***See the October 31 ,2007 blog post to find the beginning of this article written by former faculty member, Harold M. Curtiss. The article first appeared in the February 4, 1941 issue of The Archon***
The old Post Road which passes by Degen House has in past times borne spectral traffic. One to the apparitions has strong evidence in its favor, and with it goes an interesting story.
At the time of the persecution of the witches of Salem, the religious fanaticism connected with that dark episode in New England history spread over this entire countryside. In Ipswich a young girl was accused of practicing witchcraft and was seized and imprisoned. The girl had formerly worked on a farm in Byfield and during that time had become betrothed to a young man of the parish. The news of her seizure soon came to the ears of her swain, and he learned that she was held a prisoner pending trial in the attic of an Ipswich house. On the second night after her arrest the Byfield boy rode to the house and signaled to the girl, who managed to climb through a small dormer window and slide down the long sloping roof which came nearly to the ground. The boy threw his cloak about her shoulders assisted her up behind him on the horse, and off they rode into the night. The pair cut across to the Post Road heading northward, and it is said they eventually reached Canada, where they were married and lived for the rest of their lives.
In the years following their death several people reported having seen the ghost of the two riding upon a spectral horse down the hill and past Degen House. The horse was galloping at full speed with the boy bending low over his neck. The girl sat behind him with her hands clasped tightly about his waist. Her cloak streamed out behind, and now and again she would turn her head apprehensively as if fearful of pursuers. As they rushed past, not a sound was heard, and the horse’s hoofs seemed to skim the ground, for not a single imprint was left behind.
There are two ghost connected exclusively with the Mansion House, one, of course, being of Governor Dummer himself, who spent some of the happiest days of his life here on his country estate. It is one of these happy occasions that brings the spirit of the Governor back to his home. In 1715 at the house warming of the newly built mansion, the Governor fulfilled one of his cherished ambitions when he rode his favorite white charger through the enormous front door and up the broad staircase to the second floor before the eyes of his admiring guests.
Reliable reports state that to this very day when the month of August has two moons, on the night of the first full moon, Governor Dummer repeats the spectacular ride. The ghostly appearance occurs sometime between twelve midnight and five o’clock in the morning. The Governor, attired in a brilliant uniform, sits proudly upon his beautiful horse, whose richly ornamented trappings glow with a luminosity of their own, filling the entrance hall with a warm, subdues light.
The old kitchen was for many years haunted by the smiling ghost of a small child. The child was dressed in white and would appear always in the same doorway. It would open the door just a crack and then would slyly peep around the corner, disappearing as suddenly as it had come into view.
In recent years, unfortunately, the visitations from the past have become less frequent. It is because we have closed our minds and our eyes by skepticism that we are forbidden the pleasure of making the acquaintance of these figures. Let us hope not, for if our traditional ghosts and apparitions refuse to come back to us, one of our closest and most intimate links with the past is forever severed.