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Citro: Weird Woodstock

07/14/10 5:55PM By Joe Citro
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(HOST)  This time of year, Woodstock is full of summer visitors, but according to commentator Joe Citro, local lore has it that the town is also full of other kinds of visitations.  

(CITRO)  What do Melvin Douglas, Fred Astaire, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. have in common?
    
They all appeared in Ghost Story, filmed partly in Woodstock. But, I wonder, does Woodstock have any real ghosts?
    
Well, if you can believe the stories, it has as many ghosts as tourists.
    
In 1970, after Polly Billings bought F.H Gillingham & Sons general store, she often worked alone, after hours, in the oldest part of the building. "I never felt as if I was by myself," she told me. "It was as if F.H. was... with me. When I couldn’t get an idea for the advertising copy, he would often help me out."  Thing is, her "helper" died in 1918.
   
At The Dana House, headquarters of the Woodstock Historical Society, people have seen a transparent woman wearing a long, brown, satin dress. While invisible, she often plays the piano.  Former director Corwin Sharp recalls comforting a terrified volunteer who’d met the Victorian specter. "She wasn’t making it up," he told me. "She was shaken, white as a ghost herself."
    
And there’s a little ghost-boy on the stairs. He is presumed to be the ectomplasmic residue of Mary and Charles Dana’s first born - who died at the age of two.
    
Both Dana House ghosts are easily recognized because of their anachronistic attire. And because they vanish before your eyes.
    
A beautiful brick colonial house near The Green - and not far from the covered bridge - has tenants who move in - and quickly leave.
    
Maybe it’s the heating bills. One former renter told me no matter how much fuel they burned they could never get the place above 65 degrees. Sometimes the doorknob in the master bedroom would turn of its own accord. Or the door would open and close, though no one was there. Sometimes they’d find pictures smashed. After hearing a loud crash, the couple ran upstairs, to find a precious Civil War engraving smashed on the floor. After they’d moved out they heard that their former residence had once been a school in which the lovely young teacher had been murdered by a pale, thin, blond-headed soldier.
    
Maybe so, maybe not.
    
Perhaps we can learn the answer in court.
    
The Windsor County Court House is an emotional battery, highly charged with emotional drama since 1855.  Custodial staff working alone in the building report footsteps, unfathomable utterances, and awful noises.  Sometimes, while court is in session, the door to the Judge’s Room will open and close. Moments later, the Witness Room door on the far side of the room will rattle. It’s as if something invisible had crossed the courtroom from one door to another.
    
A judge who witnessed the phenomenon from the bench looked over at the sheriff and said, "Ghosts."
    
I guess that is the official verdict.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Joe Citro at VPR-dot-net.
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