Ocean-Born Mary A six-foot-tall ghost of a woman who has red hair and green eyes and dresses in white, said to appear in a house near Henniker, New Hampshire. The legendary Ghost belongs to a woman who lived there at the invitation of a man who played a most unusual role from the very first day of her life.
According to lore, Ocean-Born Mary’s life began in 1720 with a shipload of emigrants who left Londonderry, Ireland for its namesake town in New Hampshire. As their little ship, The Wolf, was approaching Boston Harbor, it was overtaken by pirates. The pirate ship’s Captain Pedro soon boarded The Wolf and informed the terrified crew and passengers that their lives would shortly end.
At the next moment, when the captain and his men had their pistols aimed at the group, the cry of a baby came from the companionway, stopping Captain Pedro. He walked away from the group, and upon his return his smile told everyone that their fortunes had turned.
The young wife of the captain of The Wolf, Mrs. James Wilson, had given birth to a girl that very day. When Captain Pedro learned that the baby was still unnamed, he promised to spare everyone’s life if Mrs. Wilson named her Mary, after his own mother. After a grateful consent from Mrs. Wilson, the captain went back to his ship for a moment and soon returned to The Wolf with a christening gift, a bolt of greenish-blue brocaded silk. He said that he hoped it would one day be made into Mary’s wedding gown. When Mary married Thomas Wallace in Londonderry, New Hampshire 22 years later, she indeed had her gown made of the silk. Within 10 years she was the mother of four sons, and then she became a young widow as had her mother before her.
Mary, however, had not seen the last of Captain Pedro on that fateful day of her birth. He had given up his life of piracy, and in 1760 he was building a Georgian mansion near Henniker. Now old and alone, he located Mary and began making periodic visits, often taking her and the boys to watch the house being built. He invited Mary to become his housekeeper and in turn he would support her and the boys.
Captain Pedro was true to his word and generously lavished gifts upon his five guests, including a coach-and four in which they took almost daily drives. For the next 10 years, all lived happily together.
One night, Captain Pedro had returned from a trip to the seacoast and Mary heard the sounds of digging while he buried a heavy chest outside the house. About one year later, she found Captain Pedro lying in the garden, murdered with a sailor’s cutlass stuck between his shoulders. Mary and her sons buried him beneath the hearthstone fronting the kitchen fireplace as he had requested. Mary lived alone in the house until her death in 1814 at the age of 94, having outlived all her sons.
The house remained in the Wallace family’s hands for more than 100 years, during which it became a target of curiosity seekers, treasure hunters and vandals. In 1916, the house was purchased by the Roy family, who soon heard tales about the house—how someone or something seemed to be guarding it, and how a number of owners had tried but could never live in it.
But it was evident to the Roys that the house could be lived in if the occupants loved and cared for it. Although they heard strange noises in different parts of the house, and their dog refused to venture near the cellar, they noticed that when the house was in some kind of danger, something would always happen to avert it. For example, a passerby once stopped a group of boys from burning the house down. And Louis Roy, the son of the first Roy family occupants, suffered 17 near-fatal accidents while living in the house and survived.
In another example, once Roy attempted to fix a loose tire rim on his car with a hammer. The tire exploded, and the hammer struck him on the right temple and nearly knocked him out. He was bloodied but not seriously hurt. Later, he read about a truck driver who attempted to do the same thing and was killed instantly. Roy felt that Mary somehow had saved him from death.
In 1938, a hurricane struck New England. Roy attempted to drive out in the storm but found the road washed away. Returning home, he saw that the high winds were causing his garage to sway precariously. In the driving wind and rain, Roy worked to prop up the garage. When he finally entered the shelter of the house, his mother said, “Who was with you while you were working on the garage?” She had seen a lady in white and thought it to be one of the neighbours. Roy, of course, had seen no one. The lady had vanished in front of his mother’s eyes.
Once a visitor, a woman, came to the house when Mrs. Roy was alone and asked to see “the rest” of the house. The visitor explained that years earlier she had lived in Henniker. Because of its fame, she had once come to the house and asked to see it. The tall woman who had answered the door took her to one room but was reluctant to show the rest of the house. The woman who had shown her the house, said the visitor, had been extraordinarily tall, about 6 feet. And, the visitor had come to the house for the first time when it was unoccupied.
Every October around Halloween, Mary makes an appearance at midnight. A phantom coach-and-four pulls up to the house. A tall woman in filmy white comes out, goes to the side of the house, throws a packet in the old well and then boards the coach, which vanishes. Sometimes people hear the rumble of the coach wheels but see nothing.
Mary also is seen walking down the curving staircase. As in the case of the woman visitor, she often opens the door to guests. Passersby report seeing strange lights flickering in the house when no one is there.
Some psychics believe that something is buried beneath an enormous hearthstone slab in the antique kitchen. Some say it is the body of Captain Pedro, who actually was a titled British man who didn’t want his family to know he had turned into a pirate. Legend says that anyone disturbing the hearthstone will meet death. Supposedly, a man set to dig up the stone died in a strange manner just a week before the event was to take place.
No one has been able to identify the location of the treasure supposedly buried on the premises.
Louis Roy was still in possession of a small remaining piece of Mary’s brocaded silk. But he considered an even greater personal treasure to be the feeling that Mary’s ghost not only visited the house she could not forget, but also protected him from harm because she knew that he cared about the house as much as she did. Some subsequent owners also reported that an inexplicable power seemed to protect the house by putting a sudden end to potentially dangerous events such as a fire.
- Anderson, Jean. The Haunting of America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
- Roy Louis M. A., as told to Pauline Saltzman. “The House That Haunts a Ghost.” Tomorrow 6 (winter 1958): 51–57.
- Smith Susy. Prominent American Ghosts. New York: World Publishing Co., 1970.