Laura: The 1875 Inn

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I visited The 1875 Inn & Olive Branch Tavern [now The Tilton Inn & Onions Pub] in Tilton, New Hampshire, because, according to local legend, it was haunted by the ghost of “Laura,” a 12-year-old girl who had allegedly been killed when a rooming house at the same location had burned more than 100 years ago.

The owner took me to the room where the girl’s spirit had been seen most often. I sat quietly and asked whether anyone wanted to talk. Before I’d even finished, this girl came running in, bop, bop, bop, jumped up on the bed, turned around, and gave me a great big cute-kid smile. She had some sort of stuffed animal under her arm, and she said, “I want you to know that I’m very happy here”–which blew my mind. A kid who had burned to death I’d figure would be traumatized. And I thought back to her, “But you burned to death.”

“Oh, let’s don’t go into that,” she replied. And she showed me a happy picture. I’d seen a portrait of Laura in the lobby, a typical turn-of-the-century portrait, in a formal dress, her hair carefully done. The girl who came running in had on a one-piece jumper that went down to her ankles. It was tan, with a blue paisley design, and her hair was all combed out.

Of course, it can be a challenge to discern the difference between a passing thought and actual contact with someone who has passed. I try to be objective. I say to myself, Come on now, David, did you want that to happen? Did you make that happen?

But everything about Laura was contrary to my preconceived ideas. Her hair, her attitude … I don’t think I could have made it up. I was able to determine that the dress did fit, historically speaking–that there had been such a style. The fact that she was happy was not at all what I’d expected.

The owner [at the time] suggested that perhaps Laura stays because she sees herself as a greeter. I don’t know, but the experience stands out both because Laura was a memorable character and because the most common experience is usually momentary; extended, back-and-forth interactions like that are rare.


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