A True Ghost Story collected by folklorist S.E. Schlosser
Late one evening the three of us were hanging out when Alec said he wanted to go up to Peapack to check out a house for sale. Once in the car, Alec said it was an old, run-down Italianate mansion with twenty-six fireplaces that used to be owned by nuns but had been abandoned. It sat on fifty acres of property, including beautifully terraced grounds. By this time, I was feeling a little nervous about the whole thing. It was a funny time of night to be checking out houses, and I was convinced Alec was more interested in adventure than in real estate!
We pulled off the road and parked the car near a wooded area, at the back of the property. The mansion itself was at the top of a hill, still quite a distance away. Of course, it was a cloudy, dark night and the roadside was pitch black with no streetlamps. I shivered as I followed Alec and Steve into the woods.
It was a fairly long and spooky walk. Finally, we came out onto an overgrown lawn looking up toward several terraces that stretched up, and up.
I nervously followed Alec and Steve up the stairs to the first- and then the second-tier terrace. The mansion loomed tall and ominous in the darkness, and the wind shook the treetops and moaned through the overgrown shrubbery.
When we reached the top terrace, Alec and Steve moved toward the back doors of the mansion, determined to find a way inside. I hung back. There was no way I was going any closer to that creepy monstrosity. I glanced up at the third story. The dormered windows gaped like dark eyes. I trembled.
Suddenly, a ball of light appeared in the window. I blinked in surprise; I was sure Alec had said the house was abandoned. The light seemed to float, and before my astonished gaze, it expanded and formed into a glowing feminine figure. I gasped in shock, my heart pounding so hard in my chest that I thought it would explode. I tore my gaze away from the window, calling out to Alec.
“Alec,” I whispered urgently. “Let’s get out of here!”
Something in my tone penetrated his thick head, and he and Steve loped over to where I was standing. As soon as they reached me, I took off at a pace that the best Olympic athlete would have had trouble matching. I had the engine running and the car turned around by the time Alec and Steve made it back to the road. They leapt inside, and I took off.
“You said the mansion was abandoned,” I said accusingly.
“It was. It is,” said Alec.
“Except for the killer nuns,” Steve added from the back seat.
I shrieked. “Killer nuns?”
“Sure,” Steve said, leaning forward between the two front seats and glancing from me to Alec. “Didn’t Alec tell you about the crazy Mother Superior who became a pagan and tortured and killed her fellow sisters when they refused to join her evil practices? She chopped them up and scattered pieces of their bodies throughout the mansion. There was blood everywhere when the police came to investigate! The Mother Superior’s ghost is supposed to haunt the terraces at the back of the house. They say she tries to lead you into the mansion in order to torture and kill you.”
Shivering, I dropped off the boys and went home. For the rest of the night, my dreams were filled with the glowing figure of a homicidal nun, who chased me down the endless terraces of an Italianate mansion, holding an axe.
A longer version of the story appears in Spooky New Jersey.
Author retelling: This is a unique author retelling of this folktale. This version of the story is copyrighted to S.E. Schlosser. See the Permissions page for information on reprints.