Terrance Cronyn was a retired school master who lived in a small, graciously appointed apartment on the first floor of the Lower School at Bishop Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ontario, which I attended, as did my brothers and our uncles and grandfather before us. Mr. Cronyn (a cousin of the actor, Hume Cronyn, also a Ridley alumnus), was a regular around campus always dressed in a jacket and bow tie, wearing a hat, and carrying a cane, which he didn’t really use, but which hung over one of his arms as he walked. He was a fixture in the spring and fall alongside whichever athletic pitch was in use, nodding and smiling pleasantly to any of us students as we swept by, but never saying much, and, really, apart from those interactions, generally maintaining a safe distance from campus life.
But if by chance you got to know Mr. Cronyn or were on good terms with another student who knew Mr. Cronyn, it could result in an invitation to his apartment whereupon he would be willing (since you asked) to draw down from the shelf the album with the picture of the ghost – an actual ghost, caught on camera, coming down the stairs. He would explain that no one saw the ghost, only the camera saw the ghost. It is not always the case that you see ghosts. Ghosts are just there.
Ask us which are the three most frequently asked questions we get as innkeepers of New Hampshire’s oldest inn and you will hear back that one of them is, “Is it haunted?” Frankly, it has always been hard to know how to respond to that question. Answering “no” negates the deep and abiding presence of the Inn in the lives of many over the ages. We caught our friend, Stefan Barth, a long-time guest with his family while they had children attending nearby Dublin School, pondering the issue one evening, standing alone in the reception room: “It is impossible,” he mused, “that this place is not filled with the spirits of so many travelers after so many years.”
Our spirits often fill with delight, or otherwise, and who is to say what portion of that fullness remains behind as a marker for those that follow, or to await our return? You can conjure in your mind the places that are your touchstones, the places that if you were there again would imbue you with that same, full spirit. The memories of those places travel with us, but to be there again is to be truly reunited – couldn’t we say – with the fullness of the spirit we left behind.
Is that haunted?
OK, so, yes, when we first moved into the Inn there was always the distinct feeling we were being followed. New spirits meeting old spirits. “Who are you?” as the Caterpillar puffed to Alice. Each night one of us would make a lap through the Inn to check doors, lights, temperatures and to otherwise tuck-in the Inn until morning. As we wandered through the rooms and down the hallways there was a hint of company at our shoulder.
Anyone can understand the level of curiosity that might have existed from within the Inn: could we be trusted? The accumulated worth of two centuries of traveler experiences were in the hands of new people! Later, when Marcia and I moved up the road to Hunts Pond after buying the Market and needed more help at the Inn, Duncan and Sue Peltason took over as Resident Innkeepers. We explained that one of the jobs would be to serve as the last person through the Inn at night to check on things, which Duncan attended to, dutifully. Soon into the transition I asked Duncan, “Are you being followed?” He smiled, “Yes, how did you know?”
We are all at home in the Inn these days. No one feels like they are being followed, although it doesn’t mean no one is watching. We feel the companionship of the Inn every day, which is nice, especially during the winter when it’s slow and we are alone more often. These days, of course, the COVID pandemic means we are more alone and we lean further on that companionship. The Inn is joyful and content in response, the benefit, we suppose, of the accumulated worth of its experiences. You can’t see them, but they are there. Deep and abiding.