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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Ghosts of Mount Holly

ghosts of mount holly coverMy uncle Dan recently lent me Jan Bastien’s Ghosts of Mount Holly, which is the most entertaining book of ghost stories I’ve read in ages. Mount Holly is the Burlington county seat, a 20-minute drive from where I live in southern New Jersey. Given its rich colonial history, it’s not surprising that there are ghost stories attached to the local jail (now a museum, it was designed by Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument), the library (a Georgian mansion), and firehouse (with the oldest continually operating fire company in the country), as well as several restaurants and private homes. There are “Haunted Holly” ghost tours every Friday the 13th, and there’s also a Sleepy Holly street party (formerly known as the Witches’ Ball) around Halloween-time.

The Mount Holly shopping district has undergone a revival in recent years, and a few of these shops are said to be haunted as well. Mill Race Village is a delight–all locally owned stores selling unusual items (stained glass jewelry, quilting supplies, and so forth) in historic buildings. My mom and I have gone shopping here a few times in the last year. One of the most memorable shops is Spirit of Christmas, located in a charming brick house built by Quakers before the Revolutionary War. I’ve never seen so many Christmas ornaments in all my life (and this is really saying something, considering that my grandmother’s collection of snowman effigies easily tops a thousand). It’s a sensory overload with all those holiday trimmings crammed into a few smallish ground-floor rooms, so just think how overwhelmed I would have been had I known the building is haunted! Another haunted place is the Robin’s Nest, a restaurant and bakery cozily decorated with Victorian paintings and furniture. The food is really good and reasonably priced, and the ghosts usually wait until the place is closed before they start terrorizing the waitresses.

True, I love this book partly because I’ve been to a lot of the places mentioned in it, but it’s worth reading even if you have no ties to the area. Many of the stories are seriously spooky, and some are even a bit humorous (like the Hessian soldier who exudes either flatulence or general body odor, the book doesn’t specify, and who stomps around in his heavy army boots and tickles the feet of sleeping girls). Actually, one of the creepiest bits of all is the dedication:

To my little ones on the other side; may you forever haunt me.
I’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.

I hope the author is referring to beloved pets; otherwise that’s pretty darn morbid…

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.