The Ghost of Kaupi Village
by Glenda Inverarity
‘Is there any other business before we adjourn?’
The Museum Committee of old Kaupi Village in Kauppilanmaki in Finland was wrapping up their monthly meeting.
‘Yes.’ Gwendolyn stood up.
The chairwoman sighed. She had a bad feeling about what might be on Gwendolyn’s mind. ‘State the matter.’
‘It’s about the ghost.’
The chairwoman sighed. ‘Gwendolyn, we’re a museum committee, not an oral history society. This is not the time or place for fanciful stories.’
‘But you have to listen. Please. Just give me three minutes.’
‘All right, all right!’ The chairwoman quickly raised her hand to hold the peace. ‘You have three minutes, and then we never want to hear the topic again. Is that understood?’
‘Yes. Thank you.’
Gwendolyn looked around at the sea of sceptical faces, drew a deep breath, and began her rehearsed speech.
‘I know that most of you don’t believe in the ghost, but her activities are increasing. The evidence was there when we opened after winter. Freshly baked loaves of bread were piled on the rafters and a new, elaborately-embroidered cloth was covering the kitchen table. Neither of these was there when we closed for winter.’
‘That doesn’t prove anything,’ Fanny Hershaw butted in sarcastically. ‘We already discussed the problem of vagrants. Were you asleep then?’
‘Here! Here!’ supported other committee members.
‘On the contrary, I listened to your fabricated evidence that these anomalies were done by vagrants, but I don’t believe it. Firstly, you all agreed there was no sign of forced entry into the hut, and secondly, no fire had been lit. The bread was warm but the fireplace was cold. Also, why would vagrants bake six months’ worth of bread and leave it there? Vagrants can’t afford that much flour! And I’ve never known vagrants to carry elaborately-embroidered tablecloths. You have to believe me! The ghost is responsible for doing all this, not vagrants!’
‘Order! Order! She still has two minutes left. The sooner she finishes this nonsense theory the sooner we can all go home. Gwendolyn, we’d all appreciate it if you could get to the point quickly.’
‘Yes. The point is that the Mid-Summer Festival is only two weeks away, and this year, it coincides with a blue moon. The new moon appears on the seventeenth, just before mid-summer eve, and is full at the end of the month. That full moon will be the second in the month, making it a blue moon.’
‘Good grief girl! What’s the relevance of a blue moon?’ Mr. Morone interjected in more than his usual derogatory tone.
Gwendolyn took a deep breath. ‘A blue moon, combined with mid-summer’s eve, creates a powerful force in the cosmos, opening the Portal between the living and the dead. I think the ghost has made all that bread to entertain. Judging from the quantity, I guess she’s planning to call every man and woman ever burned as witches on the pyres in this region. If we don’t do something to stop her, there’ll be trouble.’
Mr. Morone interrupted again. ‘Hundreds of witches! I thought we were talking about one little ghost!’
‘Yes, we are. I believe our ghost was accused of witchcraft in her past life. She was probably burned on the pyre.’
‘Madam Chair!’ Morone slammed his hand on the table. ‘I’ve heard enough. This absurd talk has disintegrated into superstitious mumbo jumbo. I move that this ridiculous discussion be struck from the minutes before we all look like fools for posterity.’
‘I second the motion.’ Miriam Hoyle piped in.
‘All those in favour, say Aye!’ called the Chair, who was always willing to respond to a consensus motion.
‘Aye!’ shouted the voices with resounding unity.
‘The Ayes have it! Secretary, strike the discussion from the minutes. If there’s no other business arising, I declare this meeting closed at seven-fifteen PM. The next meeting will be held on the first Monday of next month, that’s the fourth of July.’
‘Madam Chair.’ Mr. Morone turned a serious face toward the chairwoman. ‘May I suggest that the first item on the agenda next meeting should be a vote regarding Gwendolyn’s suitability for this committee, especially considering her rather questionable state of mind.’
‘Mr. Morone, your request has been noted. It’ll be given due consideration at the time of setting the agenda,’ The chairwoman replied in mock official tones.
‘That is if we all survive the blue moon witches.’ Mr. Morone laughed as he picked up his old brown satchel and headed for the door.
‘Don’t come running to me when the town’s overrun by mischievous ghosts,’ Gwendolyn muttered to their backs as they left the room ahead of her.
Much later that night, anyone who looked out his window would have seen a very peculiar sight as Gwendolyn and her best friend Gwyneth left their apartment building to confront the ghost. Rain was drizzling as Gwyneth pushed her bicycle across the car park. They mounted, Gwendolyn riding passenger on the rear rack. She held her old, dilapidated black umbrella high over their heads while Gwyneth pedaled wobbly along the footpath like an intoxicated Mary Poppins.
They hid the bicycle in a crop of bracken by the roadside near the museum village and crept along from there on foot. They found the ghost in the garden behind the hut digging a very large, deep hole.
She was wearing a long dark dress covered by a greying pinafore. Her hair was wound roughly into a bun at the back of her head with some long wispy tendrils flowing loosely over her cheeks. She looked about twenty-five years old and she wasn’t transparent as they had expected a ghost would be. As they watched in breathless silence, she laid down her shovel, picked up a bundle of blankets, turned, and glided straight toward them.
Suddenly she peered into the bushes. ‘Who comes to my home at this late hour?’ She asked in a raspy whisper.
Realising their presence had been detected, they reluctantly stepped out of hiding just as the moon emerged from the clouds and dimly illuminated the little clearing.
‘We . . . we came to talk to you,’ Gwendolyn stammered.
‘Because we’re worried about what’s going on.’
‘And what, pray tell, do you think is going on?’
‘We think . . .we think you’ve been baking bread.’
‘I think that you think too much. What I do is none of your business. You should be on your way.’
‘But it is our business.’ Gwyneth bravely stepped toward her. ‘This is our town, and our museum village, and we don’t want anything terrible to happen!’
‘And what do you think will happen?’
‘We think you are planning to call others like you to come through the Portal.’
The ghost sneered. ‘Do you now! And what would you know about the Portal?’
‘Enough’ Gwyneth bluffed.
‘You can’t stop me. I’ve waited for centuries for this chance. You should go. My quarrel is not with you.’
‘Who’s your quarrel with?’ Gwyneth asked.
‘With the family who did this to me. Go now.’
As she turned to move away, a small voice in the bundle of blankets she was carrying began to cry.
‘You have a baby?’ Gwendolyn gingerly stepped toward her.
The ghost turned with sadness in her eyes. ‘Yes. They burned her on the pyre with me. That’s how cruel they were. Even if I had cursed the crops, how could they accuse a baby who cannot even talk of such a crime?’
Holding the baby close to her breast, she crumpled onto the ground, crying into her precious bundle as the moon slid behind the moisture heavy clouds, casting a dark shadow over the women. As they watched, the ghost-woman faded away and vanished into thin air.
‘Come on.’ Gwyneth tugged at Gwendolyn’s sleeve. ‘Let’s go home. There’s nothing more we can do here tonight.’
Gwendolyn slept restlessly for what was left of the night. Time and time again, she dreamed of the woman clutching the baby as they burned to death on the pyre. She wanted to rush forward and save her, but her feet wouldn’t move. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t take a step toward those awesome flames.
Gwyneth roused her early next morning. ‘Wake up. We’ve got a lot to do.’
‘What’s up?’ Gwendolyn reluctantly peered into the daylight.
Gwyneth’s eyes shone with excitement. ‘I figured out what we have to do. I’ve just phoned the city archives, and found out that they have heaps of old transcripts from the witchcraft trials.’
‘What’s that got to do with us?’
‘If we find out what happened to our ghost, we might be able to figure out how to help her. The clerk said he’d have them ready for us when we get there.’
Their enthusiasm was short-lived when the clerk took them to a small room at the back of the building. It was stacked ceiling to floor with boxes.
‘I’ve put this table and two chairs outside the door for you to use as there isn’t any room inside,’ the clerk informed them.
‘Yes, but where are the transcripts?’ Gwyneth asked.
‘There!’ He gestured into the room.
‘Which ones?’ she asked breathlessly.
‘As far as I know, all of them. Nobody’s ever asked for them before, so I don’t know what’s there. I can’t imagine why you’d want to read them . . . ’ He seemed to be laughing to himself as he left them alone and bewildered.
‘Good one, Gwynny! What now?’
‘He wasn’t kidding when he said heaps, was he? I guess we start reading.’ She shrugged. ‘I didn’t realise there were so many witchcraft trials.’
‘Apart from a needle in a haystack, what exactly are we looking for?’
‘If we could find out about her trial, we might find out who her quarrel is with. Then we can try to help her before the Portal opens.’
‘But we don’t even know who she is!’ Gwendolyn pointed out.
‘No. But we do know that she was accused of cursing the crops, and her baby was also charged with the crime. It’s not much to go on, but it’s better than nothing,’ said Gwyneth, trying to be positive. She lifted a box onto the table and shuffled through the aged yellow papers.
‘Hey, listen to this!’ Gwendolyn sat down and, in a downcast voice, read out loud. ‘The Widow Chittern was charged with causing three-year-old Sarah Fergusson to become ill and die. Having bound Witch Chittern’s thumbs and toes before throwing her into the lake, with the town’s honourable people as witness, she was found to float, proving the charge to be true. To ensure no further mischief, she was burned to death at the stake.’
‘That’s awful,’ Gwyneth replied, and as the hours and days wore on, they began to learn the awful truth about the so-called fair trials of hundreds of innocent men and women in the town’s hidden past.
With only two days left before the Portal would open, and with the task looking futile, they finally struck gold.
‘Gwyneth, look at this! I think I’ve found it! Listen! Agnes Demdike is charged with causing, by way of a curse, the crops to fail on farmland owned by the honourable and wealthy merchant, wait for it, Mr. David Morone esquire! More than twenty people were called to testify that the crop failed due to a curse.’ She drew a long breath before continuing.
‘While awaiting the final trial, the Witch Demdike, after being without food and water for only one week, confessed to the crime of witchcraft for both herself and the child on the condition that a priest christen her child before the burning. He rightfully demanded sixpence, which she was unable to produce, and the burning proceeded as planned.’
‘That’s it! That’s it! We found it!’ Gwyneth squealed excitedly. ‘And it was a Morone that made the charges. That must be who her quarrel is with! Mr. Morone’s ancestor! She wants Morone!’
‘What are we going to do?’
‘Don’t know.’ Gwyneth quickly folded the piece of paper and tucked it into her pocket before stacking the boxes back into what they now called the Room of Horrors. It was late when they left the archives and headed for Mr. Morone’s home. They were extremely unsure of how their warning would be received.
‘Hello Mrs. Morone, is Mr. Morone home?’ Gwendolyn asked breathlessly.
‘Why no dear. It’s Gwendolyn, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, and this’s my friend, Gwyneth.’
‘Nice to meet you Gwyneth.’ Mrs. Morone continued. ‘He went to the museum village. He got a phone call saying there were vandals hanging around, and was hoping to catch the ratbags red-handed.’
Thank you Mrs. Morone. We’ll go to the village to see if we can help with those vandals.’
‘That’s very good of you. I’m sure he’ll appreciate your help. Take care.’ She waved goodbye as they ran down the garden path and back into the street.
Late evening was closing around them as they reached the village and crept toward Agnes’s hut.
‘Shhh! Listen! Can you hear that?’ Gwyneth whispered.
Gwendolyn, her eyes wide with fear, nodded. ‘It’s coming from around the back. Doesn’t sound like vandals.’
They crept stealthily through the shrubs into the backyard where the muffled sounds were closer.
‘Over there.’ Gwendolyn pointed to where they had first seen Agnes digging the hole. They looked at each other with sudden dismay. ‘She dug a pit! Come on!’
Crouched on hands and knees, they crawled cautiously across the opening toward the very deep pit. The muffled sounds were now recognisable as those of a gagged person.
‘Mr. Morone. Is that you?’ Gwendolyn called into the pit.
‘Mmmyyymmm, mmmyyymmm mmmyyymmm.’
‘Mr. Morone. Is that you?’ She repeated, hastily adding, ‘Once for yes, twice for no.’
‘You shouldn’t have come back,’ said a familiar raspy voice behind them.
They swung around in unison to see that Agnes had materialised behind them.
‘Agnes.’ Gwyneth cautiously took a step toward her. ‘We know what happened. We want to help you.’
‘Nobody can help me,’ she said bitterly. ‘All I can do is get revenge, and that time’s about to come. Tomorrow night is the midsummer blue moon, at midnight the Portal will open and the others will come. We’ll give Morone the same fair trial that they gave us.’
‘We know what you went through. Let us help you,’ Gwyneth pleaded, tugging the piece of paper from her pocket and handing it to the ghost.
She glanced at it. ‘This doesn’t tell you anything. This doesn’t tell you what they did to me. Do you want to know? I’ll tell you! They put me in a pit, just like that one.’
She pointed to where Mr. Morone was incarcerated. ‘But mine was in the village square, right in front of the Ale House. Day and night, the men drank their fill and then pissed into the pit until I was standing knee deep in it! They gave me no food or water. Not even for my babe. I realised death would be better. So I confessed for both of us.’ She hung her head with shame, remembering the indignity.
‘And then they burned us, without my babe ever being christened.’
Gwendolyn pointed to the pit. ‘But he’s innocent! Hurting him won’t make the past right.’
‘Oh! And I wasn’t innocent?’
‘Of course you were. We know that now. But it’s too late to change it.’ Gwyneth tried to soothe her.
‘I must go. And you must go also. When the others come, they’ll show you no mercy. Now leave.’ The ghost of Agnes Demdike slowly faded from sight.
‘Mr. Morone, listen to me,’ Gwendolyn whispered into the deep, dark pit. ‘We’ll be back. Nothing will happen to you until the Portal opens. You’ll be all right till then. Just wait. We’ll figure something out. Okay?’
‘At midnight tomorrow the Portal opens,’ Gwyneth muttered as they rushed away into the night. ‘What are we going to do?’
‘I don’t have the foggiest idea! Do you?’ Gwendolyn asked hopefully.
Early next morning, the two young women, perched on the bicycle, wobbled precariously toward the town library, and headed straight to the occult section, where they surrounded themselves with a mountain of books and hunted for answers.
The books offered no solutions. Their worry grew into anxiety, their anxiety grew into frustration, and the day grew into evening.
‘What are we going to do?’ Gwendolyn moaned as the librarian ushered them from the building that evening. ‘My God! The Portal’s only three hours away!’
‘God! That’s it! You found the answer!’ Gwyneth squealed.
‘Yeah, right!’ Gwendolyn sarcastically snapped back.’God’s going to turn up like some kind of miracle and put everything right?’
‘Not God! A priest! Come on!’
‘But he’ll never come.’
‘It’s our only chance. I’ll bloody-well kidnap him if I have to.’ Gwyneth strode across the square and around the back of the church where a dim light was shining.
‘Father, there’s an emergency. Please come quickly.’ Gwyneth called, pounding on the vestry door, her days at drama school finally paying off with a grand performance. ‘A baby, Father. A very sick baby. It needs to be christened quickly.’
‘Just a minute. I’ll get my things.’ The priest called through the closed door.
Within minutes the trio set off for the evening’s work, with Gwyneth quickly explaining their problem to the very sceptical Father as they hurried toward the village.
‘Wait here Father. Don’t make a sound. We’ll try to convince her to do it.’ Gwendolyn said. She stepped into the opening and approached the pit.
‘Mr. Morone.’ She whispered. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Mmmyyymmm,’ came the muffled reply.
‘Stay quiet and start praying.’
Right on cue, Agnes materialised. ‘Why have you come back?’ she demanded.
‘We think we can solve your problem.’
Gwyneth joined them.
‘Nothing can be done,’ Agnes said, clutching the baby to her breast. ‘I’ve told you before, go away!’
‘Please, listen to us. We want to help, and we think we’ve found the answer.’ As she spoke, Gwyneth gestured Father O’Brien from the bushes. ‘We’ve brought a priest. He’ll christen your baby. Then you can both cross over.’
The ghost looked unconvinced. ‘How much money does he want?’
‘He doesn’t want money. He wants to help!’
‘I don’t know. I had my plans. I’ll have to think about it.’ The ghost said stubbornly.
‘Agnes.’ Father O’Brien stepped forward. ‘God in heaven loves you. Take this chance to go to him.’
‘Will it work?’
‘I don’t know, but it’s worth trying.’ He reached out and pulled the blanket down, revealing the young baby’s tiny face. ‘If not for yourself, won’t you do it for your baby?’
‘I’ll try,’ she said reluctantly, ‘but if it doesn’t work, you’ve all got to leave, and never come back. Do you hear?’
They looked at each other and grudgingly nodded their agreement.
The priest said, ‘You two wait here. I’ll do it in the hut. If it doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.’ He led Agnes and her baby inside.
Gwendolyn paced up and down for what seemed an eternity, checking her watch with periodic frequency.
‘It’s almost midnight. After that, the Portal starts opening.’
She went over to the pit. ‘Pray harder Mr. Morone.’
‘What are they doing?’ Gwyneth wondered aloud. ‘A christening doesn’t take this long. Something must be wrong.’
’Gwendolyn sighed. ‘It has to work!
The clock ticked slowly but surely the last few minutes toward midnight and, finally, the steeple bell chimed the hour as the girls looked at each other in despair.
The sudden sound of the priest’s voice startled them. ‘You can relax now. She’s gone.’
‘What happened? What took so long?’ they cried together.
‘I christened the babe but nothing happened. So I took a chance and gave them the last rites, and they both vanished.’
‘But that doesn’t mean they’re gone. She vanishes all the time.’ Gwyneth uttered.
‘I’m sure she crossed over, because the strangest thing happened when she left. The rafters were piled high with bread, and when she disappeared, all the bread did, too.’
Gwendolyn and Gwyneth gave each other a relieved look.
‘Thanks Father.’ they uttered in unison.
‘Don’t thank me. I’m only the messenger. Thank Him.’ He pointed upwards.
‘Yes, yes, we will.’ Gwyneth said with determined sincerity. ‘But now we have to get him out. Mr. Morone,’ she called into the pit. ‘You can say a prayer of thanks now. We’ll have you home in no time.’
‘Madam Chair. I want to request an amendment to the agenda for this meeting. I’d like us to remove the first item regarding Gwendolyn’s suitability for the committee.’
‘You’ve changed your tune Mr. Morone. Is there anything we should know?’ the Chairwoman replied.
‘Not unless you believe in witches and blue moons during mid-summer, Madam Chair,’ he replied respectfully.
She threw him a quizzical glance. ‘Very well. All those in favour, say Aye!’