In the nearly two decades since I’ve been writing about Island ghosts there are a few I’ve kept mum about. I did this for two reasons. The accounts were so scary they seemed implausible, and I also didn’t want to implicate people and properties. Even if I used pseudonyms and pseudo directions, these ghosts guaranteed that their hosts could never sell their homes or even invite anyone over for coffee.

I no longer worry about implausibility. I’ve discovered from long experience that there’s nothing that hasn’t happened to someone somewhere, especially here on this spooky little Island. And as far as the selling of homes is involved, two out of three of these incidents were told to me some time ago so perhaps the atmosphere has become more salubrious. And real estate sales are so sluggish today maybe a fresh selling point will include a ghoulie in every jacuzzi.

The Haunted Cupola

When Edna was a young woman in the 1920s she visited her aunt and uncle, who had inherited one of the original Victorian mansions overlooking Vineyard Sound. The rambling, grey-shingled house had nine bedrooms, six bathrooms, four of them without plumbing, and several large drawing rooms downstairs. Steps collapsed down from a trapdoor in the upstairs hallway, leading to a glassed-in cupola, commonly known as a widow’s walk, with views across the water of Cape Cod.

On Edna’s third night in the house she dreamed of a beautiful woman dressed in Victorian widow’s weeds standing at the foot of her bed. The woman beckoned her to follow. In the dream Edna felt no fear as she ambled after the woman across the dark and shadowy corridor. Upon reaching the trapdoor the lady lifted her hand to the pull-down rope. It was at this point that Edna woke up.

The next morning at breakfast she told her aunt and uncle about the dream. They exchanged a look. Her aunt asked what the lady had looked like. Edna described black garb and a mane of red hair pulled back in a waist-length braid. Another glance between the couple, but they said no more about the dream.

The next night Edna dreamed again about the woman, only this time the dream continued past the woman reaching for the cord to the sight of the wooden stairs spilling down to the floor.

On the next night Edna followed the woman as she made her way slowly up the steps. Then she watched in horror as the lady climbed onto a wooden stool, affixed a gallows-style rope to her neck, kicked out the stool and dangled, her eyes and tongue protruding. In the dream Edna could do nothing but watch as the woman swung from the rope.

The following morning at breakfast Edna revealed the full scope of the dream to her aunt and uncle. Finally their secret came out. The aunt’s mother, Edna’s great-aunt Millie, had lost her third child to a miscarriage. Although she had delivered two living children, Aunt Millie fell into so deep a depression she hanged herself in the cupola. This took place in July of 1901, 20 years prior to the month of Edna’s visit.

Edna announced to her relatives that she would be leaving the next day by ferry to New York. That night she slept peacefully. When she awoke in the morning she opened her eyes to a dazzling light coming in through the east windows of her room. She sat up in bed, stretched, and then noticed something out of place: A length of rope lay across her legs.

Before the next summer Edna’s aunt and uncle arranged for the cupola to be dismantled. Yet even with the scene of the suicide demolished, Edna could never bring herself to stay in that house again.

The Poltergeist Motel

This story concerns one of the unpretentious lodgings along Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. It was told to me by the lady manager who also pitches in as a chambermaid.

A few years back the owner of this motel died. One sunny morning after his death the woman was upstairs cleaning one of the rooms. As she entered the bathroom she heard a whooshing noise coming from the bathtub. Suddenly, she was hurtled backward and sent reeling through the bedroom and then out the doorway into the hallway. She lay sprawled on the floor with her back to the opposite wall.

“I felt a fuzzy, fizzy sensation pass through me as if I’d fallen into a vat of soda water. This sensation flushed through me and then it was over. I couldn’t help but think that this was the deceased owner’s way of showing he was still the boss.”

The Demon of Chilmark

Charles Stevens is an energetic man in his 40s who hails from Philadelphia and has been coming to the Vineyard for decades. He specializes in thinking up ideas for businesses, then farming the actual work out to whomever is interested.

Charles’s project last spring involved a new direction for a chain of hospitals. Some of his investors lived on the Island so he rented a house down a dirt road off State Road in Chilmark.

“It was after a really long day when I’d got up at 5 a.m. and I was in meetings until 9 p.m. I drove up to Chilmark tired and hungry. I overshot the driveway by almost two miles before I realized it and backtracked. As I turned onto my road a premonition of caution became so strong that I stopped the truck and thought, ‘Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts before going up to the house.’ I put the truck in park and just sat there focusing on happy thoughts.

“I sat in the truck, then proceeded about 20 yards. Out of the corner of my eye I detected movement. A creature materialized to the right of the truck. It then reappeared just off my left fender.

“It was half human, half huge dog, with black shiny hair. The rear legs were much longer than the front, by twice in length. The thing had a snout like that of a possum with teeth like a wild boar. Its face was contorted in rage as it looked at me.”

Charles knew it wanted to kill him.

“I hit the gas and punted it [the beast] up to the house. It charged into the shrubbery and disappeared. I saw the bushes sway in its path for several yards. It never appeared again.”

A day or two later, I found myself in Oak Bluffs chatting with a friend, a woman who owns a gift store on Circuit avenue. I mentioned the beast and commented, “I love Charles, but he must be stressed out and hallucinating.”

My gift store friend, who is a sensible soul, said, “I don’t want to scare you but a woman who comes into our shop frequently, a really nice and smart lady who lives in Chilmark, recently described the same beast to a T. It appeared to her when she was out taking an evening stroll at the overlook in the Allen Farm area where the woods open up to that view across the fields to the ocean. She too felt physically threatened by this entity.”

Uh oh.

My advice this Halloween: If you’re out in Chilmark on a moonlit night, watch out for a demonic shape with a possum face and mismatched legs. You might want to carry a rifle with buckshot from hunting season.

Otherwise, you’re on your own.