I’m Keene for ghosts


July 17, 2013 by kittynh

One of my favorite skeptic roles is that of “lead investigator” for the Granite State Skeptics.  The title means that that in the name of the  Granite State Skeptics I can conduct investigations.  Whenever I go to a historic society or archive, it’s good to have the backing of the name of a group.  I’m researching for a purpose, not just some strange person asking about ghosts or aliens.

Not ghost busters, but they will gladly help you with you research

Not ghost busters, but they will gladly help you with you research

I recently had a chance to stop in at the Historical Society of Cheshire County, on Main Street in Keene New Hampshire.  Keene is a wonderful small town, known it’s colleges, and as a filming location for the movie “Jumanji”.  It’s a beautiful New England town, full of historic buildings that just might have former residents still inhabiting them.

I had just dropped in, wearing old sneakers, shorts and a slightly stained t shirt.  I was just checking to see what they might have to offer a skeptic interested in finding out more about local ghost stories and legends.  The staff was very friendly.  Sadly they didn’t know much about local ghosts.  This did not stop them from helping me, as they called the Executive Director of the Historical Society, Alan Rumrill.

I felt a little untidy, as Mr.Rumrill was dressed very professionally.  If you don’t live in New England you might not know we take pride in our Historical Societies.  Almost every town, big or small, has a group dedicated to preserving their local history. Cheshire County has an especially beautiful historic building for their Historical Society.  It’s well worth a visit just to enjoy the interior as well as exterior of the building.

Mr.Rumrill gladly answered my questions.  He seemed to be open minded about the possibility of ghosts, though he admitted he had never seen one. He shared that about once a year someone will come in and say they are looking for information about their home as they suspect they have a ghost.

They may complain of sounds, which Mr.Rumrill pointed out is rather typical in any older home, and things moving and sometimes even a spectral vision.  The current human resident  is looking for a crime, such as murder, or tragedy that might explain just why the residence could be haunted.  The belief that a victim of a tragedy or crime would be more likely to hang around is common in the paranormal community. Since I am a skeptic I know the older the house, the more history associated with it.  Take any old house, you’ll find a few deaths at the very least.

Mr.Rumrill said no one has ever come in afraid of their potential ghost.  They are just “curious” and don’t seem to mind sharing their home with a previous inhabitant. He said they never hear from the inquirers again after the staff has has helped them learn the history of their home, though he would certainly like to hear from them.

Sometimes there is some tragedy connected to a suspected haunted place. Mr.Rumrill mentioned that it was discovered 3 workmen had been killed when building a block of businesses on Main Street.  This was only found out after ghostly activity had been reported at the site.

A tenant that hasn't moved out?

A tenant that hasn’t moved out?

Another story from an inquiring Keene resident involved a Victorian lady that would sit in a room looking out of a window.  The person renting the room had come in to try to find out about the identity of the ghost. Much to Mr.Rumrill’s surprise, years later another tenant of that same room came in to ask about an apparition of a Victorian lady seated and looking out the window.  The two tenants, that had rented the apartment years apart,  had never met or exchanged stories.

Mr. Rumrill assured me anyone wanting help investigating the history of their residence would find a warm welcome at the historical society.  No one laughs at ghosts here.  Instead, curiosity is welcome.

I was delighted when Mr.Rumrill shared his own ghost story with me.  He and his wife had built their home on the site of an old tavern.  There was originally a large barn behind the house, and a farmer had hung himself from the rafters in the1840s.  When the family decided to put an addition on their home, it extended into the area where the barn had been located.

Often when he and his wife went out, they would come home to find the door to the new back bedroom unlatched.  They were sure they had latched it each time they left, but they returned home to find the door was open.

I have to admit I got the shivers even on a warm afternoon listening to this story.

However, Mr. Rumrill soon found that when someone walked in the attic above the new bedroom, and stepped in the right area, it moved the door frame below just enough to unlatch the door.  The someone in this case wasn’t the dead farmer, it was their very alive dog who was not supposed to be in that part of the house and would push open the unlatched door to explore while the family was away.  Like many ghost stories, this one falls apart with careful analysis.  Part of the fun of being a skeptic is investigating to try to find out the true story, though sometimes we are left with only “I don’t know”.



I plan to go back to the Historical Society soon to do more work.  I plan to be better dressed, have more questions written out, and be ready to do some serious research.

I did share with Mr.Rumrill that our group had investigated the Goffstown Historical Society, which is supposedly haunted.  He mentioned the Fitzwilliam Historical Society had also been investigated by ghost hunters.  I asked if the premises of the Keene Historical Society was haunted.  Mr. Rumrill was very diplomatic and said he hasn’t seen anything, so he couldn’t say yes.  This brought my next question, did anyone else there think the building might be haunted.  He admitted that others have mentioned hearing sounds and perhaps might suspect a resident ghost.  However, like any good professional, he wouldn’t commit himself without proof.

As a skeptic, I feel this needs further investigation!

Ghost stories are part of the folklore of almost any old building.  In New England, people enjoy having a ghost, and in Keene they are welcomed as they are part of the history of a building and area.  While I don’t believe in ghosts, I would be delighted to see one and be proven wrong.  I am not sure that even full time ghost hunters agree on the definition of ghost, but historic hunters of all types can find help at the Historical Society of Cheshire County.

One thought on “I’m Keene for ghosts

  1. […] I’m Keene for ghosts (yankeeskeptic.com) […]

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