The Hidden Trunk: The Tragic Life of May Woolsey

1979 – While doing renovations in his home in Sacramento, California, a man found what appeared to be some sort of old chest. What they found inside told a sad tale of the tragic death of a child named May Woolsey.

May Hollister Woolsey was born in 1866 in Sacramento, California. She was the only child of Mary and Luther Woolsey. Life was good for the family. May enjoyed drawing, painting, and writing and was a bright student. Her future looked promising. That would all change in 1879. After attending a friend’s party, May contracted measles and encephalitis (a swelling of the brain). On September 2, she passed away, just before her thirteenth birthday. She was buried in the Old Sacramento Cemetery. Her parents heartbroken, they turned to spiritualism in attempts to contact her. It is unknown if they were successful.

A century later in 1979, the new owner of the home was working on renovations when he found a closet with a false ceiling on the second floor landing of the staircase. Inside was something astonishing – a 19th century trunk filled with the belongings of a young girl named May Hollister Woolsey.

The contents in the trunk included clothes, photos, school books, diplomas, quilting and knitting projects, invitations, letters, magazines, newspaper clippings, tickets, and calling cards. The most notable item in the trunk was a letter:

Dear Momma,

I am so happy as I did write to you and say I was happy. Now Momma dear, do not weep for me. I am not dead, no, only gone before to wait your coming when you will be out of all sorrow and care and will be happy with me. Oh, what pleasure there is in the spirit life no one can tell. Only think of everlasting life and pleasure where we know no sorrow; all is sunshine, there is no cloud to darken our path as on earth; we have our choice of mission…

The corner of the letter was torn off, leaving the ending unknown. No one knows if the letter was actually written by May or if it was a hoax. Today, her spirit is said to linger around her grave at the historic Sacramento cemetery.

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