A couple of months ago I was driving north on Weaver Street in Larchmont for a meeting with my publisher in White Plains. Up ahead traffic was stopped in both directions for a funeral procession just leaving Sacred Heart Church. This gave me the opportunity to admire a rather old and impressive Victorian-style house on my left which was situated on a corner lot. The front of the house faced an intersecting street while the side of the house was parallel to Weaver Street. I was impressed by the tall arborvitae along the side of the house; the bushes acted as a natural barrier between the house and Weaver Street. They also camouflaged the rather spartan-looking stockade fence which ran from the corner down the entire length of the house.
I sat in the car listening to the radio and patiently waiting for the traffic to move and that’s when I saw her – a little golden child. She was alone, weaving her way in and out of the arborvitae, and I smiled as she skipped from one tree to the other. She looked to be about 8 or 9 years old with long blonde braids that bounced with every hop, skip and jump she took. I wondered why she was home from school; it wasn’t a holiday and she certainly didn’t look sick but there could be many answers to that question.
There were certain things about this golden child that intrigued me. It was rather chilly with a brisk wind but she wore no coat. Her clothes looked fresh and clean but were definitely old-fashioned. Her below-the-knee jumper-style dress was pink, brown and white plaid; she wore a plain white shirt underneath and ribbed white tights. On her feet were brown lace-up boots which rose above her ankles; her braids were tied with a ribbon that matched her plaid jumper. She reminded me of one of the girls from photos of the turn of the century.
I rolled down the car window to listen for the girl talking or laughing as she ran among the trees but all was quiet. Then I suddenly lost sight of her; she probably ducked into the backyard of the house via a gate in the fence. The last car in the funeral procession exited the churchyard and the stalled traffic began its slow crawl up Weaver Street. As my car inched closer to the house, I looked for the golden child but didn’t see her. Being a curious sort, I quickly turned left onto the intersecting street and parked my car in front of the house; I needed to get a closer look at the fence.
I got out of my car and took a little walk around the arborvitae, examining the fence. To my surprise, there were no gates or openings of any kind. What’s more, the fence continued beyond the line of arborvitae and butted up against the fence of the neighboring house. The only way the girl could have gained access to the backyard of her house was by walking down along the path of arborvitae to the intersecting side street, close to where my car was now parked, and around to the other side of the fence.
There was no reasonable explanation for the disappearance of the little girl. One minute she was there; the next she was gone. She certainly did not walk down to the corner of the property; I had an excellent vantage point and would have seen her. There’s no way she could have escaped my line of vision … unless I never saw her at all. Was this child a figment of my imagination? Were my tired eyes playing tricks again?
As I walked back to my car, a young woman called out from the house. “Can I help you?” she asked. I walked halfway up the front path and replied that I was just looking for something and didn’t mean to intrude on her property or her privacy. I gave her a little wave and started walking back to my car when I heard the woman say something that made me stop cold in my tracks.
“You were looking for the little girl, weren’t you? You’re not the first to have spotted her.”
As you can imagine, dear readers, her comment gave me pause and I was eager to learn more.
“Yes, I was. I saw her from my car. Can you tell me something about her?”
“I can” the woman replied. “I’d be happy to tell you what I know if you’d care to join me for a cup of tea. It’s chilly out here and I’d enjoy the company.”
I hesitated for a second – not because I was afraid of walking into a stranger’s house but because my publisher was waiting for me. The urge to know more won out and I accepted the woman’s invitation. I stepped inside the house which turned out to be as impressive on the inside as it was on the outside. I followed the woman into the kitchen; as she went about preparing tea, I called Gabi, my publisher, and rescheduled our appointment for the following day.
The woman joined me at the table and introduced herself as Denise Gallagher. We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and I told Denise I was an author. Before she began her story, I asked if she’d mind if I recorded our conversation; she readily agreed. This is what she told me:
“In the late 1920s there was nothing here except trees and an occasional house; they were very few and far between. Not even Weaver Street was here. In the early 30s construction began on Weaver Street, or Route 125 as it’s referred to on the map.
In 1938 this beautiful house was built; a young couple and their three children moved in. Weaver Street was still very new and traffic was extremely light. It’s been said back then a whole hour would pass without a single car going by – hard to believe in this day and age, isn’t it?
Well, one day the kids who lived here – a little girl aged 9 and her 7-year-old twin brothers were outside playing in the yard while their parents unpacked boxes in the new house. There weren’t any fences and those arborvitae hadn’t even been planted yet. Anyway, the kids were playing and their ball got away from them. The little girl chased after it and without a second thought, ran right onto Weaver Street just as a car was coming around the bend. The driver tried to stop but it was too late and the car struck the little girl. She died right out there in the middle of the street.
Can you imagine how awful that must have been for that poor family? The parents must have been wracked with guilt over their preoccupation with unpacking. I’ve got young children of my own and the thought of something happening to one of them is just too much to bear. Well, the family couldn’t stand living here after that and they moved away. People say that child you saw today is actually that little girl’s ghost and she’s looking for her ball.”
I sat there in stunned silence while Denise nonchalantly sipped her tea; I guess she’d told the story so many times, it had lost a lot of its impact for her. Not for me; while I had a feeling that’s where her story was going, it still came as a shock to me. We sat together for a little while longer and I told Denise I had to get going. I thanked her for the tea and her time, grabbed my phone and headed home.
As soon as I got home, I settled myself at my computer to write down everything Denise told me. I clicked the playback button on the record app on my phone and could hear only static. Damn that free app! I knew I should have checked if it was working before recording Denise’s story! Well, I’ve got a pretty good memory and I quickly typed out as much as I could remember of her amazing story.
The next day as I was on my way to see my publisher, I decided to make a stop at a nursery on Weaver Street where I bought some flowers as a ‘thank you’ for Denise. When I arrived at the house there was a man mowing the lawn. I smiled at him and continued up the path and rang the bell. I waited for a minute, rang again and decided no one was home. I wrote a little note on the card that came with the flowers and left them at the door for Denise.
The man who was mowing asked me if I was there to look at the house. I said I didn’t understand what he meant and that’s when he told me the house has been empty and on the market for months. I stared at him in disbelief as he drove off on his mower. How could this house be empty and for sale? I was just here yesterday drinking tea in the kitchen. Utterly perplexed, I walked back to my car and sat inside for a few minutes thinking about what the man told me. Was I losing my mind? Gabi was going say what she always says: “You’re working too hard, my friend. Time for that long overdue vacation”. I don’t know; maybe she was right.
After my head cleared a bit, I started the car and turned onto Weaver Street on my way to White Plains. I was feeling uncharacteristically cold and blasted the heat. When I arrived at Gabi’s, her eyebrows rose at one glance at me. “What’s wrong with you? Are you feeling OK? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“You have no idea” I replied and began to recount the episodes of the last 24 hours. Gabi knew me long and well enough not to question the veracity of my story and suggested we do a little research. We began by Googling ‘pedestrian accident on Route 125 1938’. Surprisingly, we found very few involving people on the street during that time period. Gabi asked me if I remembered the house address.
I paused for only a second. “Yes. It’s on Briar Way in Larchmont.”
“Do you know the house number?” asked Gabi.
I sipped my coffee, thinking; then it came to me. “Yes, number 1! I remember seeing it this morning as I rang the doorbell.”
“Good! Let’s try that” replied Gabi as she typed in the house address. “Well, here’s the real estate listing from this morning and here’s another listing. What? Wait a minute. Come take a look at this.” As she scrolled down the screen, we saw one listing after another for the house, each one separated by only a couple of years. “This house has been bought and sold ten times more often than any other. Something’s going on to make people leave so soon after settling in.”
“That’s it, Gabi! That’s our answer! Every couple of years the family from 1938 makes their presence known. Apparently the people living there at the time are literally ‘spooked’ away. It’s a veritable ‘ghost house’, Gabs!” I was excited by our discovery yet strangely saddened, too. I couldn’t help wondering why the family kept returning. Could they possibly be looking for the little golden child? Maybe when the little girl was spotted running through the arborvitae she wasn’t hunting for her ball; she was searching for her family!
After my meeting with Gabi, I got back in my car and headed home to Larchmont. As I approached the intersection of Weaver Street and Briar Way, I slowed down hoping to see something, anything. All was still and quiet.
I continued driving toward my house. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of the golden child running happily between the arborvitae but this time she was not alone. Running toward her and laughing gaily was a young woman with a handsome man and two small boys. The woman was Denise, the lady who drank tea with me just yesterday.
My eyes filled with tears at the sight of a family reconciled. I will never be able to shake that image from my mind.
NAR © 2023