Things that go bump in the night
Overcast skies with scattered drizzle - perfect weather for exploring the rich lore of Island ghosts and haunted houses. Author Holly Nadler, whose pursuit of all tales strange and supernatural has earned her the title, "The Ghost Lady of Martha's Vineyard," is set to begin her ghost tour of Vineyard Haven.
A number of huddled families, umbrellas in hand, gather close as Ms. Nadler lights her lantern and explains that the bank doorway is the most negative vortex on the Island. "Vineyard Haven has been the trickiest of the Island towns to research," she says in her airy musical voice. "For reasons you'll see in a moment, a negative vortex surrounds the area all along Main Street. The protective spirits seem to have fled, and the evil remain. If you start to feel an unnatural chill, just imagine yourself surrounded in white light."
Initial reaction is scattered. Many of the adolescents seem to take the words with skepticism. Some of the younger children seem to be bracing themselves, and their parents give reassuring smiles, as if reveling in the fun aspect.
And she tells the tale of the cruel Rodolphus Crocker, who built his harness shop in 1872 where the Bank of Martha's Vineyard now stands. By 1880, his factory employed more people than any other business on the Island. It is a matter of record that he got many of his young workers from an orphanage in New Bedford, and exacted long hours of hard labor, his whip often striking a lad's back. In the fall of 1882, two of his young workers attempted to run away from the factory by stowing away on one of the whaling ships docked in Vineyard Haven harbor. When the boys were found and returned to the factory, they were subjected to a harsh whipping.
Less than a year later, on August 11, 1883, Mr. Crocker's harness factory went up in flames. The fire consumed 32 dwellings, 26 stores, two stables and 12 barns. A Boston Herald article published a week after the blaze stated that there "...could not have been a more perfect conjunction of unfortunate circumstances."