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Jerry N. Liebman '50, and his friends will go to Mexico this summer to find a soldier named Fernaudez. They will look across crumbling patios and down windswept corridor in the lonely hours of morning--for it is in these times that Fernandez is soon, riding on horseback.
Two hundred years ago, Fernandez was murdered.
Today he is a ghost. And Liebman and his friends are ghost hunters. They organized into a ghost-hunting club last year, and now while away time reading books on voodoo, reciting strange incantations at midnight, and crawling through the attics of haunted houses.
Eight Harvard students and three Radcliffe girls make up the society, which has no name, elects no officers, and meets whenever it feels like it. "We have to get together at the ghosts' convenience," says Liebman, who acts as spokesman.
My Own Girl Friend Saw Him"
Right now the group is marking time until summer, when three or four members will leave to find Fernandoz. "We're already studying manuscripts on him," Liebman states. "I know that the story is true. My own girl friend saw him.
"She was touring through Mexico with a doctor and slept one night at a stone mansion. She was dead tired but couln't fall asleep all night long, because she kept hearing a scratching noise in the room. She thought it was her dog, but it wasn't. The dog had been with the doctor all night.
"I've heard from other people who have slept there. One of them heard footsteps and hoofbeats in the courtyard every evening, and finally moved away. Another was the landlady's daughter. She once felt a spot of darkness move toward her in the night and mumble some gibberish in her ear. The next morning her ear was full of pus.
Soldier is Murdered
"The story goes that a Mexican soldier rode into the courtyard one night and was murdered. He's haunted the place ever since, We're going to get to the bottom of this."
Unfortunately for the club, Fernandez hangs out only in Mexico, and a ghost-catching expedition can't start after him until summer. Until then, the members are looking around Boston for their creaking doors and floating skulls.
Last month they got their first tip. It came from a high-school teacher who had spent two frightening weeks in a Boston mansion--a house that still stands on a busy Back Bay street, boarded-up and lonely.
The teacher moved into that house last year and almost immediately started seeing strange forms. "They centered around the stairs," she told one of the club members. "Twice I saw a figure hovering there, and I was afraid to go upstairs."
The third time it appeared she shrieked "Who's there?" It disappeared.
She fied without packing, and no one has lived in the mansion since. "We know there's something queer about it," says Liebamn. "It's on some of the most valuable land in Boston and no one will go near it."
But when the club asked permission to investigate, ther owner just said, "Spooks--they dont exist," and refused to talk aboaut it any further.
Until it hears of new inner sanctums around Boston, the group is simply reading about spooks. Members have access to special Widener stacks, where they spend several days translating old German and Spanish writings. The manuscripts explain every phase of ghostdom--how to hold black mass, how to catch a witch, and how to kill your maiden aunt with a handful of pins and some tobasco sauce.
At the group's occasional meetings, members read trnaslations to one another. "We're actually a literary club," says Liebman.
If this is true, they're probably the only literary club in the world that over planned to walk through the streets of Salem carrying live goats and disembodied hands. That was last May 1--the dread "Walpurgisnacht"--when Hanging Hill was more bewitched than ever.
But members decided that Salem citizenry might be taken aback by such a procession, and voted it down. Instead, they decided to raise the devil.
Raising the Devil
The club met in Leverett House that night and chalked a magic circle on the floor. They drew cabalistic signs on the walls and in the air, following an ancient recipe. Everyone stood on the circle, for it wasn't safe to be outside. Accord- ing to the script, all this should make the devil appear, usually in the form of a goat or a butterfly.
"That's what we expected," Liebman says. "None of us really believe in ghosts, but we aren't joking when we try these things. We just want to find a rational explanation for everything."
So far, the club has found a rational explanation for at least one mystery--the zombie. "We translated several old books," Liebman says, "and we have the answer. Zombles are just imbociles, gaunt because they're underfed. Cuban families get rid of them when they're born, and they just go wandering over the country."
"If anyone knows a good haunted house around Boston, I wish he'd tell us about it," Liebman says. "We want a place with creaking doors, floating bodies, and muffled footsteps down the hall. We'd like to spend the night there.
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