An Uncomfortable Story

This is a personal account and one of the first that confirmed for me that all the things I had been experiencing may have actually been real.  I was not yet a teen, my father had died, my mom remarried, and we moved to a different state, (MA), to a new life.  I had a step-sister about 17 years my senior.  She had a fantastic job in the Boston area and lived there alone with her very young daughter.

One day, not too long after our move, we got a call that Barb, (not her real name), had been found dead after a presumable jump from her 10th, (or so), floor apartment.  This didn’t seem right.  She loved her daughter and had plans for their future together.  Her job was secure and she was successful.  Suicide just didn’t fit the picture, but I guess it often doesn’t make itself apparent.   But, there was this mystery man in her life that no-one in the family had met or knew.  No one knew who her daughter’s father was, either. According to neighbors of hers, this man visited her place often.  But who was he?  Did she really jump?  Why would she have done something like that with such a bright future and a kid she loved so very much?

Since I was considered, by my stepfather, too young to go to the funeral, I stayed home.  There were subsequent investigations by police into her case.  There were things that just didn’t seem plausible or to fit into the scenario.  There were some clues that could have suggested foul play.  There were questions that no one found answers to, but nothing ever came to fruition that I know about.  If this situation may have been a homicide it certainly has remained a cold case.

As I got older I decided I’d like to visit her grave.  I knew she was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence, MA – a suburb of Northampton, but had no clue about where.  I parked the car and got out, walked around for a bit, and then just stopped and looked.  Suddenly, I saw this woman with short brown hair and a blue dress wave to me.  She motioned with her hand to follow her.  I did.  She took me right to the site I was looking for. I had found my step-sister and she helped me do it.

Later that day, after arriving back home, I related the story to the family.  They looked either shocked or surprised….  It seems Barb had been buried in a blue dress.  I couldn’t have known that – I never saw her in that attire.  Her hair was short and brown.  And the area of the cemetery was correct.  Her name was on the stone at my feet.

Either there were no more investigations by the police or the case just turned cold and stayed that way.  I don’t know, but nobody was ever accused of pushing her over her balcony even though suspicions loomed.  Yet, every year on the anniversary of her death there were red roses placed on her grave by someone no one could identify.

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A Mountain Adventure

One of the popular attractions in the Connecticut River Valley in MA includes Mt Holyoke with its many hiking trails and programs offered at the Summit House that sits atop the mount.

Early in the 1800’s a guest house was built on Mt. Holyoke by a local organization, but in the 1850’s the place was purchased by  John & Fanny French.  The Frenches added-on to it and increased the space to provide a number of guest rooms and a dining facility.  The new resort was then called the Prospect House.  John French also built a tramway to get supplies in and make transportation easier for his guests.

By the 1860’s the Frenches sold the place to John Dwight, but maintained management of the tourist spot.  After both the Frenches and John Dwight died the hotel found itself in the hands of Joseph Allen Skinner, son of silk magnate William Skinner of Holyoke MA.   Joseph Skinner was a prosperous businessman and his interest in the mountain was environmental rather than financial.  He was concerned that the fast growth in the valley would destroy the natural beauty and importance of nature and wildlife.  In 1940 Joseph donated about 375 acres to the State of MA to be preserved as a state park.  The only stipulation was that it bear his name.

Many people frequent Skinner State Park and extensive renovations have recently been completed.  But, there is a feeling on this mountain, in this place, that you are never alone.   Flashes of a white streak through trees can be seen.  Orbs of bright light suddenly appear.  Footfalls can be heard on the porch.  And occasionally, there is a soft murmur of what could be voices – or is it a gentle wind blowing from the woods?

For me, the feeling of unseen presences is the most consistent. It isn’t scary, it’s just there.  Maybe it’s one of the Frenches or Mr. Dwight wanting the welcome another guest.  Fanny was known for her graciousness and both men enjoyed their visitors and offering great hospitality.  Maybe they decided not to leave the place they loved best.

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