Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

My great aunt and uncle’s home in West Virginia supposedly was haunted.

When I was a child, we would visit and I remember my mother talking about the strange things that happened in the old house.

She did not like to stay there.

My mind is misty as I try to recall these spooky stories. Legends tainted with the eye of an imaginative youngster can often take a turn otherwise unexpected. I lay no claim to the truth herein.

The trip to Canvas, West Virginia was a long trek through the mountains, over winding roads that threatened us all with carsickness. It was always a relief to emerge from the vehicle into the sweet West Virginia air.

The house sat back in a hollow, shaded by huge old trees. The yard was a children’s paradise, with rocks covered with moss and beech and sassafras trees from which we would strip the bark. It tasted sweet and was a treat to us urchins.

Inside, Aunt Helen was always baking. The place smelled like a heaven of bread and fried chicken. The food spilled off the table in great abundance the entire time we were there.

Uncle Carmen and my father spent their day together picking guitars, singing bluegrass until the late hour forced my mother to ask them to be quiet so we could all get some sleep.

I have a teasingly faint memory of the sounds of a banjo playing late at night. Maybe it was my uncle or my father – but both men play guitar and mandolin. As a young musician myself, I knew a banjo when a heard it.

I rose and went to investigate. I hit a creak in the stair and the music stopped. Something rattled, like the sheathing of paper. I slipped on down the steps, shivering in a sudden chill. When I cut on the lights, there was no one.

The next morning I asked Uncle Carmen at breakfast why he played his banjo in the dark. Aunt Helen’s spoon froze on the way to her mouth.

“I don’t play the banjo,” Carmen said. Out of all my visits to his house, those words are the ones I most remember.

They told me I had dreamed the sounds.

On another visit, a clock in the living room where I slept on the couch that had never worked started chiming for no reason at all, waking me up.
It struck thirteen.

Suddenly the pipes in the bathroom sang, rattled and moaned with a fierce desire that made my hair stand on end.

And the rocking chair at the far end of the room began to creak as it rocked.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Then the water in the bathroom just off the living room turned on. The faucet handles apparently moved all by themselves, sending a splash of cold water down the washbasin.

This was a lot worse than a banjo singing out in the night.

If you think I sprang out of that room and hightailed it into the guest room where my parents stayed, you would be right.

**This originally appeared on October 29, 2008 in The Fincastle Herald under my column, Country Crossroads.


  1. Oooooo what creepy memories! Sounds like fun, though.

  2. You know, i am a ghost hunter and our group is looking for cases! hehe....I love ghost stories!

  3. I enjoyed reading that column in the paper yesterday! Was glad to get a comp copy in the mail. Need to get our subscription back again!

  4. I love a good ghost story. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. I'm scared....

    That must have been some house to live in. I couldn't have done it!

  6. Vewy vewy cweepy.....

  7. That was a great ghost story--it gave me chills! Very well-written, too.

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, the memories of family visits plus the supernatural aspect of it!

  9. My family visits were much more mundane than that, for which I'm sort of thankful. As always, a beautiful piece.


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