The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), April 18, 1877

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Contemporary Opinion of the Oswego Times' Ghost

( New York Times, April 17th )- Oswego has never been noted for ghosts. In fact there has been hitherto been no trustworthy record of any Oswego ghost of any kind. Suddenly, without any previous announcement, and without the aid of any medium, an Oswego ghost makes his appearance, and in a short time wins the deserved reputation of being the most complete and successful ghost in this country or in Europe. Grain has lots its charm for the Oswego people, and canals seem little better than muddy mockeries. henceforth Oswego will be known as the great ghost center of the continent, and its inhabitants will take even a greater pride in their ghosts than the inhabitants of Chicago take in their pigs.

On the evening of the 3d of July last a leading citizen of Oswego took his daughter to see the fireworks. Of course, that young lady remarked, "O! and also "Gracious!" whenever a fireworks was produced; but equally, of course, she paid far more attention to contiguous young men than she did to the pyrotechnic display. On her way home she said, with a careless air, "Pa,"- and whether she pronounced it "pay" or "paw" we are not informed - "who was that young soldier who stood next to you?" The author of existence replied that he had not seen any destructive young man, and was in the act of muttering a subdued anathema upon all young men, when his daughter violently pinched his arm, and said in a sharp whisper - "There he is now. "

The leading citizen turned his head and saw a strange uniform, hastening apparently where glory, or at all events gin awaited him. The father explained that the young man was some strange kind of idiot, who had picked up an old British uniform, and, with a view to contingencies, he warned his daughter that the man was, undoubtedly, a Canadian tramp, thirsting for spoons. The two went on their homeward way; the father subsequently went to bed, and the daughter executed that mysterious feminine feat known as "retiring. "

On the next Friday evening this same father was sitting with this same daughter in the dining room, when the sound of the piano in the parlor was heard. They both imagined that a book agent had surreptitiously gained admission to the house, and seizing the poker and the hot-water kettle, determined to reason mildly with the intruder. This latter, however, proved to be the same young man whom the daughter had gazed at under the pretense of fireworks. He arose, and bowing politely, introduced himself as George Fikes, formerly a private in the British army, who had died in Oswego, while in garrison, in the year 1782.

Mr. Fikes made himself so pleasant that when, after a brief call, he prepared to vanish, he was asked to call again, which he regularly did every subsequent Friday evening. This leading citizen and his daughter for some time kept the fact that they had a ghostly visitor a profound secret, and only a fortnight since the father confided it to the editor of a local paper. That editor was permitted, under a solemn pledge of secrecy, to send a reporter to "interview" Mr. Fikes, and that reporter has already had two long and absolutely worthless conversations with the ghost.

According to this incompetent reporter Mr. Fikes does not enter the door or even the window, but suddenly appears in the parlor of the leading citizen at the same hour on every Friday evening. He always wears the same old-fashioned British uniform of George III's reign, with the exception of his hat, which he is in the habit of frequently changing. When his interview is ended, Mr. Fikes vanishes as suddenly and unexpectedly as he appears. He does not go out of the door or sink into the floor, but he just vanishes in the most approved ghostly way. he is a polite, affable and accomplished gentleman, as the British private notoriously is, and the daughter of the leading citizen calls him "Gweawge" is evidently warmly attached to him.

Careful search in the neighborhood of the old Oswego fort has been rewarded by the discovery of a tombstone bearing the name of "George Fikes," and the reporter has not the slightest doubt that the ghost is that of the identical George Fikes who died nearly a century ago. A ghost that can materialize itself without any medium and with a choice of hats; who will sit quietly in the parlor and converse with as much sweetness and light as though he were Matthew Arnold in a magazine article; who will play nicely upon the piano, and always vanish at an early hour, is clearly an immense improvement upon all previous ghosts.

It must be said, however, that the reporter who has "interviewed" Mr. Fikes on two successive Friday nights is a disgrace to his profession. Any real reporter with such opportunities would have had all the facts as to the other world out of Mr. Fikes in fifteen minutes by the watch, but the Oswego reporter has drawn absolutely nothing from the ghost that was worth printing. He simply asked him a few questions as to his life in Oswego, as if any human being cared to know what a person condemned to live in Oswego in 1782 was accustomed to. he did not ask Mr. Fikes to describe the celestial world, and to explain the exact process of dying. he did not ask him if there are newspapers on the other side of the Styx, and if so, in what department of the spirit world they are published, and what is the average salary of a ghostly reporter.

Mr. Talmadge recently informed drunkards that there is no "rum" in hell - implying, of course, that there is abundance of that beverage in heaven; and yet this preposterous reporter never once asked Fikes if Talmadge had told the truth. All the questions that he did ask might just as well as been put to Mr. Bancroft or Mr. Parkman. They were mainly questions relating to the early history of Oswego, and were not only unimportant in themselves, but were valueless in relation to the ghost's identity. It is maddening to think that this ridiculous reporter has, together with the leading citizen and his daughter, a monopoly of Mr. Fikes, and that he is solemnly sworn not to betray the name of the leading citizen or to point out his house.

This fine opportunity for obtaining the latest information as to the other world is thus thrown away. Perhaps in time the reporter, by mere accident, will ask an intelligent question; but unless he does, Mr. Fikes' return to earth will be of no benefit to any one except the daughter of the leading citizen. Still the fact remains that Oswego has produced the champion ghost of this century, and only an ungenerous mind will refuse to give that city full credit for so able an achievement.

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April 18, 1877
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), April 18, 1877