Into The Valley Of Darkness I Go: A Kentucky Ghost Story

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Kentucky ghost story of one man’s terrifying Halloween drive into Spooknite Valley. Written by Benjamin A. Fouche.

To this day, I will never forget the horrifying experience I had. Nor will I ever stop dreaming of the darkness that lurks in that one Valley. Kentucky is a beautiful state; the gorgeous rolling mountains, the creeks that flow in the ravines between the hillsides and the colorful autumns. You would think it was a peaceful place – but no, not at all. Even in good old Kentucky there is a place where fear dwells, just waiting to frighten the curiosity seekers.

Spooknite Valley Road Kentucky Ghost Story

How do I know this you ask? Well, the madness all began years ago during the month of October. It was a cold and windy evening. The leaves crackled under my feet and the dark gray clouds swirled above orange and yellow mountains. I remember waking up that morning wanting an adventure and boy, did I get one that night. One I’ll always remember…

The golden sun was falling and the pale-yellow moon was rising. I was in my truck driving down a country road that was my customary route during peak-season. As I continued on, I began ascending what most folks call “Knoll Mountain.” The leaves from the trees that hung above the road were falling as I drove by. I remember looking down the beautiful hollows below the road full of red, yellow and orange leaves. So on I went, driving up that steep mountain. Eventually I began to descend down the hillside and into an area folks call the “Crow Creek Crossroads.” The crossroads split into four different roads: Peek Drive, Henry Road, Ground Hog Road and Darkened Drive. All the folks around here travel on each road – that is, except for Darkened Drive. The name certainly fits it, but there’s just something else about that one road. People around here have claimed hearing strange noises coming from the woods that follow along that road. They say at night you can hear ghoulish howling and the echoes of knocking. Of course, on an evening like this, I just couldn’t resist driving down that road.

So now here I am driving down that road everybody calls “haunted.” With darkness falling upon me, and being alone easily creates premonition. The trees were leafless as I drove by them and I could see the sun falling behind me in my rearview mirror. Sure, I wanted an adventure, but nothing like what was about to happen to me. Suddenly, I drove past a sign covered in Virginia creeper and a dark road leading into the woods. I stopped the truck and put it in reverse. As I slowly drove backwards I was looking into the woods. My heart honestly felt something calling me… calling me to go in. I backed up so that I could read the sign – it had two words that aroused my curiosity: “Spookinite Valley.” That road already had a frightening name, but the name on the sign was even more ominous. Soon enough, the sky was becoming a darker gray and the wind began to pick up. What was I thinking?

Off down that dark road I went, venturing into what I had no idea, but it was going to be my worst nightmare. As I was driving down the road, out of the corner of my eye I spotted this tall hairy creature! I stopped the truck and began rubbing my eyes. Did I really just see that or was it my imagination? I remembered trying so hard to picture what I had just seen on the side of the road. When I turned around, the creature was long gone. I decided to continue on and forget about what I saw. Off I began, heading farther into the shadowy heart of Spookinite Valley. The trees I passed were so tall and gnarly. To the left of me was a mountain elevating upwards and it was thickly wooded; a perfect place for wild animals and maybe other strange creatures.

The sky was almost a pitch black and dark mist stretched over the pale-yellow moon. Let me tell you, the atmosphere there in Spookinite Valley is just perfect for Halloween. I continued on as my headlights shined a few yards up the winding road that ran along the mountainside. Without warning, my headlights showed me something I did NOT want to see. I immediately put the brakes on and there in front of me was a dark floating figure! The bottom of its ghostly cloak was ripped and swirling in the wind. I remember seeing these very bright orange-glowing eyes and I was frozen in absolute terror! The entity stared into my eyes and I couldn’t move! That exact moment in time seemed to go on forever, when suddenly; the specter vanished without a trace. At that point I knew there was something supernatural about this dark valley. First it was the creature at the side of the road and then this dark apparition. I knew I had to turn around – something inside me was telling me I needed to leave, but I also remember there was this unnatural feeling telling me to continue on down the road. The sinister feeling was stronger and so I reluctantly continued on in Spookinite Valley.

As the night wore on, a storm began to roll in. Flashes of lightning lit up the clouds far in the distance. I remember when my headlights shined on the edge of the road; I could see very large pumpkins. Some were a ghastly orange and some were a ghostly white. All of a sudden, to my left in between two mountains I saw this dark, old, tall house with four great columns in the moonlight. All of the windows were pitch black and it seemed to be abandoned. The front yard was covered in leaves and so was the driveway. The part about the house that didn’t make sense was that it still seemed pretty well kept up. The windows were wavy, but they still weren’t shattered. The two doors and columns were nicely painted, although there was a bit of weathering. The bricks seemed old and faded, yet there were not any cracks. The shutters weren’t even crooked. Someone had to be taking care of that house – but who?

I remember glancing up at the three windows at the top. I had a feeling that I would see someone peak down at me. Suddenly, I began to hear a ghoulish howl! It’s almost just like what the folks back home said. The storm was very near when I saw the leaves twirling violently in the front yard. When I looked back up at the house, I saw a man holding a candle in one of the windows. He looked directly at me with his skeletal face! Here I am, all alone in my truck in this valley with a spooky name. As he’s looking at me he began to grab his head and then pulled it right off! He then placed it on a plate, but I knew the eyes of his head were still staring at me. As with the hooded figure, I was frozen in fear. As my eyes are locked on him, he blows out the light. Finally, I shook the fear out of my head and out of nowhere came this carriage with absolutely no horses! I could hear the clopping noises you hear horses make as it was coming at me, down the driveway. At that point, my arms were trembling and a cold chill crawled down my spine. I quickly took off down the road, but the dark carriage followed me!

I was driving as fast as my truck would go, but the problem was that it was going to run out of fuel. Did I really need to waste my truck’s fuel on evading something that was probably just a ghost? The fear was all too much for me, but I decided to just go slower and it would probably vanish or something similar to that. Without warning, as I was looking in my rearview mirror, I saw this eerie man wearing a tall black hat on the seat of the carriage! Like the apparition in the window of that old mansion, he had skeletal like features. He had one green eye and one purple eye; both were glowing brightly through the darkness. Unfortunately, the ghostly carriage was getting closer to the tail end of my truck. I had no choice, but to drive as fast as I could – it was my only chance of escaping Spookinite Valley. Suddenly reality struck and I knew that my fuel tank was empty – my truck just stopped right there in the middle of the lonely road. The good news was that the carriage had vanished into the darkness of night like I was hoping.

I’ve camped plenty of times and I live out in the wilderness of Kentucky. So I’m used to being out in the woods by myself at night. The only obstacle was the fact that there were too many unexplainable “things” I encountered. I opened my glove compartment and took out my matches. I reached under the passenger seat and grabbed my old oil lantern. I lit up the lantern and began walking down the road. I remember one of the worst parts was remembering that home was back the way I had just come. I didn’t know how far the road continued on and where else it would lead me. The best way to get back home was to go the way I had just come from. Unfortunately, this meant I’d have to walk past “the house.” Without a choice, I walked along the moonlit road with a lantern in my hand. Suddenly, I noticed a dim light coming from the forest to what was now the right of me.

What can I say? I was desperate for help and thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to see whom it was. So I crept over to what I discovered was an old gravel parking lot. There was a path leading through the heavy woods and at the end was what seemed to be a Victorian era-style home. I also remember seeing a sign that said “The Inn.” I was thinking that the place must be an Inn that was occupied by actual “people.” So down the trail I ran, hoping the people could help me and explain to me what was going on. Suddenly, without warning, a huge hairy beast ran across the path and into the brush! I remember smelling something very similar to a skunk when I was trying to gather my thoughts together. I hurried to the old Inn and tried to open the door, but it was locked! “Let me in! Let me in! Hurry!” I yelled as I banged on the door. When I turned around, I could see the shadow of the creature stretching out from the forest! When I turned back to the door it slowly opened and there to greet me was an elderly man. “Please do come in – the storm is approaching us,” he said slowly.

I bolted right in the door scared stiff! He closed the door and locked it. He then turned to me and said, “Hello, welcome to our Inn. What brings you here and what were you so frightened about?”

“There’s a creature out there! It crossed my path! Literally!” I said to him.

“Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry.” he said to me. When I got a better look at him, I could see his eyes were hollow, but there was a yellow glow coming from them.

“Um, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what’s wrong with your eyes?” I asked in a scared voice.

The old man chuckled and then said, “I get that a lot from guests. Never mind my eyes, what brings you here?” he asks me eyeing the lantern in my hand.

“Well, you see, I was just exploring this road because of the name that was on the sign. You might not believe me, but I’ve seen terrifying things here in this valley!” I told him about all the weird encounters and explained how my truck ran out of fuel.

He understood and spoke to me. “Yes, do you want to know something truly scary? Spookinite Valley is labeled haunted and even worse; the Inn you and I are in is indeed haunted. I’ve taken care of this place for a long, long time and I always encountered spirits. The house you drove by has been long abandoned and nobody should’ve been in there. Mysterious creatures also lurk the mountains around us – I know that for a fact. I don’t doubt for a minute that what you just saw outside this Inn was one of those creatures,” he told me quietly.

“Do you have any fuel for my truck?” I asked him nervously.

“I’m afraid not. Oh, the storm is already upon us.” He told me this as rain began pounding on the roof. “You may stay here for the night; tomorrow I shall help you find fuel for your vehicle.”

The night I was about to experience was the most horrifying night in my entire life. He took me upstairs and down a hallway to a room. I’d be staying in that room for the night. My strange host gave me the key to my room and told me something that made me feel even uneasier than before. “Just remember to check your windows and make sure they’re locked. We’ve had some guests that have complained about something entering their room through the window late at night. I shall also warn you that the spirits that roam this Inn can unlock your doors from the outside. Don’t panic if this happens; for they are just curious spirits.”

I thanked him and locked the door. To be quite honest I was a little more terrified of him, rather than the “ghosts” he mentioned to me about. As I went over to check the windows, with a flash of lightning I saw this horrible face stare directly at me through the window! I fell to the floor in shock. After a while, I picked myself up off the old wooden floor and locked the window. I also closed the draperies. I threw myself in bed and turned off the old hurricane lamp…

I suddenly awoke to the noises of scraping – it was coming from the wall behind me. I sat myself up and put my ear up to the wall. The scraping noises were definitely coming from the room behind me and all I could tell myself was that it was a ghost; what else could it be? I dozed off into my sleep, when once again I was awoken by a noise. Although, this time, it wasn’t a scraping noise, but rather several voices:

“I’m going to see if our guest is asleep.”

“Alright, but what if he isn’t? What if he sees you?”

I remember the third voice was the most ominous, deep, otherworldly voice I’d ever heard. “Please, please, both of you stop worrying. If the guest sees you it doesn’t matter. What matters is that his fear rushes out, just as we want it to. In order for IT to happen, we must keep up this fear; understand?”

“Yes Master. Certainly.”

I was petrified in fear! What was I supposed to do now? At this point on, I knew my feeling about the Host was right. He was just all a part of the little set up. How could I not have known by just looking at his appearance? I was fooled and now I had to escape somehow. I quietly got up and the doorknob was wiggling. I quickly walked up to the window and opened it. I climbed out of the window and down to the ground. I could hear the door open above me, so I had to sneak away as quickly as possible before who knew what was going to happen. I tiptoed beside the Inn’s wall, making sure nobody was following me. The rain was splattering on me and the wind shook the trees beside the Inn. Through the darkened clouds flashed lightning and shortly after that, I could hear the booming rumbles of thunder. I was cold, I was wet, I was in the storm, but I still was safe away from those creeps that ran the Inn. I was back on the road once again, only wanting to get back home. It was going to be a long walk home, but I had to do what I had to do.

As I was walking on the opposite side of where the mountains followed along the road, I could hear continuous knocking, echoing through the forest. I can only imagine what the creatures in the forest looked like – the scary part about the knocking was that it actually began echoing in my head. KNOCK – KNOCK – KNOCK … Despite the knocking sounds, I was more concerned about the strange beings at the Inn stalking me. I remember looking behind me at least every few minutes. Continuing on, the heavy rain gradually became lighter until the storm was gone. The wind was still strong, but at least the heavy rain and loud thunder was over.

Soon, I began to pass the old house. I stopped myself from continuing on – did I really want to pass it by foot? It was already horrifying enough passing it in a truck, but with no vehicle to escape and the only transportation to rely on being my feet, did I really need to? I pondered for minutes wondering whether I should go around it through the forest or just make a run for it. Finally after a few more minutes, I decided to go around it through the woods. I would have a better chance of whomever dwells in the haunted home not seeing me. So into the woods I crept, quietly…

The leaves were now wet from the rain, so I wouldn’t have to worry about making a whole lot of noise. The only thing that comforted me was telling myself that the old man at the Inn was lying about “creature lurking in the mountains.” Then, my conscience started questioning me – what about the knocking? What about the creature that was to the side of the road? What about the beast at the entrance to the Inn? What can I say, I couldn’t lie to myself. Now, I was trying to be even quieter seeing the back of the house through the trees. Hopefully whoever was in there couldn’t see me. Without warning, a monstrous creature came lunging at me! I screamed as loud as I could at that moment and scampered through the woods in a state of panic! I could hear its footsteps behind me. So many thoughts were rushing through my head at that exact moment. Where was I supposed to go? Would the creature capture me or would I escape? Where would be the closest place for hiding? I turned towards the house while I was running and my first instinct was to hide in the house. I ran right around it to the front door. To my surprise it was unlocked, so in I sprinted. Right before the creature could get in, I slammed the door shut! It echoed throughout the entire house and this scared me even more so. I felt a little protected in the old mansion, after all, the odd old man said this house was abandoned. Although I had seen an apparition in the top window, at least it was just a ghost. Well, at least that’s what I told myself.

I was in what appeared to be the foyer of the house – from where I stood, there were three doorways – one straight-ahead, one to the left and one to the right. Which doorway did I decide to enter you ask? Well, I just had to pick the door that was straight ahead. I pushed a large cobweb to the side of me as I entered. I must admit, it was pretty typical, especially for a “haunted manor.” Adventure is what I was looking for and so here I was, right in the middle of it. There was a fire burning in the fireplace and many old chairs were lined up against the wall. That place must’ve been filled with guests at some point, long ago. I wish I would’ve come to common sense at the moment of being in that room, but unfortunately I didn’t. I was too tired, too cold and very afraid. I rested on a chair next to the fireplace and fell fast asleep…

Like earlier at the Inn, I was awakened by the sound of something. Or should I say “someone.” I heard several footsteps upstairs and many voices. The voices however were NOT coming from people. Why was I too foolish to have known; if there is a fire burning, then there are creatures lurking. I had to leave the house –the creature outside had to have been long gone. I quickly walked back into the foyer to find the doors locked! Somebody locked them while I was asleep. Maybe they knew I was there. Maybe they were watching me as I helplessly tried to unlock the two great big doors. I immediately stopped trying to open them when I was aware of the loud noises I was creating. Like how I escaped the Inn, I had to find a window to open. There were two windows in this room, so I tried to open both, but they were jammed. How could this be, what could I have done to deserve this unfortunate night? I was about to go into a doorway on the left, when I heard footsteps echoing from it. I quickly walked over to the room on the right and saw that there was a staircase straight in front of me and a doorway to what was now the right of me. Since the voices and footsteps were coming from upstairs, I decided to check the windows in that room, so I tiptoed into the room. I didn’t want whoever was on the same floor as me to hear my boots against the hard wood floor. Even then, the old wood floor still creaked and I had to be extra careful not to completely step on one that would squeak loudly.

From what I remember, the room I had entered was the master bedroom of the house. There was a large canopy bed with red velvet curtains, a cobweb covered bookshelf, a velvet chair and a very dusty mirror. I heard not one sound in the room; the silence was foreboding. There were two windows in this room. One was overlooking the front yard and the other window to the left, was facing towards the side of the house. I quietly struggled to open the window to my left, but it was locked. I noiselessly tried to open the window facing the front yard, but it too was jammed. To my right, was a doorway leading back into the foyer. Across from it was another doorway, but that would lead to where the footsteps where echoing from. What other choice did I have? There were too many voices coming from upstairs, so I slowly snuck into the other doorway in the foyer. This room appeared to be a kitchen; there was a stone oven, several cabinets, and a table in the middle of the room. The floor was made of stone thankfully (is this upstairs or downstairs?), so nobody in the old, dark house could hear the floor creak. This room was also very similar to the Master Bedroom – the windows and walls were in the exact same “L” shape. I had trouble once again opening both windows. This left me no choice, but to go into another mysterious doorway, which was now straight ahead of me.

This room was what seemed to be another staircase. At that moment, I then realized the two halves of the first floor were identical; the living room and foyer were the only two rooms separating them. My only option now was to try and climb out the windows at both staircases. I ran up the other staircase I had just discovered, to find the window locked; once again, this was not a surprise. I doubted the other staircase window would be unlocked, but I had to try. Through another doorway, I crossed through the living room and into the first set of stairs I had discovered. I quietly began stepping up the stairs, so that the voices I heard wouldn’t hear me. The window was indeed locked, where was I supposed to go now? I felt hopeless at this point, but I unexpectedly had an idea! I could find an object in the house and shatter the window’s glass! So, back down the stairs I went, into the living room. I picked up the fireplace poker and oh, did I ever feel such hope and joy. I struck the window with the end of the fireplace poker and it shattered! As I dropped it down and was about to crawl through the window, the glass rebuilt itself! I fell back in disbelief and I remember shaking my head back and forth repeating the word “no.” How could this be? How could the window simply repair the shattered glass by itself? It was pure magic.

I knew at this point that, if one window did this, all of the windows would. I had no choice, but to look around upstairs and see where the voices were coming from. Were they ghosts or were they more horrific creatures? I didn’t care anymore; I was so frustrated, that nothing mattered to me more than escaping this house. I had to confront whatever was upstairs. I ran up the stairs, regardless of my loud stomping. I found myself at the end of a hallway. It looked as if the hall turned to the left and continued on. I don’t quite remember – I just wanted to leave and went in the other direction. Down the hallway I ran and with a sharp turn, into another one. However, this Hallway was different – there was another staircase and this one seemed to lead to the third story. The voices were also much louder now and I could hear them echo from up the stairs. I was so furious; I just wanted to come face to face to whoever was up there. I began stomping up the stairs, when the voices quieted down, until there was once again a menacing silence. I continued up and saw that there was a trapdoor above me. I roughly pushed it open and entered the room…

I couldn’t believe it! I dropped my jaw! I must’ve turned white! I couldn’t move! I was stuck in a moment of terror! There in front of me, was a long table going down the middle of the room. There were many chairs around the table and in those chairs were these, these… As I’m telling you this story, I’m trembling. H-Horrible creatures! At the very end of the table was the hooded apparition himself, only this time, I could see his face. His face was rough-looking pumpkin with a Jack O’ Lantern style face. A dim yellow light glowed from the center of his eyes. All of the creatures froze too and it was their eyes on mine. The phantom at the end of the table put his long dark index finger over his ominous mouth and said “Shhhhhhh…” I tried to scream, but my voice was caught in the moment of fearfulness. They all began laughing slowly at me – they knew I was helpless…

I woke up gasping for air! I was in my bedroom, I was in my cabin, and I was home! It was another beautiful morning in Kentucky. Oh, how I was so relieved it was only a nightmare – yet it seemed all too real. I remember feeling the coldness from the wind. I remember feeling the wetness from the storm. I remember feeling the uneasiness. What had really happen? It was over, and that’s what mattered. To this day, every evening when I’m rocking myself in the rocking chair on my front porch, I ask myself three simple words, “Was it real?”

-THE END-

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I Told You So

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Creepy South Carolina story of a single father trying to keep his young daughter away from a spooky construction project up the road. Written by K.E. Moore.

It was about a year ago when I moved my daughter and myself out of Charleston and into Goose Creek, partly to get away from big city life, and partly to put the… business about her mother behind us. Between the crime, busy streets, and bad memories, I felt we could trade up the concrete and street lights for tall grass and trees adorned with Spanish moss. My boss, understanding the tragedy our family had suffered, promised to work with me, allowing me to telecommute as long as I didn’t stray too far from the home office.

I found a house that backed right up against the Goose Creek reservoir, far enough away from the naval base to grant us the tranquility we were looking for. It was a gorgeous two-story house made to look like one of those old plantation houses, though admittedly a little more modest in size.

But the three bedrooms were enough for Chelsea and me. I got the master bedroom, and converted the smallest into my office, and Chelsea, well, she just loved her room being as it was twice as big as her old room with hard wood floors and a window looking out over the reservoir.

We spent a whole day in old clothes painting her room pink. I’m not sure if we got more paint on ourselves or the walls for all the horsing around we did. It didn’t matter. It seemed like the first time either of us really laughed in a long while. I can still hear her giggles echoing through the house.

There, surrounded by the steamy summer humidity and the dizzy paint fumes, we were happy, the two of us. Goose Creek seemed like the new beginning we both needed after her mother passed on.

Well, the summer came and went, as summers do in the South—hot, and muggy. When a breeze came off the reservoir, it would be something of a relief, but summer in South Carolina was summer in South Carolina which means lots of shade, iced tea, and showers just to keep the film of perspiration at bay.

Chattahoochee River at Dusk, Georgia

School came, riding on the winds of autumn. Chelsea was nervous of course, and even started to cry a little on the first day of school. After losing one parent, I knew she didn’t want to let go of me, but it only took her a week or so before she was coming home every day with a big bright smile on her cherubic face. A smaller school meant fewer bullies, and, it seemed, more kids eager to make a new friend.

Before we knew it, we had slipped straight through a mild winter and were staring down another summer. A whole year had passed and we had carved out a simple, pleasant life for ourselves.

I was excited to have my little girl around the house during the day, but there was one huge obstacle: work.

When most people hear telecommuting, they think it’s all waking up when you want to, doing your work at your own pace, and, only putting on proper clothes if you really feel like it. The reality of telecommuting, at least for my employer, was not so grand, and working from home still meant full work days, client calls at all hours of the day, and being checked on by the boss on a regular basis via webcam.

This, however, was another benefit to Goose Creek. I felt comfortable letting Chelsea go out and explore or ride her bike, or walk to a friend’s house. I made a point of making sure she stopped back at the house for lunch every day, and we had a long discussion about how far she was allowed to roam, and that she wasn’t to play near the reservoir while I was working. Chelsea didn’t fuss one bit; this was the most freedom she had had in her life.

And so it came to be that one day in mid June that my little girl walked in the house at half past eleven. Her pink t-shirt and shorts were cleaner than normal and her auburn pony tail wasn’t half as frazzled as it was on most summer days. She met me in the kitchen with a quizzical look on her face. She climbed up onto one of the stools by a big window facing the street and asked, “Daddy? What are they doing at the end of the street?”

I turned to look and frowned. “I don’t know, Chel-bear. What does it look like they are doing?”

Chelsea shrugged as she pulled her plate close. I had made tuna sandwiches and iced tea, and she had taken a big bite and was still chewing when she said, “Dumfkno. Lookth like diggin or somefin’.”

“Manners,” I said in that stern way that comes as second nature to parents.

She swallowed her bite and repeated herself, more clearly. “Looks like they are digging, but I don’t know why.”

It was my turn to shrug. “Probably just road work or something,” I said before biting into my own sandwich.

“Can I check it out after lunch?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Chel-bear. Could be dangerous.”

“I’ll be careful, Daddy, promise.”

She had put on her big-eyed expression, the one that is supposed to melt a father in place, and one that I had fought hard to build up a resistance against. At the same time I remembered when I was her age, and how I probably wouldn’t have even bothered asking my parents. When I thought back to the trouble I would get into I wondered how it was I ever made it to adulthood.

Finally, I relented, but only a little. “You can ask the men – if there are any that aren’t too busy. But that’s it, understand? You aren’t to cross any boundaries or touch anything. We got a deal?”

Chelsea looked at me at first like she was going to try to haggle with me on the terms; she did that sometimes. She thought better of it and with her big bright smile nodded and said, “Deal!”

We finished our sandwiches and tea, and Chelsea hurriedly washed up before dashing out of the house, the screen door banging loudly in her wake. I carried myself back to my office, checked in with my boss, and forgot all about the road work Chelsea had brought up at lunch.

It wasn’t until Chelsea brought it back up later on in the evening as I threw some burgers on the grill for dinner. “There wasn’t nobody there when I went to go look, Daddy,” she said, pouting a little.

“Anybody,” I corrected her. She scowled that scowl that said I knew what she meant. It was her mother’s scowl.

Ignoring it, I told her she could try again in the morning after breakfast, and that combined with the burgers topped with lots of ketchup seemed to satisfy her.

I suppose I half expected her to forget about the whole thing. Maybe I didn’t expect anything at all. It just wasn’t something that was registering on my radar until the morning came and Chelsea could hardly wait to rush out and see what was going on down the road. She was half out the door when I had to call her back to remind her to brush her teeth, and after a perfunctory scrubbing she gave me a half-hearted hug and bolted.

Strange, I thought, and I found myself following her footsteps out to the edge of my front lawn if only to get a better look at what had captivated her so. I looked down the road in the same direction Chelsea was jogging, and saw nothing more than a pile of rubble heaped up on the side of the road. There weren’t any road signs or rope, just a mound of black and gray rocks. It seemed harmless enough, but at the same time I felt a sense of apprehension creep up through my gut and latch onto my spine.

“You be careful and remember what I told you, Chel-bear!” I hollered after her. She looked back over her shoulder and smiled at me, her hand giving me the thumbs-up, before returning her attention to the rubble pile.

I shook my head and made my way back inside. I had a web meeting with some new clients I had to prepare for.

When I got back to my office, I discovered that I could actually see just a sliver of the rubble pile from my office window. I couldn’t afford to pay it any mind what with my meeting, but when I logged off of the group video chat, I grabbed a cup of coffee and found myself staring at the heap.

Chelsea was nowhere to be seen, probably off to go visit one of her friends no doubt, the allure of the rocks already worn off. But it was odd. If it was road work, there should have been some orange somewhere, a sign or something. And there should have been workers too, with day-glo vests and hard hats.

But there was no one there.

I was about to put together a report for my boss on the meeting when movement from the rubble stopped me hard, fear swiftly shooting down my throat and forming a solid, heavy, pit in my stomach. There was someone there working after all, but it was all wrong.

It’s a pretty long street, so I couldn’t be sure exactly of what I was seeing. But day-glo is pretty unmistakable, and this guy wasn’t wearing any at all. In fact, it looked like his tall, gaunt frame was dressed in black from head to toe, long sleeves and all. That bit I found odd—who would dress like that in this heat?

Odder still was his hat. He looked like he was wearing one of those old stove-pipe hats like Abe Lincoln wore. I didn’t even know they made those anymore outside maybe costume shops and elementary school classrooms. But there he was in all black with a stove-pipe hat and a shovel slung over his shoulder.

That’s what I thought I saw anyway, right before the curious figure disappeared behind the pile. I was in the middle of debating with myself on whether I saw what I thought I saw when a chime from my computer informed me that my boss needed to chat with me. The noise startled me so much that I spilled coffee all over a stack of my reports, ultimately pushing the image of the dark stranger out of my mind so I could focus on the newly burgeoning coffee crisis along with the numbers and contractual obligations and everything else that came up in the meeting.

At lunch, Chelsea informed me that, again, to her disappointment, she didn’t find any men working at the site. But she did have something new to share. “Daddy, there’s something strange about those rocks.”

“What’s that Chel-bear?”

“Well, I don’t think they’re rocks at all.”

“Why’s that?”

“They’re all smooth and shiny. I’ve never seen any rocks in the wild as smooth and shiny as that,” she said, putting on her facial expression that declared to the world that she was an expert on the subject of the smoothness of natural rocks.

I frowned. “You didn’t go messing about in that pile, did you Chel-bear?”

“Of course not, Daddy. I was just looking. And when no one turned up, I went on over to Teresa’s. Her daddy just put up a tire swing!”

For a moment I contemplated telling her about the man in the black clothes and stove-pipe hat, but then thought better of it. I didn’t know what was going on down the street but I figured the less curiosity I could encourage about the subject, the better.

There was no more thought or discussion of the rubble at the end of the street until that evening. It was too hot to cook, so I made a quick salad and cut up some left over chicken for dinner and the two of us were eating on the back patio when Chelsea said, “Whatever they’re doing, they’re definitely digging.”

“Oh?”

“Mmhm. There’s a big old ditch just on the other side of the pile,” Chelsea said.

“Did you ever find someone to tell you what it’s all about?” I asked.

Chelsea shook her head, clearly frustrated. “No. But I aim to find out,” she declared.

I think now, if it weren’t for the new client and all the extra hoops my boss was making me jump through to make the new contract work, I would have put an end to things then and there. But as it was, I had to spend the evening running numbers as Chelsea watched TV, and the rubble pile was, yet again, pushed aside.

I didn’t even think about it again until a few days later at lunch when Chelsea announced, “Daddy, I think those rocks are broken up tombstones.”

“Now what in the world would make you say a thing like that?” I said as my fork hovered between my plate and my mouth.

“Well, like I said, they’re all smooth and shiny, and I think I saw some writing on some of them.”

“I think one little girl’s imagination is running away with her, is what I think,” I said pointedly.

Chelsea responded with her patented scowl.

I was about to forbid her from looking into the pile any further, but I again remembered my youth, and realized that sometimes the quickest and surest way to make sure a kid does a thing is to forbid her to do it. So I let the subject drop.

We went back to our normal routine. Chelsea running out the front door, me slogging back to my office. Again, I spared the heap of rocks another look. The ditch, the man in black, Chelsea’s assertion that they were crumbled up tombstones, it all just kind of balled itself up into one tiny knot of unease in my stomach, but then I stared at the mound and thought, Hell, it’s just some rocks. Maybe the neighbor is digging them up to lay a new driveway. There were a ton of completely rational explanations, none of which were the least bit worth being scared of.

And that was all I thought about that until Chelsea came back home for supper with a big gray black hunk of something in her hand. She thrust it into my hand as I looked on, dumbfounded, and with a triumphant air, she put her hands on her hips and said, “I told you so.”

I looked down at the hard, heavy, mass in my hand. It was indeed smooth and polished on several of its sides, rough and irregular on others, and it was mottled gray and black, kind of like those fancy counter tops you sometimes see in newer kitchens. And there, on one of the smooth, glossy faces, was a carved upper-case T.

“For one, Chel-bear, this doesn’t prove a thing. This could’ve come from a statue or a plaque, or a sign or anything. Just because someone carved some letters into a rock don’t make it a tombstone,” I explained. “For another, I thought I said you weren’t to be messing around with that pile? I made myself very clear; you were allowed to ask whoever was working what they were doing, and that was it!”

I didn’t yell at Chelsea often; she rarely ever needed it. But when I did yell at her, she always looked so wounded—so hurt. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said in a small voice, and I… well, hell, I just gave her a hug and sent her to go wash up for supper.

I hoped the whole episode was over. I wanted it to be over. But when Chelsea came in for lunch the next day, any thoughts that the mystery of the rubble pile was a thing of the past were completely ruined.

“Daddy, that work. It has to do with dead people, I’m sure of it.”

Caught somewhere between inhaling my soup and spitting it back out, I ended up in a violent coughing fit that only made my temper worse. “Damn it Chelsea! I thought I made myself clear! Now this has gone on long enough, do you understand? No MORE!”

“But..”

“No buts! You seem to have forgotten, young lady, that I am your FATHER! Is that clear?”

Her eyes wobbled in a pool of fledgling tears. Normally, that would have been enough to get me to at least calm down, but there was something about this whole business that just… I don’t even know how to explain it. What I do know was that by now I was yelling, “IS THAT CLEAR?”

She didn’t answer as tears spilled down her round cheeks and her lips quivered. Chelsea opened her mouth, almost as if to speak, but then, a glint of defiance shone through the tears and in a flash she pushed away from the table. There was a single searing moment where contempt flashed in her eyes towards me, and then I was watching as she ran out the house.

I was about to chase her down when my phone rang. I considered ignoring it, but if I ignored even one call from my boss, I could lose the telecommute privileges. Hissing curses under my breath I checked the phone and answered it.

I should have gone after her. I know that now. But next thing I knew, I was chained to my computer, hunting down all the technicalities my boss needed to make this new contract work.

The time for Chelsea to come home had come and gone. I was already worried when she stormed out of the house, but when the sun had started to get bloated and red and she still wasn’t home, I felt myself on the verge of panic.

Outside, the shadows began to stretch and deepen, and the rock pile down the road took on a strange, dark, mysterious quality. Unsure what to do, and knowing I couldn’t call the police when she had only been gone for a few hours, I started looking through the list of moms in my address book.

I bit back the worry in my voice as I called one after another, trying not to let the fear show even as I asked if they had seen my daughter. Each call ended up being a different variation of the same theme. No, sorry. Chelsea hasn’t been here today. Is something wrong?

I was about to call the fifth mom when I heard the back door swing open and slam back shut.

“Oh, thank God,” I breathed, not even bothering to hang the phone back on its cradle. “Chel-bear, honey, I’m so glad you’re…”

The words died in my throat, my muscles locking up as I turned the corner and stepped into the kitchen.

Pure, soul shattering, terror poured over me as I stared at the thing in my kitchen. It was a man, or at least once was a man, though how long ago was impossible to say. Where there should have been skin and eyes, there was now only bone, caked in black soil, eye sockets empty as they stared blankly back at me.

His clothes were once fine, a black tuxedo, maybe, or at least a good suit. But the shirt had been torn to shreds, revealing his ribcage, mottled gray with rot and earth. Underneath, I could make out shriveled, blackened organs, turned hard and formless with time, held in place by clumps of fetid soil.

One hand clutched a stove-pipe hat, almost as though this thing was too polite to wear it indoors. His other hand rested on the shoulder of my baby girl.

Chelsea. Her skin was ashen, her hair, limp, and her eyes empty, almost as though they had been as hollow as those of the corpse beside her. That dead, empty gaze turned up to me, and in a small voice I could only just recognize as belonging to my daughter, she said, “I told you so.”

-THE END-

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The Girl of Cliff House

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Virginia ghost story of a frustrated writer haunted by a odd and creepy yard sale find. Written by K.E. Moore.

I believe that your home is your sanctuary. It doesn’t matter how bad the world outside gets; once you get home, that’s it. You’re safe. Maybe you live in a bad neighborhood and you need to have iron bars and burglar alarms and a gun in the night stand drawer. It doesn’t matter. You do what you have to, and you do it because you have to have that one place you can call home.

And if my home is my sanctuary, the inner sanctum, that most holy of all holy places, is my room. It’s not just about where I lay my head down for the night, although that’s part of it. It’s more like, this is your most private of places, that place where you can be the most vulnerable, the most honest with yourself. When the rest of the world has gone mad, you should at least have your room to escape to.

If you don’t have that, you’re lost.

My room is exactly that place for me—a collection of childhood memories and adulthood creature comforts that are closest to my heart. If the zombie apocalypse started tomorrow, all I would need is a mini fridge and a toilet, and I could happily spend the rest of my days in this room while the rest of the world has its flesh gnawed off by the walking dead. See, my room is my place, my special place, my little outpost against all the crap that is constantly raging in the world outside.

Now, I’m a cheap skate. I buy generic groceries, and if I have to buy furniture, I usually go for cheap and functional. I’m not saying I have a home furnished by milk crates, but Mrs. Thomas taught her boy about the virtues of frugality. That said, when it comes to my bedroom, all bets are off. I spent a grand on my pillow top mattress, and the 500 thread count sheets I keep on it weren’t cheap either. It feels like being swaddled in sunshine and kisses when I go to sleep, and I like that.

On the walls of my room hang little shards of my past like the first issue of Spawn, the first and only comic book I collected as a kid. Next to the image of the cape and chain clad hellspawn is an original poster from Final Fantasy VII, the greatest video game ever to be released. The spikey blond hero, Cloud, is staring up at the Shinra headquarters in all of its steampunk/techno-fantasy glory with his iconic sword slung on his back. Next to that, a signed photo of Joe Montana about to throw yet another touchdown for the 49ers has its own place of honor. Even my curtains were done in a black and blue Pac-Man pattern, salvaged when my mom tried to scrap the quilt she made for me back when I thought Pac-Man was the single coolest thing in the world. These are scraps of home that I could never leave behind.

Not everything here is a relic from my past, though. Little treasures I picked up from garage sales serve as artifacts from the pasts of strangers in lawn chairs and sweatpants. Garage-sailing is something I inherited from my mother. I remember my mom packing me up in the car early on Saturday mornings, the chill from the night before still lingering in the air, with her coffee cup (this was before coffee cups were designed to sit in car cup holders) crowned in a corona of wafting steam. We would cruise the neighborhoods looking for bits of junk that could be polished and refurbished and, with a little luck, turned into reclaimed treasure.

The giant clunky desk with the roll top was a fifty dollar find upon which my laptop sits. It was one of those numbers that could have been on the TV series “Antiques Roadshow,” some unsuspecting old woman shocked nearly into a heart attack to learn it was made by some famed designer and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Except the roll top was permanently stuck open, one drawer was missing completely, leaving a gaping maw of space in its absence, and the drawer below it was locked permanently shut, the key lost years before I found it on some blue-haired octogenarian’s driveway.

Next to my laptop is a clunky old typewriter, a twenty-five dollar steal amazingly still in possession of all of its keys and with ribbon that still had plenty of life left. When I got it, I had these fantasies that I would type my first great novel on it, and couldn’t hold back the anticipation as I fed the first sheet of crisp white paper into its metallic bowels, only to discover that I couldn’t type on the thing. I hadn’t used one of these old hunks of metal since I took a typing class back in high school, and the decades since (well, a decade and more change than I really like to think about anyway) using computer keyboards made me forget about how far you have to press the keys in or the fact that if you screwed up just once, you had to pull out the correcting fluid and fiddle with some knobs, and then there was more fiddling to try and line everything up just right only to wait until the gobs of gunk dried or you turn everything into a smeared mess when you eventually got back to typing again.

I quit before finishing the first page, not even bothering to take the paper out but instead leaving it there to stand as some sort of souvenir or memorial, of what, I was never really sure. To this day it still reads:

He stood there, in the dark, letting the icy shards of rain stab into his skin and roll down unnoticed. The weight of the knife in his left hand cold and yet electric, sending trills of anticipation shooting up his arm, bypassing his heart, and swirling around in his bran with an exotic euphoria. He…

There is something about that page and the grey-black beast that forever keeps it clutched in its metal fanged jaws that fills me with pride and despair and comfort and fear. Something that has made it a permanent resident here in my place of places. If nothing else, typewriter and aborted story stand as a constant reminder that one day I will leave the mindless slog of cubicle work to be a writer.

Another yard sale yielded that one black and white card of Bo Jackson in a nice frame. You know the one, where he is wearing shoulder pads and has a baseball bat slung across them. This brought me back to the time when the card was first printed, a celebration of the fact that Bo was one of the highest profile players to play two major league sports at the same time. For a time, that card had everyone thinking they were some sort of high-powered baseball card collector until most of the amateur wannabes realized that really collecting cards took time and effort and patience. People tracked that card down to the point where it was almost worthless, but I framed it anyway because it reminded me of the few hours I spent with my then stepdad, no yelling, no fighting, the both of us in honest good temper as we drove from one card shop to the next, trying to find pieces of cardboard gold until he finally gave up, and I moved on to things like video games and horror novels.

And then there is the Girl of Cliff House, my newest addition, hanging cattty-corner to my window so it catches the light slipping through the Pac-Man curtains. Now, let’s get this straight; I’m not the kind of guy that goes in much for cheap road side paintings. I don’t just go and buy paintings of stupid bowls of fruit or birds or whatever so that my walls aren’t bare. Hell, I usually don’t even look through the random wall hangings of the blue hairs that peddle them at their yard sales. But this one… this one had something.

The picture itself is a simple one, if not expertly painted at least competently so, with even brush strokes and a decent sense of color and composition. Dominating the painting is a giant house, three stories, with verandas and gables, rendered in rusty browns and murky grays. It reminds me of an old-time radio show I listened to once (another gift from my mom who had a whole library of tapes from the golden age of radio). It was from a show called “Suspense!,” the episode titled “Ghost Hunt!” In it a radio disc jockey describes his next radio stunt—an overnight trip in an authentic haunted house where a number of people were reputed to have committed suicide. The morning after, when the jock’s boss goes to check on him, all they can find is his wire recorder chronicling his decent into madness until finally, goaded by some spectral presence, he gleefully runs off the cliff to his death.

This could have been that house, complete with the tall sweeping grass in front, and the back drop of a raging ocean behind it far, far below.

But the thing that grabbed me about the painting was the image of the little girl. She wore a blue dress with red ribbons, her back to the viewer as she played with some unseen toy. It was almost as though she didn’t belong there, her golden locks swaying in the sea breeze an alien splash of color in the bleak setting.

It only cost me ten dollars.

I had to move my Spider-Man movie poster to give her the spot she now inhabits, but it was worth it. Besides, the sun was beginning to fade the colors of the image of the web crawler and that would have been a shame.

This is my room, almost cluttered, especially compared to the rest of my apartment which is best characterized as spartan. In this, my safest of safe places, I sleep surrounded by the security blanket of my youth, and the rich, time-worn, lost treasures of other people’s life stories. Here is where I sleep, tucked in between high dollar sheets atop a high dollar bed, safe, where nothing can get me. At least, that’s what I thought.

**

It was a week ago when I woke up and had… that feeling. I don’t even know if you have ever had that feeling, but have you ever just entered a room, a room you have been in every day of your life for years and years, and everything looks exactly the same, but something is still… wrong? And you can’t put your finger on it either, like probing the inside of your mouth for that bit of food that you can feel in between your teeth, but no matter how much you explore, even when you start digging in with your fingernails, you can’t seem to find it? That feeling.

As I padded my way to the closet, I scanned my room. Spawn was still lurking in the shadows, the House in the painting still loomed, Cloud still stared at the Shinra building, and Spider-Man still stared out from his poster. No strange sounds, no eerie visitors, or notes, or nothing. Just my room, as it always had been.

I shrugged it off as just the kind of paranoia we all feel from time to time as I slipped a pair of slacks and a button up from their hangers and pulled them on, donning my armor for another day in parking lot thick traffic and boring cubicle work. As I left my inner sanctum, I took one last scan around, but the alarm clock next to my bed telling me it was half past eight told me I didn’t have time to be paranoid, so I took one last glance at the painting and strode out to meet the day.

It wasn’t until that afternoon, after listening to Jason tell the same story about him and his girlfriend’s most recent date for the eighth time, and getting stuck on the same off ramp for fifteen minutes as other drivers debated the existential meaning of a green light that I finally made it back to my apartment, went straight to my room, and booted up my laptop.

I might have given up on the story that remained in the clutches of the ancient typewriter, but I never gave up on writing in general, and I was currently at work on another story, this one about a psychotic killer that believed he lived in a land of rainbows and unicorns and was completely unaware that he was really prancing about in the inner city and carving people up with a razor blade. It wasn’t a great story, I’ll admit. Pedestrian even, but I had grown fond of the juxtaposition between fantasy and reality, and was having fun with the disparity between what the killer thought he was experiencing, and the gruesome reality of what he was actually doing.

I’d gotten a few pages in when I stopped and leaned back, lacing my fingers behind my head as I prepared to visualize the next scene when I felt that feeling again. This was crazy. This was my inner sanctum, nothing dangerous could cross here. But there it was, something out-of-place, something uncanny, just on the boundary of my perception.

I rose, and started to pace my room, my eyes scrutinizing every detail.

Nothing had changed. Every picture and comic book and trinket was in its place. Wasn’t it?

Just then I stopped and stared at the painting of the Girl of Cliff House.

The waves were still frozen in their eternal tempest, the house, as gloomy as ever as the tall grass whipped in the wind. But the girl herself was standing up–

–Which was strange because I was almost positive she had been hunched over, almost concealed by the gray-green grass.

But it was plain that she was standing in the picture. I ran my finger over the hardened paint, my fingertips grazing over the rough textures, feeling the brush strokes (I’m not that kind of guy either. You know the kind, the one that claims he wants to feel the brush strokes on the masterpieces of the world. That’s such bullshit, and a line I think guys try to float to make themselves seem sensitive and artistic to the kinds of girls that would fall for that kind of thing). The paint there was as hard and aged as the rest of the painting.

I shook my head and actually laughed. I mean, really, she was such a small part of the painting, it was an easy detail to miss. Crouched or standing, we’re talking about only a few strokes of color. Hell, that close, she didn’t even look like a girl at all, but a few swaths of color. A few dabs from a paint brush from an artist, A.J. Kenneth according to the signature in the bottom left corner, who had never really gone on to do anything else of interest, I’m sure.

Mocking my own paranoia, I ignored the painting, and sat back down to my laptop to write, but nothing would come. I couldn’t think about what my murderer, Christian, was going to do next. I couldn’t get the words to flow. I knew he thought he was off in a field of candy-canes and lollipops, and he was using his special knife to peel the rind off of a piece of magic fruit, when in reality, he was using his razor to take the skin off the face of his most recent victim. I knew the technicalities of it, but I couldn’t get the images to line up in my head, or the words to line up in the right order to describe them.

Sighing, I saved my work, closed my story, and started puttering about on the internet. I skimmed a few blogs and got caught up with my favorite YouTubers until I could feel sleepiness creep in. I punched out my laptop, ate, showered, and went to bed, still half laughing at myself for being so stupid, while underneath, that uncanny feeling refused to leave me.

**

The morning after, she was still standing there, and still under the shadow of Cliff House. I was being stupid, I was sure of it. Without giving her another thought, I slipped into another pair of slacks, and another button up, and began yet another day that was pretty much exactly like the last one, and the one before that.

I never wanted a nine to five job. I always felt like I was better than that. Once you found yourself in one of those kinds of jobs, you have just doomed yourself to yet another meaningless existence like most of the billions of other people who live on this planet and will never see their name written in a history book or talked about on a late night talk show. But here I am, a certified member of the rat race, almost guaranteed to neither win nor lose, but simply run it until I run out.

The only thing that keeps me sane is my writing, that glimmer of a dream I keep chasing from within my inner sanctum. That and the chunks of memory hanging on my bedroom walls that speak to adventures and dreams that remind me that maybe life is worth living, even from within the lanes of the rat race.

That night, the writing was good. Very good. I didn’t pay the Girl of Cliff House any mind as I sat down and booted up my laptop. My fingers, twitching after a day of glossing over spreadsheets and mind numbing office chatter, danced over the keys. Christian’s special knife finally tore into the magic fruit, its sticky sweet red juices bubbling to the surface, even as he failed to hear the tortured screams of his victim as the girl’s face was slowly peeled away. Christian wiped some of the goo off of what he thought were wizard’s clothes, really just a flower print sundress, until the fresh, delicious meat of the fruit was exposed and he ate heartily, unaware of what he was really eating.

A sense of victory washed over me as I completed the scene, and I leaned back in my chair and finally took in the surroundings of my room for the first time that evening. It was like that buzz you get when you’ve downed the perfect number of beers, just before you cross over into the territory of being stupid drunk, and I reveled in it until my eyes fell upon the painting.

What I saw there made me fall over, sending my second-hand chair skittering out from under me.

It didn’t matter, not when I saw her.

Everything else in the painting remained exactly the same, and considering how closely I inspected the painting over the course of the previous twenty-four hours, I felt I knew every weather worn board in the house and every wind-whipped reed of grass. But the girl… she was not only standing up, but had now turned to face me.

This wasn’t a trick of memory, or of the light, or whatever tricks that make you think you’re going insane at a time like this. It wasn’t a misread of the brush strokes. I knew when I looked at that painting the day before that she was facing away. But now, there she was, her face, or what should have been her face, was pointed directly at me.

There were no eyes, no mouth, just a clean white oval, maybe too small for the artist’s hands. At this point, I still believed that somehow, this was by the artist’s design. I don’t know why I believed this beyond some strange need to make normal something that was clearly not. And yet, despite the eerie blankness of that face beneath the golden curls, I got the distinct feeling that I was being looked at from that field of empty white.

What the hell was I supposed to do? Call the cops? Yeah, that conversation would go over well, I could just imagine. “Hi, I think my painting is coming to life and stalking me,” I might say. Sure, they might send a squad car over, if for no other reason than to put me through every drug test they could imagine and find some reason to lock me up forever.

So I did what I thought was the only thing a reasonably sane person could do. I took the painting off the wall, carried it gingerly into the kitchen, taking extra care not to let any part of the painted side of the canvas touch me, and I slashed the hell out of it with a butcher knife, shredding it until I could safely cram it into the trash, breaking the cheap frame over my knee for good measure. I hauled the trash out to the industrial trash bin outside the complex, and then went back up to my apartment.

But I couldn’t go back into my room, even with that painting gone. It felt violated, dirty, no longer my safe place. So, for at least that night, I opted to sleep on the couch. Or at least try, except every time I tried to close my eyes, all I could see was that white, oval non-face, glaring at me.

With nothing else left to do, I switched on my rarely used TV, put on Netflix, and looked for something safe to watch. Usually, when I sleep on the couch, I like to do so to old horror movies. I don’t know, I like the nightmare fuel; I think it helps my writing. But I just wanted something safe, so I flicked on one of the few sitcoms I could stomach, and tried to get lost in one of those until I was physically too tired to stay awake.

It was starting to work, too. And then I found myself watching this one scene. I’d watched it at least a dozen times; it was one of my favorites, where the big mean doctor is berating the main character, screaming, “Help me help you help me help you!” And while I thought that was just the funniest thing I have ever seen, this time, the only thing I could see was the painting hanging on the wall just over his shoulder.

I recognized the house and the crashing ocean behind it. And there she was, in a sitcom that had been off the air for years, staring straight at me with her white oval face, the Girl of Cliff House.

Fuck.

I cut off my TV and charged straight into my room, ignoring the walls, ignoring my Pac-Man curtains and the baseball card of Bo, and the framed Spawn #1. My skin prickled and crawled, it felt like someone was pouring cold oil down my back and across my arms, and I didn’t care. I went straight for my laptop and brought the browser up.

Even though she had been ripped from my walls, it was clear the girl wasn’t going to let me off that easy, so I did a search for A.J. Kenneth.

It took a while to find him. He wasn’t on Wikipedia. Hell, he didn’t even have a Deviant Art page, and I thought everybody had one of those if they did something creative these days.

But no, nothing. I had to swim through Facebook pages and third tier college ball players, small business men, and a guy on craigslist offering spankings (why I even bothered clicking on the craigslist page, I will never know), until I found what I was looking for.

A.J. Kenneth was a local artist, born in Hampton Roads, Virginia around the same time as me. Art teachers had said he showed a great deal of promise, and he even managed to make a few dollars off some adequate still lifes for local businesses looking to hang something off of their walls. But he never really took off as an artist that could carve his own niche.

I even found a small blurb on the Girl of Cliff House, which was supposed to be Kenneth’s big departure from bland corporate art. It never found a market, and eventually sold at a local festival for fifty bucks. A year later, A. J. Kenneth killed himself.

I couldn’t find out how he killed himself, but one page I found did at least reference his suicide note. It declared that since he couldn’t make his paintings come alive, he didn’t himself deserve to live.

If only A. J. was able to see what I had seen…

I looked over at my alarm clock, and the bright red numbers told me it was one in the morning. Shit. I still had to go to work in the morning, and I was tired. But even as my eyes kept trying to close on me, that blank white oval was there, taunting me, every time my lids clamped shut.

I’m not sure exactly when I finally fell asleep that night, or even how. I know the first time I tried to lay down after glancing at my clock, all I could do was glare at the blank spot on the wall where Cliff House once hung. That emptiness made me feel dirty, and wrong, like the way you feel as a kid when you accidentally walk in on your parents.

What was worse, though, was the nagging feeling like all that emptiness meant was that I had delayed something inevitable, that the Girl of Cliff House was gone, but not forever. That cream-colored void, cast in night-time shadow and illuminated by the eggshell blue of the laptop monitor’s glow, was this glaring, hungry thing, waiting to be filled.

I remember going back to the laptop, and trying to find more about the painting itself, but that was fruitless. It just wasn’t a remarkable painting until some idiot found it at a garage sale and thought it was just spooky enough, just weird enough, to fit into my strange little sanctuary. There wasn’t any kind of creepypasta-esque following on the internet, no forums warning others to watch out for it and stay away, no crazy tinfoil hat-wearing YouTube vids doing a piece on it with ominous music playing in the background.

I distinctly remember two-thirty coming and going, but that was the last time I recall noting the time.

**

The morning after jogged me awake with bright yellow sunlight pouring in between my Pac-Man curtains. Through cracked eyelids I saw that it was half past ten, and my cell phone was flashing repeatedly, letting me know I had both texts and voicemails.

Shit shit shit, I was late for work. Real late. I’m never late. Not that I didn’t have an excuse, but I’m pretty sure my boss Steve wouldn’t really be very fond of hearing, “Yeah, the reason I slept through my alarm was because this painting I bought turned out to be haunted or started coming to life or something, so I freaked out a little bit and…”

No.

Letting my eyes drift shut, I reached for the phone, and called into the office. I lied. I don’t like lying to work, but we’ve already established that the truth wasn’t getting me anywhere this morning. So I told Steve I was up all night vomiting.

Steve understood. He likes me, thinks I’m a hard worker, and very professional. He doesn’t know that I go home and write stories about serial killers and hack second-rate paintings up to pieces because I might be mentally unbalanced. He just sees the guy who wears slacks and a button up every day, even on casual days, and gets his reports done on time every time.

As I lay there, the bit about feeling sick didn’t seem quite so much a lie. My head was pounding, my nerves were shaking like dangling car keys, and my stomach felt like it was poised over the eject button. But I knew I wasn’t sick, it was just anxiety, and who could really blame me, right? I mean, if you had seen the things I had seen over the previous few days, how well do you think you would handle it? Are you sitting there all smug, thinking how you would have maybe gotten rid of the painting at the first sign of trouble, or called a shrink, or whatever? Yeah, go ahead and try to armchair quarterback your way through this one, buddy, but I say you got to live it first.

So I felt like crap, but I also knew I wasn’t sick. What’s more, I knew there shouldn’t have been anything to be worried about. I did tear the painting up, after all. And even if I didn’t, what the hell could it possibly do to me? Jump off the wall and throw itself at me?

I decided it was time to stop being crazy and stupid, and instead time to start making some use of the day. Nothing bad had happened, nor was going to happen, so I decided to open my eyes.

I screamed.

The painting had returned. Only this time the girl was a few steps closer to the frame, her oval face now showing some features. Warily, I crept toward the painting, dreading every step that brought me nearer but unable to resist inspecting it more closely. Her new-found facial features were crude, little more than half-hearted dabs of paint, a couple of sloppy blue dots for eyes and a slapdash swatch of red for lips. There was something horrific and grotesque about that face when viewed from up close, something clown-like with its basic shapes and primary colors, but twisted too, an aberration. No face, real or imagined, could be contorted in just that way.

She was smiling.

My impulse was to again rip the damn thing off the wall, but even as I reached up for the painting something else caught my eye, and I froze. Slowly I turned around to survey the rest of my room, my safe place, bits of my youth preserved and posted along the walls. Except those memories were no longer preserved so much as perverted now.

Spawn remained crouched on the cover of his first issue, but now his mask was removed and his charred head was buried in his hands as though he was crying. Cloud no longer faced the Shinra building, but instead was on his knees, his face contorted into horror and grief as he held his giant sword aloft and downward as though he was about to commit seppuku. Bo Jackson traded his shoulder pads and baseball bat for the stocks of a guillotine, the fatally sharp blade just barely hovering at the edge of the card. Spider-Man was falling, grasping at an empty sky, while Joe Montana’s sure footed throwing stance was replaced by the image of him scurrying away in fear as three demonic linebackers with no faces, just cold hungry eyes, bore down on him.

When I glanced at the typewriter, the paper was still fed into it, but the half-finished paragraph was gone, replaced by an almost full sheet of text:

LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY! LET’S PLAY!

I tore the page out of the typewriter, the hidden gears and teeth letting out a metallic roar as I ripped it free. I balled it up and threw it in the waste basket before plunging into the closet for clothes. Only it was empty.

I even forgot to do the fucking laundry.

Now listen, I’m not that kind of bachelor, the one that mixes colors with whites, or habitually goes so long without doing the wash that I find myself sniffing the seats of my pants to find which is clean enough to wear again before laundry day.

But now…

It didn’t even matter. I just needed out of that apartment, away from that grotesque clown face, and the abomination my childhood mementos had become. I dug some clothes out of the hamper, pulled them on, not even registering whether they smelled half-way clean or not, and I left my apartment.

The sun hit my face warm and inviting, and it felt like, for the first time, I could really breathe. You ever notice that? How you can go months and weeks without really paying attention to what your lungs are doing and then all of a sudden you’re aware? You can feel the air rushing inside of you, and the little life-sustaining tingle as the oxygen is pulled into your blood and all that used air comes billowing out.

That’s what leaving my apartment felt like, like taking off a pair of sunglasses to find out that the sun wasn’t too harsh, and that the green of the leaves on the trees is particularly brilliant, and the air is that right level of cool that it doesn’t raise goose bumps, but still feels like diving into a pool on a hot summer day.

The insanity of my apartment quickly began to melt away and my feet idly took me in the direction of the local park. This was so much better.

I had just started to calm down and really think about what to do about my apartment when one of the big white HRT buses roared by me, belching plumes of brown-black diesel smoke behind it. The noise, so harsh compared to the sounds of singing birds and tree leaves whispering in the wind, made me look up and stare.

On the back of the slowly receding bus was one of those perfume ads. It was awash in those satiny brown and red colors usually reserved solely for those perfumes with one pretentious word for a name. In this case the perfume on sale was “desperation,” just like that, without capital letters.

It was the kind of perfume ad that you wouldn’t have noticed, despite the underwear model giving the viewer her most practiced plastic look of carnal desire. Except for this ad, where the Victoria’s Secret hopeful should have been, I saw instead that familiar white oval with golden locks and that horrific, misshapen clown face.

I looked up, and there she was on a billboard, trying to sell me a Big Mac.

The further I walked, the more I saw her. She was on park benches, and storefronts. As I numbly stumbled my way into the Ghent subdivision, I even saw some college kid doing a sidewalk chalk drawing of her.

Horror doesn’t describe what I felt. Desperation comes close, but the word doesn’t quite get you all the way there. What single word can explain what it feels like when you can feel the fear as a physical presence, running in your blood stream and twisting in your stomach? What single word can convey the feel of suffocation and claustrophobia even as you walk in the open air. That’s what this was like; every image of the girl felt like a wall, all of them silently pressing in on me until I could almost feel them crushing me, the sounds of my crunching bones filling my ears as I could feel the blood dribbling out of every orifice.

There was no safe place I could go, I realized. No place she wouldn’t chase me. Nearly drowning in terror, I headed to the only place that carried even a memory of safety for me.

I only sort of remember making my way back home, my head ringing, crammed in a vise of dread and anxiety. Time got blurry as the perpetual fear that seemed pumped into the now alien apartment via the central air system kept me from sleeping until my body finally gave up due to adrenaline withdrawal and exhaustion. I only just noticed the passing of day into night and vice versa just as I registered but ignored the calls from Steve, no doubt wondering where I was.

Meanwhile, it seemed every time I blinked my room kept changing. Eventually, Cloud had fallen on his sword, blood caking the iconic blade with the Shinra building in the backdrop. Bo’s baseball card now only showed a headless corpse, and Spider-Man was a barely visible speck surrounded by flashing ambulance and police lights.

One of the things that scared me the most was the typewriter which had filled another page with “LET’S PLAY!” written over and over again, except halfway down the page the ink had turned a dark, rusty, red.

And through it all, the Girl of Cliff House drew closer to the frame, the pleats in her blue dress growing slightly larger each time I turned around, the details of her flowing hair coming into sharper focus. Yet her face never grew any more detailed. No matter how much bigger she became in the painting, it always remained that white oval with gobs of bright blue and red sloppily splashed on in a maniacal, twisted, smile.

I retreated to my laptop. At first, I spent my time flailing around for more information on the Girl of Cliff House, trying to find some key to unlock whatever the hell had started happening to me. When that proved fruitless, I panicked until I started researching the occult, demonic possession, exorcisms, something, anything to make whatever is happening just fucking stop.

Last night (I think it was night, I’m not even sure anymore) I found something about cursed items. It’s the internet, so you have to treat everything with skepticism, but this didn’t strike me as bogus. But by the time I stumbled across it, I had grown so tired my eyes were closing all on their own.

So I climbed into bed. I don’t know what time it was; my alarm clock had taken to flashing gibberish symbols that made me queasy if I tried to make sense out of them, so I unplugged. I’m not sure how long I slept.

All I know is that when I woke up, the room was dark, the only light the eggshell blue glow from the laptop. Something was different. Granted, over the past week, I had gotten used to different as the images in my once safe place decayed and tortured me. But this was a new kind of different, something that filled each molecule of air around me.

The room now felt hot, and stuffy, like when you try hiding under the covers from the thing that lurks under your bed, and no matter how cold it is outside, you soon feel like you are slowly baking in an oven. This is Virginia, so we’re used to hot nights here, but not this early in the year. On top of the oppressing heat, there was also a dead stillness that I could feel even as I sucked the air into my lungs. It was like just the act of breathing had become more difficult, like the air had turned into a warm, sticky, sludge.

I almost ignored the scenes of gore that covered my bedroom walls as I absent-mindedly made my way to the Pac-Man curtained window, ready to push the pane up and let some fresh air in. But when my fingers reached for the window, they didn’t brush past curtain to feel the cool slick feel of glass. What I felt was instead rough and yet strangely regular, a feeling I have felt before, the feeling of oil on canvas.

My hands scrabbled at the window to a hollow thumping sound. As I watched with surreal horror, the entire image of my window, curtains and all, lurched with every movement of my hands. I clawed with even more fury, blind panic taking over, that strange survivalist instinct that leads animals to gnaw off limbs to escape a trap.

There was a loud crash as I watched the entire window fall to the floor. It bounced, and collided with my shin with sparks of shooting pain. I didn’t even wince, entranced by the sight of watching my now two-dimensional window lurch and skid before coming to rest face up on the floor.

Before me, where the window should have been, was nothing but blank wall. The paint was smooth and uninterrupted, not even showing a clean spot like when you remove a painting after it had been hanging for years. There was no sign that there had been anything there but wall.

I ran for the door. Fuck this. Fuck this place, fuck the goddamn painting, and the childhood crap and the stupid fucking window. I was done. I’ll just get a ticket to somewhere without perfume ads or billboards or yard sale fucking paintings.

Except when I hit the door, my shoulder thudded hard against it as my fingers collapsed against a flat, painted door knob. I could hear the wobble of the frame and watched, defeated, as the canvas painting of the door shifted under my weight.

I slid down and collapsed onto the floor. Behind me, the painting that stood where my door once was slowly slid and fell on its side, taking with it the Spider-Man poster with the ambulances and police cars flashing their flashers around the corpse of the web-slinger far down below.

I looked up, and in the glow of the laptop, I saw the painting of the Girl of Cliff House, her head now consuming the entire frame, globs of blue staring blankly yet maliciously down at me. Below those strange blue eyes, cast in a slash of red, the Girl of Cliff House smiled hungrily at me with her wretched clown’s smile.

-THE END-

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Legend of the Three Brothers

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Author Zachary Helton seeks a terrifying Georgia ghost story from his childhood while visiting Savannah.

Having had a lifelong fascination with all things bumping in the night, I’ve owned countless books of alleged “true ghost stories” over the years. Of the hundreds of stories I’ve read, the two types that always stuck with me were the ones that involved horrific violence, or the ones that occurred close by. I grew up in northwest Georgia, so the Bell Witch was always one of my favorites, as well as a smattering of Bigfoot sightings in the Appalachian foothills. I was listening to a podcast a few months ago in which the topic of the meteorological phenomenon known as blood rain was discussed, and this reminded me of a story I’d nearly lost from memory. I made a note dig out that book from my mother’s attic the next time I visited, but twenty sweaty minutes yielded no results. She’s moved a few times since I was a kid, so I’m sure that’s not the only thing that will turn up missing when all is said and done.

The book was a collection of Georgia ghost stories and legends up until the Great Depression. The name escapes me, but I remember it was hard-bound (maybe library binding?) with blue raised paint on a lighter blue background. The art on the front depicted a large plantation house with a big, empty front yard and a magnolia tree. If you have any clue which book this is, please leave a comment; I’d love to track down another copy.

About a year ago a friend announced his intent to relocate to Savannah, so we recently took a weekend trip to survey the area — local beer and ghost tours. The tour itself was the usual schlocky quasi-history trip. There were teenagers ooh-ing and ahh-ing at pictures of orbs. The tour guide was a big guy with a red beard who seemed thoroughly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject matter, so when the tour was over I asked him about the legend from my missing book. He immediately recognized the story and was only going to charge me a single pint of Guinness to retell it:

——

Sometime in the early 1850’s, in early spring, a leather worker’s son ran into his father’s workshop in Lexington, GA, screaming about having found a bodiless head while collecting firewood just inside the woods bordering the small town. A search party was formed and was easily guided to the head by the child. It had belonged to a younger black man, probably about 20, and almost definitely an escaped slave. The party sent the child back home and pressed on into the woods. About fifty yards away, they discovered the rest of the body. A brand had been burned into the skin, proving that the man had been a slave. He was gaunt and his clothes were in tatters, and the men assumed he had made his way from Macon, heading northeast to hook up with sympathizers who would guide him to Underground Railroad routes through North Carolina.

In the 1850’s the death of a slave wasn’t exactly front page material (had Lexington boasted a newspaper), but the disturbing nature of the murder caused word to get around.

Public concern would grow with the discovery of each new body.

At least nine total victims were confirmed in the six months following the discovery of the first body, all eviscerated or destroyed in a manner that far exceeded the minimum damage needed to inflict death upon a human. The murders told the story of an individual who was taking great pleasure in causing harm, and no one felt safe, white or not.

This is where legend begins to creep into the historical record. As the legend goes, young boys would dare each other to go into the woods to see if the killer had struck again. Some of the boys returned from their test of bravery claiming that the woods didn’t feel right, and that temperatures had been much too cold for a summer in the south. One boy swore that as he had stood in the woods, a warm, red rain had begun to pour all at once, and by its taste he knew it to be blood. Immediately upon this discovery he had run away, but he could not provide an explanation for why he had returned completely dry and un-bloodied. This was the part of the story that had stuck with me the most and what initially reminded me of the story.

Atlanta, Georgia (vicinity). Woods where Gen. James B. McPherson was killed, July 22, 1864

Assuming these accounts had been brought on by panic and paranoia over the murdered slaves, the sheriff of Lexington appointed a two-man task force to investigate the murders. The detective work, however, had all but been done for them: each of the bodies had been branded with the same insignia, sometimes in addition to other brands. The common brand led them to a large rice plantation near Savannah, GA.

Here, I naturally asked the guide for the name of the plantation. He looked around suspiciously and quietly informed me that the family was still prominent in the city and it wouldn’t be in his best interest professionally to divulge such information. Whether he was having me on or not I couldn’t determine.

A few days later the “task force” — two farmers who had been very hastily deputized — arrived at the plantation and explained to the owner the reason for their visit. He denied any knowledge of such grisly murders, and moreover explained that he wasn’t missing nine slaves… only one. Roughly six months prior, a slave had become enraged and broken into the main house at night, killing the three adult sons of the plantation owner as they slept. The owner would most likely have been next, but the third son had a wife who slept in the bed with him. That night she had awakened to the sound of her husband’s skull cracking; her screaming had alerted the rest of the house and the slave escaped in the confusion.

The family was devastated, and more than that, vengeful. They’d sent wanted posters all up and down the coast and offered a significant reward to any who could bring the fugitive slave to justice, but no one had ever claimed the bounty.

The legend says that the escaped slave had made his way northwest, either because he knew it wouldn’t have been searched, or because he simply didn’t know where he was going. The most obvious route would have been to the northeast, along the coast. Keeping in the vicinity of towns, where food could be stolen, was the best bet for an escaped slave, though it increased the risk of capture. Still, the punishment for running away had to be weighed against the risk of starvation for a runaway slave unaccustomed to living off the land. So the fugitive slave made his way toward Lexington, and the angry souls of the three murdered brothers followed him, exacting revenge on any runaways who passed through the nearby woods. Interestingly, the fugitive slave had distinct features which did not match any of the victims discovered by the citizens of Lexington.

The task force returned home a few days later with little to offer in the way of results save for ghost stories. They could not account for the branding on the victimized slaves and felt that visits to the plantations denoted by the other brands would be equally fruitless. Another two victims were recorded in the months that followed, but activity fizzled out as winter set in and less slaves attempted escape. The phenomenon did not start again.

——–

The thing I liked about “The Legend of the Three Brothers,” as the guide dubbed it, was that it lacked a moral. There was no comeuppance that’s usually associated with fictitious ghost stories. Justice was not served. The murderous slave was not punished; the victims were allegedly innocents. It just rings true to life for me. I’d really like to find another copy of the book that had this story to see if it had any more detail or names. I just wanted to get the story out there while it’s fresh on my mind, and before it gets lost again. My friend has since moved to Savannah, so I’m hoping to visit him soon and see if the guide has any more tales that are slowly slipping out of the canon.

-THE END-

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A Confederate Soldier Escapes on a Dark Northern Night

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Bizarre yet true Civil War story of one unlucky Confederate soldier, coming home to Tennessee. Written by Kathy Warnes.

Captain Tod Carter escaped from the train that was carrying him to the Union prison at Johnson’s Island and returned home to fight the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

Captain Tod Carter, Confederate States Army, captured at Missionary Ridge, was one of the more than 6,100 Confederate prisoners that General Ulysses S. Grant sent north after the battles around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Captain Carter’s trip toward Johnson’s Island was just the beginning of a southward journey that led him home to Franklin, Tennessee.

Tod Carter Enlists in the Twentieth Tennessee Regiment

Tod enlisted in the Twentieth Tennessee Regiment, in a company formed by his older brother Moscow. His brother, Colonel Moscow Branch Carter mailed a letter to Tod from Nashville, Tennessee, on March 4, 1864. The letter gives more details of Tod’s capture. It is addressed to Capt. Tod Carter, Prisoner of War, Johnson’s Island, Ohio, Block 8, Mess No. 1. After describing the Union occupation of Franklin, Tennessee, Moscow adds, “I have a little piece of news you many never have heard before. After your capture, your horse swam the river, and returned to camp in full rig. The boys thought for a long time you were killed, seeing your horse without you.”

But Tod wasn’t at Johnson’s Island to read his brother Moscow’s letter postmarked May 4, 1864. Family tradition said that Tod made a daring escape “while crossing the State of Pennsylvania en route to a northern prison.” Riding on a moving train in the darkness of a northern night, Tod pretended to be asleep, with his feet resting in the train window and his head in his seat companion’s lap.

Tod Escapes from the Train on the Way to Johnson’s Island

When the guard looked the other way, Tod’s companion shoved him out the train window! The conductor stopped the train and a search party scattered through the countryside to look for him. A northern farm couple befriended Tod and in disguise, he traveled up the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Memphis, Tennessee. From Memphis, he traveled to Dalton, Georgia, where his Twentieth Tennessee Regiment still lay encamped.

Seven months later on November 28, 1864, Tod clung to a scrap of tablet paper signed by his commanding officer giving him permission to advance ahead of his brigade to visit his home and family in Franklin, Tennessee, less than twenty five miles away.

At home waited his father, Fountain Branch Carter, 67. His older brother, Colonel Moscow Branch Carter, a prisoner of war at home on parole for about a year, waited. At home waited his four sisters and his beloved sister-in-law, nine nieces and nephews all under twelve years old. At home waited the hams and bacon in the smoke house and the good meals his servants prepared in the kitchen in the yard.

The Union Army Waits for Tod at His Home in Tennessee

At home also waited the Union Army. A Union Army of about 24,000 men under General John M. Schofield marched to join the forces of General George H. Thomas at Nashville. It encountered the Confederate Army under General John B. Hood and the battle of Franklin, Tennessee took place the next day, November 30, 1864.

General Cox of the Union army commandeered the Carter House to become the Federal Command post. His family managed to warn Captain Carter away just as he had stopped at the garden gate. Tod’s duties as an Assistant Quartermaster were non-combatant, but no power on earth could keep him out of the battle. The Yankees had built breastworks across his father’s farm and overrun his home. Worse yet, he feared for the safety of his family in the bombardment.

Astride his horse, Rosencrantz, Captain Tod Carter dashed through the Yankee works under the guns of the Twentieth Ohio Battery. About five o’clock in the evening, he was leading the charge in the center of Bate’s Division when his horse Rosencrantz plunged, throwing Tod over his head. Tod hit the ground and lay very still. He had been shot in the head, mortally wounded about 525 feet southwest of his home. Shortly after midnight the soldiers from both sides left the battlefield, leaving their dead and wounded.

The Carter Family Finds Tod

The Carter family and their servants and their neighbors, the Albert Lotz family emerged from the cellar, unharmed and thanking God for their deliverance. Before they could finish their prayers, a Confederate soldier brought the news that Captain Tod Carter lay wounded on the field. His family climbed over the breastworks and trenches carrying lanterns. Just before daybreak they found Tod, lying on the cold ground, deliriously calling his friend Sgt. Cooper’s name. Nearby lay his horse, Rosencranz, gray and powerful even in death.

Nathan Morris, Captain of Litter bearers, a Mr. Lawrence and a Mr. L.M. Bailey of Alabama carried Tod into the debris filled family room wrecked by shot and shell and laid him upon the floor.

The regimental surgeon Dr. Deering Roberts probed for the bullet in Tod’s head while his young nieces Alice Adelaide McPhail and Lena Carter held a candle and small lamp. Despite the efforts of his family and Dr. Roberts, Tod Carter died on December 2, 1864, at the age of twenty four. He died in the front sitting room across the hall from the room where he was born.

-THE END-

References:

James L. McDonough, Thomas L. Connelly, Five Tragic Hours: The Battle of Franklin, University of Tennessee Press, 1983

James R Knight, The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee: When the Devil Had Full Possession of the Earth, The History Press, 2009

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