The Lady in Black

by IndigoCat

Universe: The Magnificent Seven After Twilight

Based on a North Carolina ghost story that takes place in the days before the railroads.

In 1876, Fred Harvey opened one of his restaurants and hotels in Sanford, Arizona. During its day, the Sanford Harvey House became a popular stop on the route from St. Louis to the Western states.

According to the legend on December 9, 1890, as rain began to fall, the westbound train stopped at the Sanford Harvey House to give its passengers a chance to eat. Even though it was winter, thunder and lightning disturbed the day.

One of the passengers would be left behind, not by choice. A black clad woman with graying blond hair had suffered a seizure and lapsed into unconsciousness an hour before the train's arrival. The manager of the Harvey House sent for the local doctor, Charles Winchester, to come and care for the woman who had been carried to the right front room on the second floor. His attempts to save her life were in vain. As the grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight, she breathed her last, never regaining consciousness. At the same moment with a last rumble of thunder, the storm ended.

A search of her French leather luggage yielded several dresses, suits, hats, jewelry, three decks of playing cards and several large rocks, but no clues to her identify. A telegraph to the railroad company revealed that the woman boarded the train in St. Louis to travel to Ridge City. One of the conductors recalled she spoke very little on the trip west. She just sat and stared out the window at the passing scenery. Another conductor recalled seeing her before as a passenger, but didn't remember her name.

When no more information was forth coming, Dr. Winchester arranged for the woman's burial at the town cemetery. Most of the town as well as the Harvey House employees gathered for the funeral.

That was believed to be the end of her story until a few weeks during another stormy night.

Dr. Winchester was returning home after helping a patient deliver her first child. Lightning illuminated a black-clad figure on the road ahead of him. When he rode closer, he saw that the woman's skin was bluish in color. Shocked, he recognized the woman whose body he had seen buried just weeks before. Lightning flashed once more. When the doctor could see again, the woman was gone. A search of the area showed no trace of her.

At the beginning of the twentieth-century, a young man was staying at the Harvey House. The ghost confronted him in his room. The man recalled the apparition taking a step towards him, a smile on her bluish features and calling him, "Ezra." As he stumbled backwards in fear, the smile left her face and she faded from his sight.

Decades passed. The Sanford Historical Society now owned the Harvey House. Late one night the directory of the historical society received a call from the security company that an alarm inside the former hotel had went off. Thinking that someone had left a door opened, she woke her husband and together, they drove to the building. Lights were on in the Harvey House. Her husband checked the door while she peeked through one of the windows. Inside, she saw a woman in a nineteenth century black traveling suit walking through the lobby. She motioned her husband over. He saw the woman entering the dining room. The director unlocked the front door and stepped inside with her husband into the lighted lobby. Darkness engulfed them. Hurriedly, she flipped on a light switch. A quick search of the building revealed no one else inside. Unnerved, she remembered the stories of the Lady in Black she had scoffed at. Grabbing her husband by the arm, they left the building.

On December 9, 1990, a century after the unidentified woman’s death, a violent thunderstorm struck the town. Winds uprooted trees as the storm grew in savage fury. At midnight, lightning struck the Harvey House in the right-front room on the second floor. Moments later, nothing remained of the hotel except for smoldering ruins. As the roof caved in, the storm abruptly ended and the skies cleared.

The Lady in Black was never seen again.

The End