When the third-grade class from Coyote Valley Elementary School visits each spring, the question most commonly asked of Stone House docents is, "What about Camphor?"
"Camphor" is the name assigned some years ago to our Stone House ghost. Can we verify her existence? (We feel confident it's a "her" rather than a "him".) Well, no, not exactly. But can we deny she exists -- no, can't do that either.
When our Society members first began renovating the Stone House, around 1990, from time to time they noticed a faint odor of camphor, a medicinal tincture little used in the past 50 or 60 years but commonly used before that. There was no apparent reason for the aroma.
One day several members saw a large basket of artificial ferns fall from a sturdy hook that remained firmly affixed to the ceiling. Here too, there was no reasonable explanation. No one could have touched it. There was no breeze. Nothing else fell.
Perhaps our most active founding member was Louise Saunders, who -- while painting inside the closed-up house one chilly day -- voiced a fervent wish for a breath of air free of paint thinner fumes. Almost immediately a refreshing draft swept down the hall and freshened the air. Louise is still awed when she recalls the occasion. "It was totally unexplainable," she says.
One member claims to have once caught a brief glimpse of Camphor, although no one else in the room at the time did. She describes her as "a slight white-haired lady wearing a gingham dress and smiling as if glad to have company."
Another brought visiting relatives to see Stone House but finding it locked merely peered in windows. They claim to have seen a curtain pulled back as if someone were looking out.
All that was years ago. In recent years, Camphor has apparently been anchored to a massive, heavy, cast iron and bronze hanging oil lamp in the parent's bedroom. Occasionally, the lamp starts swinging when there is no explanation. A number of us have seen the swinging, have verified that nothing else in the room is moving even the slightest bit, not even the delicate flowers on the bureau next to it.
It's been postulated that perhaps Camphor is attempting to communicate. The lamp's swaying seems most apparent when the lady-of-the-house, any house, might be truly pleased or truly annoyed.
Last year, a girl in the third-grade class whispered excitedly, "I saw her!" But when we begged her to explain, she wouldn't talk.
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