Excerpt from james lincoln huntington’s forty acres


Dr. James Lincoln Hunting giving a tour, ca. 1936

The ghostly imprint of a body can be seen on this bed.

Dr. James Lincoln Huntington was a Boston-based OB-GYN who went on to restore his family’s summer home in Hadley, establishing the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum and its foundation. He recalls his childhood and the history of the home, including these ghost stories in his book Forty Acres. To learn more about Dr. Huntington, the home and the family, or to purchase his book, please visit the museum.

We have no idea when the country-side began to think of the house as haunted. No one in the family seemed to be aware of ghostly presences until my father’s generation was growing up. But they heard, as members of my generation and the next have, a firm, light step coming up the stairs to the third-floor attic after midnight, sometimes as late as sunrise, a step so definite that whoever hears it can never forget the sound. The door from the second-floor hall to this stair could be so firmly closed and latched and yet open in the morning.

My youngest brother, sleeping in the attic bedroom, heard the approaching sep come up on two successive nights and on the third, he rushed down the stairs, passing something or someone about the height of a child, on the way down. He spent the rest of the night on a sofa in the Long Room and would never sleep in the attic room again.

I have seen, in the moonlight or the small hours of the morning, a latch rise and a door open. I have also been perfectly aware of a presence in an adjoining room and going in expectantly found no one. Visitors sitting with the family in the Long Room or at the dining-room table have asked, “Who was that who just went past the door?” They have an impression of someone unfamiliar hurrying by, although no one knew who it could be. Some of us as children, walked at night to find a figure bending over the bed, someone who full skirt of oddly patterned design and frilled white cap were perfectly visible in the dark. “Don’t mind that” my aunts would say, “We have all seen her.”

A few years ago, the canopied bed in the downstairs bedroom, where Captain Porter’s sword was handed in the window to his widow, showed the imprint of a stretched-out figure. The pillow was deeply indented as if a head had been there and the counterpane was wrinkled. The marks returned again and again every time the bed and the pillow were smoothed. This lasted for several days and the visitor who had been given this bedroom asked to sleep in another part of the house.

Sounds of the spinning wheel turning have often been heard coming from the attic and from the north kitchen, and there is a certain high, sustained musical note that vibrates by day, as well as by night. None of these manifestations are actually very startling, but even without twilight or midnight to help the imagination, in bright sunshine, the sense of the unseen can often seem too much and too near.

Click here to read Doris Abramson’s ghost story →