Image in public domain and courtesy of New York Public Library taken from Wiki Commons – Click to enlarge
Jenna was in the checkout line at Victoria’s Secret when she noticed a pretty woman enter the shop. Wearing an old-fashioned black velvet dress, she reminded Jenna of Civil War pictures from her American history class.
Jenna’s friend, Hetty, was ahead of her. She tapped Hetty and whispered, “Do you see that odd lady? She dressed for Halloween, but it’s months away.”
Hetty looked around and shook her head. “I don’t see anyone odd, except you.” She smiled, taking the sting from her words.
The woman wandered around the shop, looking confused, but no one else noticed her. Jenna’s stomach dropped. Uh-oh! I’m seeing ghosts again!
Her Granny had also seen them. She’d told Jenna the best thing to do was help the poor soul move on. So, Jenna stepped out of line and went to the woman. “Are you okay, Ma’am?”
The woman’s eyes took in Jenna’s skimpy dress. In a haughty voice, she asked, “Are you a Cyprian?” Then, she murmured, “He sent me to a brothel!”
But Jenna heard and immediately said, “It’s not a brothel, Ma’am. My name’s Jenna. What’s yours?”
The woman stared at Jenna as if she was the apparition, but finally said, “My name is Abby. I’m meeting…” She paused. Her cheeks were flushed as she continued, “…a good friend at The World Newspaper, but this can’t be his office!” She started to walk away.
Jenna touched her arm. “That newspaper doesn’t exist anymore, Abby.”
“No! He sent me this picture with the address.” She reached in her small velvet purse and handed Jenna an old-fashioned picture.
Jenna recognized it as a stereoscopic picture card. Henry, her cousin, was a collector. Looking closely, she saw the sign advertising, The World Newspaper Offices. She also recognized the photographer’s name and address from Henry’s pictures.
She realized Abby’s mistake. “While this is a picture of the newspaper’s offices, the address on it is the photographer’s. They once owned this building.”
Abby’s face paled. She pulled a gold watch from her belt and peered at it. “I’m late! Manton will publish and Lincoln will destroy him. He doesn’t know it’s forged!” She rushed out the door. Jenna followed calling, “Abby, wait!”
But Abby was gone. Jenna looked around and froze. The rushing cars on Broadway were replaced by horse-drawn carriages. Men with black top hats walked arm-in-arm with women dressed like Abby. They gaped at Jenna as they passed by.
Scared, Jenna shut her eyes. When she opened them, everything was normal again. New Yorkers hurried around her, busily texting. She sighed. Granny forgot to tell me about stepping into the past! Looking down, she realized she still held the picture Abby gave her.
She sold it to Henry and told him her story. He knew about the ghost stuff, but didn’t have the gift himself. He verified Manton Marble was Editor of The World News and unknowingly published a fraudulent Lincoln proclamation, which almost landed him in jail. Abby Williams Lambard was his second wife.
* * * * *
This is a fiction ghost story woven with some real facts. Manton Marble and Abby Williams Lambard were real people and married in 1879. Manton Marble was Chief Editor of the New York World News, often called The World News. He got into serious trouble for publishing a fraudulent presidential proclamation. Stereoscopic cards were popular in the mid to late 1800s. Last, but not least, a Victoria’s Secret store does occupy the ground floor of the former E. & H. T. Anthony & Company building. That’s where the facts end in this story. The rest was all fiction.
This post was written for the Light and Shade Challenge.