A FULL MOON only accentuates the blackness of midnight, as if the orb were sucking into itself any radiance around you. With the first full moon of summer comes the nighttime sparkle of new-grown leaves, the pleasant warmth anticipated during long June days, and the sounds of maniacs racing cars through the back streets of the city.
I was sitting on a small rise in a wooded area behind Union College shortly after midnight last June 29, keeping watch over a small brook. A few feet away my wife also waiting, also watching, also silent. Aside from the distant traffic there was hardly a sound, so every creak and rustle in the undergrowth seemed more startling. But the figure we sought would be silent, we knew.
This is a ghost story without much of a plot; we’re not even sure if the main character will appear. But I want to tell you about Schenectady’s most famous spectre, a restless young woman doomed for the 316 years since her death to recreate her final walk in life. Her name is Alice, surname given variously as Van Derveer and Van Verveer, and she was victimized in the name of love, the most classic reason to slip into ghostdom.
Can we imagine a portrait of young Alice? She wears the Dutch costume of her day, lovely brown hair tucked into the traditional stern cap, eyes modestly lowered as she passes the men of the settlement. But she has a rebellious spirit, born of enduring her father’s harshness. For reasons that would gladden only the staunchest Calvinist, this would be her undoing.