Some Real American Ghosts
An Idiot Ghost with Brass Buttons
by Joseph Lewis French
June 16, 1889)
In a pretty but old-fashioned house in Stuyvesant square—ghosts
like squares, I think—is another ghost. This house stood empty for
several years, and about six years ago a gentleman, his wife and
little daughter moved in there, and while fitting up allowed the child
to play about the empty attic, which had apparently been arranged for
a children's playroom long ago. There was a fireplace and a large
fireboard in front of it.
When the house was about finished down stairs the mother began to
pay more attention to the little girl and tried to keep her down there
with her, but the child always stole away and went back up stairs
again and again, until finally the mother asked why she liked to go up
there so much. She replied that she liked to play with the funny
little boy. Investigation showed that it was utterly impossible for
any person, man or child, to get in that place or be concealed there,
but the little girl insisted and told her parents that he "went in
there," pointing to the fireboard.
The parents were seriously concerned, believing that their
daughter was telling them an untruth, and threatened to punish her for
it, but she insisted so strongly that she saw and played with a "funny
little boy, with lots of brass buttons on his jacket," that they
finally gave up threatening and resolved to investigate.
The father, who is an old sea captain, found out that this house
had been occupied by an Englishman named Cowdery who had had three
children—two boys and a girl. One of the boys was an idiot. This
idiot was supposed to have fallen into the East River, as his cap was
found there, and he had always shown a liking for the river when his
nurse took him out. Soon after this Mr. Cowdery moved West.
This was enough for my friend's friend, who had the fireboard
taken down, and short work in the wall by the side of the chimney
brought the body of the unfortunate idiot boy. The back of his skull
was crushed in. He still had the dark blue jacket on, with four rows
of buttons on the front. The poor little bones were buried and the
affair kept quiet, but the captain left the house.