I write about other people for a living. Most of my work centers on paranormal phenomena, disappearance cases, and true crime.
With every article, I seek the humanity in the subject. But this haunting story is about my own family, one I heard many times from older relatives who remembered it well.
This is the story of my great-great-grandparents, Archie and Anna Clark, and how their love endured—even in death.
Archibald Stewart Clark was born on March 30, 1885 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to David Stewart Clark and Letitia Clark (nee Hoffner). On June 2, 1909, at the age of 24, Archie married his longtime sweetheart, Anna Miller Denis. Anna had just turned 20. The couple took their honeymoon in Atlantic City, New Jersey with a group of friends in tow, and, upon returning to Philadelphia, moved into a small house at 1238 S. 26th Street. Originally a brick-maker by trade, Archie eventually found work as a Gas Maker with the United Gas Improvement Company. Over the next 19 years, Anna gave birth to 9 children (4 boys and 5 girls), beginning with Edward in 1910, and ending with Eleanor in 1928.
Tragedy struck Archie and Anna in 1938, when one of their sons, Archie Jr., died at the age of 17 from a multitude of illnesses, including septicemia, chronic mastoiditis, lateral sinus thrombosis, lung abscesses, and toxic hepatitis. The year prior, Archie Jr. suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation when he was one of two boy scouts trapped in a barn that went up in flames. The fire was attributed to a small oil stove that ignited a bed of dry straw. The sudden loss of their child left a void in the Clark household.
As their other children grew older, married, and moved away, Archie and Anna began to take nightly walks around their neighborhood. For years, they never wavered from the routine of strolling arm-in-arm after dinner. In 1955, the newly dedicated Connell Park opened at 64th & Elmwood Avenue. The Clarks had recently moved to 2142 S. 67th Street, into another small Philadelphia “row house.” The park’s close proximity made it easy for Archie and Anna to conduct their evening walks there. Without fail, Archie would ready Anna by saying: “Come on, Annie, let’s go for our walk.”
Less than a year after Connell Park opened, Archie died on Mother’s Day—May 13, 1956. He was 71 years old, and had been battling cirrhosis of the liver for three months. Anna was devastated. She remained in her home for a short time before moving to Blackwood, New Jersey to live with her daughter Eleanor.
Two years later, in April 1958, Anna saw a familiar face in her sleep. One evening, she dreamt that she was looking through the back window of her Philadelphia home, and saw Archie standing on the outside of their fenced yard. He smiled at her comfortingly, and said: “Come on, Annie, let’s go for our walk.” Even in the dream, Anna knew that Archie had passed away. Confused, she replied: “I don’t want to go for a walk right now, Archie. I’m too tired.” With that, Archie faded slowly and disappeared.
The following morning, Anna told her children about the experience. They believed it was random and without meaning. But the next night, Anna saw Archie for the second time. Again, she was looking through the window and noticed Archie standing outside: this time, he was standing on the inside of the fenced yard. He smiled and said: “Come on, Annie, let’s go for our walk.” Anna again replied that she was too tired and did not want to walk. Archie disappeared.
Having had the same dream for two successive nights, Anna was convinced that it had some level of significance. This thought was solidified when she had the dream again—for the third night in a row. She was looking through the window and saw Archie in the middle of the backyard. Again he asked her to take a walk, and again she refused.
The fourth night, Anna dreamt that Archie was no longer in the yard, but standing at the base of the back steps. He smiled and looked up at her through the window. “Come on, Annie, let’s go for our walk,” he said, but Anna refused, and Archie vanished.
For the fifth night in a row, Anna went to sleep and had the same dream. When she woke on the morning of April 17, she told Eleanor “Your father was at the back door last night. I was face to face with him. He asked me to take our walk like he always does.”
Later that same day, Anna was rushed to Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey. Within a few hours, she passed away from a heart attack.
Theoretically, Anna’s next dream about Archie would have had him entering the house and physically contacting her. The family believed that Anna had that dream in the hospital, and finally agreed to take a walk with Archie.
When my great-grandmother Emily (one of Archie and Anna’s daughters) was alive, she told me the story of her parents many times. Emily’s brother, Joseph Clark, whom we all call “Uncle Joe,” is still with us at 92. As Joe’s daughter Kathy read this piece to him, his eyes welled at the fond memory of his parents: Two people who were so connected in life that death could not keep them apart.
All photos courtesy of Gary Sweeney