mr brown : a ghost story

i was very lucky to spend my collegiate years in the historic old town of boston, MA, at an historic old college founded in the historic old mid 1860s. i chose to live on campus-- well, technically, as a freshman there wasn't a choice. "on campus" meant a block long row of victorian brownstones acknowledged in the national registry of historic places (told ya). i was down for that coolness, freshman or no.

as a pink faced first year, i was assigned to a sprawling room with 12 foot ceilings, crown moldings, and two windows that faced the back alley. the back alley of death. now, as a grownup, armed with years of city living experience, i'm quite certain i would not walk down this back alley by myself. not even at high noon with clear skies in broad daylight. but i did it at all hours back then. i had no choice, it was the shortcut to many classes, and as a quasi-triple-major i didn't have time for the long way. once, i met a police officer running full tilt down the alley, pausing to tell me to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE ALLEY, as he was busy chasing a suspect who had just assaulted a woman. at 1 in the afternoon. HAD I SEEN HIM? no, officer

i'm not even shitting you.

but i digress.

(mom and dad, obviously i survived the back alley so please breathe. okay? okay.)

my dorm room came with two roommates. the first hailed from a sunny tropical island, and we hit it off immediately. she was absolutely game to take the bed by the windows, she wanted the sun, and i was absolutely game to take the bed waaaaaay over on the opposite side of the room, away from the fire escape leading to the back alley of death. we left the bed in the middle for the absentee number three. we rummaged each others' closets, hung the prerequisite comedy/tragedy masks and posters of gloomy rock artists whose music we'd never heard, and went off galavanting nightly in the week before classes began. we had so many days as a twosome, we weren't sure number three would ever arrive. luck was ours! we had the biggest triple in the brownstone, nay, in the SCHOOL, for two! we urban-oufitted the third bed for late night geekfests and schoolwork.

but she did arrive. weeks after the official start of the year, in a stink of rain and hail. the daybed was suddenly enveloped by a dark cloud that seemed to have been accumulating for 17 years. we opened our closets to her, we offered her the fancy daybed pillows, we hastily took our posters off her wall and encouraged her to hang her own.

she was not having us.

the triplet down the hall was much more her style, girls i would deem popular and cool in high school-- we were the straightlaced nerds. she smoked. she drank. she was on academic probation almost upon setting foot in the front door. but she was stuck with us. beyond miserable, and completely volatile to boot, she would scream and curse at us before storming off to the triplets. our quirky brownstone loft became quiet and gloomy. we went with relief to our classes, dreading going back to the dorm.

one night, around 3 am, i woke up completely and calmly to the sound of something shattering. i turned to look at island roomie, way across the room by the windows. and saw a man sitting at the edge of her bed.

it was dark, and he wore a mask. even in his seated position, i could tell he was he was very tall: he was hunched over the foot of her bed, elbows on his knees. he was slowly moving his head from side to side, looking first at my sleeping roomie, then turning his gaze to rest on the sullen newcomer a few feet away. each time he turned his head back to my fair haired roomie, the soft glow from the back alley security light positioned on our fire escape would catch his face, illuminating the shiny brown mask covering his features.

i watched him do this for minutes. it seemed his only purpose. i truly didn't feel he was there to harm anyone, but still, feeling worried for my roomie, and safe enough in my far away bed, i reached for my glasses to get a better look.

and found he had stopped his motion to stare directly at me.

i whispered, "okay, you're cool", and hearing every-bit-of-horror-music-ever-played in my head, i purposefully clenched the covers and pulled them up, slow motion, over my face, seeing him stock still, fixing me in his sights the entire time. under the covers, with my glasses still on, i waited to hear his footsteps fall across the room. they never came. and finally i fell asleep.

the next morning, covers still over my head but with the sweet light of back alley sun flooding across the room, i sat straight up and found island roomie stirring. third was comatose, and usually was till noon. my glasses were still on, the only evidence that anything had happened at all. i grabbed my shower kit and headed for the door, when my foot hit something cool and shiny. a thin ceramic mask, with not a nick on it. a brown mask, of the tragedy sort, lying face up on the floor, seven feet away from where it used to hang... above my bed.

island roomie saw my look of complete horror and as i stammered out my story, third awoke. mad. but listening, quickly quieting, and then turning pale. she barked questions at me. what did he look like? was he tall? was he staring at both of them? or just her? 

a week or so later, she was gone. left school, went home. the triplet down the hall told us, not without some guilt, that her boyfriend had been killed in a car crash, weeks before she was to start college. all of her anger towards us made sense. we had no idea.

we took the masks down and gave them away. after freshman year, i stayed in the dorms, becoming a resident assistant, and made it my business to stick my nose in everyone's business. i still feel badly about her.

(the inspiration for this ghost story post came from the hope that beangirl would post about her haunted house... and she has. do you have one?)


  1. holy. hell.

    it's like freakin' Separated At Birth, girl! Although your story is definitely freakier. Or at least, our "ghost" was more a sort of... presence. But not an ACTUAL FLIPPIN' BODY.

    The being an RA at an artsy school thing is weird though, right? Or maybe that's just the geeky kind of people that see ghosts.

    Definitely a Ghost-A-Thon should be encouraged!

  2. I would have freaked out!

    Brrr, you gave me goosebumps!

  3. beangirl: I KNOW!!! wtf? good point about us geeks more prone to ghost sighting...

    emilykate: ha! i thought you would like this post...

    laurwyn: teeheee, i was hoping to give some goosebumps :)

  4. Fantastic story! When I was 4, and lived in England, I introduced my mother to a child ghost I used to play with. (My mother believes she was a girl I was scheduled to meet but who died shortly before by accidental drowning.) My mother was pretty flipped out. But she told the girl it would be best if she stopped coming around, shut some glass doors that separated the sleeping quarters from the rest of the (seriously old) flat, and the girl never reappeared.

    I also saw my grandfather after he died, which completely unhinged me.

  5. Your blog is quickly becoming one of my favorites because of your excellent story telling skills.

    I used to work in historic Gettysburg as a ghost tour guide. I could tell you some crazy ghost stories (some local, some my own experience), but there isn't enough room in the comment box. ^_~

  6. yuhu, just stopping by to give you the link I used to add that ‘Reply’ button to blogger. I could make it, so it is pretty easy to follow the instructions!


    Have a nice day!!!

  7. If I dream about the tragedy mask tonight I'm going to blame you!!!

  8. →k.line: FREAKY, both! i hope seeing your grandfather was a slightly good thing tho? i'd love to see my nan!

    →sewing pixie: thank you! and there's always room in the comments for a good story.

    →nette: i will see if i can muster the courage...


  9. Really weird! I have some ghost stories, our first home, in WA state had a gost who whistled and stole our beer (open bottles we were in he midst of drinking! They'd just vanish from the kitchen counter or coffee table). But what's really struck me is that I too had a third college roommate, who showed up late, freshman year. The other roomie & I had already gotten to know each other, and "violet" never took to us. She stayed a while, (maybe a month?) eventually became quite scarce, supposedly had some out-patient female surgery, which left her recuperating in bed for a week, then one day, we came home from class, and she and all her thing were gone. You've reminded me of that mystery. We supposed she was preggers, hence the late arrival, and the surgery was really an abortion, and the departure was because it was all too much, but we'll never know.

  10. greenpalm, i very much like your alcoholic ghost. seems the kind of ghost that would be fun to hang out with.

    what a strange connection. it's weird to think about those people that were in our lives for a minute, that we really didn't know at all-- but i mean, we shared LIVING together. how were we strangers? and these young girls going through really heavy shit unbeknownst...

  11. Yes, and I hadn't even thought of her for 20 years. I still keep up with the other roommate, but that one just passed through.

    Yep, our ghosty liked a good brewski, but apparently he couldn't get them open himself, because he only ever took the open bottles. He only whistled for me, when my hubby wasn't home, but he was an equal opportunity beer thief, even guests' beers were fair game, and we never found the empties either, they just disappeared. We looked up in the archives the name of the fellow who built the house, and called our ghost "Harry" after him. The house was built in 1910.


i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!