The Haunted Room. Did I Meet Jerusha’s Ghost?

The haunted room

Jerusha’s Room #9 (Modern lock), Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, Sudbury Massachusetts

When I described Jerusha Howe’s historic room at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, I told you a bit about what it is like to stay in a haunted room. I also hinted that there might be more to tell. Did Jerusha visit me?

Since this is a ghost story–a story about a haunted room– it is appropriate to tell you on Halloween. (Be sure and follow that link above to see ghostly pictures of her room,  and the historic background. Go on. We’ll still be here when you get back.)

I mentioned in that prior article that people leave notes to Jerusha stuck into the beams in the ceiling:

Notes tucked in ceiling over bed of Jerusha's Room (#9)

Notes tucked in ceiling over bed of Jerusha’s Room (#9)

or stuffed into secret drawers in Rooms 9 and 10:

Haunted Room

People Leave their marks inside the secret drawer in Jerusha Howe’s Room (#9) at Wayside Inn

Letters in the secret drawer in Room #9.

Letters in the secret drawer in Room #9.

I don’t know when this all started, but according to a program for an event by Para-Boston, a paranormal society, by last year, they were able to read more than 3000 letters that had been left in the rooms. A man who used to work at the Wayside Inn told me that people leave notes in every drawer and closet available, and the staff gathers those notes up and puts them in the secet drawers where they belong. The earliest one that Para-Boston reproduced in their booklet was written in 1973. It reports seeing dark shadows move around the room.

I spent some time reading through letters, and was alternately amused and bemused by people’s disappointment at not seeing any ghostly signs, or being frightened out of their wits.

My favorite, however, said, “Yes, the ghost was here for us–either that or they have some heavy duty plumbing issues.”  The plumbing issues might explain why we got a call from the desk downstairs while I was taking a shower to complain that there was water coming through the ceiling into the Old Kitchen dining room below us. That happens, the caller said, when we don’t get the shower door shut tight and water leaks outside the shower.  I checked, and the floor outside the shower was completely dry.

I found it interesting, that although seemingly EVERYONE who sleeps in Jerusha’s room is devoutly hoping to see a ghost, Para-Boston reports that of those 3000 letters, only 180 mention a paranormal experience. Yet we go on hoping. I didn’t believe anything untoward would happen, and yet….

As for our stay, we did not smell Jerusha’s orange blossom perfume, nor did she whisper to us.  We did not feel a sudden chill, nor see the curtains move inexplicably.  So I wrote a rather sarcastic (and perhaps premature) little note for the Secret Drawer Society.

The Haunted Room

My letter in the Secret Drawer in Jerusha’s room at the Wayside Inn

In case you cannot read my writing, it says

Dear Seekers Who Found the Secret Drawer –

I am a descendent of John, Samuel and David Howe, the first innkeepers of the Howe family.  Here for a reunion with seven relatives to visit the haunts of our ancestors.

Perhaps because Jerusha is a distant cousin, she did not feel it necessary for her to visit us last night. Yes, the floor creaked and hinges squeaked, but only from human activity.  I did see the ghostly 77 [it had been mentioned by other letter writers] formed by light on the ceiling–suspiciously near the light that shines in the crack over the door top where it meets the frame.

I will be giving Jerusha two more chances to communicate, as we’re staying two more nights. Read about my results at

I dropped the letter into the Secret Drawer and closed it. That was that. Not quite.

Almost immediately, I heard two sharp knocks on the inside of the door of a closet to my left.

Was Jerusha reprimanding me? Skeptical still, I ran through the possibilities. It was my husband. But no–he was elsewhere. It came from another room. No, there is no other room on the other side of that wall. Someone was in the closet?

If they were–they’re still there, because I was thoroughly spooked, and not about to explore any further.

Have you ever stayed in a haunted room? What did you experience?


Halloween in Graveyards

On my recent family history trip to New England, I visited several Massachusetts graveyards that are permanent home to some of my Puritan ancestors.  Since I was tromping over the grass in broad daylight, the surroundings were not as spooky as you might imagine, but I find them endlessly interesting.

The Old Rutland Burial Grounds,

In the old Rutland Cemetery, stones stretch back into the woods.

The oldest graveyard that I visited is the Rutland Old Cemetery, where burials ceased in the early 1800s. The cemetery is located on the north side of Massachusetts 122A, the main road through Rutland Massachusetts (Cradle of Ohio), beside the library.

These two stones seem to be huddled together for comfort.

Rutland Cemetery--Leaning together

Rutland Cemetery–Leaning together

The first Rutland Cemetery was laid out in 1717, and 18th and early 19th century stones are in amazingly good shape. If you can’t read an inscription, you can turn to Monumental Inscriptions in the Old Cemetery in Rutland, Worchester County, Massachusetts, published in 1902.

Some are covered by lichen, or worn by age, or have sunk into the ground.

Marker for Moses How

Here lies the body of Moses How, Esq. Born at Sudbury Aug 17th A.D. 1691 Departed this Life __Rutland Feb 16th A. D. 1749-50 in the 53th year of his age.

Some have unfamiliar language. “relict” in this case means “widow”.

Hannah Howe, widow of Moses

Erected in the memory of Hannah Howe, Relict of Moses Howe Esq who departed this life June he 7, 176_ in ye 61 year of her life. Behold….

Another very old cemetery shelters early settlers of Sudbury Massachusetts. The  North Cemetery has graves going back to the 1600s. The Cemetery lies along Sudbury Road in Wayland (which was  East Sudbury until 1835). This is the site of the 2nd Sudbury Meeting House, includes a cemetery for Indians, and a gate connects it to one of Sudbury’s Jewish cemeteries.

These two have been joined together by the tree that grew up between them, and enfolded one of them in its ridges.

Old North Cemetery

Old North Cemetery, Sudbury Tree grown into tombstones

Many tombstones in Sudbury and Rutland have the simple line drawing of a face that you can see on the ones above. Others have slightly more elaborate illustrations of urns with decorative leaves and flowers.  But my favorite thing is reading the poetry.

Erected in memory of Mrs. Sarah How wife of Lieut Calvin How, who died March 24th 1800 in he 24th year of her age. "Retire my friend Dry up your tears Here I must lie til Christ appears." Rutland Old Cemetery

Erected in memory of Mrs. Sarah How wife of Lieut Calvin How, who died March 24th 1800 in he 24th year of her age. “Retire my friend Dry up your tears Here I must lie til Christ appears.” Rutland Old Cemetery

Happy Halloween. Why not spend your Halloween in Graveyards?

Family Recipe for Venison or Beef Stew

Beef Stew

By The Flying Enchilada,, Used with Creative Commons License

Stew. One of the dishes that we share with our ancestors, even when we aren’t thinking about the historic roots. It probably ranks right up there with beer as one of the most ancient foods in our repertoire. A hearty, meaty dish perfect for fall and winter with it emphasis on root vegetables and whatever meat the hunter hauls home, everyone needs a good stew recipe in their kitchen.

Stew. Versatile. If your hunter is not dragging home a deer to cut up for venison steaks and roasts and stew meat, the stew recipe accommodates beef–even using up some tougher cuts. ( I have discussed here my reaction to hunting by the men in the family–and how common it was when I was growing up in Ohio.)

Beef Stew (or venison or squirrel, or whatever meat you choose) is a joy to cook because it is so forgiving. You can adapt the stew recipe to your own tastes, adding and subtracting seasonings as you like.

I also love the fact that leftover stew just keeps getting better. If you can resist eating it all up on the day you make it–when the house smells all meaty and garlicky and delicious from the long simmering concoction on the stove–put it in the fridge for the next day. Your patience will be rewarded.

Book Cover
I recently read Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn, who grew up mostly in Michigan. You can find a complete review of her food memoir at my sister site, A Traveler’s Library. Here at Ancestors in Aprons, it will join our page of “Food Books that Stir Family Memories,” and I could not resist sharing her Grandpa Charles’s stew recipe.  Doesn’t that sound like just the kind of food memory we like to talk about here?

Although stew is one of the things I make without a recipe–tossing in herbs (usually Italian, sometimes French) and chopping whatever veggies I have on hand (I like to add rutabagas), I like the suggestions in this recipe.  It adds a bit of vinegar, balanced by a bit of brown sugar, which I imagine helps tenderize the meat and add a richer flavor.  Also, the thought of using allspice for flavoring strikes me as inspired.

I totally agree that browning the meat adequately is the key.

Grandpa Charles’s Beef or Venison Stew

Beef Stew from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Serves 10
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 3 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
From book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good


  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (plus more as needed)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2lb beef or venison meat (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetavel oil (plus more if needed)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 carrots (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced (about 2 1/2 cups))
  • 6 stalks celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1lb potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)


1. Mix together 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper and flour in a large bowl until well blended. Toss the meat with the flour mixture to coat well.
2. Add the oil to a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, brown the meat well on all sides in batches; add a bit more oil if needed. Return all the meat to the pan. Add the hot water, allspice, vinegar and sugar. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat is starting to get tender.
3. Add the water, tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Put the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few more grinds of pepper on top. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for another hour, or until the meat is tender.
4. Then add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until they are softened.
5. Before serving, remove the bay leaf. Taste to see if it needs salt or pepper and stir in the parsley. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.


from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Kathleen Flinn, 2014.

Katherine Flinn attaches the following note at the beginning of the recipe, found on page 129-131 in Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.

“The key is to get the meat good and brown,” Mom says of Grandpa Charles’s stew recipe. “If it looks a bit charred, that’s about right.” If desired, add 2 to 3 minced garlic cloves with the carrots and onions. If the meat is particularly tough, you’ll need to simmer it longer. I like to serve this with hot buttered noodles; see Della’s Homemade Noodles (page 250).

Photo shown with recipe by Valerie Lam,, used with Creative Commons license.