October 31, 2003

The Woman in Black and Violet

It was a cold, clear late spring day, as the last of the early plum blossoms drifted across the kitchen windows under a pale blue sky. We had finally finished the kitchen remodel of our 125 yr old farm house; I was well pleased with the tall mullioned windows over looking the veggie garden. The original window panes had tiny flaws and bubbles that made perspective slightly off-kilter in a pleasing way.

A good day to stay inside I thought as I peeled veggies for a lamb stew, a few strands of hair plopped forward tickling my face. I pushed the hair back and glanced up just as a woman passed from my line of vision. What? I dropped the carrot in the sink and quickly side -stepped to the next window...craning my neck this way and that...peering into the garden. No one was there. I was sure I saw a black and deep violet skirt...with a bustle.

I stepped into my garden clogs in the back hall, pulling on a jacket, the dogs crowding around, eager to go out. It was cold; I pulled the jacket tighter as I rounded the corner onto the gravel pathway.

"Hello! Who's there? Hello?!" I called. The dogs were nonplussed, snuffling and bumping my legs as they horsed around my knees in that good-natured way dogs have of enjoying themselves and a crisp day. I could see the entire side yard and drive. It was empty. The side gate into the alleyway was padlocked.

Well. Guess the light and window panes played a little trick on me I thought. I'll just cut a few springs of thyme and pull a few onions for the stew. Looking down as I pushed open the gate into the kitchen garden I noticed small footprints on the path. I placed my foot next to the closet one and it was much smaller than mine, probably a size 6. Odd. Now I was creeped out.

I went back inside and picked up the 12 gauge near the back door and returned to the garden. Our property was a three acre parcel, the house sat back into very middle of the space, a long drive curved from the street around the house to the old stables which now served as a garage and workshop. I quickly crossed the back garden to a vantage point from where I could see most of the property. Nothing. No one. The dogs were still happily goofing around and the cats joined us, curious but relaxed.

I scouted the entire property that day...it was just my imagination I guess...the footprints may have been those of a friend who stopped by to pick peas earlier in the week.

Silly goose, I went back inside and put on the kettle. The dogs climbed into their baskets in front of the kitchen fireplace and as I sat down at the kitchen table opposite the windows I saw her.

A slight, plain woman with light brown hair, a black silk bonnet neatly tied under her chin, two ringlets of hair on either side of her pale face. A black velvet waistcoat with a small, prim white lace collar tightly cinched over a deep violet taffeta skirt pulled back into a bustle over long black silk under skirt and small grey buttoned shoes. She seemed distressed as if she was late , a small beaded bag swung from her wrist as she smoothed the back of her black kid gloves, she seemed nervous. She turned as if to pace and looked directly at me. She started, her right hand flew to her collar, the beaded bag dangling oddly...she looked right at me and then she turned and was gone. I did not rush outside; I knew the garden was empty.

Over the next few years I saw the woman in black and violet every spring as the plum flowers faded. She was waiting, for whom? I mentioned it to my husband who took it all in stride for we both witnessed events that sound crazy when explained. The house was warm and inviting; I felt nothing evil lurked, so we lived with whatever it was. We never told any of our friends or family about the Woman or other happenings.

Five years after I first saw the woman in black and violet friends came to stay for a few weeks. Their escrow closed but the new house was behind schedule and they had a new baby and a charming five year old, we had a huge house with plenty of privacy and space. It was late spring.

I was in my sewing/laundry room opposite the kitchen mending clothes. My house guest, Jen was fixing us some tea; I could hear her puttering around, talking to the ever present dogs and cats.

Suddenly I heard a crashing sound from the kitchen and Jen rushed across the hall...face flushed

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Well, um, ah, I don't know how to tell you this..um..." she stammered.

"What? Are you okay? I thought she dropped one of my teacups; I collect them, and she thought I would be upset.

"I saw a woman in the garden outside the window." she said quietly.

"A woman in black and violet period dress? I queried


This is absolutely a true story and never found out exactly who the woman was, we traced the family back three generations to the mid 1850's when the house was built, but records do not describe black and violet dresses.

We sold the house and moved away twenty five years ago, every spring I wonder.

Posted by feste at October 31, 2003 06:42 PM | TrackBack

Cool story. You've got to wonder. Personal (vs public) experience cuts the observer off from norms, isolates the 'real' to a study of one. You know what you saw, not once, but repeatedly. But science can't touch it. There ARE other realities than those that can be weighed and measured, are there not!?

Posted by: fredf at November 1, 2003 04:54 AM

The woman is probably still
waiting to get to where thinks
she wants to be. She may be
late forever. Maybe it was
a curse. "You're always late,"
Mom told her. So the ghost
is stuck. Maybe she likes
being late. Yadda yadda ....
Good story!


Posted by: jaspar at November 1, 2003 05:57 PM
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