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Ghost with ax in forehead described on cemetery tour.

Byline: Lisa D. Welsh

HOLDEN - When exiting a cemetery, always leave the same way you came in.

"You don't want to let the spirits know there are different ways to go in and out of a cemetery," said Virginia Heslinga Saturday night as she led about 60 people through the oldest cemetery in town, at Reservoir and Main streets.

"Stay close together. It makes it harder for ghosts to push through us," she added.

"Of course, if there were ghosts you wouldn't know it tonight, because when one of them is around you'd get real cold - and it's already pretty cold out."

According to Mrs. Heslinga, between midnight and 4 a.m. there's a lot of action in the center of town.

There are reports of Ephraim Bennett - who was scalped during the French and Indian War - seen yelling at the 1799-dated tombstone of the man who tried to talk him out of enlisting, and of Thomas Heard, the only Holdenite to be killed during the Revolutionary War, who appears to walk sentry as he did the night he died. When the street lights go out in front of Town Hall, as they did during last year's ice storm, it's not a dirty homeless person who is heard repeating the word "drink" but the ghost of Philip Edwards, the dried blood from the wound of the ax that landed in his forehead giving him that unclean look.

By day, Mrs. Heslinga is an assistant professor of humanities and education at Anna Maria College in Paxton, but on Saturday nights in October she leads a ghost walk, including a tour of the highlights in the cemetery, established in 1750.

There's a wandering ghost along Reservoir Street (Route 31) who was killed after being rebuffed during the Harvest Dance at the Abbott Tavern, she said. Around 2 a.m. the moans and screams of the two settler families who lived along what is now the Holden Reservoir have been heard just as they sounded the night King Phillip and his tribe attacked on their way to the Brookfields in 1760, she said.

The ghost walk begins at the First Baptist Church of Holden, 1216 Main St., and is free with a donation to the Wachusett Food Pantry, which is headquartered at the church. Mrs. Heslinga is the wife of the Rev. Dr. Jerry D. Heslinga, the church's pastor.

"If it seems odd to anyone that someone active in the church would be talking about ghosts, then I'd say they weren't very familiar with the Bible - which is full of spiritual beings, witches and demons," she said.

In addition to studying and teaching English and American literature, Mrs. Heslinga's curriculum vitae lists Christian education among her areas of expertise. The former high school and middle school English teacher is also the author of "Wounded Dove,"

the true story of a 1907 immigrant family who lived in the area and whose descendants still live in Holden.

"Through my research for that book, I realized how rich the history of our area is," she said.

"Personally I have always enjoyed historical walks, architectural walks and ghost walks. I always take as many as I can when I am visiting a town or city in our country, or in other countries, because it is a fun way to learn."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Virginia Heslinga leads a ghost tour through Holden on Saturday nights in October.

PHOTOG: LISA D. WELSH
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 19, 2009
Words:573
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