In the spirit of Halloween

picture from

photo retrieved from google image

I bring you “Antigonish”, an odd little poem written in 1899 by Hughes Mearns when he was a student at Harvard.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

According to wikipedia, he was inspired by a haunted house in Nova Scotia, but the only Nova Scotian haunted house story I could discover took place in the early 1920s when a Scottish farmer, Alexander MacDonald, his wife, and 15 year old daughter were terrorized by a fire-setting poltergeist (obviously the teenaged girl). Apparently, they went so far as to get a ghost hunter from Temple University to investigate. No conclusive evidence materialized.

But the poem, “Antigonish”, had an afterlife of its own. In 1939 a couple of songwriters discovered it and it became a huge hit. Here’s Mildred Bailey singing a cool, jazzy version:

I’m off to the church bazaar now — have a great weekend and don’t be surprised if you (don’t) meet a little man upon the stair!