by Laurel | October 31st, 2014
15 June 1902
“Spook” Was A Would-Be Thief
White Figure in Hampden Mills
There are haunted mills reputed to be located in diverse cities and towns of New England, but it may have passed out of the recollection of all but the older inhabitants of Holyoke that it once had its haunted mill and ghost that created quite a little excitement before he was exorcised by the combined force of the laity and the law. The mill that was haunted now bears the sign of D. Mackintosh & Sons, but in the time referred to it was known as the Hampden mills. The house of the paymaster, which contained the safe in which the money was kept for the paying of the men was located on the left as one goes down Lyman Street between the canal and the house. this was a wooden building, strongly resembling the Riverside station on the Boston and Main railroad in appearance. Holyoke was then but partly built up, and the Hampden mills was, it will be remembered, one of the earliest of the mills to be constructed in Holyoke. It was near these mills, according to Dr. Long, that the first shovelful of earth for the canal system was thrown out.
All of which is aside from the ghost. This ghost was no ordinary ghost that simply contented itself with waving its arms and groaning. It suddenly became known throughout the young city’s limits that there was a very active ghost that haunted the mill. Not only did wild yells emanate from the structure in the dead of night, but those who approached too closely were target for missiles that were hurled with no uncertain aim. One minute a form clad in white would “squeak and gibber” in the top floor, and almost in a breath it would be seen in the basement. The observer by this time would generally take to his heels, and the chances were 10 to 1 the sheeted form would follow, uttering curses and hurling brickbats, railroad iron or anything else that was portable in the vicinity. It became very unpopular in a short time to be found in that locality. Wise men shrugged their shoulders and told of maniacs, counterfeiters and inverted diverse other schemes and theories to account for the developments. Meantime the ghost became bolder and received fresh invigoration from the apparent desire of Holyoke people to avoid the place. It actually went out upon the streets in the immediate neighborhood and pursued the passerby with calumny and paving stones. But alas for the ghost, he miscalculated the strength of human endurance. He started in to curvet and prance about a Holyoke citizen with one aim. Now one-armed men have a name for strength, and after the first shock of an encounter with a real ghost the said Holyoke citizen realized that whatever locality the ghost hailed from it was of real flesh and blood, and after a vigorous and not wholly bloodless battle the Holyoke man got the better of the ghost and promptly turned him over to the police.
The police judge next morning refused to accept any theory of a “special nature,” and the prisoner was treated just like an ordinary mortal. Investigation and subsequent confession on the part of the “ghost” developed the fact that he had been at work for weeks trying to break open the safe in the paymaster’s office, but through lack of the proper material or the ability was unable to do so. To distract attention, he conceived of the plan of the ghost. By an ingenious arrangement he slid down the elevator well from the top story to the bottom and was thus enabled to appear almost simultaneously at two points. Some white sheets and other simple apparatus enabled him to secure his other effects. If you don’t believe the story, ex-City Engineer T. W. Mann will show you the picture of the old mill and paymaster’s house; but there is not picture extant of the ghost so far as can be found.
Adapted from The Springfield Republican.