Writing Challenge Addresses Village’s Legendary Missing Corpse

BALLSTON SPA – The Village Cemetery has only three vaults. Of those three, there is one vault that is, pardon the expression, shrouded in mystery and conjecture.

The Ballston Spa Cemetery Association has come up with a challenge to all writers of history, mystery and poetry in regards to the vault. But before we get to the challenge, a little back story is in order.

Generations of villagers have repeated and passed on the story of two people who appear at the cemetery and walk over to the vault marked with the name “E.L. Walsh” and the date of 1870 inscribed on the stone. As the story goes, these nocturnal strollers intend to enter the vault to dine inside the crypt. Who they are, where they came from and why they always drift to this particular vault is a mystery.

But there’s more.

Over the years, curiosity seekers have been able to insert cameras into the air slots on the side of the vault, which have captured images of an empty box, the lid removed and a piece of fabric hanging from it. Inside the box, where the coffin of the vault’s occupant, Eliza Walsh, should be lying in repose, there is instead an empty space.

The question is, what happened to the remains of Eliza Walsh? Who moved them? Where did they go? And why were they removed?

A little background research into the vault’s missing inhabitant disclosed that Eliza Walsh, born Eliza Hoffman, was a native of Ballston Spa. She was orphaned at an early age and raised by her maternal aunt. She went on to marry the man whose name is chiseled into the side of the vault, Edward Lewis Walsh, who had gambling houses in Saratoga and New York City.

“He was known as a high roller,” said John Cromie, a Ballston Spa attorney and a member of the Ballston Spa Cemetery Association.

Further research into the lives of the family members associated with the village’s “mystery vault” uncovered many interesting details about their lives and for some, their wayward ways.

The challenge put out by the Cemetery Association calls for writers from three genres – history, poetry and creative writing – to submit their ideas about the mystery surrounding the vault. For historians, the challenge would be to solve the mystery of Eliza’s missing body; or, to delve deeper into the lives of the gamblers and other family members.

“Here Lies Eliza Walsh…” Or, Does She?

Creative writers and poets have free rein to develop a story or poem surrounding the details and legends of the vault and the families interred nearby.

Entries  must be submitted to the Ballston Spa Cemetery Association at [email protected] no later than Oct. 1. The author must include his or her name, postal address, phone number and fax, if applicable.

Selected submissions will be published on Halloween on the cemetery association’s website. Cromie also mentioned that they plan to make the big “reveal” at the cemetery in front of the vault.

Cromie hopes to receive entries from all three categories so they will be able to select a work from each genre. The rules also mention that the cemetery may decide to publish booklets or similar print media that will include the submissions. While the authors will retain copyright to their work, by submitting the work to the association, they are granting to the Ballston Spa Cemetery Association, Inc., “An unrestricted license to use the work for promotion and/or support of its cemetery and the ability to reproduce any and all of the submitted article, in any medium, for those purposes.”

The writers, by retaining copyrights, will be free to reproduce and publicize their own work in any media they choose.

Cromie and the cemetery association board are hopeful that their challenge will stimulate renewed interest in the rich history and legends of the village of Ballston Spa and provide a unique platform for getting their writing in front of the public.

For more information about the challenge and the rules, contact John J. Cromie at the above email address or call (518) 885-845.

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