The glass that stares back at teacher

By Sandy Grubb Chapman

I certainly didn’t see It when I took the picture. It was just an old window in the back of an abandoned house in Goldfield, the nearly deserted mining town just up the hill from Victor. Nor did I see it right away when the photos came back from the lab—it was just a white blob in one of the broken panes of glass. Then I turned the slide on its side—and gasped. A man with wire-rimmed glasses was staring back at me.

One of the first friends to see the slide confirmed my suspicion. “Have you ever seen a ghost?” he asked. No, I replied. “Well, you have now.” I wanted to agree with him—I love ghost stories and tales of the weird and unexplained—but still, I tried to find a rational explanation. I couldn’t. It wasn’t a double exposure—my camera, an old Nikon FTN, prevented such things. Nor was it the image of a real person—I was alone while my boyfriend explored the old fire station next door. Maybe, I thought, the face was the reflection of some clouds, or some kind of white gunk on the glass, or something behind the window. A return visit ruled those out. The pane reflected off the ground; a plank of wood leaned against it on the other side, and a picture taken from the inside looking out showed the glass to be relatively clear.

For the next several years, the face became part of the Halloween lesson plans for my ninth-grade students in the 1970s, the spark for them to write their own spooky stories. And then the mystery deepened, darkened. A former student who’d since become a friend dropped by with her fiancé one evening and mentioned the ghost picture, which led me to drag out the old projector so Gary could see it. Susie’s reaction to it was dramatic, and though she tried to laugh it off, she was pale and shaking.

She phoned early the next day to tell me about her dream. “I was in the old house by that window. Then three men showed up and said it was time to go. They took me to the back of that old Christian Science church in Victor and gave me an operation…an abortion. I was in a bathtub… and I knew I was dying. Then they carried me downstairs to the basement. And buried me… I kept telling them I wasn’t dead yet, but they covered me over anyway with loose dirt and leaves and left me… It was so real…it didn’t feel like a dream….”

At that point, I suggested that we go to Colorado Springs one day soon to visit Clara, an old lady who’d grown up across the street from the ghost house. We’d talked on the phone, but she’d never seen the picture. Her casual reaction wasn’t what I’d expected. “Well, my word… It looks a little like George, the old man who lived there, but also a little like my father and mother.” So, the face remains unidentified, and what she told us next still gives me creepy shivers.

Wanting to know if there was any factual basis for Susie’s dream, I asked if anything bad had ever happened at the Christian Science church. “Oh no, not that I know of. But it wasn’t just a church. At one time it also had apartments, some of the nicest in Victor.” Which could explain the bathtub. “Well did anything bad ever happen in Goldfield?” I continued.

She paused, shocked. “Oh my God…I haven’t thought about this in years. There was an old abandoned store that us kids had to pass on our way to school. We were so afraid of it that we’d run past it or go three blocks out of our way to avoid it. The story was that a young girl got in trouble–got pregnant–and her mother gave her an abortion and buried her in the basement before she was dead. Just covered her over with leaves and stuff. Some of her friends found her right when she was dying.”

It was only then, after a a few moments of stunned silence, that we told her Susie’s dream.

Editor’s note: I was one of those ninth-grade students that saw that haunting photograph and wanted to publish the story after Sandy discovered all the facts.