TITLE: I Do Not Believe
By julie hudson
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You can't see something you don't believe in right? I don't happen to believe in ghosts, but one looked at me from the attic window of an old abandoned farmhouse. She was a child with wistful eyes, full of pain, and other things too agonizing to contemplate.
The Old Johnson Place, written, thought of, and spoken in capital letters, had been vacant for over fifty years. Everyone I know remembers the story, has grown up with it, but really deep down, doesn't believe it.
Oh sure, we used to scare each other at night, on Halloween in particular, with the tale, but we are all older now, and that should count for something.
I always drive past the place every day after work, on my way home to my own Old Place. Michener Manor has been in my family for generations, going way back. It's really not a manor. My ancestors just named it that so it would roll off the tongue when uttered, and stick in the mind for years to come.
My place would be more aptly named Michener Homestead, but as you can see, that's a little awkward, sticking, not rolling, on the tongue instead of the mind.
Anyway, enough about me, let me start off by telling you the tale, the way I heard it.
It was a dark and stormy night (I know, I know, but this is the way I heard it, honest). Old man Johnson had been running his slaves pretty hard that week, in fact, two of them had died, and several of them were ill.
Old man Johnson was a bastard. Everyone knew it, nobody cared, and they were just slaves after all, right? (Bear with me.) So one of the slaves, the brother of one of the dead, slipped away and consulted a voodoo priest. (An evil one...a houngan, I think they're called.)
Anyway, the old voodoo man put a hex on old man Johnson by having the brother put a chicken foot under his pillow. The old man went crazy and killed his nine year old daughter, (the daughter's age changing according to the age of the children when the story was being told) Then he killed himself. The bodies weren't found until nearly a week later, when the reverend came to call. And on certain nights, if you hear a rooster crow, (I know...roosters seldom crow at night), calling for his chicken lady, you can see lights, and hear screams coming from the Old Johnson Place.
Okay, it's not very realistic but what do you expect, it's a tale told by children to children. As we grew older, we embellished it a bit, but that's the gist of it.
The belief that the Old Johnson Place was haunted was helped along by other events throughout the years.
From 1901, till this present day, not one girl child has been born into any family, which has had the misfortune to either own the farm or rent it. Even if the owners didn't live at the farmhouse. This is true and can proven by public record with dedicated and meticulous research. (Sorry, just had to add that last line in. It was a little hard.)
From 1920 on, no one born in the farmhouse, having left Butler's Grove, has ever returned. The fact the Butler's Grove is a small, boring town, has nothing to do with it. I promise.
It is a well known fact, that several owners and their family members had either gone crazy, committed suicide, or both. Some of them were quite mad and had to be institutionalized.
Well, more about that day I saw the ghost I don't believe in.
It was a dark and stormy night, no not really, I'm just kidding. But it was after work and already getting dark, being winter and all. As I said earlier, I was driving past the farmhouse, which is uncharacteristically close to the road. Bush Road was built just recently, allowing me a good view of the farmhouse.
I don't know what prompted me to glance at it this particular evening; I usually don't even realize when I pass it. When I looked over at it, a little girl looked back. I just caught a glimpse of her, but her presence was so real, and startled me so much, that I pulled off the road and put the car in park.
It was at that time of the evening when shadows start to appear, so I couldn't have seen what I did, I kept telling myself. I decided to look again, so I backed up the car until I was just parallel to the attic window. She was still there.
I couldn't see her features very well, this time. The wistful eyes full of pain, and other things, came later. But, there she was, a small shadow, framed by yellowed and tattered lace curtains.
Gathering my courage, I decided to check it out. I pulled the car onto the dirt road, and drove up to the house. Grabbing my flashlight, the good old Texas-sized Mag light, from under the seat of my car, I picked my way through the bramble bushes and goat heads to the front door.
People in Butler's Grove never lock their doors, and the Old Johnson Place was no exception; even though it has been for sale or rent for the past fifty years. I pulled open the old screen door, its wire punctuated with holes. It groaned in disapproval. The front door had gone gray with the years, but there was still a hint of white paint in the grain of the wood. It seemed stuck, but with a little forceful push, it opened, giving a full-sized squeal of protest, which sounded eerily piercing in the silent reproach of the house.
Being highly allergic to dust, and here I live in the plains of west Texas, where the dust is a legal resident and pays taxes, I immediately sneezed, bombarded by dust older than dirt. I don't just sneeze once, I'm one of those people who are gifted, and can sneeze six or seven times at a whack.
My flashlight burned a dim haze, at best, in the blackness of the rooms. However, I have excellent eyesight and could see pretty well, not great, but okay. I meandered about the house, that, by now, had more roaches, spiders, and I imagine rats, than it had ever had human residents.
There was very little furniture in the rooms; what was there, was covered with graying and mildewed sheets. Judging from where I saw the girl, the attic entry should have been close. But, given the circumstances, I might never have found it, if there was not so much absence of light.
Coming from the top of the stairs; they were situated to the abrupt right of the entranceway, was a bright, almost white light. I'm not particularly brave, but my curiosity was so strong that I had to obey it. I only hoped that I wouldn't turn out to be that famous, proverbial cat, whose inquisitiveness proved fatal.
I took it slowly, having no idea what condition the stairs were in. I made it safely, if not noisily, for every stair I put my foot on, announced my progress.
On top of the stairs, guided by the light, I came to a bedroom that was just as empty as the downstairs rooms. The light came from under a half-open closet door. I opened it. I know...people are always doing this in horror movies and books, and I'm right out there with those shouting "Don't open it, you idiot!" Nonetheless, like an idiot, I opened it.
Next time you hear some one tell you, "Go into the light!", unless you are absolutely sure that you're dead, run the other way. I know, because behind that door, I saw the little girl. This is where the wistful eyes and stuff come in. She turned from the attic window and looked at me, just as the girl in the window behind her looked at another me, a thousand times, until we were just specks no bigger than the dust motes that flew around me earlier.
We must have watched each other for only seconds, but either time stood still, or my mind did, for it seemed like hours. She was mouthing something as tears dripped from those woeful eyes onto her pink flannel nightgown. She reached out towards me with bloodied hands; the multitude of little girls did the same. The little girl, and those behind her, emitted a heartrendering screech that attacked and mutillated my ears; my bowels contracting in self defense. The spell I was under shattered.
I don't actually know how I got back to my car, but I did, perhaps leaving my wits behind me. I got safely home, God knows how, and jumped into my bed without bothering to remove the clothes I had been in all day. I pulled the covers up over my head, and if I had my way, I would still be there.
I haven't told anyone this story before now, but it had cried so loudly inside me, that I had to, either that, or go insane. Who's to say, it's not too late?
Even though, from time to time I catch a glimpse of that same little girl, in that same attic window, I don't believe in ghosts. That belief, to this day, hasn't been proven wrong. But then...I don't believe in parallel universes either.
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