In June of this year, I spent a week on Star Island with several friends. Located seven miles off of the New Hampshire coast, it is one of the Isles of Shoals and in 1677 was first permanently settled, regardless of the Native American warnings to white men that “something evil was there that was not of this world”. Yes, ghosts. And a lot of them, according to what book, what television show or what old Shoaler story you listen to.
This was my second trip to the island. Last summer, I did have two strange experiences in the small cottage I shared with seven of my friends. I heard someone running up and down the hallway in the middle of the night, which was impossible since the hallway was only twenty foot long. I also ‘dreamed’ I was thrown out of bed by someone claiming that I was in their room. The next morning, I had a large bruise on my thigh, as if it weren’t a dream at all. This summer, I saw the famous ‘unexplained red lights’ that appear off the island, lights that have been reported for over two hundred years. I called to my friend, Jerri Clayton, and made sure she saw them too. Others said it was just the moon, but I’ve seen a lot of moons in my days, and I’m claiming it was the mysterious lights. Period.
There are several ghosts that have been seen over the years, and I know most of the stories. One of my favorites is that three little girls have been seen playing in their small graveyard that can only be reached by a rocky path away from the central area of the island. While exploring, another friend and I wandered out to the graveyard. The heavy stone wall that once supported the railing and metal arch now look like an old foundation. In the center, covered in green and brownish moss is a small obelisk. To the right of the obelisk are three tiny headstones: the graves of Jessie, Millie and Mitty Beebe.
The small island was populated by impoverished fishing families in 1857 when Reverend George Beebe was sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Natives and Others to minister to the residents. He fathered a brood of children during his ten years on the island. In 1863, Mitty Beebe was seven years old and had started going to school on the mainland, traveling by ferry. It was there that she contracted scarlet fever or diphtheria, depending on the story being told, and passed it on to her younger sisters, Jessie and Millie, aged two and four.
On the obelisk that stands in the graveyard are three inscriptions, one under each girls name. Jessie’s is unreadable, worn over the years. Below Millie's name the memorial reads: "Dying she kneeled down and prayed: Please Jesus, take me up to the Lighted Place. And HE did." Mitty's inscription says: "I don't want to die, but I'll do just as Jesus wants me to."
Rev. Beebe built the family cemetery apparently intending to stay on Star. But in 1867, four years after their deaths, the remaining members of the Beebe family moved to Littleton, NH, leaving the three sisters behind.
Did I see the three little girls playing in their graveyard? No. I tend to think ghosts know when you are looking for them and many times choose not to make an appearance. However, sitting in the graveyard, I was sure of their presence. The sadness I had initially felt for them was replaced by another feeling, which I find hard to define, and can only describe as-- peace. Three young girls, their family long gone. But they have each other--and an eternal playground to roam.