Around the year 1810, Jared's family had fallen into into financial trouble. They were deeply in debt to a banker named Mathias Bradford and couldn’t pay their bills. The only things they owned that were worth much at all were their home, “a clapboard structure out past the Smythe property,” and their small farm, Wood Acres. In order to pay off their debts, the Mullrays were forced to sell both, including their furniture and many of their belongings.
Old Man Mullray wanted to move up to Peacham, a tiny, young town in Vermont, and he convipced his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, and their three children to move with him. There, he said, they could start over. But he could not convince his younger son, thirty-year-old Jared, to go with them. Jared, the author wrote, had never been “quite right in the head.” He loved Wood Acres – a little too much.
Early on a Monday morning, the Mullrays packed a few personal belongings onto a cart, saddled up one of their horses, and prepared to leave. Mathias Bradford, who was going to sell off the farm, arrived with some men from the bank just as the Mullrays were tossing their last bag onto the cart.
“Jared!” shouted Old Man Mullray.
“I ain’t leaving!” was the reply everyone heard. But Mr. Bradford was to say later that it didn’t sound as if his voice was coining from the house or the barn–sort of somewhere in between, although no one could see him anywhere.
Old Man Mullray glanced at this wife, who shrugged sadly. Then he flicked the reins, and the horse plodded down the lane. The Mullrays left Wood Acres behind forever.
Now, Mathias Bradford and four other men (one of whom was the head of the town council) had watched the Mullrays drive off without Jared. And they had heard his disembodied voice say that he wasn’t leaving. But although the house and barn were searched thoroughly as every last stick of furniture and every last harness were sold off, no one ever saw Jared again. He simply disappeared.
A few people said he had packed up and moved to Alaska, but Mr. Bradford didn’t believe that. He had heard Jared and was convinced he’d never leave. The only question was–where was he? Soon another rumor began to circulate about Jared, and the people of Stoneybrook were more inclined to believe this one. They thought that Jared, who couldn’t bear to leave Wood Acres, was still there—somewhere. They thought he must know about some secret hiding place, and that he stayed there by day and scavenged for food at night.
Decades passed. By the time the publishing company was writing his history, he presumed that Jared was dead. In fact, the story about Jared had become a ghost story. Jared, people said, had died in his secret hiding place, but his spirit remained. Wood Acres (which had been swallowed up by another, larger, farm and was no longer called Wood Acres) was haunted by Jared, who was always on the prowl not only for food, but for trinkets and things that he could sell in order to try to pay back Mr. Bradford.