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What beck'ning ghost, along the moonlight shade
The night is chill. Winter hovers like a phantom, not yet visible but there, its breath pushing leaves against the door. Lights behind draperies across the way look not bright nor inviting but murky, wavering slightly as the mist lifts and then slowly settles. It is Halloween, Walpurgis Night, All Souls' Eve; a night for ghost stories over mulled wine before the fire.
Larry Jenkins is young and he has that sort of please-don't-con-me attitude with which so many kids face the world today. The last thing he expected was to have his skepticism, his modern cynicism, shattered by an experience with the occult. Larry works for board and room and a little pin money at Pink-ham Notch, N.H., in the heart of the White Mountains, where the Appalachian Mountain Club runs a camp for skiers and climbers.
Behind the AMC huts looms Mt. Washington, highest peak (6,288 feet) in the Presidential Range. On the summit stand a weather observatory, a broadcasting station and a few odd buildings for tourist accommodation. At night there are five men manning the observatory and occasionally there is one other, usually a student, caretaking in one of the other buildings. Otherwise, the summit is deserted. Or is it?
Strange, inexplicable things have occurred on the summit and elsewhere, Larry begins. Such happenings are blamed on the Gook, ghost of the White Mountains. The Gook is not a visible ghost, but he makes his presence felt in a variety of ways. There was the night seven pork chops disappeared mysteriously from a padlocked refrigerator—which might be funny were it not for the price of meat. And there was the berserk behavior of a playful kitten that suddenly stared intently at the closed lavatory door moments before a toilet flushed, though all water had been drained at the end of the season.
The Gook also has been charged with dislodging—sometime between midnight and dawn in the dead of winter—a memorial plaque that was bolted and cemented into a slab of granite. Vandals had to be dismissed. The temperature was 40� below zero that night. Besides, said Larry, "there was no sign of tools, no footprints and the snow around the plaque had not been disturbed."
On the day of his own experience, the morning had dawned bright and clear and sunny. Though it was toward the end of April there was still enough snow in the mountains for skiing. Then about dusk the weather turned bad. When one of the skiers had not returned by nightfall, Mountain Rescue went after him.
Larry was at the foot of the mountain when they brought the skier down. He had apparently missed the track and fallen to his death 1,500 feet below. "It was the first time I have ever seen a...well, you know. I was depressed and I sort of walked around trying to get the image out of my mind. Finally, I started for my room upstairs in the main building. As I walked down the corridor, which has bare floors, I heard footsteps behind me. But when I looked over my shoulder there was no one there.
"I locked the door to my room and, because I was feeling so low, I decided to light the candle that stands on a small table in the center of my room. The wick was so deeply embedded in the wax that I finally gave up trying to loosen it and went to bed. I remember lying there in the dark. About four a.m. I woke up, aware that something was flickering against the ceiling. Still half asleep, I turned on my side facing out into the room. I realized dimly that the candle was burning—then I fell asleep. In the morning I thought I must have dreamt it, but when I went to look at the candle it was burned almost all the way down. I can't explain it. I can only tell you that I did not light that candle."
Wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne, "There is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt ghostlike, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime." Eric Maple, a pioneer in demonology who explains ghosts as reflections of the human mind, states that "the best authenticated phenomenon of history is the ghost...and purely on statistical grounds alone the case for its existence has been securely established."