Look away, he told himself with unnatural serenity, and when you look back the ghost will be gone.
He did. She wasn’t. She was still there, watching the man who had moved into her house and would eventually oversee its demolition.
York bolted out the front door, scared as hell, down the embankment, toward the pool, as if the bitter incense of chlorine would ward off whatever he’d just seen.
Pool season is upon Washington.
Neighborhoods are reclustering themselves around gated tracts of scratchy concrete and lapping turquoise. Competitive swim teams transform children into anxious missiles and parents into shrieking maniacs. Gossip is swapped. Hot dogs are charred. Separate winter families blob into one big summer family. And, at the Overlee Community Association’s pool in western Arlington County, ghost stories are told.
The pool clubhouse, razed in February, was the former residence of two prominent Virginia families, the second of which remodeled it into a sanitarium for the elderly.
For the first half of the 20th century, Virginians lived, went to pieces and died on the property.
For the second half, Virginians hosted potlucks and performed water aerobics.
Last year, pool members voted 55 to 4 to renovate the half-century-old complex for the first time. Ground was broken in January with the goal of opening by Memorial Day. “Gully-washer” rains and “nightmarish” permit procedures delayed the project, according to the general contractor and pool staff.
Others, in jest, blame the ghost, who they’ve concluded is Margaret A. Febrey, the original homeowner’s daughter who died in 1913. She frightened off one construction worker in February, the day after Greg York had related his own sighting (now four years ago) to the project team over lunch.
“I think his mind was playing” a trick on him, York says without irony. “But the stories around here are legendary.”
This was the property’s first June in 54 years without water in the main pool. There are 800 active families (and a five-year waiting list to become a member), and some have inquired about redeeming their dues to compensate for lost splish-splash time. Others have sought refugee status at other community pools.
“I think that people want their pool open — Memorial Day was a couple weeks ago,” says Karla Brown, president of the Leeway Overlee Civic Association. “People are bummed, but I don’t think anybody blames anyone except for the complexity of the permitting process.”
Last week, construction workers broomed puddles of brown water toward drains in the empty new pool. A hill of rocky dirt marked the spot where the clubhouse once stood under oak trees. The report of nail guns echoed off the bathhouse as contractor Harry Braswell walked to his truck.