The events that mold our lives usually happen when we are looking the other way. We blink, and fate steps on our toes. Relationships are the same way. We hold a door open and our soul mate smiles at us. People who experience the paranormal often come face to face with the butterfly effect, wondering what it was that brought them to the park that night or what attracted them to the house they now cringe to enter. Kenny, a former resident of East Dedham, Massachusetts, met the woman who would change his ideas about life almost thirty years ago.
Unfortunately, she was dead.
On October 27, 1977, Kenny experienced something that would have a profound effect on his life: so profound he recites the date from his teenage years today without even thinking about when it happened. He was walking to his Grandparent’s house in East Dedham at about 4:30 p.m., just as the sun was setting. Unlike other teenagers, he enjoyed going over there and often made the short trip from his house.
As he walked he noticed an odd, sparkling glow underneath a streetlight about 150 yards away. It being Halloween time, he thought it might be a Halloween decoration, but as he got closer he saw it was the perfect image of a woman. Thinking it might be a gag he kept walking towards her, looking for some type of projector creating the image, but the closer he got the more defined her face and features became. As he came several yards from the image he realized he was staring at a ghost.
The woman was in her late 30’s or early 40’s, tall, with her hair tied up in a pun and pinned down. She was wearing a long pleated dress almost to the ground with puffy shoulders, but her feet were clearly several inches above the pavement. One odd feature he still remembers is her long fingernails. The entire figure was in white, and she seemed translucent, as if she were a projection, and Kenny continued to look around for something that was throwing her up there. The woman was completely still, and image and not an interactive spirit, and she stood with her mouth open and her hands at 90 degree angles with her palms up. What Kenny really remembers, even today, is the detail of her clothes and face. She was not in this world, but he could see every line of
her face and every wrinkle of her clothes.
He became convinced he was seeing a ghost when he began to circle the woman in white. He was 3 or 4 feet from her and she appeared in three dimensions, hologram technology too advanced for the late seventies. He was curious, not scared, and although he considered himself open-minded but by no accounts a believer in ghosts, he thought there might be a reason she was there. During the entire encounter, the street was completely silent, and he felt there should be more activity or that someone would come by and see them. He asked her who she was and if there was any reason for her to appear, but she did not move or speak. After about ten minutes, he began to feel there was something wrong with his grandparents and ran the rest of the way to their house.
Kenny arrived at their house, winded and a bit nervous. The asked him what was wrong, but he stayed silent until he grandfather asked him why he was off. Kenny eventually opened up and told him the whole story, but his grandfather did not seem startled by his tale. He had experienced something similar when he was younger in that same area while he was working a pony cart. It was just dark when he saw a woman come out of the woods and knew it was a ghost. He whipped the horse to get out of there quick and never went on the road after that when it was dark.
He attributed it to a story he had heard about a man who either had killed his wife and dumped her in the water to be found later or had killed her near the water. The brook where she was found became known as Murder Brook. Kenny’s grandfather believed he had seen the murdered woman walking from the water to her house, trying to get home.
Although he was known as a character, Kenny believed his grandfather. Kenny had never been strongly religious or thought about death, but what he had experienced caused him to doubt what he did believe. He held his feeling inside though, never daring to tell anyone for fear of being thought crazy or ridiculed. It wasn’t until he was pressed because of his change of moods that he finally told his closest friend, Tom. Tom was silent about the haunting, but came back a while later and said he wanted Kenny to meet someone.
Kim was slightly younger than the boys, but she had told Tom a story and had sworn him to secrecy. Murder Brook ran through her backyard, and for the past ten years she had seen the ghost of a woman at the foot of her bed. The hauntings happened two or three times a year and disturbed her greatly. When the two of them compared descriptions of the women they matched to the finest detail.
Kenny held on to his story for almost thirty years, telling only a few people, but always wondering about the woman he had seen and the reason he had been chosen to witness.
Research shows there was a murder like the one Kenny’s grandfather described. Although there is no body of water known as Murder Brook, and the Dedham Public Library and the Dedham Historical Society were unable to find any reference to it in any literature, there is a Mother Brook nearby. They were also unable to find any legend about a woman in white walking either in the woods or near water in Dedham. Records do not say if Mother Brook was used, but a murderer did try to wash his crimes away in a body of water in East Dedham.
In 1881 James Gately killed his wife, Mary, by beating her with an ax handle. The real reason for her murder remains a mystery, but Gately was quoted as saying her hit her to pacify her. He then walked to a brook nearby, washed his bloodied self off and went back to the house to go back to sleep in his son’s room. Although the autopsy report states she died of one fatal blow to the head, the room was covered in blood and struck police at the time as the worst murder they had ever seen. He was brought to trial a year later and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to the Worcester State Hospital and is presumed to have died there because there is no record of him after that. The age of Mary at the time of her death is consistent with the ghost seen by Kenny, his grandfather and Kim, but records could not be found to prove where the Gatelys had lived and where the blood was washed off (Dedham Transcript 5/20/1882)
Even proof can be selective. As we collect more information on the Gately murder we may prove Mary Gately was killed at the very spot Kenny saw her in 1977. The mystery will never be solved for Kenny. He had walked that stretch of road his whole life and drove it as a cabby for years after. That night something was different, and it is this difference that haunts him today and keeps him coming back to that night. The ghost he saw may have moved on since then, but in some ways Kenny is still in that moment in time, trying to make sense of fate and give reason to the supernatural.