GRAFTON, Mass. — If you step into the Grafton Inn you’ll quickly get a sense it fits the profile of a haunted house.
Have you ever experienced a ghostly encounter?
First, it’s old, built in 1805. If that’s not enough evidence, walk into the carriage entrance, over the creaky floors to a sitting area filled with creepy patina of accumulated history. On a table sits a framed copy of an ancient ambrotype photo with two darkened, nightmarish images of a woman and boy standing outside. On the wall is a Victorian era portrait of a woman staring with cold eyes.
During the Grafton Inn’s 207-year-old life, countless transients checked in briefly en route to somewhere else. But the mind can’t help but wonder of the faceless one or two who possibly never checked out.
John Pardee, who has owned the inn for 12 years, knows an unexplained story or two, but his wife, Laurie, had a real fright. “She was in Room 7 with the housekeeper,” he said, “when she felt an eerie, cold feeling as if someone walked right through her.”
That “someone” is Martha, a woman known by the inn staff as an “old soul”, dressed in a 19th century hoop skirt, who lives upstairs within seven small guest rooms she shares with unsuspecting out of towners seeking a New England getaway.
No one knows exactly who she is or where she came from. No records exist. Folklore says she is either old or young, and that Martha died while spending a night in one of the guest rooms, sometime in the 1800s, and has been racking up a hellishly large unpaid room tab since.
Some say she stays only in room 7, but one guest said that the “hotspot” is within three rooms in the corner of the building, next to a dark winding staircase that leads up to the building’s cupola.
Ashley Sullivan, from Longview, Texas, stayed in Room 6 with her husband for two weeks during a working vacation in August. Her mother-in-law stayed across the hall in Room 9. Room 7 was unoccupied.
“On the second night, I heard knocking on my door,” Sullivan said. “When I opened it, there was no one there. Immediately after I shut it, I heard the knock again. Loud. I opened it fast, but still no one. Then I started to get scared.
“My mother-in-law complained her closet door kept opening, and she heard voices in room 7 even though no one was staying here. I didn’t think too much about it, it is an old building.
“One night, my husband and I were asleep, when I heard a loud bang on the wall like someone in the next room wanted me to quiet down. But we were the only ones on the floor.
“The next day, I repeated the story to the innkeepers and they told me about Martha.
"I went back to my room, took a series of photos with my phone and, on one, captured an image of a woman’s shadow, reflected in the mirror.”
Later in their stay, while lying in bed, Sullivan said she kept hearing someone whispering in her ear, but could not make out the words. “It was kind of calming,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid because I never sensed it wanted to hurt me.”
Before staying at the Grafton Inn, Sullivan considered herself “open minded” to the existence of ghosts. Her husband, she said, is a skeptic.
But the next morning, he complained she talked in her sleep all night.
He said it sounded like she was whispering in his ear.
Sullivan and her husband weren't scared away, in fact they enjoyed it so much they returned in September for two nights.
"Nothing happened," she said. "We stayed in Room 3, which I guess is not a hot spot."