COME HALLOWEEN NIGHT, THERE will be the usual parade of goblins and other night spirits traipsing up to the front door of Baleroy, George Easby's grand 30-room stone mansion in the tony Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. But, says Easby, the real ghosts will be on the other side of the door. For the past 70 years, Easby, who does volunteer work as a fine-arts adviser for the State Department in Washington, believes he has been sharing his home with the undead.
As a child he remembers cabinets opening and closing on their own. In recent years visitors and neighbors have reported encountering spirits—sometimes invisible, sometimes in such guises as a woman in 18th-century dress or a monk in beige robes—who turn on lights, shove the living from behind and, in one case, even conked a guest on the head with a brass bowl (though no one has been seriously injured). And then there's the ectoplasm—the smoky fog that supposedly appears whenever ghosts try to assume human form—that Easby, 76 and a lifelong bachelor, says he frequently spots around the house. "I enjoy living here, but it's quite an adventure," he says.
The great-grandson of Civil War Gen. George Gordon Meade, the Union commander at Gettysburg, Easby believes the ghosts are dead relatives, including his mother, Henrietta, who died in 1961. Neighbor Cassandra Meyer claims she has seen the drawing-room portrait of Easby's great-grandmother Elizabeth Polkney change before her very eyes. "There was a misty haze over the face, which slowly changed to that of a man," she says. While doing repairs at the mansion over the past seven years, contractors David Beltz and Eddie Robinson have heard unexplained footsteps and voices, and they have seen the ghost of a boy on the main staircase. "It drifted by the window," says Beltz. "Then all of a sudden there was this cold vibration."
But not everyone enjoys the hauntings. Freelance writer Louis Gallo was badly shaken in 1984, when he walked into the bedroom of Easby's late mother and had his tape recorder wrenched from his hand and thrown to the floor. "I was so startled," says Gallo. "I guess she didn't want it playing in her room." Easby was sympathetic. "That settled the interview," he says. "He promptly went outside, and I gave him a Scotch."