‘The Presence’ On Mount Washington

Chris Peruzzi clearly remembers the day she was on the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington painting the footprints on the floor of the state park cafeteria. In the still of the silence, the elevator chimed and the doors opened. No one was there. She checked around the building and still, no one was there.

This happened three times.

Peruzzi, a Mount Washington Observatory intern at the time, is now a staff meteorologist. She, like many others who work on the summit, has stories about “The Presence.”

“It has its moments,” she says. “The Presence isn’t a continuous thing. It comes and goes.”

Strange Happenings
Footsteps in the halls when no one is around, toilets flushing when you know you’re the only person in the building, doors slamming and items rearranged are tales told by those on the mountain who have encountered the eerie sensation. There are those who say “The Presence” is a he, wearing a black suit. They say he has a white face.

Everyone loves a haunting tale and what better place to tell a ghost story than at the peak of the highest peak in the Northeast. That’s what Bryan Yeaton does during the Observatory’s overnight workshops.

Better known as host of the radio show, “The Weather Notebook,” Yeaton has been known to spook a school group or two with scary stories under the cover of darkness at the lonely summit.

Like Peruzzi, he has experienced the phantom elevator.

Then there are the lights in the Tip-Top House, an old hotel. In winter, it is boarded up. But people tell stories of seeing lights going on and off inside, being able to peer in through cracks.

Yeaton remembers an occurence one night when he hosted a school group. He opened up the Tip-Top House and was preparing for a night of tales. The winds were whipping at nearly 70 miles per hour, yet a thick fog limited visibility to about five feet. In fact, the students needed headlamps to just go next door.

“I was unnerved,” he said of being in the hotel by himself. “It was just the spookiest feeling of being alone and isolated because of the wind and fog.”

Spirits Of Victims?
Add to that the deaths on the mountain. In over 150 years, more than 125 people have died.

“There are those who seem to have a belief that some of those spirits or tragic victims remain and resurface,” said Dr. Peter Crane, the Observatory’s program director.

Crane, a Harvard grad, characterizes himself as a skeptic when it comes to “The Presence.” With tongue in cheek, he has experienced a phenomenon he calls “corner cats.”

Ghost stories abound about “The Presence” on the Mount Washington summit. (Photo by Marty Basch)

He has been on the summit, walking the halls of the Observatory, turned a corner and thought he saw a cat. He would do a double take and the cat would not be there.

“Just as there are human spirits, there are feline spirits,” he said. “Cats for generations have been kept by those who winter on Mount Washington.”

It was suggested that maybe it was Nin, the current house cat, that might be the source of the “corner cats.”

“That’s a possibility, too,” he said.

So are mice, voles and squirrels that also are summit occupants. Summit worker shenanigans have been suggested as a possible explanation. And there are times hikers in need of assistance enter the Observatory at any hour, perhaps the reason behind creepy footsteps. As for the phantom elevator, a theory exists that it could be some sort of electrical charge that builds up.

“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do get a feeling that there is some sort of power, some sort of energy. It could also be psychological,” said Yeaton.

No Reasonable Explanation
Summit observers take weather readings around the clock. When Peruzzi worked the night shift she would get the feeling she wasn’t alone, being followed as she did her rounds. In the dark of the weather desk with its red light glowing, she thought she would see someone around a corner, look again and see nothing. The tower, off the weather room, has creaky, metal stairs. Sometimes she, and fellow workers, have heard footsteps and doors slam.

“In the fog in summer at night, you think you’ll see something and it will startle you enough to run inside,” she said.

Of course, there is always the wind. The highest wind speed on earth at 231 miles per hour was recorded there. A mighty presence itself, Mount Washington is all about the wind. The wind can whisper. The wind can sing.

And for many that have visited the summit, they say it also howls.

Marty Basch is a New Hampshire writer who doesn’t live too far from Mount Washington and is the author of “Winter Trails Maine.”

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