The Group Of Seven

4 – The Hall of Records

As the group was continuing their tasks, Jessica was arriving at City Hall. She looked around, as she still felt like someone was watching her. Jessica walked up the staircase and into the building. She headed straight to the archives and as she walked up to the counter she said, “Hi Dot” to the lady behind the counter who was looking down at some papers. Dot, who’s actual name was Dorothy, was a very courteous woman who treated all visitors with respect, no matter what their age, and she liked the nickname Jessica had given her. Dorothy looked up and smiled, “Well hello Jessica, how have you been?”

Jessica: “I’ve been good Dot, just coming to the Hall of Records to do some research.”

Dorothy laughed as she always got a kick out of the archives section being referred to that way.

Dorothy: “What weird thing from the past are you investigating now?”

Jessica: “Well you know the abandoned house on the north side of town that’s been vacant for about 20 years?”

Dorothy: “Sure, it’s the old Anderson home that’s been vacant since Margaret passed away. It’s had strange stories about it for over fifteen years.”

Jessica, rather excitedly: “Really, like what?”

Dorothy: “Well it’s rumoured that people hear noises coming from it and some have even claimed to have seen lights and figures moving around in the house.”

Jessica: “But do you know any facts about the place?”

Dorothy: “A little. There was some talk when I was younger about Margaret Anderson always sitting on her front porch or in her picture window just staring down the road. Her husband went off to do a tour with the United Nations Peace Corps but he never returned. He was killed in an accident.”

Jessica then thought to herself; “That must be the ghost we saw, wow that was easy.”

Then Dorothy’s expression changed, “I remember my mother saying that the Anderson’s thought their house was haunted.”

Jessica: “You mean Margaret Anderson thought that her house was haunted, don’t you, not both of them?”

Dorothy: “No, I remember my mother and father talking about what each was told separately by the Anderson’s. They said they heard footsteps at the top of their stairs, and voices on the main and second floor.”

Jessica: “Really? Did they mention ever seeing a ghost in their home?”

Dorothy thought for a moment: “Not that I can recall. All they told my parents was that they had heard strange things.”

Jessica, a little disappointed: “Are there any records of the old house that you know of?”

Dorothy: “Quite a lot. Actually, a very attractive lady I have never seen before was in here a day ago and asked me to pull some records on the house. She hasn’t come back to look at them yet, so you’re welcome to go through them.”

Dorothy pointed to a stack of books and old papers on a table, with a box underneath as well. Jessica thought, “What a weird coincidence, but since it’s all there, I might as well have a look.” She then looked a Dorothy, “That’s quite a bit of information! Thanks Dot.”

Jessica walked over to the table and put her purse on the back of the chair and took off her sweater and hung it on the chair as well. “This could take a while,” she whispered to herself. She sat down and started going through the documents.

Jessica was trying to find anything she could to explain what they saw. She had already gone through most of the old records of the house, with no luck. The house wasn’t built on some ancient burial site, and no one was ever found in the well out back. She did find an old turn of the century book that mentioned the house was briefly used as an office for the Union Army during the Civil War, but no mention of any battles or disasters. She had put on a pair of white gloves so the acid in her skin wouldn’t damage the books as she was flipping the pages. As she turned her attention to the stack of old newspapers, she was glad her hands were covered. The old ink not only rubbed off on your hands, but it was not easy to wash it off once it got in your skin.

One of the top newspapers was about twenty years old, and right on the side of the front page was a heading “Local Man Dies Helping Strangers”. She proceeded to read the article, and it was about Mr Anderson being overseas on a peace keeping mission when he saw a bus plunge into a river. He jumped into the water and started to help people get out of the bus and onto the shore. While crawling through an open window to try to save an injured man, the bus flipped over the ledge it was resting on and into the deeper water with a strong current. He was trapped inside and drowned with the others that couldn’t get off the bus in time. His body was recovered a few hours later when the bus hit a sand bar downstream. They tried to revive him but had no luck. Nine children and five adults were still alive thanks to his bravery. He was buried overseas buy the people of the village, as a local hero. At the service he was displayed in his full uniform before being buried.

That settled it, there is no way Mr Anderson could have been the disfigured image they saw. He was buried after an open casket funeral, and there is no way the man they saw would have had an open casket. She had to keep digging further back in the newspaper achieves.

Page by page Jessica searched going further and further back in the archives. Her eyes were tired and she was over sixty years in the past after switching to microfilm. It looked like the answer just wasn’t there. Frustrated she sat back in the chair and looked up at the ceiling, rubbing her eyes. She turned to look at the collection of material on the old house. Being lower down and back from the table, she could see right under it to the wall. She noticed a green journal or notebook between the table leg and the wall, just behind the box she quickly went through when she started her research. She walked over and crawled under the table to retrieve the book. As she stood up, she looked at the cover and noticed some faint writing on it. She tilted the book in the light and noticed it had impressions. The front desk always had onion skin or tracing paper and pencils for people who needed to sketch documents. She went and grabbed a sheet and a pencil and sat down at the table she was at originally. She placed the paper over the book and started shading it with the pencil. Slowly she could see words starting to take shape “My Journal”.

Jessica’s heart started racing so fast she could feel it beating in her chest. She started thinking this was what she had been searching for. She opened the book to the first page on the inside cover was a note, “Property of Sherry-Anne Johnson”. Jessica knew the last name. The Johnsons were one of the towns founding families. They settled in the area in the early 1800’s, and by 1850 they had built a mill on the river that now runs through town. This book seemed to be in pretty good shape, so she didn’t think it could be that old.

As she started reading the first page, she was instantly intrigued. It started out “I cannot tell a soul what I know, but cannot keep the knowledge inside me any longer.” Jessica settled in for what she thought would be a couple hours. She continued to read the journal:

A few months back, a traveller had stopped by to water his horse near the mill. It was shortly after war had broken out and everyone was suspicious of strangers. The traveller left his horse drinking by the river and walked up to the front door of the mill. It was always open in the summer due to the heat, so he walked in. My dad was out in the storage shed getting some wheat to make flour and my mother was out by her stove in the yard baking bread. I can only assume what happened next, perhaps the traveller was looking out the window at my mother, who was quite striking, but we do not know. Somehow, the traveller ended up caught in the spoke of the gear that turns the grinding stone. We heard a scream and my father ran to the mill. Inside he found the traveller caught between the gears of the mill. He tried in vain to pull the traveller free, but his body was jammed between the gears. He released the locking pin that stops the wheel from turning on the outside of the mill. He then forced the gear backwards, causing the traveller to be pushed free of the gears.

My father carried the traveller to the main house and placed him on a blanket my mother laid out on the sofa. The traveller was barely conscious when he whispered something to my father. He pointed to a pocket and my father reached in and pulled out a sealed document.

I do not know why, but my father opened the envelope. In it were two separate pieces of paper. He unfolded one, read it through and then put it back into the envelope. He started to unfold the second paper, but with the first glance of it, he appeared very concerned and quickly placed it in his pocket. He took the envelope with the first document and through it on the fire and stared at it until it burned completely. He then moved the ashes so you couldn’t tell an envelope was in the fire.

At William’s house, the younger group members were still interrupting William. They were showing him all kinds of images and sounds that they thought were paranormal. Everything from what looked like orbs flying across the screen, to sounds of floors creaking as the house settled. After explain why each one was a normal occurrence individually, he decided to explain the differences to the group so he could concentrate on his video without interruptions.

William pulled out a white board and placed it against a wall. He took a marker off the base and started writing:

1. Audio

2. Photo

3. Videos


He then told the group to make a note of anything they are not 100% convinced it’s a logical occurrence and the group can review it later. Only ask for a second opinion from a group member if you are less than 80% sure during the review. This way all members can concentrate on what they are reviewing. Every time they are distracted, a potential piece of evidence can easily be missed.

The group seemed to fully understand the crash course and went back to reviewing.

While the group was moving forward with their evidence search, Jessica was back at city hall still reading the notebook she found:

Not long after my father had burned the letter, some Union soldiers showed up and took the traveller, who was resting on the sofa still, out back by the well. Though he was half alive, they were yelling something about the location of some stolen money. They were being very rough with him and the traveller just fell over, dead. A couple officers walked up, and after checking if he was alive, turned and made their way back to the main house.

The officer’s came up and talked to my father. I heard one of them ask what happened to the man and also did he say anything at all to him. My father told them about the accident, and how it happened before we even knew he was in the mill. The officer’s told my father that the man was a Confederate spy from the south, who robbed a train carrying government gold coins. The officers then walked outside to talk to some soldiers who were going through the traveller’s saddle bags. They took the traveller’s horse and belongings to the other soldiers, threw his body on a wagon and hauled it away.

On a few occasions, Union soldiers would come by the mill and look around. They didn’t say much, and since it was during the war, they had every right to come on anyone’s property whenever they wanted. For about a week the Union army even set up their base in our house before moving further south. While they were here, they spent a lot of time walking around the property, like they were looking for something. During this time my family had to move into the guest house.

About six months after the war was over, my father went on a hunting trip. He came back a couple days later, but instead of an animal tied to his pack horse, there was a wooded box. I never asked him about it, since he always told us, “If I want you to know my business, I’ll tell you my business”. A couple nights later, I overheard him tell my mother that the paper he took off the traveller was a map to where he had hidden the gold coins. He said to my mother that the traveller asked him to take the map, recover the coins and take them to General Lee’s army. My father, not wanting to cross the Union lines, chose to keep it a secret.

My father hid the gold at the mill in some old, torn flour bags. No one would buy them for fear that rats were eating it. My father would then melt some coins into small bars, and then tell the merchants in town that this was how he was paid for flour by settlers heading west, or cattle drivers. He even took a few trips south to San Francisco, California and west to Hill City, South Dakota in the Black hills and cashed in some bars at a few banks. He figured he could just tell people he traded goods for gold nuggets from prospectors and then melted it down for ease of transport. With the gold fever spreading through the states, nobody ever really questioned how he obtained it.

Shortly after my father started spending the gold, strange sounds were heard at both the house and the mill, and we would see a shadowy figure moving around in the parlour as well. My father started drinking heavily, to deal with the strange sounds or maybe the guilt he felt, I am not exactly sure. I even saw my father arguing with himself, saying that he did “nothing wrong”. He was explaining to some invisible person how he couldn’t keep his word in fear of his family’s safety and how he was just using the gold to give his family a better life. It was as though he was arguing with a person, that I couldn’t see, someone who wasn’t there. He would say something, and then stop like he was listening to a response. Then he’d start yelling again. This went on a couple times a week, usually after he had too much to drink. Then one day my father had an accident at the mill, and a few months later he had passed due to an infection from his injuries. My mother stayed on for a few months, but she was a broken woman without the love of her life. She decided she couldn’t continue on at the mill without my father, and she moved back out east to her family’s home shortly after that. I had recently been married around this time and we were staying in the guest house. After mom moved back east, I moved from the guest house to the main house. It seemed that my mother had tooken the rest of the gold with her, as we never did find any left in the house, or at the mill.

John and I made a decent living at the mill, and since my parents furnished the main house with all the finest things, we got by quite well. Things quieted down over time, but we still hear screams from the mill once in a while, and walking on the main floor when no one is there. My husband John never believed in ghost so he always said the sounds were “just the wind” or “the house settling”. Since the spirit never harmed me, I grew accustomed to his being around and never thought much of it, though it still would give me a chill once in a while. I never told John the truth about my family’s wealth. John just assumed my father was a brilliant business man and I saw no point in changing his perception of my father.

Jessica paused and closed the journal. “Why would a ghost from the civil war still haunt the house” she wondered. She put the journal down and went to the washroom to splash water on her face. She stared in the mirror talking to her reflection, “Okay, so it makes sense that no records exist of the dead traveller, since he was considered a war criminal, but why would he still be haunting the house if the family spent all the gold?” Jessica dried her face and went back to the archives.

Back at Williams, the analysis was going along smooth, without much being found. A couple whispering voices could be heard answering the odd question off the voice recorders, but no visual evidence. William was wishing he had given the group the crash course in what to look for right from the start. As he was scanning his video he noticed the frame lit up, almost like a flash. He rewinds the tape and views it again in slow motion. He notices an outline with-in the bright light, but he cannot make it out. He records the time on the tape this occurs and continues going through the rest. William figured he’d just copy the video to a computer and extract the video into photo’s that he could view at a slower rate. After a little while William tells the group, “Let’s take a break, it’s nice out and we can continue the analysis later with fresh eyes and ears.” Everyone agreed that it was an awesome idea, so they turned off what they were working on, and headed upstairs and out into William’s back yard.

William followed out a couple minutes after with a cooler full of drinks and ice and a few bags of chips. Everyone helped themselves to a drink, and they were stretching and rubbing their eyes.

Sarah:”I wonder if Jessica is having any luck finding out information about the old mill? Maybe it was built on an ancient burial ground or something?”

William (looking at his phone): “No text yet so I assume she hasn’t found anything significant. As far as the ancient burial ground thing, that’s just in movies. Back when the mill was built, if there was an ancient burial site on the property, I am sure the local inhabitants of the area would have told them about it, and they would have just moved the mill downstream a little.”

The younger team members were all stretching out on the grass staring at the clouds and trying to see what shapes they could see.

William looked over at Matthew, who seemed to be staring into space. Suddenly he realized that Matthew was actually staring at Alexis. William just smiled a sly grin as he watched Matthews eyes follow Alexis as she walked over to the bridge of the pond to look at the fish. She looked over at Matthew and William and asked them if he knew where the food was. At first Matthew seemed a little stunned like he was busted staring at Alexis, then he looked at William. William just smiled and pointed to the patio bar. A little red faced, Matthew walked over to the bar and took some food over to Alexis. She smiled at him, and shyly said “Thank you”, as Matthew poured the food into her hand. The fish started swarming the surface as a couple pieces fell into the water. The motion of the fish caught Alexis attention, and she quickly looked down and started dropping more food. Matthew just backed up off the bridge with his mouth partially open, as if he was going to say something. He closed his mouth and turned and walked towards the patio set.

As Matthew pulled out a chair to sit down, still staring in the pond direction, William nudged his arm saying “Don’t worry, you’ll get another chance”. Matthew just pushed his arm away and blurted “Whatever dude, what are you talking about?” William just smiled and took a sip of his drink. William new part of the reason Matthew even stayed with the group was because he had a crush on Alexis. He didn’t believe in any of the things the rest of the group did, so why else would he hang around?

As Jessica returned to the table to continue her research, she was stunned to find the journal missing from the rest of the archives on the table. She frantically started looking all over the area for it. She even went back to the washroom to see if she had taken it in there. A little panicked that she couldn’t locate it, she went to the front counter and asked Dorothy if she had taken the journal, “No I didn’t. I didn’t even know there was a journal in that collection of documents. I was in the back putting away some other documents and hadn’t even noticed that you left the room.”

Puzzled, Jessica thanked Dorothy for her help. Jessica made one last quit search around the area, grabbed her purse and sweater, and left the building. As soon as she was outside she started digging for her phone in her purse so she could call William and tell him about the strange experiences she had while trying to research the old mill.

William heard his phone ring with Jessicas ringtone. “It’s about time” he thought. He picked up the phone and before he could say hello, Jessica started talking with excitement in her voice and real fast, “You’ll never believe what I found, the apparition we saw, isn’t actually Mr. Anderson, its Mr. Johnsons. He’s been haunting the house since he took the map from the traveller and went and found the gold and spent it.”

“Whoa, whoa, slow down. You’re not making any sense. Take a deep breath and start over”, snapped William.

“Look”, said Jessica, “I found a journal that told of a traveller who showed up unannounced and was injured in an accident at the old mill that is on the property by the river. It turns out that he had robbed a train carrying government gold which was supposed to support the Union army, that he intended on giving to the Confederate army in the south. He hid it before the Union soldiers caught up to him.” She continued to explain the rest of the story and the connection to the original owners of the home.

William couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He asked if anything else was in the journal, then Jessica explained how it mysteriously vanished when she took a break to splash water onto her face. “That sucks” replied William, with an angry tone.

Jessica: “You’re telling me. I was hoping to find out more about the past of the old mill and the Johnsons. When I get back to the house, we’ll try to find a connection to what we saw and what I read.”

William: “Okay, but don’t take too long. Pops ordered some pizzas and they should be here soon.”

Jessica: “Sounds great, because I’m starved.”

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