Ghost Stories and Tall Tales of the American South

Wait ‘Til Jesse Comes

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Classic Southern spooky story from Mississippi about a traveling salesman who runs into some pretty strange cats warning about someone (or something) named “Jesse.” Adapted from folklore by Craig Dominey, told by LaDoris Davis.

A long time ago, an old traveling salesman was riding through rural Mississippi as he had done for more years than he could remember. His trusty old horse seemed as tired as he was, trudging down the long dirt road toward yet another strange town. The old man rubbed his red eyes with his cracked, leathery hands and sighed — this was no longer the life for him.

Photo by NatalieMaynor via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by NatalieMaynor via Wikimedia Commons

As night fell, a hard rain suddenly crashed down upon them. As booming thunderclaps rattled the dark skies above, the old man decided he better find some shelter for the night. But there were no homes as the far as the eye could see.

Then, in a white flash of lightning, he spotted a dark, run-down house sitting up on a hillside. He found his way in the dark up to the front door and knocked. To his surprise, the door creaked open on its rusty hinges, revealing a musty old living room — empty, save for one chair and a stone fireplace.

“Hello?” called out the salesman. Nobody answered, so the salesman figured he would wait out the storm in the house. He was also surprised to find that the fireplace was stocked with a fresh pile of wood. He took out a box of matches and lit himself a roaring fire. As he sat down in the wooden chair, he could feel the many miles of his journey creeping through his bones. The sound of rain falling on the tin roof above relaxed him, and before he knew it, he fell fast asleep.

A couple of hours later, something startled him from his sleep. He woke up and saw a black cat standing in front of the roaring fire, staring at him through bright yellow eyes. The cat walked up to the chair, purred loudly and rubbed up against the salesman’s leg. “Nice kitty,” said the salesman as he rubbed the cat’s back, “very nice kitty.”

“Wait ’til Jesse comes,” purred the cat in response.

The salesman suddenly froze, then laughed it off. I must be dreaming, he thought — surely that cat didn’t just speak to me! He dozed off again, the warmth of the fire filling his aching bones.

After another hour, the salesman suddenly awoke again. This time there were two black cats sitting in front of him — but the second cat was as big as a wolf! They both stared at him intensely through searing yellow eyes.

“What shall we do with him?” asked the second cat to the first in a booming voice.

“Let’s wait ’til Jesse comes,” hissed the first cat.

The salesman shook his head, thinking that his long, tiring travels had finally gone to his brain. For this was the strangest dream he had ever dreamt. He sighed and fell back asleep.

Another hour passed, and the salesman awoke again. This time there were three black cats staring at him — but the third cat was as big as a horse, with large, menacing eyes that seemed to burn with yellowish evil. The third cat turned to the other two and said in a loud voice that drowned out the booming thunderclaps outside:

“Shall we do it now?”

“Soon, very soon,” hissed the first cat. “Let’s wait ’til Jesse comes.”

Huge Cat Eyes

Well, now the salesman had heard enough. He leapt out of the chair, flung open the door and ran as fast as he could out into the ferocious storm. He scrambled onto his horse and rode away, shouting back over his shoulder:

“It was very nice meeting you, but when Jesse comes, tell him I couldn’t wait!”

  • THE END –

Story Credits | Story Background


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30 Responses to “Wait ‘Til Jesse Comes”


Warren:

Scholastic Books’ “13 Ghostly Tales” (1966) has this story told by Maria Leach as “Wait Till Martin Comes”. See http://www.librarything.com/work/1718914

themoonlitroad:

True, but there are many versions of it. It’s an old folktale.

tim:

lame how it doesnt tell who jesse is and doesnt have that much action

Javier M:

this is the scariest story ever, it was like no other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

coco:

that wasn’t bad i like skull lake better though!more scary would be nice!

Alycia:

Who exactly IS Jesse?

iheartdoggies:

what? I dont get it. Ummm are they gonna do somthing horrible to the salesman?

ALEX:

JESSE WAS PROBABLY THE OWNER OR LIKE A MONSTER… I MEAN THINK BOUT IT, FIRST A CAT, THEN WOLF, AND THEN HORSE… ITS GETTIN BIGGER EACH TIME…

Fennis:

Great story, in any incarnation. Spooked me as a kid.

nomad87:

i read this story elsewhere, but the guy was a preacher and not a salesman. I think that jesse was supposed to represent the fear of the unknown.

M.G.G:

I also read the same one Nomad87 also i have a book wait till helen comes it’s nothing like this a bit long but whoever owns this site should totally check it out ll expect a reply from you site owner thanks for making this site i love it

vicky hopper:

it is a childrens tale its in a book and jesse is a little cat that sits on the lap of him and shouts in his ear ive heard it before.

Lina:

what the…?

ButterMilk:

… I don’t get it! Who’s Jesse!? Where’d the kitties come from?
What sick person would give cats so much steroids they would grow to the size if a horse and a wolf!!?? And, the old man (salesman) was being VERy inpolite by leaving! Don’t we all want to know what happens if old men stay at strange homes?

Mrs. Guajardo:

My students would like to know who Jesse is. They felt that the author should write a second part so that readers discover who Jesse is. Overall, they dind’t like the story, but they thought it was cool predicting who Jesse might be. 4th grade

themoonlitroad:

This is an old folktale and in every version Jesse is never revealed. The reader is supposed to use his/her imagination.

Mrs. Guajardo:

Thanks for the clarification! Our class enjoys this website very much!

Rhoda:

Hee hee! I haven’t heard this since Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! I couldn’t believe it was going to be the same one when I clicked on the title, but I’m pretty pleased that it was.

Emilee:

I liked it! That’s what’s wrong with the world today…people have no imagination, they just wanted everything handed to them. Use your brains! 🙂

Toby:

I agree with Emilee. If Jesse would have in fact shown up, and done away with the old man in whatever horrible way I’m sure we’ve all imagined, then it really wouldn’t be a story. I like it because this is a classic example of what I would’ve done. Not sure I would’ve waited as long as he did, given the size of the second cat though! Who/whatever Jesse is, I’m not waiting around to meet him either!

cori389389:

hey nomad87 that story with the preacher was where the head of this one guy fell down a chimeny and the preacher’s wife fainted after that the head told the preacher to bury it with the rest of it’s body and then told him where some gold was

Laura:

Haha, I love the ending. A creepy build up with a bit of comic relief…one cant go wrong!

Victoria Fear:

I wanna know what happens when Jesse comes. 🙁

Stefani:

To say it plainly, this story was stupid. It was told in a quick way, and the ending was a bad joke. All in all bad story.

Xlr89:

I have the part 2 to wait til jessie comes and It has been revealed that JESSIE IS-

ERROR
This message has been terminated because it can not be seen by mortal eyes

-Sincerely,Jessie >:)

Alex Rudder:

Cool but not scary

jarkel:

this is a great story she read it so good i can imagine it in my head as she read it gave me the kreeps… i wanna know what would happend when jesse comes 🙁

Spellbinder:

I have been professionally telling stories for over 25 years and have heard this story many times. I can even remember hearing it as a kid. Reading the comments is fascinating. Primarily because they clearly demonstrate that just because a story has been around for decades, if not centuries, it can still be worth telling because there are always new generations of listeners. This story, like most stories, depends upon the listener using his or her imagination. Letting it run wild within the parameters set by the storyteller. The strength of this story is to revel in the suspense and then to be removed from that suspense gently by a not so irrational reaction by the traveling salesman. I once heard it told by a Michigan storyteller who replaced the cats with a variety of humorous monsters. Each one was simply bigger and more gross than the last one and it was a treat to listen to how he could out-gross the last one. We laughed a lot and he ended it the same way, with the salesman hitting the bricks before Jesse got there. If a teacher has a classroom full of students wishing for an ending perhaps this is a good writing assignment – let them write the ending. It is my belief that no ending could match the build up if the suspense is properly built by the storyteller. If you are one that just has to have an ending take a lesson from life – all stories end but they do not always have an ending.

Bill:

I’ve read this story before somewhere, but still loved it. The way LaDoris Davis narrated it was awesome and groovy, hope she does more of these.

Really enjoyed the narration:

look forward to hearing more!

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