Thursday, July 09, 2020

Ghosts of Bucks County

                                                        New Hope Towpath
                                                        Phil's grandfather's house after massive renovation. It is now a B and B    
                                                                Donkey Barges on the canal

                                                                            Train Station in New Hope

What experience do you have with ghosts outside of reading about them? I am reading a Peter Robinson book where a very specific experience with a ghost reminded me of one I may have had. It was so many years ago I am not sure I didn't talk myself into it. Or perhaps Phil did.
It was the summer I met Phil. He was 20, I was 17 and newly graduated from high school. He was living with his parents in his hometown where they ran a luncheonette and newspaper business. It was a summer job between his junior and senior year at AU in D.C.
I was waitressing in Philadelphia at Vic's Pizza Parlor, but on the weekends, I came up to New Hope to visit my friend, Lynda, and met Phil and began to date him.
New Hope was a special place; lots of writers and artists (Michener, Pearl Buck, Patricia Highsmith) lived there; there was a theater, many boutique shops, restaurants, etc. It was set between the Delaware River and a canal. In fact, Washington crossed the Delaware just down the road. It was a colonial town in many ways, some of those buildings still standing. It was the definition of picturesque.
Anyway, it was a cool place to hang out and the summer before this one (1965) I had lived there with Lynda and waitressed at the Crystal Palace. Lynda was still working there and didn't mind my staying overnight in her tiny apartment over a garage.
But mostly I hung out at Phil's house. His room was off by itself, up a flight of stairs from the rest of the house. We spent a lot of time up there, listening to Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Stones. And, of course, fooling around.
At the bottom of the stairs leading up to that room, was a full length mirror. I am not sure why it was there except a bathroom was next to it. One day, we were late getting started for driving me home to Philly (an hour drive) and we went flying down the stairs. As we neared the bottom, I could just make out a woman in a shawl in the mirror. She has long curly hair and had some sort of silk cloth or bandana on her head. I saw her in profile so didn't have a very clear picture of her.
I, of course, asked Phil if he had seen it and he had not.
There was something about the lights too. Phil loved to light candles and the candlelight seemed to attract her because a few nights later, as we listened to COLOR ME BARBRA, the lights flickering on the walls and down the steps, I saw her again. And behind her in the mirror was a window that wasn't on the wall where the mirror was set. It was like looking through to another place and time, based on her clothes.
This happened several times during the summer. Only at night, only when there was candlelight and music. It was not alcohol or drug enhanced in case you are wondering.
And then it sort of got ruined. Phil told his brother Billy about our apparition and one night as we were gazing down the steps, waiting for our ghost to appear, Billy donned a shawl and sauntered in front of the mirror as if he was exiting it.
I screamed, of course, thinking my ghost was coming into the room. And then I felt foolish, wondering if I had ever really seen the colonial maid at all.
Lynda's mother wrote books about the ghosts of Bucks County and included our colonial miss in her next volume. Phil laughed about it later, dismissing it entirely, but I was never completely convinced it had just been too much imagination, music and candlelight as he told anyone who asked.


Jeff Meyerson said...

Great story. Yeah, those old towns like New Hope are still beautiful to me. We went to summer camp in northern PA just across from Binghamton, New York from 1957-1962 (and I worked there in 1965). We'd go on overnight horseback trips and occasional canoeing trips and would visit some of the towns there. Love those big old houses. We stopped north of there (nearer to Scranton) on the way home when we drove to Toronto for Bouchercon, for lunch.

George said...

For a number of years, my parents would drive us from Niagara Falls, NY to Connecticut to visit my father's brothers and sisters and their families. It was always Summer and always hot. No one had A/C and I remember being miserable out in the country with my allergies raging. The only thing positive (for me) was visiting the little used bookstores in the area.