The Promise

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Louisiana ghost story about two childhood friends who make a mutual promise that must be kept – even beyond the grave! Adapted from folklore by Craig Dominey.

Deep in the hot steamy backwoods of Lost Creek, Louisiana, there once lived two young boys named Tom and Clay. They were the best of friends – so much so that they each made a solemn promise to be the best man at the other’s wedding when they grew up. They cut open the palms of their hands with hunting knives and shook hands on it, sealing their promise in blood.

As they got older, the two friends became very different men. Tom was a soft-spoken and humble fella who was quite content working his family’s small livestock ranch. But Clay was a hothead who frequented the local tavern almost every night. “That temper of yours is gonna get you in trouble one day,” Tom constantly warned his friend. And sure enough, his warning came true. Clay got in a barroom brawl one night over a gambling debt, and was promptly shot dead.

Tom spent many months grieving for Clay, and visited his grave every week at the tiny local cemetery a few miles outside of town. But Tom knew he eventually had to get on with his life, and so he did. A year later, he met a young woman named Isabelle, whose family had just moved into the area. After a six-month courtship, the two decided to get married.

It was then that Tom remembered the promise he’d made to Clay when they were kids. Since Clay was dead, he obviously couldn’t be the best man. But Tom felt he should show respect for their friendship and at least ask him, no matter if he was alive or dead. Besides, Tom was kind of a superstitious fella. And he figured with a temper like Clay had, he might just come back as a ghost and make his life miserable if he didn’t!

Old Graveyard

So one night, Tom walked down the long dusty road to Lost Creek Cemetery, lantern in hand. He opened the rusted cemetery gate with a loud CREAK and walked past the crumbling tombstones to Clay’s barren grave. He took a deep breath, then told Clay about his wedding plans. “Remember that promise we made when we was kids?” asked Tom. “Well, it’d be great if you could be my best man. But since you’re dead and all…”

Before Tom could finish this sentence, he felt the ground start to shake underneath his feet. It got louder and louder, and lightning crashed across the sky.A giant sinkhole opened up where Clay’s grave used to be. Then Tom’s blood ran cold as he saw Clay’s corpse rise slowly out of the earth, a big grin on his face, looking no different than the day they buried him.

“‘Bout time you came ’round here and asked me!” Clay said. “I thought you’d never make it!”

Tom could barely speak. “But…but you’ve been dead all this time! How come you don’t look any different?”

“They don’t let folks in Heaven who’ve made promises they don’t keep.” Clay answered. “So I’ve been lyin’ here this whole time. And I’d be much obliged if you’d let me keep my promise and be the best man at your wedding!”

Well, Tom figured he had no choice but to help his friend out. So he brought him back to town. Needless to say, the townspeople were quite scared when Clay – who they’d put in the ground not more than a year ago – came back looking no worse for wear. But once they saw he was the same old Clay, they gradually started to accept him again, even if he was dead.

Tom’s wedding day finally came, and there was quite a party at the local dance hall afterwards. Local fiddlers kept the guests dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Much beer and Cajun sausage was consumed by all. And as the party wound down, and Tom enjoyed another slow waltz with his new bride, he felt Clay tap him on the shoulder.

“It’s time for me to go,” said Clay. “Could you walk me back to the graveyard? That way we can say goodbye – for good this time.”

Tom noticed that Clay had a new look on his face – a peaceful, content look he’d never seen before. Tom looked at his bride, who nodded her approval with a smile and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be right back, I promise,” Tom said to Isabelle.

With that, Tom walked with Clay down the cemetery road. They walked in silence most of the time, Clay looking up at the bright stars with a grin on his face. When they reached the rusted cemetery gate, Clay opened it wide with a loud creak. But this time, there weren’t any old, crumbling tombstones on the other side. Instead, Tom’s jaw dropped as he saw a sparkling gold path leading through a beautiful forest of multicolored fruit trees. Songbirds sang the most beautiful songs Tom had ever heard.

Heavenly Forest

“Is this Heaven?” Tom asked his friend.

“Must be,” Clay answered, “But you can’t go there. It ain’t your time. Besides, you have a new bride waitin’ for you back in town.”

Tom knew he had to get back, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the beauty on the other side of the gate. “Let me walk with you a bit,” Tom said. “I’ve gotta see what it’s like. I’ll turn back in a few minutes, I swear.”

Well, Clay figured he owed his friend a favor, so he held the gate open for Tom to follow. And as they strolled through the beautiful forests, meadows and beaches of Heaven, Tom thought it was a thousand times more beautiful than the local preacher said it would be. Tears streamed from his eyes at the beauty of the place.

It was then that Tom looked at his watch. He was shocked to see that hours had passed since he left Isabelle back at the dance hall. It had only seemed like a few minutes. He desperately wanted to keep walking, but with every ounce of willpower he had, he tapped Clay on the shoulder and told him it was time for him to go.

“Alright, then,” said Clay with a smile. “Maybe I’ll see you again one day.”

Old Graveyard

And with those words, the glorious world around them vanished, and Tom found himself back in the dark cemetery. He couldn’t wait to get back to town and tell Isabelle about what awaited them on the other side.

But as he walked through the graveyard, he noticed that something was strange. The tiny old cemetery was now filled with new graves, huge monuments and mausoleums. Tom ran down the long, cemetery road back toward town, but stumbled across a strange city he’d never seen before. Large buildings of glass and steel towered overhead. The townspeople were dressed in odd garments, staring at Tom like he was some sort of strange creature.

Tom figured he was disoriented, and must have taken the wrong road back home. “Where am I?” he asked the passers-by. “You’re in Lost Creek,” they answered with a chuckle. “What’s wrong? You drunk or somethin’?”

Tom was starting to get scared. He asked around for Isabelle, but no one had heard of her. He tried to find the dance hall, but no one had heard of it. He went to every church he could find, banging on the door to find his pastor. But he was nowhere to be found.

Futuristic City

Finally, a sympathetic elderly pastor let Tom into his office. Tom frantically told him the story of his wedding, and how he had walked his friend Clay back to the graveyard. Now he couldn’t find Isabelle or the pastor who had married them. The old man laughed and shook his head. “C’mon, son. It isn’t Halloween yet. Besides, I’ve heard that old ghost story a million times.”

“What are you talking about?” said Tom.

The pastor lit his pipe, then told Tom the old tale of the bridegroom who disappeared on his wedding night. It was said that the bridegroom walked back to the cemetery with his dead friend and was never seen again. The bride was so grief stricken that she fell ill and died.

“That’s not possible!” Tom blurted out.

The pastor sighed and grabbed a large, dusty book from the top of his bookshelf. He flipped back the yellowing pages and said, “I’m not saying it’s a true story. But I happen to have the old church records from back then.” He found a wedding ledger and pointed two names out to Tom. “See? Here they are – married 150 years ago this night!”

Tom looked where he was pointing and froze. The names were his and Isabelle’s.

So like Clay before him, poor ol’ Tom had made a promise he didn’t keep. For Tom promised he’d be back for his bride, and never returned. But Tom never believed he’d really been away for 150 years. In fact, they say that Tom’s ghost still haunts the old section of the cemetery in Lost Creek, Louisiana, stranded outside the gates of Heaven. Β And if you should go there and hear him ask you to help him find his bride, turn around and walk away. ‘Cause you might never come back.

– THE END –

Story Credits | Story Background


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Here’s a student film version of this story, done by the video production class at Spurger Independent School District, Spurger, TX. Good job!


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  1. I injoyed the story, im from louisiana and I can always remember my daddy telling me not to make promises I couldn’t keep. He said a man is only good as his word, and if you can’t keep your word then your not a good man. Moral of the saying noone is promised tomorrow.

  2. I heard this story once as a little girl. It took me forever to find it again. Thanks for whoever found it and posted it.

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  4. Some of you got the point of this story very well. A few of you seem a bit muddled up about what exactly happened!

  5. well jennifer ….
    I think stroy is about love becuse there are two boy name called Tom and Clay who promises each other…..

  6. Well Jennifer,
    I think the reasonhwy Tom couldn’t go back to Heavan was b’cause he was still alive not dead yet, and you can’t be a heavan when you are alive….

  7. this is was a really good story an amazing and i love to read it but i don’t understand why clay didn’t keep his promise yet and tom did it….Tom break his promise with his bestmate clay. it’s was sort sad and scary at the same time….”

  8. xi tom is not dead yet so he can’t go back there. propabaly when his die then he might go back there i think…

  9. it is scary but not that scary. i think tom break his pomise but i think he didn’t mean too. it a good story and it also sad and feel sorry for both of them. i feel very sorry for Tom wife because Tom leaft and never came back to her.

  10. i think he will never go back again because he didn’t keep time and the heaven’s door were closed.

  11. Man………………
    What a sad story….. I never thought for once a dead person can come back alive after they are barried underground……..
    Althought it’s a faction it is an interesting story. Also even Tom promises to his wife and couldn’t kept it, but he kept his promise’s of Clay…… I think its b’cause he was with Clay at the Hevean that he didn’t know what the time and day was that he couldn’t kept his promise to his wife and lost her……

    With reading this story, it help me and also other too that how important is to have friends……
    πŸ™‚

  12. this story kind a weird but it’s scary because you wont be able to believe that a poor man was talking to a dead friend and after he talked to him at the cementary, everything has changed when he went back to the town where he lives . and he’s scared that what he’s gonna do afterwards?

  13. jennifer i hink he cant go to heaven cause he made a promise to the wife that he was gonna be back but he didnt go back and as his friend said they dont let people who havent keept their promise to heaven

  14. this story was a good story but some how is was sad, the two friends was a good friends true with the promise but to the end the friend that still alive he turn to a lonely guy he lose his wife he lose his frined and also he lose his family that kind of sad. But i’m surprising that he have been to the other side of the world for 150 years but he feel like jsut a few hours he just took his friend back to the grave and he just walk with his friend for a few miles. i had heard of those kind of story before but that is impossible..

  15. Wow! What a story! I find it amazing that people can think up such fascinating twists to explain a person’s disappearance.

  16. the story was a very good one but it had a very sad ending. at first i thought that ,Clay would help his friend to find his way back to her bride. then i also thought the pastor new the way back home.oh what a bad ending.

  17. Good one! πŸ™‚ I’d never heard that legened, and it’s awesome how you breathed new life into it.

  18. Imaginative story. I like the twist ending. But shouldn’t Tom have been living-it-up in the future? The story makes no mention of him dying.

  19. Strange story, It wasn`t his time to enter through the gates of heaven. Now his soul remains in limbo.

  20. Yo! I remeber this story my mom say tells me that the moral of it is to wait. Because I f u don’t wait u will surely miss out band know one wants that.