Mr. Hunter looked at the clock and dropped his lecture voice.
“Ok. So it’s Halloween season, right? Do you know Huntington has its own history of ghost stories?”
“Like Mellonheads?” Horrowitz ventured.
“That’s a rather newer one, but ok, so you’ve heard of the Mellonheads.” Mr. Hunter leaned back against the wall. “Anyone else?”
“Hannah Cranna?” One of the boys in the back piped up.
“Yep,” Mr. Hunter nodded, “ that’s one from Monroe. Now, how many of you know about Sigismund Chesterville?”
To his surprise, Ronald found that his hand was in the air.
“Fairfax?” Mr. Hunter turned to face him. “Evidently, we’ve got a connoisseur of local history.”
Ronald’s mouth felt dry and his mind went curiously blank. He had a sudden sense of panic at the thought that he might be asked to say something more.
To his relief, Mr. Hunter went on. “Ok, so see how much of this you know, Fairfax, and the rest of you can learn something new.”
Ronald swallowed hard and the saliva returned to his mouth. There was a slight pressure on the right side of his face, but his thoughts began to return.
“Back about a hundred years ago, they used to call Chesterville ‘the wickedest man in New England.’ He’s supposed to have used divination to find gold that the British buried during the Revolution and used it to buy an immense house along the banks of the Housatonic River, not far from here. That house burnt down when he died and no one’s been able to build on the property since. Two men working for the W.P.A. in the 1930s went digging there looking for his treasure and reported being chased off by wolves –wolves haven’t been seen in Connecticut for two-hundred years. According to his own claims while living, Chesterville drove his wife mad, conversed regularly in his parlor with the spirits of the witches who died at Salem, killed six men by black magic, and started World War I. Talk about an egoist. Now, if you check in the town hall records, which I did once when I was down there doing some genealogical research, you’ll find that he died in a hunting accident. What local legend says is that he tried to swindle the Devil at a game of lawn bowling one night and they were picking pieces of him off the trees the next morning. Supposedly the pieces were still shaking so his friends cremated him and dumped his ashes in the river.
Now, here’s the interesting part: Chesterville’s tombstone is in the old Cemetery about ten minutes drive from here. When I was a kid, they used to say that you could light a candle on Chesterville’s grave and if you blew it out and said his name three times then his spirit would come and re-light the candle. Lot of rubbish, right? Well about a year ago last September, when we had all that rain, I was driving home –and it was coming down cats and dogs, wind howling- and what did I see in the cemetery? There was a candle up on Chesterville’s grave, burning strait and clear.”
He stopped, and there were a few awkward chuckles across the room.
“Well, anyhow, the bell’s about to ring, so there you go. No homework tonight.”