The story I am about to tell you took place in the summer of 1988. It is completely true and I have only ever told 3 or 4 other people about it. I’m telling it now because… well… people tell ghost stories this time of year and growing up in New England has given me PLENTY. (I could write a book about the 2 years I worked at The House of the Seven Gables.) All I ask is that you keep an open mind.
When I was in second grade my best friend was in the fifth grade. Now, we all remember the pecking order of grade school. Fifth graders did not mingle with anyone under the fourth grade. Being best friends with a fifth grader and having undiagnosed anxiety issues led me to push myself to my absolute limits because I didn’t want to lose my friend. I wanted her to think I was cool when I was anything but! This is how and why I ended up where I did in this story.
It must have been around my 8th birthday. I was sleeping over at Amanda’s for the weekend and her family decided to have their own birthday celebration for me. They asked where I wanted to go and I said Lynch Park (Beverly folks know it well). It was my favorite place mostly because of the Rose Garden. So, off we went. Amanda’s folks brought a grill and we had a cookout and everything was awesome until…
“Hey, Sheri-Lynn! Let’s go swimming!”
I never learned to swim. I couldn’t then and 30 years later still don’t know how. Did I have the sense to tell my best friend this? Nope! No way! I didn’t want her thinking I was a baby. So, like an eejit, I followed her and her brothers into the water.
I knew the park had once been private property and there was an old boat launch that led into the water where the public beach is now. I thought that if I could just keep the launch under me, if something went wrong, all I would have to do is put my feet down and find my way back to the shore. Best laid plans of mice and men…
The waves weren’t so bad that swimming was prohibited, but for someone as inexperienced as I was, I might as well have been a rubber duck in a jacuzzi. I got pushed too far away from the launch and pulled under for…I can’t say how long. To make matters worse, no one in Amanda’s family saw me go under! I was on my own… or so I thought.
I could feel myself being pulled farther out into the water and down and was sure that this was it. Miraculously, a man jumped in and pulled me back up. I can still see him clear as day in my mind. Heavy set, sandy blonde hair, mustache, red bathing suit like a lifeguard. I hadn’t seen him at all that day, but his timing was perfect. I was too winded to thank him when he got me back on to the beach, but I knew I had to find him and tell him how grateful I was for saving me.
Well, when I told my friend’s parents what happened, they looked at me like I was crazy. I even described the man to them and they just shook their heads. No one matching this man’s description had been seen by anyone that day on the beach or anywhere else in the park. I knew I wasn’t crazy. I knew I had seen him and that he was the reason I was able to walk away from one of my more painfully stupid mistakes. I had to find him and find out who he was and why he disappeared.
For the next 8 years, this incident stuck with me and bothered the hell out of me. If no one else saw him, could he have been a helpful spirit? A guardian angel, perhaps? Having grown up Wiccan, we don’t use the term, but we believe in helpful entities that will intercede for us. This COULD have been the case and I would soon learn that it kind of was.
In my sophomore year of high school, I took 2 classes taught by the same teacher. They were U.S. Government and The History of Beverly. In the classroom was a poster depicting all of the then presidents from Washington to Clinton. I can’t even begin to explain the fear and surprise as I saw the face of my rescuer looking back at me from the poster. The name below the picture was William H. Taft.
Seeing my face go completely white, my teacher asked what was wrong. I asked him if Taft had any connection at all to Beverly, specifically Lynch Park. He said that what is now Lynch Park had been part of Taft’s summer estate. When he aske me why this is important I just shut my mouth and found a desk. He asked again and I just shook my head and said “Dude, you’d never believe me.” To be perfectly honest, had I not lived it, I wouldn’t believe it!
So that’s one of my many ghost encounters. Perhaps I will write about my adventures at the Gables sometime. Until next time…