yet.  If she has not found it by her senior year she is told where it is.

The unlucky lovers are not the only ghost said to live in the dorm.  Another tale tells of a mother and her two children who were alone in the house one night telling ghost stories and scaring each other.  The mother thought she heard a noise and grabbed an ax to protect her family.  She began to search the house, eventually making it back to the room her children were in.  Thinking they were intruders who had broken into the house, she chopped them up.  When she saw her mistake, she killed herself in a room on the third floor of the house.

The other famous tale from Session House takes place after it had become a dorm and the passage hunt had already become part of its tradition.  Two girls found the secret passage but fell into a hole in the staircase and either broke their necks or injured themselves and starved to death.  They are said to be heard as you near the staircase and might also try to push or drag you into the hole.

All of these stories add to the aura of a classic site for a ghostly haunting.  The college dorm has been the set of ghost stories as long as there have been underclassmen for upperclassmen to tell stories to.  The older the college, the more tradition contained within its walls, the more colorful and powerful the story becomes.  If you were looking for a set for a Gothic story you would search the campuses in New England in the wall when the leaves are starting to change and the grey skies match the masonry.  They are often isolated and in rural settings.

Taking a walk through these campuses in late summer when the students have gone reinforces the weight of the power of these buildings.  They are larger, more overwhelming versions of the classic haunted house seen in every town.  In fall the students arrive from all parts of the country bring the tales of their hometowns with them.

These stories feed into the already active minds of people on their own who have been forced to start taking responsibility for their actions.  The fear and pressure of the situation becomes fertile ground for ghost stories.  Add the architecture of older college buildings, the mystic of secret societies and the already charged atmosphere of fall, the start of the school year and the season of Halloween, and those anxieties manifest themselves as scratches on the wall and ghostly visions.  A quick check of most college students usually finds at least one story of a famous haunting on campus.  That fear gets more intense when the dorm is used by women.

There is an entire section of urban legends that focus on females at college.  Most people have heard of the student who comes home to the darkened dorm room and thinks that her roommate is engaged with her boyfriend.  Not wanting to disturb them she slips under the sheets and pretends not to hear them.  When she wakes up she finds her roommate dead and the word, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights'” written in blood on the wall.  There are also several tales where one girl goes out and the other stays in.  Later she begins to get scared and hears a scratching on the door.  She locks herself in but in the morning she finds her roommate dead outside the door with her fingernails broken off.  They are extensions of legends involving younger girls who become victims of murders while babysitting and older women who lose their children because they leave the house for their own benefit.

The traditional interpretation of these tales is that the woman deserves what she gets because she should not be at college in the first place.  They reflect people’s subconscious objections to the woman’s leaving the home and rejecting what has been her role for generations.  She should be in the home learning to become a good mother and wife and not learning to become a professionals and leader.  This may only be part of the inspiration of these stories though.  Society does not frown on a woman getting an education like it did during the genesis of these urban legends.  There is still a prejudice acting in the subconscious and the stories have already taken on a life of their own, but similar tales were alive and well before women even started to attend college.  For hundred of years men at college have shared their classrooms with the supernatural and the bonding experience of telling of these stories serves the same purpose no matter what the sex.  It would seem the role of women outside the

house might add to the depth to the legends and act as a variation, not just the cause.

What purpose does it serve for the women of Session House and is it a genuine haunting or a localized legend?  The first hint is that it is probably only a legend is the fact that it is not localized at all.  While there may be historical people mentioned throughout, and it might involve an actual location, the themes talked about are seen in other stories since the beginning of oral and written history.  Here we have the ageless story of two people kept apart who return from the grave to live out their love.  In some of the tales, Lucy is the only ghost, searching the passage for Gentleman Johnny and unable to rest until they are reunited, searching for in death what she could not have in life.  Some stories say that she killed herself, one of the most common elements to cause a spirit to not rest peacefully.  They set the table perfectly for a haunting and draw us in because we can feel the passion for a lost love and enjoy the romantic notion that their love could exist even in the afterlife.

It also is common to have secret passages where ghost may be. There are several stories throughout the country of hauntings in passages that used to be used to hide runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad.  The Winchester House in Seattle is known for its hidden hallways and the ghosts that walk them.  In Massachusetts, there is the House of Seven Gables and other historical buildings that either are known to be haunted or have inspired ghosts stories from the people that have seen them.  It is not unusual for the dark areas of our house to produce fear.  In the safest place for a person, the one place where everything is thought to be secure, there is something secret and foreign invading that peace.

It might be unfair to say something has not happened because it reflects a theme seen in other hauntings, but there are other elements to the story that make it seem more like legend.  There are glaring inconsistencies in the story of the hauntings as well as the ritual the girls play out.  Some accounts say both ghosts haunt the site while others say it is just Lucy.  Some say Gentleman Johnny returned and found her married and went back to England.  Some say she immediately killed herself while others say she married, left and only returned after her death.  Some sources say the women are allowed twenty minutes and others fifteen.  One account has Martha, another daughter of John Hunt, as the woman who loved the wrong man.

The other hauntings in the dorm raise an eyebrow as well.  It seems highly improbable that a mother searching a house would come in through the room she came from and attack her own children.  There is however many legends where a person, often a parent, mistakes an ally for a foe and accidentally kills them.  There are also no records of students dying in a hole in the passage at Session House.  If it had happened there would have been an investigation that would have revealed the location of it.  The most common response for this is that the college covered it up to avoid negative publicity.  That excuse always comes at the end of a good urban legend and offered as the reason the story is known to only a few.  This is in conflict, however, with how the students tell and retell the story.  It is the details that are somewhat mysterious, but the deaths are stated as fact.  And why where the screams of the girls or the fall not heard by the senior hidden in the passage?  Let us not forget there are also conflicting stories of how the girls died from the voices inside the house telling the tale to the girls on Halloween, something unusual when you consider the story is fairly recent and not likely to be forgotten.

It is important to note all three stories involve places the young women come into contact with over the course of the night.  The lovers haunt the hidden passage and the ghosts of the former students are there waiting for them.  This heightens the excitement and anticipation as they look for it with no lights.  The mistaken woman kills her children in the same room where the students sit hearing the story.  One can imagine the story being told by candlelight and the shadows dancing against the wall looking like axes and nooses.   How many good ghost stories begin, “It was a night just like this,” or, “It was three years ago tonight?”

None of these elements alone prove the story false.  Tales often change over time and each teller adds their own personal slant to the story.  Several different newspaper articles written at different time use the same language and terms to describe the story at Smith College.  It seems likely one paper used the other as research and one error in reporting led to new facts presented as fact.  With the invention of the Internet the information is spread to countless people who tell the story to their friends and distort the details even more.  People make the stories their own and there is something to creating an aura when telling a story.  When everything is taken together, though, you have to start to wonder about the truth of the story.

What the truth is does not seem to matter to the young women involved in the ceremony.  It is hardly the point in this setting and the truth is not what the students need.  We know most of the ghost stories we hear are not true and yet that does not diminish our enjoyment of them.  We doubt the things we hear could happen, but we still sleep with the lights on.  It is the possibility of the improbable; the fact that we do not know for sure that awakens our imagination and turns the things around us into apparitions.

The students at Session House take it one step further though.  The telling and retelling of the stories that happened there bonds them as much as singing a school fight song or remembering the long list of past presidents of a sorority.  While most colleges shy away from any ghost that might be rumored on their campuses, Smith College embraces them.  A check of their website finds several references to the ghosts at Session House and pictures of the play are displayed with pride.

This has an impact on the student inside the dorm and forms their belief in the spirits and their likelihood of seeing things other college students might deny.  To dismiss the story is to be on the outside looking in among your peers in a small community during a time where it is difficult to fit in.  To not look for the passage is to be isolated from your friends and roommates.  Who wants to be the one not to find the passage, especially when those that do are praised?  To believe in them means instant belonging, which might account for the added stories of paranormal happenings inside the house.  The tradition creates an environment where seeing a ghost is not only accepted, it instantly burns a place for you in the lore of the house.

When the story of Lucy Hunt is told and the young women of Session House listen they are tapping into a larger tradition of the college and the dorm.  Candles replace a fire and upperclassmen replace the elders pressed to preserve their ancestors.  It gives them an automatic past, a legacy to be a part of.  Their stories become part of the myth and will be told as legend to generations that follow them.  They become the heroes and villains of a living, breathing history book.  The women are also part of a larger play, one that continues whenever we hear or read or watch a ghost story and feel the skin on our arms start to rise.