By Thomas D'Agostino
After writing about the haunted piano of Gardner Lake, it came to me that there are many other cases in New England where phantom fingers tickle the ivory keys of the most venerable musical instrument.
Here are a few other famous places where concerts from the other side are quite frequent.
Jerusha Howe's ghost haunts Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Jerusha was not only known as the Belle of Sudbury, she was also an accomplished piano player, having owned the first pianoforte in the region. She fell in love with a man who abandoned her, leaving her heartbroken and melancholy until her passing. She not only haunts the room she once resided in, but she is often seen passing by guests in the hall. More often than not, music from the old piano is heard in the late hours as her ghostly fingers flirt across the keys, playing her favorite composition, the Copenhagen Waltz.
The former Tuc Me Inn, a Federal Style Colonial Inn nestled in the lake community of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, was originally built by the Reverend Asa Piper in 1850. It was, before closing in 2012, the oldest running bed and breakfast in town. Several ghosts haunted the old inn and probably still do. One is a gentleman who was not afraid to show himself to guests or help out with carpentry work. Another was a boy who probably grew up in the house. The most unnerving is the unknown phantom that would occasionally play the piano. The sound of sweet piano music would permeate the halls at all hours. The inn, as of this writing is presently closed, but passersby still hear the tinkling of notes flowing from the interior of the sealed building.
St. Michael’s Church in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, had an organist who was not only a talented musician but very affable with his congregation as well. Parishioners always looked forward to his music during the Sunday sermons. He was so popular with the church, when he died, they built a special mausoleum for him so he could be buried sitting upright at his favorite organ, which was interred with him.
It was not long after that they began to hear strange sounds emanating from the churchyard. Low musical utterances that sounded much like the baffled notes of a church organ. The sounds continued until someone discovered that it was coming from the former organist’s burial chamber. The music was not the usual flowing melodies they were used to hearing. In their place were heard harsh, dissonant, unsavory refrains.
A few brave souls dared to venture forth and inspect the situation. They slowly descended upon the vault, carefully unlocking the door. The notes droned in their ears as they made the final thrust that dislodged the rusty partition from its frame and entered the chamber. What they saw next was quite a shock to them. There sat the organist propped up at the instrument. Scurrying among the keys were rats that had been feeding upon his fingers while also pushing down upon the ivory keys thus creating the awful music that had been imbuing the midnight air.
The Seguin Lighthouse in in the Gulf of Maine is the state's second oldest lighthouse. It is also haunted by the wife of a former keeper. The couple were married just before the light keeper received his papers of duty. The young couple shipped out to Seguin Island where he was placed in charge of the light. To alleviate the long hours of desolation, the husband had a piano brought to the lighthouse. His wife merrily played her favorite tune, and all went well for a while until the husband began to loathe the same tune being played over and over. It was not long before he lost his sanity, killing her and then himself.
Shortly after a new lightkeeper took charge, soft piano music began to echo through the lighthouse.
Subsequent lightkeepers all swore they had heard piano music on occasion within the home when no one else was around. The biggest mystery was that there was no piano to play on.
To this day, visitors often hear soft music trickling through the air on the island and realize they are being serenaded by the ghost of the former lightkeeper's wife.
This last story is from Vermont.
Willard S. Martin built a grand Georgian Revival style home in 1908 to serve as the Martin’s summer residence. There he held lavish balls and soirees where guests could mingle while some of the finest players in the area played the beautiful grand piano in the ballroom.
Although the grand balls may no longer be held, a piano still graces the hall and so does the sound of music. Occasionally, one phantom musician still basks in the revelry of eras gone by, as he is often seen cloaked in black and perched at the instrument.
A staff member once heard music coming from the house and made her way in to see who was at the piano. Upon entering the room, she noticed a man dressed in black seated at the piano. The keys were moving but there were no fingers bouncing along them as the figure sat there motionless.
Another incident involved a potential student in search of directions to another building on campus. While passing the Martin house, she heard live piano music flowing from the manor. She entered to seek help in finding her destination. She saw a figure at the piano engrossed in playing an eerie sonata, seemingly oblivious of her presence. When she turned to leave, the music stopped, and a sinister laugh encompassed the room. She became frightened and hastened toward the door. She turned quickly to see the man vanish before her eyes.
There are many other tales of haunted pianos and organs around the region, but this has to suffice for now. Perhaps a later entry will cover more of New England's macabre musicians.