Boo!

I grew up in a small community called Pleasant Ridge. There was a church and one country store, called The Corner Store. Our roads had numbers, not names back then. My road number was 2042. Down that three-mile dirt road were about ten houses, a bridge that took you over Big Elkin Creek, and a graveyard!


On hot summer nights after my sister and I went to bed, sweating, with our faces up against the window trying to catch a breeze, we’d listen as an angry old bobcat cried out down along the rock cliffs at Carter Falls. A bobcat sounds just like a baby crying out, loud and daunting. Then we’d glance a few hundred yards down the road to the old cemetery. No fancy granite monuments adorned that plot of land. No readable names were engraved in remembrance, just a couple of dates scratched into a propped up field rock.


One day my cousin Larry and I decided we’d just see exactly what was in one of those ancient graves. At ten or twelve years old we had visions of Indian chiefs who were buried with their treasures. While in reality the graves were probably the resting place for area slaves who labored in the near by fields. Borrowing one of my daddy’s shovels we went to the graveyard fully intending to perform this awful transgression. Don’t worry, neither of us had the nerve, thank goodness! I can’t believe I would have even considered doing that.


Before my cousin and I thought about the excavation, strange things happened on that sacred ground. As my sister and I breathed in the scent of honeysuckle through the screen window, our eyes focused on the dancing of lights down at the cemetery. No eerie sounds, except for the bobcat, or maybe that noise came from the graveyard, just those lights. Some seemed faint, others bright, each one dancing in the breeze, climbing to the top of the Oak Tree, then falling back to earth, then six feet under.


These memories from childhood surfaced today as I sat with my aunt and uncle. As most of you know my Aunt Lafayette found out six months ago she has Lou Gehrig’s disease, so I try to spend as much time with her as possible. Today my Uncle Bill was in a story telling mood, recollecting tales from the past. When he was in the army some fifty-nine years ago he was trained to pick up a limp, two hundred pound body and throw it over his shoulder and carry it to safety. He proudly announced, “And I could do it too.” Then he said, “Now I have trouble getting Lafayette up off the floor when she so often falls.” Aunt Lafayette looked at him and said, “Well we’re not twenty anymore.”


Then the storytelling changed to a different topic. To a house they had previously lived in. It was a beautiful old two-story structure with high ceilings and large rambling rooms. They lived there for over ten years and I never heard one word about the spirits that resided there with them, not until they moved. Several years after they left the house it burned. That’s when they started to tell of the boarders who had shared the house with them.


When they would be downstairs, every night when darkness fell, the cavorting would begin. Right over their heads they would hear someone walking on the floor, or prancing around as if dancing a jig. When they would climb the stairs to check it out, of course they saw nothing.  Every night as soon as the lights were turned out, the spirits would start dancing in the room across the hall from their bedroom. Uncle Bill said it sounded like a kid who had put on her mama’s high heels. Night after night these phantoms would prance around that one room. No music was ever heard, just the clicking of heels on the wooden floor.


I asked Uncle Bill, “How did you stand it?” He said, “Oh I got used to it real fast. I wasn’t scared, they liked us.” Aunt Lafayette confirmed that she wasn’t scared either. Then she told this story… “In my bathroom upstairs I kept a box on the counter. In that box was a brush that I used to apply blush to my cheeks. So many times I’d reach for that brush and it would not be there. Then when I’d go back later, there it was. Every time I’d holler to Bill, ‘my brush is gone.’ Then he’d holler back at me, ‘just come on downstairs and it will be back in a few minutes, and it always was.’”


Then they told that in the spare bedroom beside of where all the dancing went on they would often go in there and the indention of a body would be on the bed and the rosy glow of rubbed off blush would be on the white pillow sham… most people wouldn’t even notice these things, but trust me, my Aunt Lafayette is a neat freak! Nothing gets passed her.


Long story short, years before they moved there, a car accident claimed the life of a teenage girl in front of the house. My uncle found a girl’s watch nearby soon after they moved in, and took it into the house. Oops! Then an elderly couple lived there. The man was in his wheelchair sitting out in the yard under a huge hemlock tree. His wife was inside and came out onto the covered porch and asked her husband if he’d like a nice cool glass of lemonade. Answering he said, “Yes.” He sipped the refreshing beverage, and within an hour he had slipped from his chair… dead. The wife came out on the porch and said, “Didn’t think it would take that long.”


Yes, this house had history. Was the spirit of the young girl inside that house borrowing my aunt’s blush? Was the murdered man dancing because he was happy to have his legs back? Who knows? When the house burned my aunt and uncle went there to look at the damage. It was almost burned to the ground, but on one side of the house there was a washroom that housed a sink with a mirror over it. This is where my uncle would shave every morning. The mirror was still hanging on the partially collapsed wall. The mirror was black with smoke all except for the perfect image of a cross. Smoke had extinguished any hope of seeing a reflection, but there was no mistaking the cross.


Aunt Lafayette told Uncle Bill that she’d like to have the mirror. My uncle said, “No, if we take that mirror them haunts will come with it.” Aunt Lafayette and Uncle Bill, said,  “The ghosts may have liked us, but we still don’t want them around.”  There was never an explanation as to why the house burned, but my aunt and uncle seemed to think the spirits didn’t like the new owners… I just love stories that can’t be explained!


(The first short story I ever wrote was called, “The Excavation of Amos Moses.” That story has led me to where I am today. Thanks Amos!)  BOO!

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