From the Oct. 25, 1985 edition of the Gazette:

It’s almost Halloween. Vineyarders have just as much reason for observing the day as mainlanders. Tales of the supernatural are everywhere on the Island, if only you take the time to look.

There are at least enough ghost stories on the Vineyard to keep both believer and disbeliever in debate. But regardless of who wins the argument, these tales are part of Vineyard history.

There is the Crying Swamp of the North Tisbury, a special place in the woods where folks say a special spirit resides. Crying swamp is located just inshore from Cedar Tree Neck in an area that once resembled a swamp with low hanging vegetation and a muddy soil which was black.

A Capt. Roland Luce, who resided nearby, is said to have discovered the spot while strolling through the woods. As the story is told, he heard a baby wailing in the wind, deep in the marsh. A curmudgeon New Englander of Island blood, Captain Luce was not often shaken by sounds coming from the woods or sea. Still, Captain Luce was convinced that some supernatural character resided in the swamp. So were many other nearby residents. People avoided going out at night in this area.

Years later the area was converted to a cranberry bog and has since been returned back to wild vegetation.

There is the tale of oxen being driven by a resident through a secluded wood in that area known in North Tisbury as Ram’s Hill. It was dusk and the sky was quickly darkening. “Suddenly the oxen stopped in their tracks and began to quiver,” reported the Gazette in an April 30, 1937 article.

“The teamster tried to make them go ahead, but they were apparently paralyzed with terror.”

Suddenly he saw a strange and frightening sight. A headless figure moved out of the woods, along the road, and then vanished.

The story, most likely written by Joseph Chase Allen, points out: “The odd part of this occurrence was that the apparition was seen or sensed by the oxen before the driver was aware of it. Anyone who believed in ghosts may use this to bear out the view that there are some spectres beyond the knowledge of man.”

In another story, there is the light which hovered over the Middletown cemetery.

As the story was told in a now yellowed Boston Globe newspaper article, a Mrs. Rebecca Wagner resided near the town’s burying ground.

Mrs. Wagner was called to the door one late evening to receive a guest. But while she was in the process of holding the door open, she glanced out towards the town cemetery and saw a bright white light hanging in the air. It was oval in shape.

Said the Globe: “As Mrs. Wagner described it afterward, the light rose and tumbled over, like a flame, or a miniature geyser of fireworks.” The light was so bright, tombstones could be read by night.

In early times, many more Vineyarders believed in ghosts than didn’t. Ghost stories were the talk of the general store and the nighttime story before radio and television.

E. Gale Huntington, Vineyard historian and folksong collector, said there is still evidence today of the strong beliefs felt by those of yesterday. “You scrape the paint off some of these front doors in old Vineyard houses and you will find the color red. It was a very wide superstition that ghosts could not pass through doors that were painted red.”

A collection of ghost stories would not be complete without a few more references to Chappaquiddick, where there are more ghost stories per acre than anywhere else on the Vineyard.

There is the tale of an old lame man who makes the rounds in an area of the woods formerly known as the Jeremiah estate. According to the news clipping: “He just appears, walks a little distance and vanishes into nowhere.”

Hannah Smith, who lived in the Pohogonot section of Edgartown from 1789 to 1878, was a poet and a believer in ghosts and the supernatural.

The following is a portion of her journal which is titled: Friday evening the 13 at 12 o’clock.

“As I sat musing this evening over the wonders of Creation I heard a loud rap at the door. I hastily rose from my seat to receive the nocturnal visitant. It was an elderly gentleman who wished to speak to my father in private.

“After he retired I thought I would explore some of the works of Creation. I went down to the pond shore and seated myself on the verge of a hill.

“Full of reflection of this melancholy nature I gazed at the waters round me; and terror thrilled through every nerve. This is the hour, mused I, that ghosts are thought to leave their solitary dwellings and visit the nocturnal traveler as they stroll about the hills and valleys. Roused by these melancholy thoughts I hastily left me seat and pursued my route towards home.

“As I approached the house, sounds of more than terrestrial melody stole on my ear. I made a step to see whence the sounds came. It was my father playing a melancholy air on his violin.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox