One morning a steamer trunk appeared on the loading dock of a small town depot. This was particularly odd because a train has not pulled into that station for almost fifty years. In fact, the loading dock was now an enclosed room of the Train Depot Museum.
Upon closer examination, the train museum staff found a tag on the truck that simply read:
For Jessie May.
Do not open until Christmas Eve.
This added mystery upon mystery because Jessie May had been dead for more than a century. Rumors around town had it that she still roamed the halls of her plantation home, which also had been turned into a museum.
Not knowing what else could be done, the depot staff loaded the trunk onto a pickup and took it a couple of miles down the road to the May-Stringer House Museum. The curator did not know what to with it, so he put it in the corner of a spare room. One of the docents wanted to open it right then.
“No,” the curator replied firmly. “The tag said wait until Christmas Eve.”
In the meantime, the museum’s docents found themselves under attack from some new spirit inhabiting the old plantation house. A push, shove or smack usually came after a docent make some unflattering comment about how the little girl ghost Jessie May always moved things. She took her play tea set out of a locked closet and set it up on a small table in the parlor. Jessie rearranged the order of her dolls displayed on the fireplace. Any mention of how mischievous she was brought on mild but decisive rebuke.
The curator and his staff tried to figure the problem out logically.
“What had changed right before the spectral harassment began?” he asked.
“The arrival of the Christmas trunk,” a docent replied.
“I say ignore the note on the trunk,” another docent blurted out. “Why obey directions from someone who obviously died years ago?”
“When you’ve been working in museums as long as I have,” the curator informed them, “you learn to respect the dead.”
That fateful day finally arrived, Christmas Eve. The staff gathered around the trunk as the curator carefully broke the lock and opened the lid. They saw all kinds of makeup, powder puffs, brushes, charcoal pencils and even a fake mustache and beard.
“You mean all this trouble is being made by an actor?” a docent asked with insolence. “Figures.”
Just then she was slapped across the back of her head.
The curator shook his head. “I told you. Never speak ill of the dead.”
Recovering quickly, the docent said, “Lift the top tray. Let’s see what’s under it.”
Lifting the tray, they saw an antique Santa Claus costume. Other than the red velvet having faded, the old white fur trim turning yellow and the black leather boots crackling, it appeared to be in good shape. Its fashion even matched the Thomas Nast drawings of a long coat in the European tradition of Sinter Klaus.
“That’s great!” another staff member exclaimed. “We’ve got an old mannequin in the attic. We can hang the suit on it.”
Frowning, the curator replied, “No, I think we ought to leave it in the trunk for a while, until we figure out what all this means.”
The museum closed its doors, and the staff members went home to begin their family festivities. Hardly anyone drove by the museum right on the stroke of midnight. But if they had, and if they looked up on the balcony, they would not have believed what they saw. Little Jessie May danced a proper waltz with a spectral Santa Claus in the antique suit from the Christmas trunk.
This is so much fun! How did you know I wanted to dance with Santa on Christmas Eve?
You do realize you realize you’re dead, don’t you?
Of course, silly.
Well, ho ho ho, after you die, anything is possible.