The Laying of A Ghost

Fog lingers in the hollows of north-central Pennsylvania

Over the years, I’ve read numerous stories about how to “lay a ghost” – that is, how to put the spirit at rest. Most of these stories often have a religious overture to them with the blessing and cleansing of the home or building. However, there are other methods that have been used over the years to “lay a ghost,” and some of those methods are slighter than others. Despite what I may think about the method to “lay a ghost,” in the stories it almost always seems to work.

Diane G. had sent this email to me about how her great-grandmother “laid a ghost” to rest and with her permission, I want to share the story she sent.

“Hello. My name is Diane G. and I stumbled upon your blog when I was searching for the Lady in Glass. After reading it, I searched your stories and found the stories about Ralph Crossmire, Allen Ketlaw and Sidney Berry, which were stories my grandmother had told me about [as I was] growing up.

“I have a story that I think you’d be interested in. It was told to me by my grandmother in the late 1990s. She had been hospitalized and we knew she was not going to be with us much longer. My mother and I spent many hours with her in her last days and she shared many stories with us. A lot of these stories were ones that my mother had never heard before about [my grandmother’s] childhood on a farm in the northern part of Warren County, near the New York border.

“Back in the 1840s, there was a young girl who was found dead in the barn. There were whispers that she either committed suicide or had been murdered. The family was a well-to-do family, so the whole thing was hush-hush. The family had her quietly buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery at the rear of the farm.

“When they sold the farm, my great-grandfather bought it. My grandmother and her brother and sister would spend hours exploring the fields and woods of the farm. While they were playing, they discovered an old cemetery. It was a small cemetery with three field stones surrounded by an old, split-rail fence that was rotted and falling apart.

“Of course, they were excited with the discovery, but their find would cause problems.

“One night, my great-grandfather came into the house shaking and white. He sat at the table and said he had spotted a young girl in the pasture. He called for her to get out of the field, because they had a bull in that field and did not want her to get hurt. She never looked his way and kept playing.

“My great-grandfather entered the field to get the girl out of it and as he approached, the girl turned to look at him before she glided away from him. He started to chase after her, but this girl seemed to stay ahead of him. When she arrived at the fence at the rear of the field, she went through the fence. Not over it, but through it.

“At this point, my great-grandfather froze. He had been so interested in this figure that he almost got it from the bull that came charging across the field at him. He managed to get over the fence before the bull got there.

“But he was convinced he had seen a ghost.

“In the weeks following she appeared more often on the farm. She was always in the back field, near the place where the old cemetery was. My grandmother said they would see her all the time either playing in the field or hiding in the woods.

“At some point, the ghost came into the house. Things would start to move on their own. Things would disappear only to be found weeks later at the spot where they had been. At times the sound of a girl laughing could be heard.

“My great-grandmother had enough. She left early one morning and went down to Warren to visit an older woman there who had the sight. Townsfolk avoided her because she was thought to be a witch. Had an ailment, she could cure you. Had a monster, she could tell you how to kill it. Had a ghost and she could help lay it.

“My great-grandmother told the elderly woman about the ghost. The elderly woman told my grandmother that it was the ghost of the young girl who had died in the barn. The ghostly girl had been forgotten about and seeing the living children on the farm, she just wanted to be a child again.

“The elderly woman revealed to put the ghost to rest, my great-grandmother had to put flowers on all the graves in the cemetery. On the day of the full moon, my great-grandmother had to take flowers to the cemetery. Arriving at the cemetery, she had to walk around the outside of the cemetery clockwise before entering. After she put flowers on every grave, she had to put another batch near the entrance for the unmarked grave of the young girl. When she left the cemetery, she had to exit it, and walk counter-clockwise around it before leaving.

“My great-grandmother would take flowers to the cemetery every month until they sold the farm and moved to Jamestown. My grandmother remembered taking flowers to the cemetery with her and they would perform the ceremony every month to keep the young girl’s ghost happy.

“The ceremony must have worked because they never saw the ghost again while they lived on the farm.”

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