The other night I was thinking about my great grandparents, and for some reason my mind touched on their haunted house. Now, I’m not here to sway you toward believing in ghosts. That’s your call. But since I’ve had more than one run-in with ghost-ies in my life, I don’t doubt their existence. Not even a little bit.
By the time I was born, Granny and Papa were old. (They weren’t crazy-old, mind you. It was the south, after all.) They lived in a falling-down, ramshackle of a house, situated next to some railroad tracks. They shared the house with another old lady: Miss Brown. Y’all, if my great grandparents were old, Miss Brown was flat-out ancient. I was a wee little thing, but I don’t remember her moving around on her own. Ever. There must’ve been a walker, maybe even a wheelchair. I don’t recall. I do recollect her sitting on the front porch in the summer, but that’s it. Oh – and I was afraid of her. I never once saw that woman smile. And that freaked me out.
Anyhoo, Miss Brown didn’t make it much beyond my early life. She passed on and then Granny and Papa lived alone. At least, they did until they took my family in. Thankfully, as we would otherwise have been homeless. I was 5 or 6.
My parents slept down in Miss Brown’s old room. We 3 girls slept in Granny’s bed with her. She and Papa had separate beds, located in the same room. I know it sounds weird, but it wasn’t. It was all we knew, and frankly, we girls loved Granny and Papa so much that we were just tickled to sleep in their room with them.
Remember “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory?” Remember how Charlie’s grandparents all slept in the same bed? Well, picture 3 little girls and one old lady, all facing the same direction in a regular full-sized bed, and that’s pretty much how it was. In the sweltering summer, we all sweated there together. In the frigid winter, we couldn’t turn over due to the weight of about 73 quilts. Granny was always on the outside, near the center of the room. We girls fought over the other 3 spots. Again, it was all we knew. And it was good.
The first time I heard the boots walking down the hallway, I was sleeping next to Granny. The sound started softly and grew louder as the wearer approached the bedroom. In the still darkness, I whispered to Granny, “What’s that noise?” She spoke right out loud, “Them are boots. It’s an old soldier – a haint – comin’ down the hall.” The boots grew louder and louder, until it sounded like they’d come right into the room with us. I was lying there, holding my breath, eyes desperately searching the coal-black night for the old soldier. I never saw him, and nothing else happened. The boots didn’t walk back down the hall, and the rest of the night was quiet. Eventually, I fell asleep, safe beside my Granny.
I didn’t like the boots, but I sort of got used to them. The sound would show up every now and then, usually without incident. I say usually, because there was that one night when the old soldier wasn’t content to simply walk into the room. On that hot summer evening, we were all trying to sleep on top of the covers. There was a fan propped up in the front window, but it only served to stir up warm air. The boots took their time coming down the hallway, slowly ambling into the room. I was relegated to the side of the bed nearest the wall that night, with my 2 sisters between Granny and me. I could barely see anything in the darkness, but I did make out Granny’s leg as it began lifting into the air. She started yelling, “Let go-a my leg! Let go-a my leg!” But the old soldier had her, and he held on for about 10 seconds, lifting her leg by the foot until it was straight up in the air.
Papa, in the other bed, was yelling at Granny to shut her yap. We girls were so scared, we just lay there, hoping we weren’t next. My little heart was beating almost as loudly as Granny’s screams. And then the old soldier let go, and her leg fell to the bed. Granny was none to happy about it, and was cussing a blue streak at the old soldier. And at Papa, as he hadn’t done a durned thing to help her. I started to breathe again, and was mighty grateful to be next to the wall. It took me near forever to fall asleep that night, I tell ya.
There were other incidents in that old house, and the boots still returned from time to time. That was the only occurrence of a ghost interacting with any of us, but once was enough.
Well, there was that time we kids held a seance. But that’s a story for another day…