Spectral “Woman in Black” stories are a dime a dozen in the world of The Weird, but the following is more unusual than most. “The Rock Island Argus,” January 2, 1893:
The story as Irving tells it of the headless horseman who spread consternation through Sleepy Hollow is well known by readers. Now, here is a story of a mysterious Woman in Black who is exciting as much fear among the people of this peaceful village, sixty miles further up the beautiful valley, as did Irving's ghost. It is the story of a strange creature who glides noiselessly along the country roads at dead of night. She has never been known to address anybody, although she has met many. Her language is the language of signs. She invariably halts long enough to stretch out her long arm from beneath a black veil and make a hissing noise. She might say more if anybody hesitated long enough to give her the chance, but nobody has tarried as yet.
This strange apparition is described by those who have seen it as a thin woman, at least 6 feet 4 inches tall, with a slight stoop and a long stride. The Woman in Black, as the apparition is known, first made her appearance in Rhinebeck about six weeks ago. John Judson, who lives in Chestnut street, was the first to behold her here. As he was going home late one night he heard a noise in Waller W. Snell's front yard. He looked around and was startled to see a tall black object standing perfectly still. Judson hurried home. The next day the news was all over Rhinebeck. The women and children shivered and the men laughed, but that same night as David Ackert, one of the best known business men in the village, was going home he met the black-robed object in Main street.
Ackert is six feet tall himself and he says he had to look up at the woman. She shrank from him with a hissing sound, he declares, and he passed on without saying a word or again looking around. David Ackert's word is as good as an affidavit in Rhinebeck. “I wasn't scared, boys," he said to a group of listeners the next day, "but I felt a shivering sensation, for she was so tall and slim and piratical-looking." The four village constables and a night-watchman heard Ackert's story and vowed to capture the creature that very night. But the woman discreetly kept off the highways and was not seen the following night either.
Thomas Sinclair was the next reliable person to encounter the strange woman. He met her on the outskirts of the village about 10 o'clock at night. She was pacing in the middle of the road with her head bent low and her long arms clasped behind her. Next James Traster met the mysterious creature in a side street about 10 o'clock at night. He did not stop and speak to her because, as he says, he didn't think of it until after she had disappeared. Things have been running along in this way ever since. No one has taken advantage of his opportunity to address the woman, and no one, so far as can be learned, has deliberately set about an investigation.
The first woman to see the black apparition was Miss Florence Welch, the teacher at Miller's school, a mile and a half from here. Miss Welch dismissed her pupils at 4 o'clock on last Thursday and then went to call on Mrs. Herman Aher, who lives on a farm near by. She remained there until shortly after 5 o'clock, when she started to walk home. It was about dusk as she passed her school house, and she glanced through the window. There sat the Woman in Black on one of the benches. Miss Welch remembered distinctly that she had locked the schoolhouse door. She did not stop to see if it had been opened, but ran for her life. She is sure she was not laboring under a delusion.