For as long as I can remember Three-Fingered Willy has haunted the woods around my Grandmother’s house in Maine.
My maternal grandmother lived in a two bedroom home and with barely any room had a bunkhouse for storage and for the grandchildren to use when we visited. Really a small shack, the bunkhouse had three windows with stapled in screens and shutters on the outside of the building. My grandfather used it as a workshop as well, so there was a ton of old tools, cans and odds and ends.
It was my greatest joy to spend the summers with my siblings and cousins running through the pine trees, playing on the beach and having lobster bakes with all the family gathered around the stone fire pit in my grandmother’s yard. As twilight eased into night and fireflies twinkled in the trees, we would sit around the dying fire, making s’mores and telling ghost stories.
I never really paid too much attention to Three-Fingered Willy’s background. I knew he was a ghost or undead. I knew he was angry and tormented. I knew he had only three fingers on each hand because his thumbs and pinkies were lost in some kind of accident (in one story he is a mill worker, in another an iron works employee). Most importantly, I knew that when he came around he would scritch…scritch…scritch…on the walls outside to announce his presence.
One summer, when schedules permitted, my three siblings along with seven other cousins arrived at my grandmother’s house all at once. My oldest brother, Erik, was the oldest. And I think in this case the instigator. He, my other brother and my cousin Mike locked my sister and I along with four other female cousins in the bunkhouse.
I was little at the time and some of the details are fuzzy…did we know we were locked in at first? I’m not sure. But I remember that first long scritch down the back of the bunkhouse, the side that faced the woods. We tried the door. Scritch. My heart was pounding. So many stories about Three-Fingered Willy had primed me for panic.
More scratches and then pounding on the walls.
Minutes seem like hours when you are little and scared. I don’t know how long the boys kept up the torment. My sister tried to get a window open all the while the boys scratched and scritched at the walls and windows. I can’t recall how long we were in the bunkhouse before the boys let us out. Clearly I survived. I hope that the boys got in trouble but I have no recollection of any consequence.