From the moment NPR News made me aware of the mass grave of 57 Irish workers at Duffy's Cut near Merion in Pennsylvania, I knew there had to be ghosts. Seen or unseen--and almost certainly seen by SOMEBODY--they were there. I am respectful of the paranormal, and I know enough to recognize that where there has been violent or tragic death there is a higher than average manifestation of paranormal phenomena.
The paranormal was not mentioned by NPR, nor by the Smithsonian Magazine, nor--if I remember correctly--by Fox News. These were the only more or less conventional media outlets in which I encountered the story, although it may have been picked up by others.
I must admit, I was surprised when the first person to mention having possibly encountered ghostly emanations from the long-ago tragedy was Dr. William Watson, head of the history department at Immaculata University and later a leader in the archeological excavation. But this was long before he had heard the story of the Irish railroad workers who had disappeared during the cholera epidemic of 1832. It was also some years before he and his twin brother, a Lutheran pastor named Dr. Frank Watson, realized that fate had chosen them for key roles in solving the mystery and doing justice to the dead workers.
Here's how it happened.
The Watsons' grandfather, himself a man of keen historical interests, had worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. This railroad had absorbed the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, on whose construction the Duffy's Cut 57 had been working. The route still is in use--today, Amtrak runs within a few yards of where the Irish immigrants died.
Martin Clement, a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad was the Watsons' grandfather's immediate boss. He was aware of the long-ago Duffy's Cut episode, and kept a file in which he collected everything related to the tragedy. The file began in the late 19th century and continued on until the 1930s. Clement used to show it to people and caution them that they must not talk about it; the railroad didn't want the information made public.
The railroad president also built a wall around the area where he believed the men had been buried. The wall still is there.
Why would you keep a file on something you and your organization would like to have forgotten? And share it with assorted others, no less?
"We've speculated about Clement's motives," commented Professor William Watson. "There could be a feeling of guilt about it. Also, his own grandfather may have been involved in the prosecution of some of the Mollie Maguires."
Whatever the reasons, it seems likely that Clement lived with ghosts of his own.
When the Watsons' grandfather died, a few years after William had seen the luminous, dancing figures outside his office window, the professor and his brother Frank sorted through the older man's possessions.
That seems to have been the first time the brothers knew about Duffy's Cut. The first time William had a plausible explanation for the dancers on the lawn--just three miles from the site where the Irish workers were believed to be buried. The last time life for the Watsons and the colleagues who joined them in the Duffy's Cut Project would be what they had previously thought of as normal.
Quite an inheritance!