Welcome to SC Ghosts!

Here at the Springfield's Casa, we love to entertain company and the best way to entertain guests is to tell stories! Ghost stories! Real, honest, no joke ghost stories!

So, come in, kick back and allow your unbelief to be left at the door, for when you enter here you enter for your own enjoyment.

Oh. If the phone rings .. take a message. It may be really long distance.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ghost Creek

"Now, you children be sure to be home by dark.. and no playin' around that creek, neither!  They's ghosts down there at night!"  This was the admonition of many mothers as they sent their children out to play in this rural area of Laurens county, South Carolina in the mid '40's.  This one statement kept numerous children safe from their own dare-devilry and foolishness.  Just a small statement to put a bit of fear into them.
Of course, the kids knew that what Mom was saying was the truth.  It was well known that if you went down the dirt road to the place it ran to the bank of the creek and the moon was full, you might get a right scare.  It was not uncommon to see two or more children run screaming up the road as if the devil himself was on their heels.
Many had seen the eerily glowing specters on the other side slowly wandering up and down the bank as if trying to find their way across or through this watery barrier in order to reach you and take your soul back to where they came from.  It seemed that the water stopped them as surely as a thunderstorm would stop a picnic.   
On this particular day, the Martin boys were planning to do a bit of fishing.  Their Mother had long since given up trying to keep them away from the creek. They had heard the tales of ghosts all their lives but weren't fazed at all.  As most pre-teen country boys will, they spent most of their time in the summer, either helping in the fields, exploring the surrounding woods and streams or trying to see who could catch the biggest fish on their cane poles.
As their day of helping Dad plant some row crops had finally come to an end, they grabbed their poles and headed down the road.  There was a really good hole just down and around the bend of the creek where they had even caught some catfish once or twice.  It sure would be great if they could take a mess back with them for tomorrow's dinner.  Mom would make some of her famous hush-puppies and they could have some cream corn and peas to go along with it. 
The fishing was even better than hoped for.  One had pulled in three nice, pan sized cats while the other had caught one catfish and three bream.  They were so intent on supplying the family with supper that they didn't notice the time and were caught unawares when darkness fell on the creek- bank. 
As they took their time making their way back along the slippery bank, the boys remembered the stories of the spirits said to haunt the creek.  By the time they had reached the road they had successfully put themselves into near hysteria with imagined sounds and sights in the darkening woods. 
They climbed the last bank back to the clearing of the dirt road, finally feeling that they could now breath since they were away from the creek.  As they bent over, trying to catch their breath they looked back the way they came and nearly fainted dead away.  There, on the far side of the creek, directly across from where they had climbed up to the road hovered six phantoms!  They seemed to be swaying back and forth, about four feet off the ground and making terrible moaning sounds.
Well, that was enough for the Martin boys.  The ran, heads down and legs pumping, all the way back home, lucky to have held onto their poles and fish due to their fright!  From then on, the Martin boys did any fishing they wanted to do either early in the morning or during daylight hours.  Mom never had to warn them about Ghost Creek again.
The parents only told the story of Ghost Creek in order to protect their children from the danger posed by the running water when it was too dark to see well and they might accidentally get hurt.  They felt like they knew the truth.
Mr. Robertson owned the land on the far side of the creek and he pastured a small herd of Hereford cattle there.  Herefords are a breed of beef cattle that are normally a rust colored brown on their bodies with white faces.  Commonly known as white-faced cattle.
Now, in the light of a full moon (which is when the 'ghosts' supposedly appeared) the cattle's body color tended to blend into the color of the surrounding field leaving only their faces glowing in the moonlight.  These bovine heads were what the parents believed were to become known as the Ghosts of Ghost Creek.  What they never realized was that after the kids were long gone from the creek and the moonlight had faded from the sky, the specters continued to wander to and fro along the banks and tributaries.  Perhaps the grown-ups were right all along and just didn't know it. 

So, if you want some good cat-fishing, there is a right nice hole you might sink a line into, but make sure you are well away from there by evening.  Don't you dare get caught by the dark down on Ghost Creek.

*The road is now paved and has been named, Ghost Creek Road.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Bus on Old Schoolhouse Road

If you travel to the upstate of South Carolina, in a quiet foothills county you may find yourself on a stretch of country lane called "Old Schoolhouse Road".  It is lined with old growth woods with a very small number of houses scattered along its length.  There is one building of interest here, though.  It is an old, falling apart at the seams, deserted gas station that dates back to the days of full service at the pump and nickel cokes.

No one hangs out there any more, not since the mid 1990s.  You won't see the sign lit out front nor hear the sound of the bell as someone pulls up to the pump.  No one will come out to see how much gas you need or whether you want regular or high-test.   No one will clean your windshield while the tank fills.  There are no sodas in the cooler and no crackers on the shelf.  Just memories of past times, people and events.  One of those memories is of a tragedy from 1993.

It was in the fall, the leaves were starting to turn and the night air had a bit of a nip to it.  School had just begun and that meant high school football on Friday nights.  Local schools battled for bragging rights as they took turns traveling to 'away' games.  Their marching bands loaded their instruments into the bus and followed along to rouse the fans in support or this visiting team.  And that is where our story begins.

The band had packed up their instruments and loaded them into the back of the bus and the members were jostling into the front.  They were hyped up since they had just cheered their team on to victory over their hated rivals.  It had been a hard fought victory to be sure, but all the sweeter because of that.  Loud and raucous, it was a good bet, the drive thought, that they wouldn't settle down for the entire trip.  He was thinking this as he pulled the bus into the gas station to top off the tank.  The tank was usually filled prior to any trip, but for some reason that had not happened today.

It was late and the owner, old man Higgins, was just preparing to close for the night when the bus full of teenagers pulled in.  He let the driver pump the gas while he attended to ringing up all the Snickers bars, snacks and sodas for the kids.

He stood and watched as the bus pulled out of his station, with a prickly sensation on his neck.  "Oh, well, must be the weather," he thought as he turned the lights and pumps off for the night.
Just a mile or so from the station, the woods seemed to grow closer to the  road and the night gathered its dark cloak more tightly.  The only light was from the high beams the driver had on the bus.  Suddenly, a young deer launched itself from out of the night, directly into the path of the oncoming vehicle.  The driver, on instinct, wrenched the steering wheel to the right to avoid a collision, lost control and careened the bus off the side and down an embankment, picking up speed into the waiting arms of the trees.  He collided head-on with a great, sturdy oak that gave not one inch.

When the bus did not reach its destination on time, the waiting parents began to get concerned.  after thirty minutes, concern turned to fear.  The school principal was contacted by one of these parents just before getting a call from the Highway Patrol.  He was devastated by what he was told.

Mr. Higgins, the station owner had just closed up and was on his way home for some much needed rest when his headlights struck a cloud of oily, black smoke off the road in the woods.  As he slowed down, he noticed marks on the road, aiming for the shoulder.  He pulled off, grabbed his flashlight and went to investigate. What he found left him speechless.   The bus that had left his station not twenty minutes earlier, loaded with band equipment and rambunctious teenagers lay in a burning heap, wedged between two pines and crumpled in the front with and old oak.  The gas line had obviously ruptured and the liquid ignited to turn the packed bus into an inferno.  The doors were blocked by the pines and the emergency door was inaccessible due to the equipment.  The passengers never stood a chance.

He didn't have a cell phone.  He never thought he would need one, until now.  Not knowing what else to do,  Mr. Higgins raced back to his station and called the police.  They, in turn, called EMS and the State Patrol, who, after arriving at the scene, called the school principal.

Mr. Higgins closed his station for good, not long after that, saying that on certain nights in the fall, if you were at the station all alone, you could hear the sound of a school bus full of students pulling in, but when you got up to go outside there would be nothing there, except for the dark night air.
So, if you do happen to find yourself on that lonely stretch of road on a cool, dark mid-autumn night, you may want to pull into the abandoned station to rest for a spell.  But, don't be surprised if you see sights and hear sounds that seem to belong in another place and time.
Then, again, maybe you should just keep driving.....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Hunt

Ever watch those 'reality' shows on TV?  No, I mean the ones about ghost hunting.  Right.  There's the one with the guys that scream like little girls and run if a floorboard creaks and there is the one that has the very scientific approach and all the ones in between.  I especially dislike the one with the British medium that believes she feels and hears every moment of every ghost she goes after.

Well, I have watched them all and decided that if these dorks could do it, I should be great at it.  So, after a quick trip to the local Wall-Mart and hardware store, I set out, with my best friend Harold, to bust a few ghosts.  We had all the equipment needed, such as a digital sound recorder for all those disembodied voices we were going to catch, a couple of digital cameras for snapshots, four mini-dvd recorders for catching live (dead?) footage and two EMF detectors to detect EMF's.  Okay, got all that?  So far I was in the hole by about three hundred and seventy five dollars and we hadn't even investigated our first haunt!

Harold's aunt, Jessica, owned an old house that everyone said was haunted.  It was believed that the ghost of an old lady wandered the halls of the second floor and opened and closed doors at will.  No one we spoke to had ever seen her, but lots of folks had heard the tales and, it seemed, everyone knew someone who had seen her.  At my request, Harold called and received permission for he and I to have our first ghost hunt the following night.

Eight o'clock on Friday, July 13 found Harold and I on the steps of one of the most creepy places I have ever been.  With the sun going down and the shutters hanging off of broken windows, I was seriously reconsidering my choice of participatory entertainment. 

We had parked in the gravel drive next to the house and entered through a non-existent gate in the falling down picket fence.  The only thing that seemed to be holding the fence upright was the weeds and brambles that twined themselves around and through it.  The grass within the confines of the fence was brown and withered where-as, on the outside of the yard it was vibrant and green.  It was like the yard had a blight on it.  There was the remains of an ancient fishpond and fountain to the left of the flagstone walk. Both arms missing fro\m the statue in the middle.  She looked as if she might have carried a pot from which water flowed at one time, but it too was missing.

We approached the house width front porch that was guarded by two cement lions and reached by way of  three cement and flagstone steps.  The lions had long since lost any paint they might have sported at some point in the past and the cement holding the flagstone was nearly non-existent, giving freedom to the stones and allowing them to lie waiting for some unknowing visitor to step wrongly and take a painful tumble back down into the dead grasses and weeds of the yard.  In front of the porch and beside the lions were several azaleas that still retained a flower or two, even through the heat of the summer.  The only point of color in the entire scene.

My first step onto the porch proper, was met with the expected creaking of boards.  If they had not creaked, I believe I would have been disappointed.  Each step that followed was met with the same sound.  Harold followed close behind and I began to wonder if we might be putting too much weight on the porch.  We certainly did not wish to fall through.  It would not be an auspicious beginning to our adventure.

Looking up and taking in the rest of the house, I saw that it was in as bad a condition as the porch and yard.  The clapboards covering the outside were peeling what little bit of paint that was left.  Just enough left to show that it was originally white.. The shutters had, at one tie been black and still had that color stain on the rotting wood.  They hung as odd angles and would never close again, though that is what they had been designed to do.  When the storms blew in off the lake, the occupants would close the shutters to prevent the wind, hail or tree limbs from breaking the glass out of the windows.  Of course, very few of the windows had any glass left.  Most had fallen victim to small kids with bb guns or rocks and some had just fallen on their own.  Even knowing that the condition and appearance of the house was completely natural did nothing to calm my nerves.

As I reached for the door I privately hoped that it was locked.  The knob turned easily in my hand and the door swung open with considerable ease.  Not even a squeak.  I stood in the doorway for a moment to let my eyes adjust to the gathering gloom as well as pumping myself up to step inside.  The door opened onto a foyer with stairs leading to the second floor directly ahead and to the right.  An arch to the left opened to what seemed to have been a sitting room or living room and on the right, just before the stairs, another arch opened into another sitting area.  We thought that we might use this room for out command center. There was a couple of old tables as well as a couch and chair, though I couldn't bring myself to sit in the chair.  I did give it a good pat though, and was rewarded with more dust than seemed possible.

The wallpaper in the right-hand room was peeling from the top down and the ceiling seemed to be bowed in certain places.  There was a brick fireplace centered on the back wall with an ornately carved mantle crowning it.  A large rectangle above the mantle bore evidence of a mirror or picture that may have once hung there.
"Harold," I said as we made our way back to the van, "Let's bring our own chairs.  We can use those tables and  I'll get a couple of towels out to clean them off with."  Not that I am great at keeping a clean house, but there was no way I was setting my laptop down in all that dust and dirt.

Harold opened the van and pulled the chairs out as I found the towels.. As I was turning around, I saw Harold drop the chairs and head for the passenger side.  "Where are you going?" I asked. 

"I'm not going in there!  I just saw somebody looking out of that window!"  His face was white as a sheet.  "They were looking out of that room we were just in.  I saw the face!"

"Calm down, man.  You just saw the last rays of the sun catching on some of that dust and dirt on the window pane.  Nobody is in there.  If there were, we would have seen some sign.  The dust on the floor is an inch deep.  No one has been in there in years."

Harold said, "That's what I am afraid of .. no one LIVING has been in there in years.  Ghosts might not leave footprints."

"Come on, Harold.  It was your aunt that gave us permission to do our first hunt here.  We can't leave before we even investigate one room!"  That seemed to reach him.  He was more afraid of being teased about chickening out than he was of ghosts.

We took the chairs and went back into the house with a battery operated lantern, two flashlights and the rest of our equipment.  I admit that I was a little more attentive to my surroundings, this time as we moved to the rear of the house.  In lieu of Harold's 'sighting' we decided to make the old kitchen area in the back of the house our 'control room'.  There was an ancient four person table that was almost perfect for our equipment and we set our chairs up.

We set up a table and knocked most of the dust off.  The laptop went there and we pulled up our two chairs.  Next thing to do was tour the rooms and decide where to put our dvr's and recorders.  All of these pieces of equipment were wireless and the dvr's were streaming into the laptop. 

Like the guys on television we had a night vision camera that I had bought with that week's paycheck.  It was the only thing that allowed us to see where we were going without turning on a flashlight.  It came with an extra battery because the fellow at the electronics store told me that paranormal entities had been known to drain the energy from your batteries in order to manifest themselves.  Made sense to me.  And are ghosts afraid of flashlights?  I mean, why must all ghost hunts be done at night with no lights on?  Do they sleep in the daytime?  Hmmm.

Harold held the EMF detector and did a sweep in each room we entered.  We found no spikes of energy on the first floor and began to make our way up the stairs where the three bedrooms were located.  Just as we started up the stairs, I caught a movement about three steps above me.  It was small and very quick and I thought that it might be a raccoon or something along those lines. As I scanned the area, it was gone and I marked the spot on the camera so we could check it out later. 
As we neared the top of the stairs we heard what could only be described as footsteps ahead of us.  We stopped and listened as they seemed to come out of the bedroom off to the right of the landing.  I held the camera up above my head in order to get a shot of the doorway without having to make any overt movement.  Plus I wasn't in any hurry to meet up with what ever was walking around up there.
I almost lost the camera when I heard a terrible commotion behind me.  I spun around, positive that the ghost had somehow gotten behind me and was on the verge of grabbing me and dragging me to wherever it is ghosts drag you to and saw Harold already halfway down and picking up speed.  "Harold!", I called in my best theatrical whisper.  "Get back up here.  Come on, we're a team, don't turn chicken on me now."  He stopped, though his forward momentum took him the rest of the distance to the bottom floor. 

"Are, are, are, " he stutters a bit when he is nervous.  "Are you sure there is nothing up there? "

I convinced him that there was probably nothing to it and we made our way back to the upstairs landing.  I swung the camera over towards the room on the right just in time to see the middle door close.  That did not make me feel any better.  I stepped across the landing and checked the door latch,  It seemed to work well.  It didn't stick or hang up when I turned the knob.  The door was heavy, like most old doors seem to be and it didn't move on its own when I turned it loose.  I decided that I wanted a good look on the inside of the room before venturing in so I turned on my flashlight and scanned the room/  The paint on the walls was a yellowish gray, the way white turns when it has been infused with cigarette smoke over decades.  The ceiling was the same and the trim around the base and top of the walls was peeling and cracked.  There was no closet, but an ancient armoire stood guard in the far corner.  No carpet covered the old hard wood floors.

I turned off the beam and Harold and I took a moment to let our eyes adjust.  We decided to place one of the cameras on top of the amour and angle it to cover the entire room as well the door leading to the landing.  This angle allowed the camera to shoot out the door to the top of the stairs as well. 

We didn't bother with doing an EVP in this room as we had more equipment to set up. 
We went about that chore with gusto as we were getting our courage up with every minute we went without getting the you know what scared out of us.  One of the other cameras went in the corner of the landing on an old chair we place there for that reason.  We had failed to purchase any tri-pods with the cameras.  We aimed this one to cover the landing.  If anything moved, we would see it.

Back on the first floor we placed a camera just inside the front door aimed down the foyer.  It would catch any movement including on the staircase. 

As we set that particular camera and headed to the back of the house, a very dark shadow seemed to move from the area at the foot of the stairs, across the foyer and disappear.  I spun toward the movement just as it vanished and almost ran over Harold.  "Did you see that?" I asked. 

"See what?"

"Never mind, must have been a mouse."  I realized that he had been in the wrong position to see anything and if I told him, he would be out the door and halfway home before I finished my sentence.

We placed the last camera on a chair in the kitchen doorway leading back through the dining area, the sitting area and through the door leading into the front room that is to the right of the foyer as you enter the front door.  This side of the house was all open, except for that room.  It had a door, but it stood open at the moment.  That moment didn't last long..  

As we wove our way through dust and debris in the dining area towards the sitting area, the front room door slammed as if a ticked off linebacker were on the other side.  To say that Harold and I were startled would win an award for the largest understatement of the year.  I would like to say that Harold screamed like a little girl, but, I believe that was me.  Harold, on the other hand, said not a word.  The only sound he made was the thump when he hit the floor.  He had passed out from fright.  This was not turning out as I had planned.

He wasn't out long, just a couple of smacks on the face brought him back around.  I calmed him by explaining that the door had shut due to a gust of wind coming through the window on the front of the house.  Though, honestly, I had no idea how that door had slammed, but the story served to settle Harold down and keep him from streaking through the door, cranking up the van and leaving me in this creepy place all by myself. 

The next hour was, at best, boring.  We were hyped up for the first fifteen or twenty minutes due to the newness and the excitement of what had already happened.  For the next thirty to forty minutes, though, nothing happened.  And I mean nothing!  We went into each room and did an EMP sweep, just like on that TV show and got zero hits.  Well... 

After that first hour, we were calm and a little more professional.  We checked in on our computer now and then and started doing some EVP's (electronic voice phenomena's).  That is where we go to a location, such as a bedroom and start asking questions.  We hoped to get an audible response (one that we can hear, but if not, then the recorder may pick up one that we could not hear at the time.  At least that is the way the guys on television do it.  We used our flashlights very little since we did not want to scare any spirits away that might be lingering nearby.  Of course, this meant some bumping into furniture, walls and doors.  I wonder which would frighten them more, the light or the noise we made?

By this time it was nearing midnight and I was getting tired.  I had worked all day and had not realized how exhausting  ghost hunting could be.  It was almost like work.  We were sitting in the kitchen with the computer, taking a rest when we heard a loud crash from the foyer area.  Once our hearts stopped trying to jump out of our chests, we grabbed our camera and recorder and made a mad dash for the front of the house.

Harold's flashlight bobbed and bounced as he ran behind me which made my forward movement a bit tricky.  (Have you ever tried to dodge obstacles when they seemed to keep moving?)  When we reached the foyer I immediately looked for some piece of ceiling to be on the floor.  I figured that would be the only thing that could make that huge sound.  But nothing.  No ceiling  or anything else seemed to be out of place.  This made no sense.  We both heard the crash.  However, we did have the camera in place and if anything had happened, it should have recorded it. 

We debated checking the computer to see what had happened, but decided to continue our investigation as we had planned and look at it later.  I am glad that we did.  We immediately started and EVP session in the foyer.  The first few minutes we would ask questions and wait a moment or two to give any entity that was there a chance to speak.  We would not know if we had caught any evidence until we replayed the recorder.

After about fifteen minutes of asking questions like, "Are you here?" and, "What is your name?", we got a jolt when a voice from behind us said, "Why are you here?"  I almost came unglued.  Spinning around I was certain that someone was standing behind me.  This wasn't a garbled, sounds like a voice from beyond kind of voice.  It was as clear and pronounced as an English Professor giving a lecture.  There was no one there.  Our backs were towards a corner of the foyer where there were no windows or doors.  No way for anyone to sneak up behind us.  Harold was actually more calm than I was.  I guess he had most of the scared shaken out of him already.

"Did you hear that?", he asked.  "Sounded like it came from the corner."

"Yeah, I heard it.  That was perfectly clear.  Now what do we do?"  I was momentarily at a loss.

"I guess we answer", he said.
I sat the recorder upright on the floor and said, "We are here to find out how many spirits this house has in it.  Are you the only one or are there others?"

We waited for a response, hoping that it would be loud and plain like the last statement, but all we got was silence.  We continued the session for another five minutes and then we heard the distinct sounds of footsteps leading off down the foyer towards the back of the house.  We quickly gathered out stuff and followed.
The sound of steps continued until they reached the dining area.  As Harold and I approached, one of the small LED flashlights we had left in the kitchen came on!  All by itself!  Well, obviously not 'all by itself', but without either of us touching it.  I decided to see if we could communicate with whatever was manipulating the light.  "Are you part of the Robertson family?" I asked.  "If you are, then please turn the light off.  Two seconds and off it went.
Harold got into the game at this point.  "If you are one of my aunts turn the light back on."   Nothing.  "Are you Uncle John?"  The light flashed back on.  "Are any others here?"  Light off.  "Are they relatives?"  Light on.  "Do you try to scare people that come into this old house?"  Nothing.  "Does someone else?"  Light off.  "Do you want us to leave?"  Light on, light off, light on, light off.
"I think it is time to pack up and go," I said.  "He seemed pretty clear on your last question, don't you think?"
We immediately began going back through the house, gathering equipment as we went.  We saved the upstairs for last because, to be honest, we were a bit nervous.  After all, that was where the female ghost was rumored to reside.  However, everything remained quiet while we loaded our stuff and we were happy to have it that way. 
Our review of the evidence took longer than the on site investigation did.   We set up at my house and went through all the video and audio.  Though we did get several shots of a little mist, at times on video, there were a couple of really good, send chills down your spine, clips.  One was of the door to the front room closing.  It had been standing wide open from the time we entered the house, there had been no movement around the door and there was no where for a draft to come from.  Even so, the door slammed shut.  It did not start slowly and pick up speed, it went from a standing start to closed in a matter of a second or two.  You could even see the dust that was kicked up by the breeze the door caused.  Also, directly after this happened, you could hear two very clear sounds .. one was my screech and the other was Harold hitting the floor.  We may cut those out.
The other clip was taken when we first got to the property.  I had taken a dvr and chronicled our arrival.  The scene began with a panning of the grounds and then the front of the house.  I verbally described the location as I went.  I took in the front porch and then moved the camera up the front, across the second floor and then to the roof and the two chimneys where there were bricks missing.  It was on the second floor that I now saw something I had not noticed before. 
In the second window from the left,  there was the distinct image of a woman looking out and down at us.  She had either short hair or it was pulled back, the collar of her blouse was high and ruffled and what you could see of the skirt was either white or some other very light color.   Her face was brownish as if she had a good tan.   (I always thought ghosts were supposed to be pale.)  I believe we found the lady in white.
Our EVP's turned out to be mostly silence.  Once in a while we would think something was there, only to replay it and find a little static.  Several times we did catch the sound of footsteps.  One sounded like boots walking up the stairs and another actually sounded like spike heels on a lady's shoes walking on the hardwood of the upstairs landing.  Two other times the sounds were too indistinct to determine the type of footwear they may be.  It would have been nice to have the equipment to 'clean up and enhance' the recordings like the folks on television have.  I don't, however, have that kind of money to spend on a hobby, and Harold and I haven't found a sponsor for our investigations (yet).
It was a great introduction to ghost hunting, since we did get to experience something other than our imaginations.  I believe that we will be getting better at the entire operation as time goes on.  We already have two more investigations lined up and I'm planning on spending most of my tax refund on more equipment.
As for our findings on this hunt.  Well let's just say we left the location as we found it .. dark, creepy and haunted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Phantom on the Bridge

The voice is calling, calling.  It hasn't been still in almost a week.  Inviting, cajoling, whispering in my ear during the dark hours of the night.  No manner of light, happy communication with family or friends has been capable of removing this notion from my mind.
I make my way to the river by starlight.   The mists hang low, graying out the trees and bushes.  What, on any other night might be an ethereal fantasy landscape, complete with animals from the realm of imagination and myth, now seem more of the land of nightmares and terrors with the tendrils of mist stealing along the ground in rivulets, twisting around the stones and stumps beside the path to the river.  White, luminescent snakes writhing their way toward my own destination, the bridge. 
No ordinary, concrete and steel edifice crossing a raging torrent, but a slender, covered span inside which I have spent many a solitary, though not lonely night.  A safe haven, if you will, from the drudgery and dullness of the workaday world of reality.  A place for imagination and fancy, for wishes and dreams, for the world of the mundane to be left at the portal, disallowing entrance to the dimly lit interior.  Though familiar, the bridge that comes into view as I round the side of a great tower of spruce seems, somehow different.  Not wrong, if such a word would even be appropriate, just different.
I step from the path I follow onto the moss covered planks of the bridge, noting the rush of the river only a few feet below me.  The water flows from the mountains and is cold in a bone-aching manner.  The cleanness of the stream is quantified by the fact that it emerges from the realms of the inner-earth less than three thousand feet from where I stand.  It sweeps from the mountain in a rush, the waterfall at its source creating a never disappearing rainbow in the sunlight with sparkling drops nourishing the verdant foliage along the near banks and slopes in its headlong tumble down the mountain.  Here the slope has gentled a bit and slows the water to a more peaceful, though never still, flow.  During the day, sunlight may dapple the bridge with the shadows of leaves or the passing cloud may cool the air for a moment or two.  But at night.  At night.
I follow the voice as though in a trance, though I am aware of all that transpires around me.  I am aware of the night creatures that sit, unseen, behind the low undergrowth observing my passage.  The owl, far off, emitting his mournful call, the mice under the leaves, the raccoon that hurries off at my approach. 
I must find that which beckons  me.  The voice, so familiar, yet so strange.  The melody that plays just out of range of my hearing.  The fragrance of the voice.  The aroma of the call.  Leading me on, through the woods that I wander at will in the light, but leave nearly unexplored past twilight.  The siren's call to the sailor might have much in common with this wraith of whispers and invitations.  Not allowing one to ignore it nor allowing indifference, once noted.  "Come .. Come."
Stories have been spoken, late at night around camper's fires or during children's sleepovers of strange and mystical beings that inhabit the forests and rivers.  Beings of far off lands and magical dimensions that should never have found their way to our corner of reality.  Creatures born of spirit, not flesh or made from stone instead of bone.  Creatures that flit from branch to branch on wings of gossamer silver or rise from the rock strewn ground to block the way of the unwary.   All of this is knowledge roiling around in my mind as I traverse that one step from the night shrouded path I followed to the gloom and mystery of the bridge.
Mostly gone are the sounds of the river.  Not its current nor its passage amongst the rocks and roots along the banks intrude their voices within the boundaries of the bridge with more than a muffled undertone.  Even the voice has stilled.  With that cessation my head seems to be wrapped in cotton.  Perhaps this is what near deafness feels like. 
"Come .. Come."  The invitation returns, low, almost sultry in the delivery.  Almost ... familiar.  The night recedes and the blackness of the interior fades to a dark, dark gray.  A glow, more feint than that of a single lightning bug illuminates a figure.  No, no figure, but a darkness that is more so than the surroundings.  A blackness that is more than shadow.   A shadow that seems more than flesh but less than whole.  A shadow that has a missing place.  Incomplete.  Not finished.
I am drawn to this phantom on the bridge.  I am inexorably drawn.  I find the sensation not unappealing nor do I find it unwelcome.  As though the shadow may have searched for me for many years, or I it.  Now we are found.  Peace.

John was found the morning of the nineteenth of June.  The place of his demise was a covered walking bridge within a few hundred yards of the cabin he and his wife shared until the night of her passing.  He had become a recluse afterward, preferring to spend his time exploring the woods or writing the books that were so well loved.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Train

There is a legend, whispered about in the mountains of South Carolina.  A story of a Ghost Train.  It goes that in the late eighteen hundreds a steam locomotive derailed while crossing a trussel.  The wreckage was spread across the river gorge that the bridge spanned. Some of the victims were swept away by the raging mountain stream below.  Many were never found.
The story goes that one passenger was pulled from the water, where she had been clinging to a twisted limb along the bank of the river.  In her left hand was a ragged piece of cotton, brightly colored and soft.  She refused to release the cloth as if it were the most important thing in the world to her, this piece of cloth.
The next few days saw the wreckage explored as bodies and a few survivors were pulled from the bent and broken pieces of steel.  The dead were taken to the local mortuary where friends or loved ones came to claim them.  The others were bandaged and treated as well as possible on site and then transported the forty miles to the nearest hospital.  Even then, some eventually died.
The woman with the cotton cloth languished, silent and alone, in this hospital for weeks.  The doctors treated her wounds and set her broken leg, but were unsuccessful in reaching her mind.  She was listed as Jane Doe, since she could not, or would not respond to any conversation they tried to engage her in.  After the staff had done all they could for her physically, she was released to the nearest mental facility where she spent the rest of her days. 
Jane Doe never spoke to anyone, but you could hear her make strange cooing sounds directed at the piece of cloth that slowly disintegrated through her constant handling over the years.  Now and then, the nurses would report sobbing coming from her room in the middle of the night and once in a while a scream would resound and echo down the hallways as if she were caught in the throes of a nightmare.
Jane died at the age of about seventy years.  She was buried in a local cemetery where they placed a small stone on her grave.  It can still be seen there, and though the lettering is worn and faded now,  you can still make out "Jane Doe, Unknown, Rest In Peace".
This story in itself would be quite a legend, however it does not end there.  You see, the strip of cotton cloth that Jane held onto for all those years once belonged to a baby boy.  Jane's baby boy. 
Jane, whose real name was Margaret Mason was traveling to meet her husband in North Carolina, where he had recently gotten a new job and found them a house to rent.  He had sent for Margie (as he called her) and their new baby boy, Benjamin as soon as the papers were signed and he had enough money for the train ticket.
Margie had no relatives in the little community of Salem, South Carolina and was overjoyed at the prospect of joining her husband and reuniting their little family.  Her dreams of the future were all joy and light.
She and her son boarded the train and made their way to the passenger car she had been assigned to.  The train pulled out of the station and expected to arrive at their destination on time.  The day was clear, the air fresh with springtime and the flower she had picked along the edge of the sidewalk was perfect like the baby she held, swaddled in his new, brightly colored, cotton blanket.
The trip was exciting, this being her first time on a train.  She sat with her nose almost glued to the glass as she watched the landscape whipping by while they make their way through the hills and valleys.  At times it seemed she could see forever when they topped a ridge and then, at other moments, she could almost imagine they were in some strange and distant land as they traversed tunnels cut straight through the mountains!
The excitement gave way to drowsiness, however with the monotonous clacking of the steel wheels on the track.  Even the rare whistle as the train passed through an even more rare settlement or community could not keep Margie from dozing off with little Ben tucked up happily against her breast. 
The crash of thunder was her first warning.  She blinked the sleep from her eyes to find a much changed scene.  The sky had grown dark and menacing with storm clouds engulfing the train.  She had never imagined herself travelling into a cloud.  The lightning flashed so brightly and so close that it almost seared her eyes, and the clap of thunder followed on the heels of the lightning so quickly there was no time to cover little Ben's ears.  He was justly terrified, which did nothing for Margie.
She attempted to comfort him and sooth his terror, all the while the fear was building in her own heart.
As the passenger train rounded a curve in the tracks where it hugged the side of this rugged mountain, and began traversing the trussel that spanned the river gorge, a bolt of lightning blasted into one of the main supporting beams underneath, about midway of the bridge. There was no time to stop, though the engineer did his best.  He was pulled from the wreckage with his hand still on the brake lever.
The scream that escaped Margie's lips, accompanied by the wail of little Ben, were lost in time along with all the rest from the other passengers as the train seemed to leap from the rails and begin its disintegration in its plunge of two hundred feet to the river below.
The trussel is gone now, the wreckage long since carried away.  The train no longer rolls through this mountain terrain.  The rails are still there, though they are rusted and hidden by the encroachment of nature after so many years.  Hunters and fishermen still walk along them at times, the level bed of the forgotten tracks makes their adventures a little less exhausting.
They tell of camping next to the old bridge on a springtime night, when a seasonal thunderstorm comes rolling in across the peaks and valleys.  They say that now and then you can hear the sound of a steam locomotive traversing the mountains and the screech of the wheels as the brakes lock down on the steel rails.  Then the mournful sound of a baby crying, off in the brush near the stream below.
If you are lucky, they say, you might catch a glimpse of the child's mother searching for her little one.  And, don't worry if you catch a glimpse of color in one of the trees, it is just a piece of soft, brightly colored cotton cloth that was once part of a baby's blanket, wrapped around a child named Ben.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Sequined Shoe

She couldn't believe that John had dumped her out!  I mean, here she was, way out in the country, in the dark, on a lonely, dark, scary road, all by herself!  And just because she wasn't 'loose' like some of the girls he dated.  Sure she had let him kiss and hug her, and maybe they danced a bit too close at the prom, and she had agreed to take a ride with him.  Of course, drinking half of the beer he had hid in his car may have given the wrong impression, plus they had fooled around some in the front seat, but she had definitely not been ready for it to go any farther than a little amateurish playing around!  What kind of girl did he think she was, anyway?
Lindsay was lost deep in her thoughts as she neared the old bridge.  She paid no attention to the set of headlights as they approached around a curve up the far hill.  Her mind was filled with what should have been the greatest night of her life.  It was the Senior Prom, when all young ladies bought wonderful dresses and their beaus showed up with a corsage that the girl's mother had to pin on.  Lindsay had been accompanied by the best looking boy in school.  He was also the coolest.  All the girls had envied her when they found out that John had asked her to the prom.  He was so rad.  Jet black hair, sideburns like Elvis and the deepest, darkest brown eyes she had ever seen.  His dark hair and eyes were a perfect offset for her blond and blue.
She started across the bridge and could hear the staccato sound of her three inch heels echoing back from the unseen creek below.  As she neared the middle of the bridge, the sound changed.  Of a sudden, she realized that the headlights that she had glimpsed were bearing down on the other end.  She began turning to run back the way she had come when one of the beautiful heels that her mother had bought for her, became stuck between two of the planks.   She felt the bridge begin to rumble as she tried to pry her heel out.  She was caught like a deer in the  beam of the headlights of the onrushing Pontiac.  There was no time to scream, no time to run or even jump from the bridge.

But Bobby's wife screamed as they took the curve too fast and she saw the beautiful young girl in the middle of the bridge.  There was no time to miss her and the horrid sound of metal on flesh pummeled into her memory.  The car careened out of control and then came to a sudden, solid stop when it impaled its grill and motor on the guard rail at the far end.  That was all she remembered.
The police and the fire department finished their work of cleaning up the debris and the ambulance had already taken the driver of the car and his passenger to the hospital.  Sgt. Jack Murphy was doing one last check of the area when his light fell on the shoe, its heel stuck in the bridge floor.  The shoe was rather small, with a single, sequined, broken strap.  He followed his light to the far edge of the bridge and beyond to the creek below.  Then down-stream to where some bushes were moving with the current and something out of place was trapped in the branches.  A hand.  A small, slim fingered hand, seemingly grasping the lower branch.  As his light traveled further, he could just make out blond curls floating on the current.   Jack made his way down the creek bank and crashed through the underbrush.   He was unable to reach from the bank so he removed his holster and wallet in preparation of wading, waist deep to the girl.  "Please let her still be alive" was his entire prayer as he moved through the swiftly moving stream.   He grabbed the hand and slowly drew her to the top of the water, knowing from the first touch that this was one prayer that would not be answered.    
A terrible thing.  It seemed that the girl had been walking on the bridge, though why at this time of the night, Sgt. McMurphy had no idea.  Well, actually he had an idea.  Probably got separated from her fellow up on lover's lane and decided to walk home.  It happened once in a while.  The guy was ready to go farther than the girl, things got heated and when the girl called it to a halt, she was left to fend for herself.
He knew the girls parents, the Jacobs.  They were going to be devastated.  He was on his way to their home on Willow St. to break the news.
Jess had just gotten off from work, late again, and was hurrying home to pick up his slightly upset wife for their anniversary date.  He had finally finished the Borden file that had been plaguing him for a month.  People thought that lawyers had it easy; just settle cases, do divorces, chase ambulances and make lots of money.  They never considered the long hours and late nights you had to put in to settle those cases.  They never knew about the broken families and broken hearts they had to try their best to help heal when they did the divorces or accidents.
His mind was still attempting to file away the days events as he took the turn onto Drury Lane.  It was a seldom used road, except for farm machinery, with a rickety old, one lane bridge.  He knew the road was full of potholes and sharp curves, but his new Mercedes could handle it just fine.  And it would cut a few miles off his trip home.  That would make him a little less late and his wife a little less upset.
He slowed as he approached each curve and then 'powered out' as the NASCAR officials called it.  And there was plenty of power to use, too.  The Mercedes was just a week off the showroom floor and Jess had already had it detailed.  He wanted to keep it like new as long as he could.  After all, it was his anniversary present to himself.  Tonight, he would surprise his wife with the stunning diamond that was part of his present to her.  The real surprise would be when she found the two tickets to Jamaica inside the ring box.  He had been promising this trip for the past five years, ever since he had joined the firm.  Now he had finally been named as a full partner and the money got much better.
He had just roared out of the curve and onto the bridge when his headlights fell onto the figure of a woman, or girl.  He slammed the brakes but it was too late.  He knew he was going to hit her even as he tore the steering wheel to the right in a last desperate attempt not to.  His wife's face was the last thing in his mind's eye as the new Mercedes ripped, with the despairing sound of rending metal, through the rails on the side of the bridge and the rear-end swung forward, broadsiding the young woman.
Sheriff McMurphy pulled the tape across the road leading to the old bridge.  He doubted that the it would be re-opened, it was in terrible dis-repair.  Just as well.  He had just waved the coroner's truck out as they transported the body from the Mercedes back to town.  Forty years and four deaths on this one, lonely bridge.
He remembered the first one he worked.  It was in 1960 and he had been a sergeant for less than a month.  He was heading back to the Sheriff's Office after a fairly uneventful shift.  The night was warm, the stars were out and the local high school was having their senior prom.  He had pulled a couple of teens over for open container and under-age drinking, but had turned them loose with a warning.  After all, he wasn't that far out of high school himself, and could remember how special prom night was. The memories of that night still haunted him. 

Tonight he was, again taking Drury Ln. back towards town.  It was a little quicker and he didn't expect to see any traffic that would need his attention or cause him to work any overtime.  Then he rounded the curve.  The scene burned into his mind.  He saw black marks on the tar and gravel road leading onto the bridge and continuing to the right where they ended at the torn rails on the side.  He could see lights shining at an odd angle from the creek-bed, up into the bushes on the far side.  His first thought was a drunk driver going too fast for conditions.  If the guy was lucky, he would just be banged up a bit and have a large insurance bill.  He was only partially right.
The guy in the car was travelling a little too fast for this road and he'd probably had a couple of beers,  but the car was totaled and he was pretty messed up.  He kept talking about the girl on the bridge. 
He remembered the first and this would be the last.  He would see to it that the county either fixed this road and widened the bridge or just tore the bridge down.  He had heard all the stories that were passed around about the bridge; about the figure of the girl and how she would suddenly appear in the middle of this same bridge on prom night each year.  He had never seen her, but he believed.  Each Halloween this bridge became a gathering place for anyone wanting to hear a good story or get a good scare.  Whether the stories were true or not, he did know that there would never be a repeat of tonight.  He was a few weeks from retirement and had seen too much to walk away with this bridge still intact.  It was now, officially, closed.
As he turned away from the railing and moved back towards his squad car he saw it, the single strap, three inch heeled shoe stuck between the boards of the bridge.  He might have missed it if the little sequins on the strap had not caught the beam of his flashlight.  It was very dainty, just the kind a girl might wear to her first dance.

He pried it out and gently laid it in the front of his patrol car.  Later he would add it to the others that he had collected over the years.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Room at the Top of the Stairs

Wendy had kissed Ben goodbye as he and his brother, Harold left for work.  If you could call it work.  They were helping out an old friend on some painting job for a couple of days.  It was good money, it just wouldn’t last very long.
She was feeling pretty good this morning.  She had the whole house to herself and she intended to do some serious cleaning before her future Mother in Law, Clara, got home from work.  Of course, she wasn’t entirely alone, since Aunt Nellie was in her bedroom in the front of the house.  Being bedridden, she wasn’t going anywhere.  Taking care of Aunt Nellie was the reason for Clara and her two sons living here and Wendy didn’t mind helping out.

Wendy began with the foyer/hallway that ran from the front door, all the way to the back of the house.  It was about fifteen feet wide with beautiful, dark hardwood floors and light paint on the walls above walnut wainscoting.  There was a lot of space, but most of it was filled with antiques, paintings, pictures and hand carved items in all types of wood, from all over the world.  Nellie’s brother, Lewis had collected these during his travels with the U.S. Air Force.  He had retired after thirty years in.  He had collected lots of stuff!  She intended to polish every bit of it.

Cobwebs were fairly easy to take care of with the help of one of Ben’s ‘painter’s poles’.  It was six feet long, closed, but telescoped out to seventeen feet, fully extended.  Wendy discovered that the head of a cheap, ‘Dollar Store’ broom would screw on this pole and thus, she could reach the thirteen foot high corners just right!  She also used Ben’s ten foot step ladder to reach the chandeliers that lighted the hall.  Even when he wasn’t here, Ben came in pretty handy.  The antiques shined up really nice with some ‘Old English’ and a soft rag, though she had a bit of trouble getting into the little nooks and crannies on some of the carved pieces.

The last thing on her agenda, before lunch, was to dust and polish the banister going up the stairs.  It was old oak and the stain on the top of it was worn off from over a hundred years of hands moving up and down, over and over.  There had been children’s hands that grabbed and pulled little bodies up the stairs and held on to slow the same child’s descent.  There had been young, strong hands that just barely rested on the banister as they hurried up or down, always with somewhere else to be or some errand to run.  There had been old, arthritic hands that, like the child’s, held on for support and safety, maybe for the last and final time.  It was a long tumble down the steep staircase.
Wendy dusted and then polished to banister till it glistened.  She did the same for the portraits that lined the wall, matching the staircase in angle of ascent.  The portraits were of family long since gone.  Gone, but never forgotten by those that remained.  These pictures differed from others scattered about the old house.  Those were of happy times and events, people smiling or laughing at the photographer.  Some were professionally taken, but most were obviously amateur.  The ones lining the stairs were of stern visage.  No smiles adorned these faces staring out of the frames.  The men were in topcoats and ties, stern and hardened with women of the same cut.  Some of the men were mustachioed while others were clean shaven.  None of the women wore loose hair, nor was it cut short, but all pulled severely back or in a bun.  None of the frames had names attached so that later generations might know who they were.  It seemed that they were considered too important to forget.  Well, no one that Wendy knew had any idea who these people might be except for Aunt Nellie and she seldom spoke of them at all.

Once Wendy reached the top of the stairs she decided to sit and rest in one of the two bedrooms located off the large landing.  The bedroom to the left had belonged to Nellie’s late sister Doris, an embittered old maid that, rumor had it, had been left at the alter when she was but a young lady looking to her future.  She had never married, but had stayed in the family home all her years and ruled the household with a stern stare and sharp word when needed.  Her bedroom, as Wendy explored it, lent evidence of someone that might have been quite different if she had not been dealt that heavy a blow so early on.  There were beautiful dresses in the closet, some in dry cleaner plastic and some still with the sale tags attached.  Some of the tags announced high end clothiers long out of business.  There were shoes of styles Wendy had never been aware of.  Hats with feathers or flowers or plain with bead-work.  Doris seemed to have been a woman that liked finer things but, after purchasing them, had nowhere to go nor reason to wear them.  Costume, (she assumed it was costume) jewelry filled polished boxes with glass and mirrored lids.  Real silk stockings hung in the closet while beautiful sweaters were wrapped and stored in seemingly ancient, cedar chests.  There was also a small
Wendy looked at her watch and discovered that time, while seeming to stand still in the bedroom had continued for the rest of the world and, if she didn’t get a move on, she would be hard pressed to have dinner ready by the time the guys and Clara got home.  She had passed more than two hours rummaging through Doris’ possessions.  She closed the lid on the last chest and made her way to the landing where she stood for just a moment longer considering the differences between the great aunt Doris that Ben and Harold talked about and the one she had discovered in the room at the top of the stairs.
She took the first step with a firm grip on the railing she had previously polished and then the next when, surprisingly, she got the distinct impression that someone was behind her.  Even though she knew no one had come up, she turned slightly to look over her left shoulder.  Sure enough, no one was there.  As she, again, began her decent she imagined the portraits on the wall were following her progress from behind glasses frames. 
Just as she began scolding herself for an over active imagination, two small hands landed in the middle of her back with such force as to force the air from her lungs and send her on the beginnings of a head first tumble down the stairs to certain injury if not worse.  Wend instinctively made a grab for anything to break her fall.  To her right was only the wall and the portraits, but to her left was the bannister she had so lovingly polished.  It was to the railing on the banister that her hand grasped toward and clung to, slowing her enough that she kept her legs under her instead of above her head. 
After stumbling and staggering down the remainder of the staircase, Wendy paused at the bottom to catch her breath and look up to see who had pushed her.  No one.  There was no one at the top of the stairs.  She knew that she had been alone up there.  She also knew that someone had pushed her.  Could it have been Doris, angered at the intrusion into her private domain?  Could it, truly have been the specter of this past matriarch of the family?  Actually, Wendy didn’t spend much time considering who it might have been, she was too busy making a promise to herself that she would never again take the initiative to clean the banister nor explore the upstairs of this eerie old house.