Cassie Grimes woke to the sound of footsteps in her hotel room. There was only a crack of light coming from the window where the curtains didn’t quite come together. She lay on her left side frozen with fear. Should she turn over and alert the person in her room that she was awake; or lie still and hope the intruder would simply rob her room and slink away?
Suddenly she felt the other side of the bed move, as if someone had laid down on it. Her heart pounded so hard she felt as if it could be heard by this person beside her. Then, she felt a hand on her shoulder; causing her to let out a blood curdling scream of panic. She came straight up in the bed with no thought of what might happen next.
She leapt from the bed in one motion; grabbing for the light switch by the bedside. When the light penetrated the darkened room she stood there in total disbelief. There was no one there!
That can’t be! I was awake; it couldn’t have been a dream.
But her eyes didn’t lie. There was no one in the bed; or anywhere else in the room. She was shaking; her heart had not yet returned to its normal rhythm as she stood beside the bed. What do I do now? I can’t go back to bed. If I call the front desk and report an intruder, what do I tell them? I heard footsteps and someone got in bed with me; touched me, then simply disappeared?
Cassie ran to the door and found it locked; just as it had been when she went to bed. She ran her fingers through her long auburn hair trying to figure out an explanation for what had just happened.
Suddenly there was a knock on her door. She jumped; startled by the sudden sound. Cassie looked through the peep hole of the door and saw the night manager standing in the hall in front of the door.
Grabbing for her robe, she took the latch off and opened the door. The young man had a concerned look on his face.
“Ma’am; I got a call about a scream from this room. Is everything alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m very sorry about disturbing the other guests; I just had a nightmare that’s all.” She explained as calmly as she could make her voice sound.
“You’re sure everything is ok? You look a little pale? Can I get you anything?” He asked peering past her into the room.
“No, really I’m fine. I apologize for the inconvenience. I’m going back to bed now; let’s hope for no more bad dreams.” She smiled.
“Ok then ma’am; have a good night.”
Cassie closed and latched the door. She was calmer now and began to think maybe she had experienced a night terror. She had read about those types of dreams which can be very vivid and the person’s body is paralyzed. They could seem extremely real; but the mind is in a dream state, somewhere between sleep and awareness.
Feeling a little foolish and embarrassed by the whole event; she decided to go back to bed. Even though she had convinced herself it had all been a dream; she left the light beside the bed on dim. It cast a soft light in the room, yet allowed her to try and sleep. After quite some time had passed, she finally felt herself getting drowsy. Soon, she had fallen asleep.
Sometime later Cassie was again wakened by a noise. She lay there for a moment and listened. She heard nothing. Perhaps, she thought, it had been a guest in the hallway she heard. Come on Cassie; get a grip on yourself. You’re a grown woman and you’re acting like a scared little girl. One bad dream and you’re reduced to believing in the boogie man.
Suddenly there was another noise; a loud thud which came from the other side of the room where her luggage sat on a credenza by the television. She turned toward the direction of the sound and saw her suitcase now lying on the floor. How did that happen? The suitcase was firmly sitting on the credenza; it shouldn’t have been able to fall off like that.
Something strange was going on in her room. Cassie had never been a woman easily spooked; but this was giving her the creeps. She suddenly remembered the conversation she’d had with her husband before leaving for this trip to New Orleans on business.
“I’ll be staying at the Le Pavillon Hotel if you need to get in touch with me.” She’d told her husband Robert.
“You sure you want to stay at that Hotel; I hear it’s haunted?” He teased.
“We both know that’s fodder that the owner’s put out there to attract more business. New Orleans is full of ghosts if you believe what you read. I’ll take my chances at Le Pavillon; it’s a beautiful place from what I’ve heard.”
She and her husband had laughed about people who believed in the paranormal. She was much too intelligent to believe in such nonsense.
Now, lying in her bed, she wished she had chosen another hotel to stay. Her thoughts were interrupted by something she saw from the corner of her eye. A movement, ever so slight; but she was sure she caught something moving from the area between the credenza and the restroom.
Cassie sat up on the edge of the bed. Looking toward the restroom she saw a shadow. It appeared to be floating just inches off the floor and moving slowly toward her! It was almost like a thick vapor, but had the shape of a man. She could see the shoulders and head clearly outlined; but no facial features at first.
Cassie was petrified with fear.She could not even scream out for help. It was if she was mesmerized by this thing coming at her. As it got closer she could see more details emerging from the dark misty figure.
He appeared to be wearing the uniform of a soldier, one from the era of the Civil War. His face formed and she saw his sad looking eyes gazing at her. He appeared young, only about twenty years old. He looked so distraught and sad in his expression. In her mind she heard a voice; Don’t be afraid."
There was a bloody bandage around his head. She sat there unable to move a muscle as he reached out one hand and stroked her auburn hair. He stood less than a foot in front of her.His touch was no more than the feeling of a slight breeze on her hair.Cassie didn’t know why, but she no longer felt afraid of this aberration. Instead, she felt deep sympathy for the ghostly young soldier.
“Who are you?” She asked, as she finally found her voice.
His lips moved but no sound came from them. It was like she heard his words inside her head.
“Joseph Whaley”; that was the name she heard in her mind.
“Your hair is the same color as my sweetheart back home. I wish I could see her again .I can’t seem to find my way home; I been trying to get back there for a long time now.” His voice sounded so weary and forlorn.
"Can you help me find home? I feel like if I just get back to my girl...everything will be alright."
Cassie felt tremendous sadness for him, as tears began to fill her eyes. She attempted to touch his cheek, but her hand passed right through him.
“I’m so sorry Joseph; I wish I could help you find her. Where are you from?”
“Texas; I live in Tyler. Seems like a long time since I was there though.
Cassie was from Dallas, Texas. She knew exactly where the town of Tyler was. Not that it did this young man any good; she couldn’t help him find his home. It appeared Joseph didn't realize the war had ended long ago; and so had his life.
Just then, Joseph pulled a chain from around his neck on which hung a gold toned locket. He opened it and held it out for Cassie to see the black and white photograph. It was of a young girl, wearing a high necked dress, with dark hair and beautiful dark eyes.
“This is Evangeline; she’s waitin’ for me to come back to her .I have to go now; she’s been waitin’ for such a long time.”
Before Cassie could say anything more, he began to fade away. He was gone. She sat there on the bed in a state of both sadness and amazement at the conversation she’d just had with a ghost. No one would ever believe her if she told them what had happened to her in the hotel room. Her husband would accuse her of having too many cocktails in the Hotel’s bar before going to bed.
Just then, she noticed the chain with the locket the young soldier had shown her. It was lying on the night table beside her. Reaching over, she picked it up. There was an engraving on the back of the locket.
Holding it under the lamp, she saw the words, “May God keep you safe” and beneath the words was a name and date; “Evangeline 1861.”
Cassie arrived back in Dallas with the locket in her purse. She never told anyone about the encounter she had with Joseph Whaley. Several weeks passed and she couldn’t get the locket out of her mind; or the pitiful young soldier looking for his home.
Several times she would pull it out of her purse and stare at it. Then one day, the idea came to her to drive down to Tyler and search the library’s records for any mention of Joseph Whaley in the Civil War section.
After hours of pouring over records, she came across a list of men from Texas who died at the Battle of New Orleans in1862. There among the names of the dead was Corporal Joseph M. Whaley. Upon further research she learned that it was several years after the war ended before the bodies were sent back to Texas to be re-interred in their home towns. Joseph’s body was given a final resting place in the Tyler Baptist Cemetery in his family’s plot.
Cassie drove to the cemetery which was only a few blocks away. She walked to the oldest part of the graveyard. After more than thirty minutes she came upon some gravestones that bore the name “WHALEY”. There was Jacob and Sarah Whaley, buried side by side; then, several other family members; and finally one stone that contained the name of Corp. Joseph Miles Whaley. It read: “Beloved son and brave soldier of the Confederate.” Born: 1842- Died: 1862. It was a simple gray headstone with vines nearly covering the faded inscribtion; but she could still read it. She rubbed her hand gently across the name. She felt such grief for this long dead soldier.
Cassie sat down on the ground by the headstone and scooped up some earth with her hands. She took the locket from her purse and gently laid it in the shallow hole; then covered it back up.
“Evangeline is with you again Joseph. May both of you rest in peace.”
Cassie didn’t know if she had truly given the young wandering soldier the peace he deserved; but she hoped with all her heart that she had.
As she walked away from the graves, she turned to look back one last time and there stood Joseph; beside him stood a young girl with long dark hair. They both smiled at her and then faded away.