Thursday, December 30, 2010

H'aint No Such Thing

Nobody could tell a ghost story like my granddad. As children, my sister and I spent several weeks each summer with our grandparents on their farm in Pelzer, SC. Our chief form of
entertainment was sitting on their large porch in the evening and listening to my grandfather tell ghost stories.

The one about the headless horseman always got my goose bumps going. I’ll never forget the time he was looking for his head and…..(there go those goose bumps again)…

Suddenly the story was interrupted when out of the blue, a bolt of lightning struck the
telephone pole about 30 yards from where we were sitting!

Talk about a punch line!

Frankly, after that, I lost all interest in Ghost Stories

However, over the years, there were a few times when “ghost stories” seemed to come
looking for me.

Of course, since there H'aint no such thing as ghosts (or “Haints”) there was almost always a
logical explanation for what at first glance seemed …uh…….supernatural.

Stone House, Manassas,VA circa 2000

Take for example the time I was showing an out of town friend of mine the nearby Manassas Battlefield.

It was very early one winter morning and our first stop was the old “Stone House,” one of only two original structures still standing in that popular National Park.

It was mainly used as a hospital during both battles of Manassas.

I figured we had come a bit too early because the park seemed to be empty. But that’s not
really unusual during the winter months before the Spring tourist season starts. However, what
was unusual that morning was that there didn’t seem to be any park service employees around
either. At least, not anywhere near the Stone House.

Stone House circa 1860
The place looked pretty drab. Very much like I imagine it did during the Civil War.

There still was no sign of anyone else in the park, as far as we could see.

But perhaps someone was inside. We tried the front door……and it was unlocked. 

 Once inside, we announced ourselves, several times, in fact, but got no response.

 The house was totally empty.

So, after a couple more attempts at announcing our presence, we started exploring the place on our own, which is the way I like to do it anyway.

We were getting braver by the minute and with still no sign of anyone in authority telling
us where we could, or could not, go in the house, we went on upstairs to try to locate the
floorboard where I had read that two wounded soldiers had carved their initials in 1862.

About the time we spotted one of the carvings, we heard footsteps downstairs.

I thought it wise to let whoever it was know that we were in the house, so I announced our presence again and noted that we were upstairs.

There was no reply.

View from second floor window

We both came to the conclusion that perhaps we should cut our visit to the Stone House short, because it just didn’t seem right for someone off the street (like us) to be able to just walk into such an historical house in a major National Park and wander around like we were doing.

Heck, I could have carved my initials in the upstairs floorboard, if I had been so inclined.

Besides, we wanted to find out who had joined us in the house, and head off any trouble that
we might find ourselves in since with all the laws Congress passes daily, I’m sure there must be
a number of them relating to unauthorized strangers wandering freely into protected National
historical monuments.

As we descended the stairs, we saw a woman, who rather frantically…it seemed to us…had
started up the stairs just as we were coming down.

“I’ve got to see it again,” she said as she hurried past us.

“I’ve got to see what they’ve done to it.”

When she reached the top of the stairs, she turned to us and said,

“I used to live here.”

(Cue the goose bumps. Up with the Twilight Zone music..and out.)

Now, I don’t want to spoil a perfectly good ghost story, so I’ll let you pick the ending.

This is multiple choice…and only one answer is true.

You decide.

She was:

A) Emily , the young daughter of Henry and Jane Mathews , owners of the Stone House,
who was killed in her bedroom by a stray bullet during the first battle of Bull Run. Every
year on the anniversary of her death, she reappears at the Stone House apparently
looking for the doll she was holding at the time of her death.
B) An actress who is part of a Candid Camera Stunt…….and who any moment will announce
that my friend and I are on Candid Camera.

C) A woman who now lives in Pittsburgh, but was born in Virginia. In the 1950’s, her
father worked for the Park Service and was in charge of the battlefield. As part of his
compensation, he and his family lived, rent free, in the upstairs of the Stone House
which was closed to the public. This was the first time she had seen the house since her

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.” –Rod Serling