Farmhouse Ghost

Reads: 50  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

A fictionalized account of my father's encounter with a ghost at his uncle's farm in the 1930s.

Farmhouse Ghost

by

Mike Roberts

In August, 1933, my father had his one and only encounter with a ghost.  He was eleven years old and helping his uncle, Vexter Graham, on his farm.  It was late summer and my father, Billy Johnson, was spending several weeks with Uncle Vexter to help get his tobacco crop in.  Daddy was there to “prime” the tobacco.  Priming tobacco is simple, though hard, hot, backbreaking work.  Basically, you go down the row, stooping low to pick the yellow leaves off the plant from the bottom up.  As you do, you stuff the leaves under your arm and continue down the row until you reach the end, or until the bunch of leaves under your arm has grown so large that you have to unload them into the wagon (hopefully) parked close by.

Of course, this work is done outside, in late summer, when it is hot.  Really hot.  And you should wear long sleeves, because as you prime, the sticky tobacco juice gets on your skin and your clothes and it is not pleasant.  Ordinarily, you primed from seven in the morning until early evening, usually about twelve hours, with an hour break for lunch.  Priming tobacco is the very definition of stoop labor.  Nowadays, tobacco is harvested by machines and hung in pre-fab barns for drying and curing.  No more stooping.  But not in 1933. 

This story starts on the first day my father was to work for Uncle Vexter.  It was a Monday, and it was early, just before seven.  My father had arrived the previous evening, driven there by his father and mother.  The adults had set for a while, visiting, and then Dad’s parents had driven away.  My father wouldn’t be needed at his dad’s farm for a few weeks since his father grew cotton, not tobacco.

Billy didn’t know his cousins all that well, but he got along with them all right.  The oldest was Clara.  She was sixteen, a quiet, serious girl with shortish dark hair.  She was also fairly tall, about five feet seven inches.  Clara was quiet and intelligent, and Billy thought her pretty.  He soon developed a bit of a crush on her.

Next was Vexter Junior.  Junior was eleven, same as Billy, and a mischievous sort.  Unlike Billy, Vexter kept his hair as long as his father would allow (short by today’s standards) and loved to pull pranks.  In a prank that would go down in history in the Johnson and Graham clans, Junior and Billy once tied the tails of a couple of feuding tom cats together and hung them over the front door knob of a neighbor.  Of course, the cats began fighting furiously, which called the neighbor to the door.  Guess which way the door opened.  You’re right.  It opened inward.  When the neighbor pulled opened the door, he brought the fighting cats right into the house with him, whereupon they latched onto him.  It was said you could hear him hollering and cussing all up and down the valley.  Billy and Junior watched from the bushes at the edge of the yard.  For many years, the story was told at family gatherings.  If the old neighbor man knew who played the prank on him, he never said.

Louella was Vexter’s youngest child.  She was seven in 1933.  Louella was a sweet, caring soul who loved animals of all sorts.  She was forever “saving” butterflies and beetles and frogs, and nursing birds and squirrels back to health.  Clara and Junior once watched a fawn deer walk right up to Louella and take a peanut out of her hand.

There was something else about Louella, though.  While not exactly “tetched in the head,” she was different from other children.  Louella, it was said, could sense the presence of spirits.  Once when she had wandered into the woods around the farmhouse, a frantic search was undertaken by the family.  She was found sitting down by the creek.  As they approached, Clara and Junior could hear her talking to someone.  When they got closer, she stopped.  Clara asked Louella who she had been talking to.  Louella had simply said, “An angel.”  And that was all she would say, despite more questioning.

Emily Graham was the sister of my father’s brother.  Vexter Graham and Emily Johnson had been married early in 1917.  Clara had come along almost exactly nine months later (people kept track in those days).  Emily had been just eighteen years old.  Vexter was a hard working young man, who clearly loved Emily, but life often dealt him bad luck.  Emily had been, and still was, a pretty woman, though now she was perpetually tired.  She was still a loving wife and mother, albeit a devout Methodist.  She didn’t know quite what to make of Louella’s apparent abilities.

Now when I said that the events of this story took place at Vexter Graham’s farm, I wasn’t exactly correct.  You see, as a result of one of the bad luck blows dealt to Vexter by life, he was sharecropping the farm they lived on.  In other words, he was essentially a serf, and the farm’s owner was a lord.  Let me explain:  Vexter and his family were allowed to live on the farm and work the land in exchange for a (large) portion of the proceeds from the sale of the tobacco Vexter grew.  The man who owned Vexter’s farm was actually Rafe Phillips.  Rafe was a big, stern, businesslike man who had inherited a lot of money and then had used the money to buy up small farms all around Granville County.  Then he sharecropped the farms out, taking varying percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the crops, usually about fifty percent.

Vexter had owned a farm before, in another part of the county, but it had been destroyed by a fire the previous winter.  Vexter had had no money to rebuild, because the previous year’s crop had been poor.  The bank had taken the farms and Vexter and his clan had been forced to live with relatives until spring.  He had heard that Rafe Phillips was looking for tenant farmers and had gone to him, asking for an opportunity.  Rafe had agreed to take him on and farm this land in exchange for half the proceeds.  Vexter had had no choice but to accept.  Now the family was under the gun, so to speak, to get in a good crop so that perhaps they could buy themselves their own farm.  For that reason, this first year’s tobacco crop was very important.

The family had moved in in early spring, just before planting season.  And that was when small, strange things started happening.  Doors would open by themselves or slam shut.  A glass or cup would crash to the floor from the middle of the table.  Sometimes, while the family sat downstairs in the living room, they would hear small footsteps coming from the floor above.

They were concerned, though not unduly frightened.  When events occurred, Emily would usually begin praying, and the events would cease.  Louella would just say, “There she is.”

“There who is Louella?” Clara would ask.

“The little girl,” Louella would reply, and say no more.

The disturbances were uneven.  Sometimes a week would pass and nothing would happen, then several things would occur over days in a row.  Once Louella left for a week visiting family and the house was completely quiet the whole time.  The night she returned, a candle went out on the mantelpiece as if blown and a picture fell down from the wall with a crash.

The kids and Miss Emily could tell that these happenings were getting on Vexter’s nerves.  He took to grumbling about them when they happened, and even, to Miss Emily’s terror, that things might be better if Louella stayed away on an extended visit to one of the relatives.

But nothing had been decided yet.

So on an early August morning, the family, including Billy, had gathered in the yard of the house to start work.  The way it would go was this:  Vexter and Junior and Billy would go out into the fields to prime, with Vexter driving the mule and towing a cart for the tobacco.  All three of the males would prime until the cart was full, then Vexter would drive the cart back to the barn, pick up an empty one, and head back to the field.  This gave the boys a much-needed break from the hot August sun, as they could usually find a tree somewhere to sit under until Vexter got back with the cart.  Thin it was back to work. 

At the barn, Emily and Clara would tie the leaves into bundles and attach them to wooden tobacco sticks.  Clara would then climb into the rafters of the barn and as Emily handed them up, hang them on slats built into the wall for curing.  She worked from the top down.  If everything went as planned, they would be hanging the last sticks about the time Vexter was pulling up with another cart full of tobacco leaves.  They usually had a few minutes to rest between carts.  Louella’s job was to pick up the leaves that fell onto the floor and put them back in the cart for tying.  When the barn was full of leaves, the door would be shut and the tobacco dried and cured by gas or wooden heaters connected to the structure by vents or “flues” that carried hot air inside.  Thus the term “flue-cured tobacco.”

The work would go on, five days a week, for as many weeks as it took to get the whole crop into the barns for curing.  Once cured, the small bundles of tobacco leaves would be taken off the sticks and placed on large pieces of burlap, which were then tied into large bundles and taken to the nearest tobacco market for auctioning off to the tobacco companies that made cigarettes, cigars, pipe and chewing tobacco.  With any luck, prices would be high enough for Vexter to pay his yearly rent to Rafe Phillips and have enough left over to see to his family’s needs, and maybe even a few luxuries.  The Grahams were hoping to buy a radio this year.  They wanted to hear what President Roosevelt was saying about the Great Depression they were enduring.

So on this August morning, the family was gathered in the yard.  Vexter had gone to the barn to fetch Sallie, their mule, and the first two carts of the day.  He had gone to the barn, about fitly yards away, hitched up Sallie and was leading her back.  Suddenly, a cacophony of noise erupted from inside the house.  There were doors slamming, plates crashing, the sounds of furniture tipping over.

“Oh Lord, what in the world?” Aunt Emily said, staring openmouthed at her house.

“It’s the ghost!  It’s the ghost!” Junior said excitedly.

About that time, Vexter walked up with Sallie.  He dropped her reins and ran into the house, shouting “I’ll get him this time!”

As soon as Vexter crossed the threshold, the noises stopped.  For a few tense moments the family heard nothing, waiting while Vexter searched the house.  When he came to the front door, he looked frustrated.

“Well Vex, did you find anything?” Emily asked anxiously.

“No, I didn’t find anything but some open doors and a couple of broken dishes,” he said.

“Lord, I wonder what the poor thing wants,” Emily said.

“Look,” Louella said, pointing at a window on the second floor.

Everyone looked, but no one saw anything.  Clara thought she might have fleetingly glimpsed something at one of the windows, but then it was gone.

“We might as well get started,” Uncle Vexter said.  “It’s done for right now anyway.”

“What does that mean?” Billy asked.

“He means,” Clara said, “That this usually only happens once a day, in the morning.  There may be something later, but the house is usually quiet after the morning disturbance.

“Well, what is it, then?” Billy asked.

“Mama thinks it’s a haint,” Junior said.

“A haint?  You mean a ghost?” Billy said.

“Yeah.  A haint.  A ghost.  Whatever you want to call it,” Junior said.

“Wonder who it is,” Billy said.

“It’s a little girl,” Louella said.

“How do you know that?” Clara asked.

“Because sometimes she talks to me,” Louella said matter of factly.

Vexter had hitched Sallie to the first two carts.  He took her reins and began leading her in the direction of the field.

“Come on, boys,” he said.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Clara said, following Aunt Emily and Louella to the barn.

When Vexter, Junior, and Billy got to the first tobacco field, Vexter parked the carts in the middle of a row, on the cart path in the field.  Then, the two boys and the man got to work.  Each one took a row and began snapping the yellowing tobacco leaves off the stalk close to the ground.  When they had a bundle under their arm, they dumped it into the cart and continued priming.  When the first cart was full, Vexter took Sallie’s reins and led her out of the field to the barn, where the women waited.  The second cart was left behind so the boys could begin filling that one while Vexter made the round trip to the barn and back, bringing an empty cart with him.  As soon as Vexter was out of sight, Junior and Billy stopped and got under a tree, out of the sun.  He and Billy were both sweating, and the tobacco gum had blackened the sleeves of their shirts.  It was hot, but there was a slight breeze.

“I ain’t never lived in a house with a haint before,” Billy said.

“Me neither,” said Junior.  “Our other house wasn’t haunted.  It was just a house.”

“What do you reckon caused it?” Billy asked.

“Heck if I know.  Louella may, though.  She’s kind of peculiar that way.”

Just then they heard Vexter’s voice, urging Sallie on.  They jumped up and ran into the field, commencing work just as Vexter appeared around a bend in the trail.  He pulled up behind the partially filled cart and looked into it.  He snorted, “Well, ya’ll didn’t get much done while I was gone, did you?  At your rate, we ain’t never going to get this crop in.”  He said no more, but gave both the boys a mean look.  Junior looked at Billy over the top of a tobacco plant and smiled just a little.  Billy was kind of scared of his Uncle Vexter.  He didn’t want to get whipped for working too slowly.  He picked up his pace.

They worked through the morning.  Only Vexter had a watch, and he wasn’t looking, so Billy and Junior had no idea what time it was.  All Billy knew was that the field seemed to go on and on.  The work became drudgery.  His back ached, so did his shoulders.  Sweat poured down his face and, once, tobacco juice got into his eye, causing intense pain and burning.  After what seemed like forever, Vexter told them they would ride back with the next cart to have dinner.  Billy was so relieved he couldn’t speak.  He was used to working hard, but this was his first summer working in tobacco, and he was tired.

As they drove up to the house, they could see smoke coming from the chimney.  That meant that Ada, a black lady who lived down the road, was already in the house cooking.  The Grahams had hired Ada at the start of the harvest season to help a little with dinner each day while everyone else was in the fields.  She lived in a little house down the road.

When the boys got back to the house, they went to rest under a tree while the females went into the house to fix dinner.  Vexter took the mule to the barn to rest and drink.  After a while, Aunt Emily came to the door and said the food was ready.  Junior and Billy went inside and got their plates and went back outside to eat at the picnic table.  Clara and Louella came and sat with them.  They had butter beans and corn, stewed chicken thighs and cornbread, and tea.

“Say,” Junior said, “did you ask Ada about the knockin’ and bangin’ this morning?”

“I didn’t get a chance to,” said Clara, “but I plan on it.”

After what seemed like too short a time, Vexter came out on the front porch adjusting the straps on his overalls.

“Come on boys,” he said, “time to get back to work.”

Both Billy and Junior groaned when they got up and, with weary limbs, followed Vexter over to the wagon.

Though very sore and tired, the hot sun and food limbered the boys up and gave them energy, and pretty soon they were carrying big armfuls of tobacco leaves to the wagon for Vexter to take to the barn.  The sun, though hot, did sink lower in the sky.  Eventually, even though there was plenty of light left, Vexter called a halt to the day’s labors.  He took a pocket watch out of his jeans and said, “Six o’clock.  That’s enough for the day.  Don’t want to tire you out on the first day,”

When they got back, Clara and Aunt Emily were already in the kitchen cooking, so Bill and Junior went down to the pump and cleaned themselves as well as they could.  There was a bucket and a cake of lye soap.  They hung their dirty work shirts on the clothesline and put on clean ones, then combed their hair.

Supper was a repeat of lunch.  The family ate their food in quiet, if not in silence, since everyone was tired.  For dessert, Vexter poured some molasses onto his plate and added butter.  Then he mashed the butter into the molasses and swirled it around.  The he took some bread and wiped up the butter and molasses mixture until he had cleaned his plate.  He got up from the battle, belched, and walked out to the porch.  Later, after cleaning up, Aunt Emily joined him.

The sun had nearly gone down and the summer heat was abating.  The family all sat on the porch of the house, quietly digesting their meal.  The adults talked quietly.  The older children sat around them on the porch, while Louella played in the yard chasing lightning bugs.  Billy and Junior talked about maybe going fishing Saturday or Sunday after church.  When the sun finally dropped behind the line of trees, the family rose and went inside.  The boys were given a candle, as well as the girls, to take to their room to undress by.  The adults took a kerosene lamp.  The front door was closed, but not locked.  The windows were left open to let the night breeze in.

The house gradually quieted down and got cooler.  The boys, tired after a hard day’s work in the field, fell asleep quickly.  The girls, though tired as well, stayed awake a bit longer.  Clara sat on her bed reading by candle light.  Louella crawled into her own bed and pulled the sheet up to her chin.

“Clara,” she said.

“Yes, Louella,” Clara said.

“What do you think will happen?  I mean, what do you think will happen with the little girl?  Will we have to move again?  I kinda like it here,” Louella asked quietly.

“Well, I don’t know,” Clara said.  “She lives here with us and I don’t know if she’ll ever leave.”

“Do you think she’s waitin’ to go to heaven?” Louella asked.

“That could be it,” Clara said.  “I just don’t know why she’s still here.  Maybe she’s got something to do.”

“Wonder what it is,” Louella said before turning over and going to sleep.

Clara read for a few more minutes before closing her book, putting it aside, and crawling under the covers.  She reached over and blew out the candle and the room became dark.  gradually the older girl’s breathing became deep and even as she fell asleep.

She awoke sometime later, momentarily disoriented.  Her eyes adjusted to the low light in the room.  Yellow moonlight spilled in through the window.  And then she heard it.  a low murmuring coming from Louella’s side of the room.  She looked toward the sound and, in the moonlight, saw her little sister sitting on her bed, talking to someone she couldn’t see.  Louella was whispering so quietly she couldn’t understand her.  She was apparently responding to someone, answering questions, but the only voice Clara could hear was Louella’s. 

And then Clara saw it, a faintly luminous orb of light in the far corner of the room near the head of Louella’s bed.  Icy fingers gripped Clara’s heart as she watched the orb slowly elongate vertically and take on the shape of a young girl.  The room got suddenly colder.  Clara shivered slightly at the change in temperature.  Though the features were shifting and indistinct, a face gradually took form at the top of the shape.  It was the face of a young girl, about seven years old, with curly hair and sad eyes.  Clara could see her lips moving, but she couldn’t hear or understand what the child was saying.  Louella could, though, and spoke quietly, without a trace of fear.  For several moments Clara watched her younger sister and the spirit converse, herself unable to move or speak.  But then Clara took a deep breath and broke her silence.

“Louella?  Who are you talking to?” Clara asked, a tremor in her voice.

Louella started and looked over her shoulder at Clara.  The shape in the corner of the room faded from sight.  Clara repeated her question.  Louella slid off her bed and got onto Clara’s bed.  She hugged her older sister, who put her arm around her.  The room got warmer.

“I was talking to Sophie,” Louella said.

“Sophie who?” Clara asked.

“I don’t know,” Louella said.  “Just Sophie.  She’s the little girl who lives here with us.  She’s very lonely and needs a friend.”

Clara was frightened.  She wasn’t sure whether this Sophie was good or evil.  She was afraid for her little sister.

“And what do you and Sophie talk about?” Clara asked.

“Oh, just things,” Louella said, yawning.  “Can I sleep with you tonight?  I like Sophie, but I don’t want her to keep me awake.  She won’t bother me if I sleep with you.”

“You can sleep with me.  Get under the covers.  I’m tired too and we have to work tomorrow,” Clara said.

“Louella,” Clara said.

“Yes, Clara,” Louella said sleepily.

“Does Sophlie want you come with her or go away from the house?”

“No.  She just wants to talk.  Like I said, she’s very lonely.”

“Okay.  Go to sleep, Louella.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

Clara laid in bed for a while after that, thinking about little girls and their secrets, and hoping Louella wasn’t in any danger.  She said a quiet, fervent prayer for the safety of the child sleeping beside her, then went back to sleep herself.

The rest of the week passed uneventfully.  Each day the family got up and went to work in the fields.  Each evening they came home, exhausted.  The mornings passed without incident, and the nights were quiet.  A couple of times Clara opened her eyes in the middle of the night to an unexpected sound and thought she saw a luminous patch of light in the corner, but it could have been a trick of the moonlight.  Louella slept each night quietly.  On Saturday morning, the family awoke a little later than usual.  They were not working that day, so there was no need to hurry breakfast.  The kids had decided the night before to go exploring out in the woods around the house.  They ended up on the road leading down to Ada’s house.

“Let’s go see her,” Billy said.

“Do you reckon she’ll mind?” Clara said.

“I doubt it,” Billy said.

“Yeah, we can ask her about the…” Junior started to say before Clara hushed him.

Louella hadn’t heard.  She was chasing a yellow butterfly along the side of the road.

The four kids walked down the road to Ada’s house.  It was a neat little three-room house with small garden and a johnny house out back.  There was a white picket fence around the yard, even though it was in need of repair.  An old hound dog lay on the small porch and a grey cat perched on the porch rail.

The kids stopped in front and called, “Aunt Ada!  You in there?”

An elderly black lady came to the front porch and said, “Who’s out there?”

“It’s us,” Clara said, “the Grahams.”

“Well, what are y’all up to today?” Ada asked.

“Nothin’,” Billy said, “just walking around.”

“Well, come on up on the porch,” Ada said.

She brought them a bucket of cold water from the well and a dipper.  Each one of them had a drink and then Clara said, “Aunt Ada, we need to ask you something.”

“What’s that, child?”

“We think there’s a haint at our house,” Junior said.

“A haint?  What makes you say that?” Ada said.

“Because the other morning there was a terrible knockin’ and bangin’ in the house after we all left and Paw went inside and looked around and didn’t find anything except some turned over furniture,” Junior said.

Clara looked around to make sure Louella was close by.  The little girl was over petting the old dog.  “Ada, the other night Louella was talking to somebody in our room in the middle of the night,” she said.

Ada got suddenly very quiet.  “She was?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Junior said, irritated.

“Because I knew you would blab to Mama and Paw.  You can’t keep a secret,” Clara replied.  She looked back at Ada.  “Do you know who it is?”

“First of all,” Ada said, “you got to be very careful when talking to spirits.  You never know if they are good or evil.”

“She didn’t seem to be evil,” Clara said.  “She just seemed to be a little girl.”

“Even so, never talk to one unless you got the Good Book close by,” Ada said.

“Do you know who it is?” Billy asked.

“I might.  Last year, before y’all came to live here, a family lived in that house that lost a little child, a girl I think.”

“How did she die?” Clara asked.

“I believe she died of diphtheria,” Ada said.

“What was her name?” Clara asked.

“I don’t know,” Ada said.  “I didn’t know them well.  They kept to themselves mostly.  After their child died, they moved away.”

“Where did they bury her?” Billy asked.

“Don’t know that either,” Ada said, “though I reckon it’s on the property somewhere.  They were real poor.  I doubt they had the money for a stone.  There might be a cross somewhere though.”

“One more thing,” Junior said, leaning in real close.

“Yeah?” Ada asked quietly, leaning in real close too.

Junior looked both ways and said quietly, “Can I use your privy?”

Ada looked at him for a moment, then burst out laughing.  “’Course you can!  Go on ahead!  You really had me, Junior!”  The other children all burst out laughing as well, joining in on the joke.

While Junior took a leak in the outhouse, Louella brought Ada a bunch of wildflowers she had picked out of her yard.  Ada said, “Well ain’t these right pretty!  Thank you, child.  I’m gonna put them in some water right away.”  Louella beamed at the compliment.

About that time, they heard Aunt Emily calling them for dinner.  They children got up and brushed off their clothes, said goodbye to Ada, and headed off down the road.  Ada looked after them, saying a silent prayer for them.  And the ghost.

The rest of the weekend passed without incident.  That night the family sat out on the porch in the cool night air before going to bed.  The next day, being Sunday, they attended services at the local Methodist church.  None of them thought to speak to anyone about their experiences at the house; they were strangers, after all.

On Monday morning, as the family was getting ready to go out to the fields, there was once again a commotion in the house.  The sounds of doors slamming and furniture being overturned came from inside.  Vexter ran into the house, yelling, “I’m gonna get ‘im this time!”  But a few minutes later he came back out, scratching his head and muttering, “Nothin’.  I didn’t see nothin’.”

“Was anything broken, Vex?” said Aunt Emily.

“No, nothing broken.  Just stuff turned over.  Just like a child would do if they were mad about something.”

“Well, I’ll be.  I just don’t know what to do,” Emily said.  “We may have to get the preacher to come over and bless the house.”

The children all looked at each other.  Finally Clara spoke up and said, “Aunt Ada said that the haint might be the ghost of a little girl who used to live here.”

“That what Ada said?” Vexter said.  “Well, there’s something or someone in that house, I just don’t know what they want or why they’re bothering us.  I suppose it could be a child.”

“Yeah, she said it might be a little girl who died of diphtheria a year or so ago,” Billy said.

“Well, I don’t mind saying that I’m getting a little afraid to live here,” said Emily.  “What could the child want?  Does she mean to hurt us or scare us?”

“She’s just lonely,” Louella said.

Everyone looked at her.

“How do you know that, Lou?” Vexter said.

“Because she told me,” Louella said.

“Oh my Lord, my child is talking to a spirit,” Emily said.

“Louella,” Vexter said, “how often does this little girl come to see you?”

“Sometimes at night.  She stands beside my bed and we talk.”

“Does she want to get in bed with you?  Does she want you to go with her?” Emily asked quietly.

“No Mama.  She just wants to talk.  Sometimes she cries.  I don’t let her in bed with me because she is very cold.  I don’t want to be cold,” Louella said.  “Am I in trouble?”

“No child, you’re not in trouble,” Emily said, stroking her daughter’s hair.  “But you must not go with her if she asks you.  Always tell me or Clara when she comes to see you.  Will you do that?”

“Yes, Mama, I will.”

Emily asked, “What is the little girl’s name, Lou?”

Louella said, “Her name is Sophie, Mama.”

Vexter and Emily exchanged a look that said, “We have to do something about this.”

For the rest of the week, the family heard noises in the house almost every morning.  After awhile, Vexter didn’t even go back into the house.  The disturbances were more annoying than frightening, though he and Emily had several earnest conversations about what to do when they were alone in their bedroom.  One thing they did was to call the children together each night before bed for prayer.  They prayed to comfort the lonely spirit and send the child on her way.  Unfortunately, their prayers did not help.  The little girl’s ghost continued to disrupt the household, and sometimes visited Louella in the night.  Clara would awaken to hear Lou talking quietly.  She would sit up in bed and tell Louella to go to sleep and Sophie, the ghost, to stop bothering them because they had to work in the morning.  The ghost apparently responded to Clara, because that would end the visitation for the night.

One afternoon, Vexter left the boys in the field and walked to the Raccoon Hill Methodist Church, where the family had been attending.  He knocked on the door of the parsonage.  The young preacher came to the door and asked him what he could do for him.

Vexter was very careful not to tell the young man too much.  But he did say that the children’s sleep was disturbed and that there had been noises in the house.  Had anyone died in the house recently?

Yes, the young preacher said.  He had heard of the death of a young girl, a member of a local tenant farmer, the previous year.  But that was all he knew, for he had not been asked to preach the funeral or attend to the family.

Did he know the child’s name?

The young preacher thought for a moment.  Yes, he said.  He believed her name had been Sophie McCandles.  He added that the family had moved away shortly after her death.  They had not attended church there.  One of his other parishioners had told him about it.  It was a pity, the young pastor said. 

“How’s that?” Vexter had asked.

“Sophie died of diphtheria.  You know there’s a vaccine available.  Her death probably didn’t have to happen.”

Vexter thanked the preacher for the information and walked back home.  He knew more now, but he still had no idea what to do.

***

One day after work, Billy and Junior were exploring the barn.  They were looking for anything useful or valuable they might find, perhaps a coin or two, or an interesting tool or piece of metal.  They were rooting around the in the attic of the barn when Junior found an old chest underneath a pile of musty hay.

“Hey Billy, come look at this!” he said.

Billy came over to him.  They pulled the chest out into the middle of the floor.  It was not locked.  They looked at each other.  Junior said, “What if the people who lived here before were bank robbers and this is where they left their ill-gotten loot?” He was particularly proud of the phrase, “ill-gotten,” because he’d read it in a book.

“Yeah.  Maybe there’s a bunch of money in there,” Bill said.

They were disappointed when they opened the lid of the chest to find a bunch of old clothes and moldy shoes.  They boys went through all the pockets in the pants and jackets they found, but there was no money at all in them.  Billy pulled out old clothes and tossed them on the floor of the barn.  At the bottom of the chest, he felt something rigid.  He got his fingers around it and pulled it out.  In his hand, he held a OUIJA board.

“Hey Junior, look at this,” he said.

Junior had been scrounging through the clothes again, in case they missed a pocket.  He looked up and his eyes got wide.

“Wow, a OUIJA board,” he said.  “You can use that to tell the future.”

“No you can’t,” Billy corrected him.  “But I do know what you can use it for.”

“What’s that?”

“You can use it for talking to spirits,” Billy said.

“Wonder how it got in the bottom of that chest?” Junior said.

“I wonder how we managed to stumble across it,” Billy said.  “There’s a piece missing, though.”

“What kind of piece?” Junior said.

“A pointer,” Billy said, “to point at the letters.”

Junior reached around inside the chest and said, “Wait, I’ve got somethin’.”  He pulled out the planchette, an oval piece of wood with a point on it, used for sliding around the board and pointing to the letters and numbers when asked a question.

“We’ve got to show Clara,” Billy said.

“Should we tell Mama and Daddy?” Junior asked.

Billy thought for a moment.  “Let’s wait and ask Clara.  She’s pretty smart.”

The boys waited until the adults were in the kitchen together and then snuck the board up to the girls’ room.  Emily was seated at her desk, reading a book.  They showed her the board and planchette.

“What do you think we should do,” Junior asked.

“I think we should use this to talk to Sophie and see if we can help her,” said Clara.

“But when?” Billy asked.

“This Saturday night,” Clara said.  “We’ll do it after Mama and Daddy go to bed.”

“What about Louella?” Junior said.

“What about her?” Clara said.  “She’s part of this too.  The ghost has talked to her more than anyone else.  She has to be included. The haunting seems to center on her anyway.”

“I guess you’re right,” Junior said..

“Of course I’m right,” Clara said.  “Now we have to hide this thing until Saturday night so Mama won’t find it.”

They slid the board between the mattress and box spring on Clara’s bed and hid the planchette in her underwear drawer.

“Are you going to tell Louella?” Billy said. 

“No, and neither are you two,” Clara said seriously.  “Louella won’t be able to keep a secret.  She’ll surely tell Mama and Daddy, and they’ll probably try to stop us.  So keep this under your hats.”  She looked directly at Junior.  “I mean it.”

“Why are you looking at me?” Junior cried.  “I can keep a secret.”

“You’d better,” Clara said.

For the rest of the week, Clara got ready to talk to Sophie.  She gathered candles and matches and her Bible and stashed them in her room.  She moved a couple of chairs into her room so everyone would have a placed to sit.  She prayed every night for strength.

For the most part, Sophie was quiet during the days and night leading up to Saturday.  Louella slept undisturbed each night and there were few noises to be heard in the morning.  It was as if she knew the kids’ plans and was waiting for Saturday just like them.

***

Saturday night, after the grownups had gone to bed, and Uncle Vexter’s snoring could be heard throughout the second floor of the house, the children gathered in Clara and Louella’s room.  Clara had moved her bedside table into the center and placed four lit candles on it.

It was warm, so the window to the room was open.  The bright moon shone outside, projecting a square of light on the floor.  Outside, the crickets and cicadas chirped loudly.  Every now and then, the wind would sough through the trees.

The candles were made of beeswax and they gave off a strong, warm light.  Still, the corners of the room were in darkness. 

The children sat in the chairs.  Billy and Clara sat next to each other, and Louella and Junior sat facing them on the other side.  On the table between them was the Ouija board, with its planchette.

“Before we start,” Clara said, “I think we should pray.”

Everyone nodded.

Clara took Billy’s hand, causing his heart to beat a little faster at her touch.  Her hand was warm and dry; his was clammy and cool.  He was nervous and a little scared.  He took Louella’s hand across the table, and Clara took Junior’s.

“Dear Lord,” Clara began, “we’re about to do something that might not be exactly right in your eyes.  We’re going to try and help a little girl.  I feel she’s lost, Lord, and maybe we can help her get to you somehow.  We aren’t trying any funny business, no calling down demons or whatnot, just trying to help a little girl.  For that, please bless us and keep us safe.  Amen.”

“Amen,” the children echoed.

“Now,” Clara said, “everyone put a finger on the pointer, but don’t press down.  Just let your finger rest on it, so it can move when it wants to.”

She put her finger on the planchette, and the other children did the same.

“Who wants to start?” Clara asked.

“I reckon you,” Junior said.  “You’re the oldest.”

“Yeah, you talk to her,” Louella said.

“What should I ask?” Clara said.

“Ask her what her name is,” Billy said.

“Okay.  Here goes,” Clara said.  “To the little girl who lives here, what is your name?  You can answer.  We’re not here to hurt you.  We want to be your friends.”

The room fell silent.  A breath of cool air blew the curtains and made the candle flames dance, causing the light to flicker on the walls.  The planchette began to tremble slightly.  The children all looked at each other, eyes wide.  Slowly, the pointer moved across the board, landing on the letter “S”.  After a second’s pause, it moved again, this time landing on “O”, then again, landing on “P”, then again, to the “H”, then to the “I”, and finally to the “E”.

Quietly, Clara said, “Sophie.  That’s your name, isn’t it?”

The planchette moved over to the “YES” on the board.

“Are you scared?” Louella said unexpectedly.

Clara looked at her younger sister.  It was exactly the kind of question a child would ask another child.

The pointer moved again.  This time across the board to the word “NO.”

“Are you alone, Sophie?” asked Billy.

Back across the board to the word “YES.”

“Do you live in the woods or the house, Sophie?” Clara asked.

The planchette trembled and then moved across the board slowly, spelling out the word, “BOTH.”

“How old are you?” Billy asked.

“8.”

“What do you need from us?” Junior said, a quaver in his voice.

“HELP.”

“How can we help you, sweetie?” Clara asked gently.

It was then they heard.  A soft weeping coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

“How can we help you, Sophie?” Clara repeated.

The planchette moved across the board slowly, picking out letters.  When it finished, it had spelled out the words “NOT BE ALONE.”

“How can we do that, little girl?” Billy said, looking up at Clara.

“FIND ME.”

“Help us find you, Sophie,” Clara said.  “Where are you?”

“OUTSIDE.”

“What do you mean, outside?” asked Louella.

Just then a cold gust of air blew into the room through the open window.  The candle flames flickered and two went out, deepening the darkness.  The weeping sound came again, this time clearly from outside the window.  The children all got up from their chairs and went to the window.

The moon was not full that night, but it was full enough to shine a pale luminescence on the front yard of the house.  The road ran in front of the house.  On the other side of the road was a fallow field about fifty yards wide.  On the far side of the field were the woods.  Standing in the field, just out of the woods, was the figure of a small child, a girl it seemed, dressed in a simple frock.  As the children watched, the figure raised its arm and pointed in the direction of the woods.  The direction was indeterminate, she just pointed in the general direction.  As they watched, a cloud passed in front of the moon, and the shadow crept silently and swiftly across the ground.  It grew very dark.  When the cloud passed by and dim moonlight returned, the small figure was gone.  It was then the children heard the faint sound coming from the table.  They looked and were astonished to see the planchette moving on its own across the Ouija board. 

The planchette moved slowly, spelling out words.  The children moved back over to the table and watched the pointer moving.  Junior reached out and started to put his finger on the planchette, but Clara stopped him.  They watched as the device went to the same four letters over and over again:  “CREEK.”

Just then, they heard a door open and close down the hall.  All the children jumped as if they had been electrocuted.  Clara quickly got the Ouija board and put it under her bed.  Billy moved the table back beside Clara’s bed, Junior moved the candles to the floor, and all the children sat down on the floor.  The bedroom door opened and Aunt Emily stood in the opening, holding a candle.

“What are you children doing?” she said sleepily.

“Nothing, mama,” Louella said, “just tellin’ stories.”

“What kind of stories?” Emily said.

“Scary ghost stories,” Billy said, not really telling the truth, but not really lying, either.

“Well, it’s late.  Too late to be up.  You children go to bed.  All of you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they all said.

The boys left and went to their room, and the girls got into their beds.  Emily tucked Louella in and kissed her.  She took up her candle and said, “Now go to sleep, you two.”  She walked down the hall to the boys’ room, made sure they were in bed too.  Then she returned to her own room.

The house grew quiet.  The wind, slightly cool now, wafted in through the window.  In the girls’ room, before they drifted off to sleep, both Clara and Louella heard a soft sobbing.

The next day was Sunday, so after breakfast, the family dressed in the best clothes they had and walked down the road to church.  It would have been quicker to take the family truck, but gas was expensive, so the family walked.  Raccoon Hill Methodist Church was about one mile down the road.  It was a medium-sized whitewashed wood structure of two stories.  It was a simple building, basically a large room with an indoor balcony in the back and rows of pews all facing the pulpit at the back of the building.  Plain glass windows lined the sides of the room, and the single stained-glass window was high on the wall behind the pulpit.  There was a large cross on the stage, and two flags, the Christian flag and the Stars and Stripes, on either side.

The service was simple.  Church announcements came first.  Then a hymn (never less than a hundred years old) was sung, then the offering was taken up.  Then the responsive reading.  After that, the pastor prayed and gave his sermon.  Then a closing hymn and prayer, and service was over.

On the way back home, the children hung back and talked.

“What do you think we oughta do, Sis?” Junior said.

“We should find some way to help her,” Clara said.

“Does that mean going in the woods at night?” Louella said.  “I’m scared to do that.”

“Well, what exactly are we going to do in the woods?” Billy asked.

“I guess we have to find her little grave,” Clara said.

“And then do what?” Junior asked.

“Well, I guess we should mark it somehow, so other people will see it from time to time and maybe say a little prayer for her,” Clara said seriously.

“I could bring some flowers,” Louella said, “if I wasn’t too scared.”

“I don’t expect she can hurt us,” Billy said.  “I mean, she’s a haint, right?  Haints can’t do anything except scare people.  And we don’t have to be scared.  Heck, she might even be scared of us.”

“Billy’s right,” Clara said.  “Sophie can’t hurt us.  Why would she want to?  We’re trying to help her.”

“Then what do we do next?” Junior asked.

“Well, I expect that we’ve got to find her grave.  She said it was near the creek.  Have we seen anything that might be a grave near the creek?”

The children all thought, but came up with nothing.

“Then she’ll have to lead us there,” Billy said.

“How do we get her to do that?” Junior asked.

“We’ll have to go down there when it’s dark or nearly dark, and call for her.  If she shows up, we’ll ask her to lead us to her grave.  Then we’ll mark it some way and come back to it later,” Clara said.

By this time, the group had reached the house.  Aunt Emily, Clara, and Louella went into the house to prepare lunch.  The men stayed outside.  Billy and Junior got a ball and began throwing it back and forth..

A little while later, Emily came to the door and announced that lunch was ready.  The meal consisted of vegetable soup with very little meat, and leftover biscuits from breakfast.  There was tea to drink.  After lunch, Vexter went to take a nap, and Emily went to the living room to read.  The kids stayed on the porch and planned how to help the little ghost.

Since it was Sunday, and tomorrow was a work day, bedtime was going to come early, so the group decided that they would put their plan into action next Saturday night.

Although it was August, and the days were long, the farmhouse was surrounded by trees on all sides.  So it still got dusky dark fairly early in the evening.  After awhile, Vexter got up and sat out on the porch, followed by Emily.  Supper was, once again, vegetable soup, this time with crackers, as the biscuits were all gone.  But Emily had saved enough money to buy apples and make a simple cobbler, washed down with milk, or coffee for the grownups.  Not long after, it grew dark enough to light candles and lamps.  Bedtime came soon after.

The rest of the week passed slowly in a haze of heat and green tobacco and stoop labor.  Every night, once it got dark, the children would gather in Clara’s room and look out over the field across the road for a glimpse of a small, pale figure.  They saw her once, on Thursday night, glowing softly in the darkness.  She seemed to be waiting for them.

“Be patient, little one.  We’ll be there soon,” Clara whispered.

“What did you say?” Billy said.

“Nothing,” Clara said.

On Saturday afternoon, the children came to Vexter and Emily and asked if they could chase lightning bugs in the woods that evening.  There had been a thunderstorm earlier in the day and the dampness would bring the insects.

Emily said, “Okay, just don’t go too far.  Where are you going, anyway?”

“Across the road,” Junior said, pointing at the patch of woods.

“You can stay until it gets full dark,” Vexter said.  “But when me or your mama calls, you better come.  Don’t make me come looking for you.”

“Yes, sir,” the children all said.

The kids all gathered in the barn to wait for it to get darker, and to plan what they were going to do.

“How far do you think we’ll have to go?” Billy asked.

“I don’t know,” said Clara.  “Hopefully, Sophie will lead us to her spot.”

“And then what are we going to do when we find it?” Junior asked.

“I think we should tell the preacher,” said Clara.  “Sophie needs a proper service and a stone or cross or something to mark her grave so she’s not forgotten.”

“I can make her a cross,” Billy said.

“Good idea,” Clara said.  “We’ll take it along with us in case we find her grave.”

Billy and Junior searched around in the barn until they found a tobacco stick.  They went over to Vexter’s small shop and got a hammer, some nails, and a handsaw.  While Junior held the stick down, Billy sawed it into two unequal lengths.  Then he laid the shorter length over the longer, and hammered a nail through both.  He took out his pocket knife and he and Junior took turns whittling the long end of the cross into a point that would go into the ground more easily.  They figured they could find a rock at the creek to pound it in.

The afternoon wore on.  Billy and Junior got out the baseball and played catch.  Clara and Louella went inside and helped Emily clean the house and get supper ready.  All the children kept looking at the sky.  The sun seemed to take forever to go down.

The family finished supper just at the sun was sinking behind the trees to the west.  It was still warm, but now a light breeze sprung up, bringing a cool dampness.  The storm had occurred in the early afternoon and had dissipated quickly, but its moisture still lingered in the air and on the grass.  As it became dusk, first one, then another firefly flashed briefly in the woods across the road.

“There they are!” Louella said excitedly.  “Lightnin’ bugs!”

Clara had already procured a jar to keep the insects in.  She handed it to Louella to hold and looked at her mother.

“Go ahead,” Emily said.

All the children started across the yard and to the road.  Earlier in the day, Billy and Junior had hidden the cross behind a thick oak tree on the edge of the property where it couldn’t be seen from the house.  As they passed the tree now, Billy picked it up.

If you had asked any of the children why they didn’t tell their parents what they were doing, you wouldn’t have gotten a very clear answer.  Maybe they didn’t think the grownups would believe them, even though the adults had also experienced the incidents.  Maybe it was the pervasive code of secrecy that children share among themselves, which adults are not privy to. Maybe they wanted to protect their little spirit friend.  Perhaps they didn’t trust what Miss Emily and Uncle Vexter would do if they found the grave of the little girl.  In any case, the children were going on this adventure alone, without the knowledge or support of the adults in their lives.

They walked across the field, catching an occasional firefly as they went along.  Louella seemed entranced by the glowing insects in the jar.  Up ahead, they could see quite a few more in the woods.

As they entered the woods, the air became close and damp.  There was the smell of earth and leaves and wet wood.  The children stopped and became still.  It was very quiet.  Ahead of them, the fireflies seemed to be congregating in one place.  They were swirling about in a glowing group about four feet off the ground.  Gradually, the swirling group flowed to the ground, creating a column of greenish light.  As the kids watched, a shape started to emerge from out of the column.  The figure of a little girl, dressed in a white smock, appeared before them.

Billy looked at his companions.  Clara looked calm, unafraid.  Junior looked like he was ready to bolt.  Louella was smiling.  She held the jar out to the little girl, saying, “See?  We caught you some lightnin’ bugs.”

The little girl said nothing.  Clara saw that she had large, dark, sad eyes and curly blond hair down to her shoulders.  The smock she wore hung to her knees, and her feet were bare.  She was very pale, and, it seemed, almost translucent.  She walked closer to Louella and peered at the glowing jar.

“I used to catch these, too,” she said, and it seemed to Clara that she could hear the little girl’s voice in her head, though not necessarily out loud.

“Are you Sophie?” Clara asked quietly.

“Yes, ma’am,” said the figure.

“You don’t have to call me ‘ma’am’,” Clara said.  “Call me Clara.”

“Clara.”

“Sophie, are you alone out here?” Clara asked.

“Yes, Clara.”

“Are you afraid?”

The little girl looked at Clara and said, “Not really.  I’m lonesome.  I miss my friends.”

“I can imagine you do,” Billy said.  “We can be your friends, Sophie.”

“Speak for yourself,” Junior whispered.  “I ain’t comin’ out here…”

“Shhhh!” Clara hissed.

“We brought something for you,” Billy said, holding up the cross.

The little girl looked at it.  She smiled.  “What is it for?”

“Sophie, it’s to mark your…” she hesitated, “your spot.  The place where you stay now.  So that people can find you and visit you.”

“So you won’t be alone no more,” Louella said.

“Will you show us where you live now?” Clara said.

“Follow me,” the little ghost said, beckoning them deeper into the dusky woods.

Presently they came to a small creek that flowed with gurgling water.  The group of children, let by a small pale figure, walked along the stream for about fifty yards before coming to a small cleared spot beside the water.  Sophie pointed to the ground and said, “This is where I stay now.”

“Good.  Thank you, Sophie,” said Clara.  “Now we’re going to mark the spot with your cross so that we won’t have any trouble finding you.  We can come visit you and pray for you.  Would you like that?”

But the little girl spirit had disappeared.

“Where’d she go?” Junior asked nervously.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Clara said.  “But we’d better get that cross in the ground.  It’s getting dark and I don’t want Daddy coming out here to find us.”

“Darn tootin’,” said Billy.

He looked along the creek bank in the fading light until he found a good-sized stone.  While Junior held the cross upright, Billy carefully pounded it into the ground in the center of the clearing.  After a number of whacks, the cross seemed to be stable.  Clara tried it and was satisfied of its firmness.

She looked around.  Darkness was falling.  It was time to go.  She said, “Okay, we had better get back to the house.”  She looked around.  “Has anyone seen Louella?”

Billy and Junior looked around.  Louella was nowhere to be seen.

“Crap,” Clara said.

Suddenly, all three of them were scared, not just of Vexter and Emily, but scared that something bad had happened to Louella.

“What do we do?” Junior asked.

“Well, we start looking for her, obviously,” Clara said.  “Spread out and start calling.  But not too loud.  I don’t want Daddy to hear, at least not yet.”

So Billy went upstream and Junior went downstream, and Clara headed into the woods.  Each was calling softly, but hopefully loud enough for Louella to hear.

Clara glanced across the road.  The house was visible through a gap in the woods.  There was a lantern on the porch to light the kids’ way home, though no adults were out yet.  She could see the light through the window coming from the living room.

She called a little louder, “Louella!  You come here now!”

In the distance, Clara could hear the boys calling as well, taking care not to holler too loudly.

“Louella!  Where are you?” Clara called, getting a little scared herself.  She walked farther into the woods, swearing under her breath.  She vowed that she herself would tan Louella’s butt when she found her.

Clara stopped, took a deep breath, closed her eyes briefly, then opened them.  She turned slowly all the way around, letting her eyes relax and respond to the dark woods before her.  As she turned, she noticed something, a dim smudge of greenish light.  She stopped and stared at it.  It moved about in an apparently random motion.  Then she heard it.  A child’s voice, talking as if in conversation with another.  Clara immediately moved towards the light and sound.  About twenty yards along, she came upon Louella, standing alone, the jar in her hands, filled with fireflies.  For just a second, it seemed as if she’d seen the pale girl standing beside her before she disappeared.

“Louella!  What are you doing out here?” Clara asked sharply.

“Chasing lightnin’ bugs,” Louella said.

“Don’t you know better than to wander off alone?” Clara said, resisting the urge to spank her little sister.

“But Sophie said…” Louella began, but Clara cut her off by grabbing her hand and leading her back to the creek bank.  Louella began to whimper.  “Why are you mad at me, Clara?”

Clara had a sneaking suspicion that Sophie had led Louella out into the woods so that she would not have to be alone ever again.  While Clara had sympathy for the little ghost, she was not getting Sophie as a permanent playmate.  Of course, she said none of this to Louella.  She just said, “You scared me, running off like that, Lou.  You should know better than to go in the woods by yourself.”

“But Sophie was with me,” Louella said.

“I know.  But maybe Sophie could get lost, too.  Just do as I say, you hear?”

“Yes,” the little sister said, sniffling.

Clara stopped and knelt down beside Louella.  “Now don’t cry.  I just don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.  I love you, Lou.”

“Okay,” Louella said.

When the two girls got back to the creek bank, Junior and Billy were waiting.  “We didn’t find her,” they said as Clara and Louella approached.  The Junior saw his little sister and his face showed relief, then anger.  He started to yell, but Clara stopped him.

“No,” she said firmly to him.  “I’ve already talked to her.”

Junior grumbled, but held his peace.

Right on cue, Emily’s voice could be heard from the porch, calling the kids home.  Louella jumped the creek and ran out of the woods into the field, holding up the jar full of glowing insects and calling to her mother.

“Where did you find her?” Billy asked.

“Quite a bit farther into the woods,” Clara said.  “I think Sophie led her there, meaning to keep her there as a permanent friend.”

“Boy am I glad you found her,” Billy said.

“Me too.”

***

Over the next week, the children discussed the small grave in the woods.  They finally decided to tell the grownups what they had done.  Strangely, the incidents at the house had stopped altogether.  There no disturbances during the day, and the family slept peacefully at night.

One night, as the family ate supper, Clara spoke up.  She told her parents what had happened, leaving out the part about having to find Louella.  Vexter and Emily looked at each other.  The next Sunday, after church, Vexter and Emily and Clara spoke to the preacher about the little ghost Sophie.  Could the church do something?

The preacher took the matter to the governing board, saying only that there was a former church attendee, a child, all alone out in the woods.  Would it be possible to bury her in the church cemetery?  The board agreed, and a few days later, three men from the church found the little gravesite, marked with Billy’s cross, and dug carefully into the ground.  It wasn’t long before they came upon a simple wooden coffin.  Though it was starting to rot, it was still intact.  The men carefully lifted the casket out of the ground, carried it across the creek, and placed it into the wagon waiting in the field.  Then they carried it over to the church cemetery, where another group of men had prepared a hole.  The coffin was lowered into the ground and covered with earth.

The next Sunday, the church gathered at the new grave after service and had a proper memorial for Sophie McCandles.  One of the men had prepared a wooden marker.  It simply said:

SOPHIE McCANDLES

God’s Little Angel

Died 1932

 

For the rest of the summer, the children regularly visited the small grave in the corner of the cemetery.  Clara left flowers.  Louella left jars of fireflies.  When they died, she left more.

That autumn’s harvest of tobacco was enough to get the family back on its feet.  They were able to leave the farm later that year and rent another farm on their own.  Billy went back to his own family after the harvest.  He vowed to come back and visit, and he did, but eventually the visits became less and less frequent.  He still thought fondly of Clara, but he no longer had a crush on her.

As a Christmas gift for his family, Vexter went to Durham one Saturday and bought a radio.  Now in the evenings, they could sit in the living room and listen to music, or perhaps to President Roosevelt as he led the country through the depression which gripped it. 

When the family moved, they no longer attended the church where Sophie’s grave was.  But it was no matter.  The small, pale spirit had the company of other children, children who had died in accidents or disease, or in one case leukemia.  She was no longer alone.


Submitted: November 22, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Mike Roberts. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

JE Falcon aka JEF

A great story, full of history and the hardships of the past, although people didn't always think they were hardships. Stories of Ghost always found places to haunt when minds were willing to accept them. Well done Mike.

Sun, November 22nd, 2020 10:22pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your kind comments.

Sun, November 22nd, 2020 8:42pm

More Thrillers Short Stories

Other Content by Mike Roberts

Short Story / Thrillers

Short Story / Horror

Short Story / Thrillers