A Clarkson Mosaic - page 542

Because of the pervasiveness through time of reports about the Ghost of Holcroft, its
description is being included here as a separate entry. This particular article was researched
and written by Wendy Phraner '93 in spring 1992 for the editing course taught by Prof. Brad
Whispering, lights going on and off for no reason, phone receivers jumping into the air, and
strange stepping sounds have all been attributed to "Elizabeth," commonly known as the ghost
of Holcroft House. Mistakenly, she is assumed to be the ghost of Elizabeth Clarkson, Thomas.
S. Clarkson's sister. Many believe that Elizabeth Clarkson lived in Holcroft House with her two
sisters Lavinia and Frederica. This is not true. Thomas Clarkson and his sisters lived not far
from Holcroft at the family mansion, The Homestead, which burned to the ground in 1909.
After The Homestead burned, Elizabeth and her sisters moved to New York City. The only time
they may have gone back to Holcroft would have been during the summers. Thus, the ghost
probably is not the spirit of Elizabeth Clarkson after all.
Most of the sightings and strange happenings have occurred on the third floor of
Holcroft. Here, curtains have closed themselves after being opened. Voices, footsteps, and
whispers have been heard when no one was around. Even a pet rabbit, who was calm during the
day, would become terrified at night and "thump" at the presence of something unseen.
Interestingly, there was no third floor when Holcroft was built in 1821. It wasn't until
sometime after 1853 that the third floor was added. At that time, it was used as servants
quarters, so the ghost may even be the spirit of one of the servants from that era. The house
changed hands many times until the late 1920s after which it remained empty until it was
opened as a men's dorm in
However, no record of the men seeing the ghost exists. The first record of "Elizabeth"
being seen dates back to the 1970s, when Holcroft was a women's dormitory. Many of the girls
became used to her and the things she apparently did. Those who saw the ghost described her as
"a woman in her late twenties or thirties, dressed in a long, dark skirt and a blousy blouse, with
leg-o-mutton sleeves, tight at the forearm then expanding and gathering at the elbows."
According to Anne Patrice Hickey '75, there were "zillions of buttons down the arm of the
blouse. Her hair was pulled back off her face and she appeared very sad." In a
Watertown Daily
interview, Miss Hickey recalled one night "lying in bed ready to go to sleep, but not
asleep, when I became aware that someone was at the foot of the bed." When she looked up, the
ghost was standing there. It was 1 a.m. and dark in her room. Miss Hickey blinked, closed her
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