The Pink Ghost of Franklin Square
by Charles Weathers Bump
The Ghost appeared very modestly at first. Some children sitting on a
bench just before dark saw it in the second-story window of one of those
big old brownstone fronts on Fayette street, on the south side of
Franklin Square. It seemed so uncanny and weird to them that they talked
a lot about it when they went that evening to their homes on South
Stricker street. The parents pooh-poohed it, of course, and told the
children there was no cause for alarm. But when one of the little girls,
after a restless, troubled effort to get to sleep, had had a strenuous
nightmare, and had alarmed the household by shrieking that the woman in
pink was beckoning, the older folk decided to investigate.
The next night there was no ghost. Two fathers sat with the children in
the Square from supper time until after 9 o'clock, but nothing happened.
Naturally, the fathers thought it a pure case of nerves. But the
children were so insistent and so circumstantial in their story that the
older heads wavered and returned on the following evening.
And then they saw the Ghost!
Just after the June sun had left the trees and a few dying gleams were
coloring the tops of the tall houses on Carey street, on the east side
of the Square, the Ghost showed itself at the window the children had
pointed out. It was a figure nebulous and hazy, but undeniably pink. It
appeared right at the window, and after standing still for a moment
began to wave its long arms with fantastic gestures, and to make other
movements which the children interpreted as beckoning to them. Then it
evaporated, but in another moment reappeared and went through more
The exclamations of the children attracted the attention of others in
the Square, and soon a score of people stood fascinated and puzzled by
the weird vision. It lasted perhaps five minutes more, quite up to when
darkness settled down on the Square, and none was able to explain or
give any reasonable solution of what all had undeniably seen. They
continued to watch, and continued to discuss, but the vanished Ghost
came no more that evening.
The next night, the news having spread, there were a hundred persons or
more in the southeast part of the Square. The Ghost came on time and
went through the same antics. The wonderment and the mystery grew. And
still none could explain, though a resident of the block stated that the
house under watch was temporarily without occupants, as the family who
dwelt in it had been gone to Europe for some weeks.
It was four days after this before the police heard of it. By that time,
with the exception of the "cops," it seemed as though everybody in
Southwest Baltimore was discussing the Ghost. A reporter worked up a
lively tale about it for an afternoon paper, and Round Sergeant Norman,
as he left the station-house that evening, was instructed to "lay the
Ghost." You know the police don't believe in the supernatural. Too often
etherealized ghosts turn out to be most mundane burglars and
The Sergeant found a thousand eager watchers in the Square when he
arrived. The afternoon paper had evidently been digested well. Each
watcher was straining his eyes at the brownstone mansion on Fayette
street. From the windows of several Carey-street houses curious persons
leaned out, and even on the west, at the Franklin-Square Hospital, there
were other interested observers.
"It's either a 'fake' or a burglar," declared the Sergeant positively,
as he took the "cub" reporter to task for making such capital out of the
Ghost. He was just about to narrate some of his own experiences with
bogus spooks when the Pink Ghost became visible, and the Sergeant
started and uttered a surprised exclamation. A thousand other pairs of
eyes had seen it, and a thousand throats called out, in varied strength
"There it is! There it is!"
A hush fell over the crowd as they watched the figure in pink. The
deepening shadows toned the dark-brown front of the mansion until it
framed the outlines in the window with considerable positiveness. But
the uncanny nature of the appearance was also in evidence, for one could
see right through the figure in pink to the room behind it. Those near
the Round Sergeant saw him remove his helmet and mop the increasing
perspiration from his forehead.
"That beats the devil," he muttered.
The Ghost began to wave its arms, to bend over and then straighten up;
to beckon and then to make gestures as if of denial. The Sergeant's awe
was great, but no whit more intense than that of the crowd. They were
face to face with a bit of the supernatural, puzzled, wondering,
doubting, scoffing, fascinated, alarmed.
"By Jiminy!" exclaimed the Sergeant. "That's the strangest thing I've
ever seen, Howard. We'll have to go into that house."
But their visit that night was destined to be futile. Some minutes were
lost in gaining access to the rear roof through the house next on the
west, and some minutes more in prying open a shutter and forcing a
carefully locked sash. By this time the twilight had deepened into
night, and the Sergeant lit a borrowed lantern to make the trip down the
stairway to the second-story front. There was nothing strange or
supernatural in the room; no sign of a pink ghost or any other being,
human or spiritual. The furniture and other fittings seemed undisturbed
and as regularly arranged as they had probably been when the owners went
away. And when Howard, the reporter, raised a window, a hundred watchers
in the street and Square were ready to vouchsafe the information that
the Ghost had been gone quite ten minutes.
The Sergeant swore. Then he muttered: "It certainly is queer." Then he
took Howard on a thorough inspection of the house, from cellar to roof.
They poked into cupboards, turned over mattresses, peeped into bureau
drawers and boxes and a score of other articles too small to have hidden
anything human. But nary a sign was there of ghost, burglar or joker.
"It beats the devil," again remarked the Sergeant as he and Howard,
perspiringly hot, left the house about 9 o'clock.
The following morning the papers were full of it. Southwest Baltimore no
longer mortgaged the new sensation. All Baltimore discussed it and
speculated what it might be. And, as a result, the crowd of watchers as
the June day drew to a close numbered not one, but many, thousands.
Around at the Concord Club they said it beat any political mass-meeting
ever seen. The Square was overrun, and everybody talked "Pink Ghost."
Captain Delany ordered out the police reserves to keep the crowd in
check and give the cars a chance to get by. With Round Sergeant Norman,
the Captain personally superintended the preparations to lay the ghost.
The Pink Ghost did not disappoint them. It came to the window on
scheduled time—just as the shadows deepened in Franklin Square—and it
waved its arms from the window and beckoned to the awed and puzzled
multitude. Captain Delany gave a signal, and from front and rear his
picked men swarmed into the empty house and rushed up the stairway. The
Round Sergeant was in the van. He had been berated and ridiculed for
not solving the mystery the night before, and he determined to be in at
the death now. But as he crossed the threshold of the front room he
started back in amazement and fell against the bluecoat behind him. The
Pink Ghost was not in the window, but swaying and frantically waving on
the west wall of the room.
"My God! what is it?" cried the man behind.
Norman could only point to the wall. His own hair was, he felt, actually
raising his helmet off his head, and there was a curious contraction in
his throat. In an instant, however, this had passed, and, with club in
hand, he charged bravely upon the Ghost. As he neared it, however, a
surprise awaited him. Instead of waving arms, he saw his own burly form
shadowed on the outer edge of the pink nebula. He turned upon his heel,
quickly bent over, and then burst into loud laughter. For him the riddle
of the Pink Ghost was solved.
"What is it, Norman? What is it, man? Is he crazy?"
The other policemen pushed into the room to be enlightened, but the
Sergeant only laughed the more immoderately. Delany became angry and
started to seize Norman by the shoulder. This brought the Captain into
the pink nebula and he understood Norman's hilarity.
"By gad, that's funny," he cried, and he entered upon a joint spasm of
mirth. The other bluecoats drew near, and as each came into the pink
glow the chorus swelled. Such a lot of uproarious policemen had rarely
been known in Baltimore.
Five minutes later Captain Delany and Sergeant Norman, having at last
controlled themselves, left the closing of the house to subordinates and
crossed the square to a house on Carey street, where they asked to see a
young lady abiding there. She was a very stately and fine-looking young
woman, and when she tripped down into the parlor the attractiveness of
her face was heightened by a slight flush, due most likely to her
wonderment at a visit from two policemen. When they left her ten minutes
later her face was rosy red and her stately carriage had given way to a
combination of mirth and embarrassment. But Delany had her positive
assurance that there would be no more Pink Ghost.
"For, you see, it was this way," he explained to the reporters who
stopped him outside. "The young woman seems to have a steady beau every
evening, for whom she likes to do a bit of fixin' up and primping. And
after supper she makes her way to her room, which is in the front of the
top floor, and there she combs and rearranges her hair and puts on
gew-gaws and trimmings. And in these long summer days, when the sun has
left the square, it is still comin' into those high windows."
"But what has she to do with the Ghost?" asked one irrepressible.
"I was a-comin' to that, youngster," retorted the man in blue; "but if
ye're overanxious, it may satisfy yer to know she was the Pink Ghost.
Leastwise, the sun's reflection was the ghost and she was the movin'
figure that made the shadow do such queer antics. She had a bureau in
the back of her room so fixed that when the rays of the dying sun come
into the window on the north they are reflected in the bureau glass and
pass out of the south window and across the square to that there
brownstone front where you all saw the Ghost. Every time she raised her
arms to her hair or made any other movement in dressing before the
mirror she butt into the reflection and caused your Pink Ghost to do
"And you say there won't be any more Pink Ghost?"
"Not unless the young woman gets careless and leaves up that south
blind. For she sort o' has an idea tonight that the whole of this end of
town has been watching her get ready to meet her beau."