The Clarkstown Cemetery next to my house is one of the oldest in the U.S. and has had its share of spooks. My Dutch ancestors lived in the area granted to them by William of Orange back in the 17th century. They came here, as did many early Americans seeking religious freedom.
Although the Dutch settlers kept their own customs and even spoke a dialect of Dutch well into the 19th century, they could be very tolerant and some of them had a reputation for scholarship and freedom of thought.
Back in the 1700s, a prominent citizen of Clarkstown died. (Clarkstown was sometimes called Clarksville and later has become known as West Nyack.) This citizen was an atheist, but his family had a family plot and his ancestors had been buried in the church yard for over a century. The grave was dug, but there was some controversy as to whether or not he should be buried in sacred ground.
On the night before his funeral a white shape could be seen over the freshly dug grave. It seemed to leap out in the darkness from time to time as though it had taken over the grave and would prevent anyone from putting the atheist’s body into the churchyard ground.
In the morning the story got around and a group of people went to stop the funeral. The casket was brought from the church after the funeral, but the people would not let the pallbearers carry it to the grave. There was an argument where the story was told of the mysterious spirit that hovered over the open grave during the night.
Just as the argument turned to yelling there was a loud sound of an animal in distress and a white ewe jumped up from the grave trying to escape. It had fallen in the night before and could not get out. The spirit was the sheep that was trying to escape the grave.
The crowd was embarrassed that they had thought that the sheep was a ghost and did not prevent the burial.