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The Legend Of Benjamin Blackwell- A Ghost Story Part I

written by Angela L Burke

 Part I

Benjamin Blackwell was the most feared man in town. For that matter, he was the most feared man in Hill Country. He had money, and lots of it. To a big city dweller, he looked like a Mississippi backwoods hustler, but in the small town of Cedar Rock , Mississippi, population 396, he was believed to be the Devil, himself.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, on a day known as “Black Friday” , Benjamin Blackwell’s choke hold on most of the people in the small, country town of Cedar Rock, became final. The tiny, town bank had not been insured and most people in the area lost their life savings. Benjamin Blackwell had bailed many of them out of foreclosure with private loans, in exchange for the titles to their lands, farms, cattle and homes. He was also swift to evict entire families from their houses, confiscate their lands and auction their belongings to wealthy bidders if they failed to pay on time. Those who’s belongings and lands did not earn him enough money to cover their loan, plus the interest, were forced to do hard labor in his cotton fields, for miserable wages. Forced to lease and cram their families into shanty dwellings for a place to live. Many could barely afford to feed their families and were given Government ration coupons. These coupons were good for one piece of bread and one slice of meat per day, per person. Many people had nothing left to trade among themselves and were forced to do without many of life’s necessities, including clothing , food and proper shelter. Often times trading their ration coupons for something to wear or a place to sleep.

There was reason to be nervous, if you worked for Big Ben Blackwell. At this time in history, money and work were nearly impossible to come by in these parts. The Hill people of Northern Mississippi were mostly small, family owned farmers, share crop workers and lumber men. Their living conditions were poor and many did not even have electricity or indoor plumbing. Most of them still had out houses and wells.

Benjamin Blackwell’s blood line was one of the oldest in the county. His ancestors had purchased this land, or stolen it some whispered, from the Chickasaw. They had owned hundreds of slaves, over hundreds of years, black, irish and native. They had been Confederate Officers and Black Market Traders and Throat-cutting Businessmen. They were bullies and thieves and ruffians, only they had real money to back them up. They had once owned hundreds of thousands of acres of the Hill Country. Most of which, had been lost after the Civil War. But not all of it. They still carried the Blackwell dark genes and vicious temperaments. They would never go down easily. They were never liked, merely tolerated, but always respected to their faces, and they were feared, even in their absence.

Benjamin Blackwell owned most of the town and most of the farm land. He was a cotton broker and a mean business man. He was in charge of buying and shipping cotton crops, raising and selling produce , cattle and hogs and even had his hand in local saw mill operations. If you didn’t work for him, then more than likely , you didn’t work. Those who were lucky enough to still have their farms, owed Benjamin Blackwell, in one form or another, for bailing them out. He always collected on the debts people owed him. No one crossed Ben Blackwell without suffering a consequence, whether it was immediate or long in coming. He did no favors out of sympathy. He was hard, cold and out to make money. Regardless, of who he had to step on to get it.

But he was also a cheap skate. The only time he was ever seen riding in a car was when he went to Memphis or Tupelo on business. On his plantation, which he rarely left, Benjamin Blackwell always rode his horse. He was not quick to give up his throne that towered over his people. He could never achieve this level of intimidation in a pick up truck. He didn’t like change, unless it made him money, and to feed his horse was cheaper than gassing up his truck.

When he walked down the sidewalk, people cleared a path to let him pass. He was big, brutal and intimidating. There were many who despised him. He lived at and owned the Blackwell Plantation on the outskirts of town. It had been lived in by his direct family, since 1836. He still had over 15,000 acres of cotton fields, not to mention his vegetable farm and the cotton gin. He also owned the general store and some say, the town banker. Some local people even claimed, that he owned the law and the preacher. Whispers behind closed doors , of course.

Sheriff Conley was a wimp and everybody knew it. He would get so nervous when Ben Blackwell was around that sometimes, he would stutter. He’d had the problem since he was a boy and the kids had made fun of him at school. He had grown out of it as he aged, but when Benjamin Blackwell came into town, his tongue-twisting , childhood speech impediment would return. Most of the time, Conley either did as he was told, or did nothing. He was a sorry excuse for a sheriff and Benjamin Blackwell liked it that way. He made sure that the elections went in Conley’s favor. He didn’t need outside trouble.

Reverend Jonas was pastor of the Hill Country Holiness Church. He was thought by some, to be a hypocrite and a fraud, because he turned a blind eye to the sins of Benjamin Blackwell. Without Blackwell’s financial support, the church would have to close its doors. The Reverend Jonas would be out of a parsonage, a poor house, and a wage. Reverend Jonas feared Ben Blackwell as if he were Satan in the flesh. His faith was weak, but his greed mixed with his fear of being run out-of-town, or worse, kept his tongue in check. He ran the soup kitchen and provided cots for the homeless at the poor house. But, he could have done more. He skimmed the best of the donations for himself and his family. He had pocketed at least half of the money donated to the cause, by the Blackwell Family. His own family never went hungry or without something nice and new to wear. The poor house he oversaw, was one of the worst places in town to have to live. In fact it wasn’t even in town. It was an eyesore to the town people. The poor house was a large white framed three-story boarding house. It had no electricity, no running water and no indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse in the back yard, a water well pump near the back porch and a wash tub for bathing. There were many in the poor house, who were elderly, abandoned or mentally disabled. There was no one to care for them properly. It was not uncommon to see someone die at the poor house. There were new graves almost every month in the potters field section of the town cemetery. Most deaths at the poor house, were a result of neglect, starvation, illness and disease. But there were also three suicides, and two murders committed at the poor house. The towns people secretly suspected that the deaths were somehow Benjamin Blackwell’s fault. But no one dared try to prove it. There was only one church in Cedar Rock for white folks. No one was forced to attend, but those who did so were either, blinded to the reality of their situation and were led like sheep to the slaughter. Or they were quickly made to feel guilty, for being ungrateful for God’s blessings. As well as, made to feel, fear of retaliation, either from God, or Benjamin Blackwell. Neither was a comforting thought.

The colored folks and the sharecroppers had their own old wooden framed church, out in the woods on a trail off Blackwell Road. It had once been a school-house in the late eighteen hundreds for the plantation workers children. It had long ago been abandoned as a school. The church members could worship on Sunday Mornings for two hours. The white sharecroppers had church from 10 am til noon. The colored folks had church from one til 3 pm. Benjamin Blackwell owned the land and the building, and this was all the time he would allow them. There were no fancy pews or stained glass windows, just old, hand split, log benches. There was no piano or grand organ. Just the weary voices raised in song to their Only Hope. The heat source in the one room church, was a cast iron, pot-belly stove, which did little to warm the parishioners in winter. The drafty windows leaked as icy swirls of wind, blew in like a winter crow, chilling the bones of all who prayed there. In the summer time, there were no air conditioners or fans. The parishioners baked in sweltering, humid temperatures as if they were viewing the gates of Hell from the front row. The heat was a warning of punishments to come for sinners. But the faith of those who came here was strong. The people who worshiped here were good people who lived in bad circumstances. For most members, their biggest regret was that, they felt helpless to stop the evil that permeated all around them. They endured their hardships as a test of their faith. They left judgement to God and believed that those who tormented them in this life, would be given their just reward in the hereafter. The Sharecropper Church had no full-time pastor. Visiting preachers and sometimes young men from the Holiness Church in town would come out to preach the morning service. The colored church had a preacher. Brother Isaac Wilson. He was 82 years old, he had been the plantation preacher for 55 years, but he could still get the place jumping. The colored folks did a lot of singing and a lot of praying.

Those in the area that didn’t attend the Town Holiness church, were usually shunned, lied and gossiped about, or just plain ignored. There were some who were even rumored to be Hill Witches. They practiced herbal medicine and were believed to be able to tell fortunes and cast spells. They were sought out in secret but, avoided in public. Many were descended from slaves or had learned their medicine knowledge from their Celtic, African and Native heritages. Their were even rumors that deep in the hills, there was a secret band of mixed blood gypsy witches, who did sacred rituals in the deep woods. Stories about the witches had been around, long before the Blackwell family ever came to Mississippi. There had been rumors of Hill Witches since the first man ever set foot in Hill Country. There were even rumors that the Blackwell Cemetery was once a sacred burial ground of the Chickasaw. It had even been whispered that an angry Chickasaw warrior spirit, roamed the woods behind the Blackwell Cemetery and that if he caught you, you might get scalped. But that was most likely a tall tale, made up by kids, telling tree house stories.

Slavery had been illegal in Mississippi since the Civil War, but reconstruction and the treatment of people of color, strangers, and those of poverty, had been slow to change in the Hill Country. Segregation was still practiced and the colored and the poor were treated with little respect by Ben Blackwell. To him they were all his property, regardless of their color or their heritage. It had been rumored that he was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the notorious, ghost riders from hell. But very few people ever spoke about those things, for fear of retaliation. It had also been rumored that Benjamin Blackwell had been responsible for the deaths of at least 20 men from behind his white sheet. That disobedient workers were threatened, beaten, and targeted for barn burnings and lynchings by Blackwell’s men. He had nephews and cousins that did his dirty work for him.

His next of kin, Amos Blackwell, was Ben’s younger brother and his trusted right hand man. Amos was big, ugly and full of spit and vinegar, and he threw his weight around. He did not have the education or the business smarts to fill Ben’s shoes, no one in the family did. Everyone knew who the boss was. And everyone also knew, that Amos Blackwell would never measure up to Benjamin’s level. Amos Blackwell had no back bone of his own. And Amos knew in his soul, that someday, when Ben was gone, that he would never be able to keep the plantation going, but he was head strong, over-confident and determined to be the boss someday. People jumped when he told them to, and payed up when time expired. He showed them all how easy they had it with Ben running the show. He would do it his own way someday..and he’d show em all !

He would lose some of his arrogance, when he realized that the only reason people were afraid of him was because of Ben Blackwell’s black shadow standing behind him. Without that, he really wasn’t that important. In the mean time, Amos worshiped the ground Ben Blackwell walked on. Ben was his meal ticket and Amos would do whatever Ben wanted, no questions asked.

Martha was beautiful and loved by everyone. No one could believe it when she married Ben Blackwell. But town gossips chattered that it had been an arranged marriage, between Martha’s father, and Ben’s father, Braxton Blackwell. The arrangement was said to have been made, in order to settle a gambling debt . But everyone in town knew that Ben had been in love with Martha since grade school. He had been determined that no one else would have her. He made a point of letting all the young men in town know it. Braxton had been convinced by his son, to make the deal. She was not extremely beautiful, but she was desirable and soft to look at. She was sweet and quiet and did as she was told. Benjamin liked that in a woman. Her mother had died in childbirth and her father was a Riverboat gambler. Martha was often left to live at her Aunt Charlotte’s house in Memphis or neighbors in Cedar Rock, while her father caught a River boat to New Orleans to gamble. But, Martha was always the lady in public and when she married Ben, she carried out her wifely duties in silence and without any complaints. At least not in public anyway. Some said, that Martha loathed Ben Blackwell and that Billy had been conceived out of a forced relationship. But, Martha’s only happiness was Billy. She was a kind and loving mother and spent as much time with Billy, as she could. She loved her son dearly, and so it was then rumored that maybe, he wasn’t Benjamin Blackwell’s son after all. Small town gossip gives way to boredom, but causes terror for its unsuspecting victims.

Benjamin Blackwell was not blind or deaf to the rumors and the suspicions planted in his ears, grew like menacing Kudzu vine, making Benjamin paranoid. Ben was jealous of “the boy” and hated the close relationship that he had with his mother. He would often become angry at “the boy” for no apparent reason, especially if Ben felt he was being coddled by his mother. It was rumored among the staff that Ben would often times lock Billy in his room for days without letting him out, because “the boy” was in his way. If “the boy” didn’t finish all the food on his plate, he would be served the same cold food, for days at a time, until he ate it, often times, making him deathly sick.

Blackwell was known for his short temper and lack of compassion for human suffering. He had grown up with a silver spoon and an abusive bloodline. He felt that the world owed him and he was determined to collect his rightful dues. He didn’t like sissies, cry babies and whiners. He had been taught to suck it up and take it like a man. He had been raised to get his way at all costs and at any expense.

One day, when “the boy”, Billy was about six years old, he had been sitting up in the hay loft of the horse barn, secretly drawing pictures of horses. A small troop of red wasps had been building a new nest in the rafters, just above the young boy’s head. Suddenly, an angry wasp dived at his face. Billy panicked and began to wave his arms around in the air, screaming hysterically. This only angered the red wasps more, and they began to dive towards the panicking child. He was stung numerous times in the back and legs. Trying desperately to get away from them, he fell over the side of the hay loft, crashing into a small pile of hay. He didn’t break any bones, but he received a nasty sprained wrist. He had been stung several times in the back and legs, and had a small purple goose egg on his forehead. He was crying and in pain. He ran towards the main house to seek out the comforting arms of Mammie Faye.

But, Mammie Faye was in the basement doing laundry and didn’t hear the poor boys cries for help. Instead of finding comfort, he had run out of the barn, straight into the rock hard legs of his Father. When the boy tearfully explained what happened and showed his father his injuries, Benjamin Blackwell jerked the boy up by his collar and hauled him out to the woodshed for a strapping. Benjamin was angry that the boy had been in the barn loft to begin with. He felt that if the boy was gonna “cry like a baby”, for something that was his own fault, he would give the boy a good reason to cry. “That’ll teach ya to stay out of the damn barn! ” Benjamin had yelled at the boy, as he hovered in a trembling, fetal heap in the woodshed.

Billy’s mother, Martha passed away unexpectedly when Billy was only 7 years old. She had caught a bad cold, which had developed into pneumonia in both of her lungs. Benjamin Blackwell did not believe in big hospitals and sent for the local doctor. In her weakened state, he had refused to let young Billy in to see his mother. He had told Martha, that he had sent the boy over to stay with his brother Amos until she was better. She never got to say goodbye to the boy. Benjamin was devastated at her death, especially when her last words to him were, ” take care of Billy”.

Benjamin was said to have taken his grief and anger at his beloved wife’s death, out on the boy. Billy was small and fragile and not cut out for heavy farm work. He was shy and quiet and had no interest in learning about the family business. He was a day dreamer, he loved music and art and literature and wanted to be a writer and an illustrator of children’s story books. He loved adventure stories by Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, being his favorites. His mother Martha had read these stories to him every night before tucking him into bed. But, Ben could see no future in fictional, “make-believe” and thought it idle laziness, to sit around doodling and drawing. He had forbidden the boy to waste his time with it.

Billy would sneak off to his favorite hiding place in the nearby woods, near the bubbling creek and sketch charcoal drawings with pieces of black coal that he’d stolen from the coal bin, in the plantation kitchen. He would make up adventures and draw pictures to illustrate them. He was surprisingly talented and drew very realistic images, in spite of his lack of drawing supplies or artistic training.

Mammie Faye would give him canvas flour sacks to draw his pictures on . She would save the paper labels off the canned goods and he would use the backs of them to draw on. Sometimes, she would even go so far as to steal, Mr. Blackwell’s letter head paper from his study, so that the boy could write his stories. Billy was at least afforded a proper education, although he would never live long enough to use it.

Mammie Fay was Billy’s nanny, the head housekeeper and the plantation cook. She had been working at the Blackwell Plantation all her life. Her parents and grandparents had once been slaves on the Blackwell Plantation and after the Civil War had stayed on as workers and share croppers at the plantation. Mostly because, they had no where else to go and because it was the only way they could survive. Some of them were just to afraid to leave. Mammie Faye lived on the grounds, in the nanny quarters in the Blackwell Plantation attic.

Billy loved her dearly and she doted on the boy and loved him like her own child. Mammie Faye had never been married, but it was rumored that she had given birth to a premature baby, when she was just a young girl. It was a family secret, that was never proven or spoken of in public conversation. But the story told, was that, the baby had been taken from her at birth and died because it was weak, under-developed, and half white. Many believed, that the baby’s father had been Braxton Blackwell, Ben’s own father, and that Braxton had smothered the baby, as soon as it was born, in order to hide his secret relationship with her. It would have been obvious to anyone who saw the child, had it lived, that it’s father was Caucasian. Braxton Blackwell would not let the mixed, illegitimate child, tarnish his reputation in the community. Mammie Faye had never forgiven him for taking her child from her. But, she never spoke a word about who the father had been, or if the relationship had been of her own choosing. She never married and had taken on the trusted responsibility of raising Billy Blackwell, from the time he was born.

Billy died at age 13, on a hot summer day in August of 1929, Not from falling off his horse down a steep embankment, as had been reported. But from the brutal beating he had taken, at the hands of his own father. Ben Blackwell was said to have whipped the young boy with a razor strap, until he could no longer stand up. He had become enraged when he saw the black soot from the charred coal on Billy’s hands and that his stolen letterhead was being used as sketch paper. After the brutal whipping, when the boy failed to walk himself back to the plantation house from the woodshed, Benjamin had beaten the boy in the head with his bare hands, until he was unconscious. Billy lay in a coma from a brain injury for two days, one side of his face, fractured, bruised and swollen. He could not have opened his left eye, even if he had been awake. His fragile body was tender and bruised with shades of deep purple covering his ribs, his back and his legs. His death was ruled an accident by the town doctor and the plantation staff was told to keep quiet about the beating or suffer the consequences. The boy’s obituary read, that he had died from a fall from his horse, down a steep embankment and suffered a head injury to the brain and internal bleeding of the abdomen. But those who knew the truth, did not speak the truth, out of fear for their own lives.

It is said, that Mammie Faye was furious with Benjamin Blackwell when she learned of Billy’s beating. And that when the boy died, she cursed Ben Blackwell, with a spell, for a painfully slow death. That she had secretly vowed, that when Ben was finally dead, his soul would not rest, but would instead, be tortured by hissing rattlesnakes and stinging red wasps, crawling over his corpse . That he would die a lonely man, with few mourners. That his name and his land would be cursed forever and he would be trapped on the land, in a haunting existence in the afterlife. Stuck in a torturous black gap, until the day of God’s final judgement. She was even more enraged when Benjamin Blackwell, put the boys grave in the old slave section of the Blackwell Plantation Cemetery, instead of laying him to rest, next to his mother.

The day of Billy’s funeral, which no one except Reverend Jonas, Mammie Faye and the house help, turned out for the burial service, Benjamin Blackwell instead, got raging drunk. He removed all the boy’s belongings, drawings and clothing from his room. Downed a bottle of boot leg whiskey and burned all of what remained of Billy’s identity, in a blazing fire pit. Ben Blackwell then had the boy’s room stripped, cleaned and locked. Forbidding anyone to ever enter the room again, not even to clean it. The next day Benjamin Blackwell went on about his daily business, as if nothing had even happened. He never spoke of Billy again and would become extremely upset, if anyone mentioned the boy’s name in his presence. He removed all photographs of the boy from display in the house, as if he had never existed.

Mammie Faye had hidden the drawings that Billy had made for her, inside her mattress in the attic, wrapped up in a sugar sack for safe keeping. She had managed to hide a small photograph of the boy, as a young child, sitting on his mother’s lap. She kept it inside the mattress, along with the drawings. It was said, that late at night , the muffled sobbing of Mammie Faye could be heard in the attic, weeping over the dead boys drawings. Then the sound of whispers would be heard, as if secrets were being spoken inside the walls.

Blackwell’s home sat on a small flat hill, at the center of the plantation, down a long shady, dirt road known, unsurprisingly as, Blackwell Rd. No one else lived on the road unless they worked for him and Blackwell was frequently seen riding, up and down the old dirt road on his massive black horse, keeping a watchful eye on his workers and his scattered tenants. The size of the horse was seventeen and a half hands, one of the biggest horses that folks in these parts had ever seen. The massive black horse’s eyes were as dark and frightening, as the giant who rode him. And the beast was as menacing to look at, as his evil master. Blackwell towered over the town people, like a black demon from the depths of hell itself. This only added to Blackwell’s intimidation and effectiveness as a town dictator.

On a scorching, hot, summer day, in mid July of 1932, it is believed that Blackwell was over seeing some of his workers in digging a new irrigation ditch in one of his cotton fields. Town legend has it that Blackwell got angry, because it was taking to long and he did not think the workers were digging fast enough. He is said, to have reached down from his horse, grabbed a shovel out of a worker’s hands and smashed the man in the back of the head, splitting his skull into. The man was killed instantly. However, it was their word against his and since no one in the town , including Sheriff Conley, were brave enough to stand up to Blackwell, the suspicious disappearance of the murder weapon, and the lack of evidence or witnesses, no charges were ever filed against him.

By 1935 however, Ben Blackwell ‘s health had started to weaken. He was having severe bouts of nausea and vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe abdominal pain. The town doctor had treated him for stress and pain, by giving him Morphine for his severe stomach cramps. However, over time, he had become addicted to the pain medication and it would cause him to act more irrationally, than he had previously been. As his health began to fail, he began to lose his hold over the towns people. He became more, and more, of a man behind the scenes. He did not want the people of the town to see his frail, weak and detoriating condition. So, he became a recluse, sending his henchmen, nephews and cousins, to do his dirty work, and to maintain the major operations of delegating authority over his plantation and field workers.

Mammie Faye was right there, all the time, tending to his every wish and demand. She was compassionate and understanding to his face, but continued to curse him in her mind and under her breath. Some believe, that she used more than her mind to curse the cruel plantation owner. Many believe that she was slowly poisoning him with small doses of arsenic.

Other’s believe that she quietly, practiced some of the old witches ways. Some secret magic of her ancestors from Africa. Because, ironically, on October 31, 1936, All Hallows Eve, Benjamin Blackwell died at the age of 66. He choked on his own bloody vomit, from a bleeding ulcer in his stomach, according to the doctor, but Mammie Faye would go to her grave knowing, what really happened.

Ben Blackwell was put in the ground on the Blackwell Plantation. He was buried in the family plot in the Plantation Cemetery next to his wife Martha. Very few people came to his funeral. Mostly his nephews and cousins and his personal henchmen were present, as were the sheriff and the doctor. The Rev Jonas preached his eulogy, but few were listening. They were all convinced in the solitude of their minds, that the old man had gotten his just desert.

Amos Blackwell, inherited the plantation. But his lack of business knowledge and his missing back bone quickly dwindled the trust fund. His poor decision-making skills had eventually, bankrupted the Blackwell estate, in less than five years.

By this time, Mammie Faye was in her late 70’s and in failing health. She died in her sleep in 1942, clutching the flour sack that contained Billy’s drawings and the photograph of Billy, and his mother.

Amos Blackwell had squandered the family fortune on booze, fast women and bad business decisions. He had let most of the staff go and spent every night pacing the hallways of Blackwell Plantation, talking to himself in fits of madness. He claimed that, he couldn’t sleep because, he kept having nightmares about rattle snakes, red wasps and being chased down by Benjamin Blackwell. He claimed that he was kept awake by the sounds of wailing in the attic and whispers, coming from his walls. He was slowly being driven insane by the phantom haunting at the Blackwell Plantation. He became an unstable alcoholic, frequently wandering about town in a drunken stupor.

One night within a year of Mammie Fayes passing , Amos Blackwell passed out in a drunken coma, on his bare feather mattress. He had been smoking a lit cigar. The house had fallen into disarray and was covered in clutter and garbage. It didn’t take long for the old feather mattress to set ablaze. Amos burned to death in his own bed. The Blackwell Plantation was charred to the ground, leaving nothing behind but the foundation, the fireplace chimneys, and the charcoal skeleton of a once magnificently beautiful plantation house. Now just a pile of burnt ashes.

The Blackwell nightmare had finally ended, or had it?

To find out, read  Part II of The Legend of Benjamin Blackwell.

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Filed under Dark Fiction, death, ghosts, Legends, Paranormal Authors, Short Stories, Spirits, Uncategorized, Unexplained Experiences

The Legend of Benjamin Blackwell A Ghost Story Part II

written by Angela L Burke

Part II

The population of Cedar Rock has changed little, since the death of Benjamin Blackwell. Blackwell Road is still a rural part of the Hill Country and remains a gravel road. Few people live along the road anymore. Most of the fields are used for cattle and horse grazing. A sparse cabin, or the rotting skeleton of a framed shack, can still be found along the roadside. All are un-inhabitable and resemble broken down tool sheds choked out by brush and the suffocating tendrils of Kudzu vine.

Stories about Ben Blackwell, are rarely discussed in public these days. But there are some locals, who know the history and also know of the strange happenings on Blackwell Rd, especially at night. Only the bravest of locals will use the Blackwell Rd as a cut through, but never after dark, and never on a full moon. It has been said, that the cursed and angry spirit of Benjamin Blackwell, still rides his horse down Blackwell Road, patrolling his fields on his massive black beast.

 Speeders, joy riders, strangers, trespassers and parkers, have encountered the dark spirit of Ben Blackwell on the abandoned gravel road. His tall, wicked shadow, usually said, to be holding a shovel. Many even claimed, to have been chased down by the crazed phantom. That the spirit of Benjamin Blackwell, has been known to chase a man’s car down the road at lightening speeds. One local even claimed that his car windshield had been covered in a swarm of wasps, to the point that he ran off the road. Then they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.

Billy Blackwell, is also said, to haunt the property of Blackwell Plantation. Many locals claim to have seen young Billy, sitting near the creek, drawing pictures. When Billy turns to look at you, he has the look of having been badly beaten on one side of his head and face. He is said, to grin at you with a sad grin and then turn back to his drawing, before disappearing before your very eyes.

Ben Blackwell has reportedly been seen, standing on the hillside, with a shovel slung over his shoulder near the Blackwell family cemetery. It is believed, that he can sometimes be seen, sitting on his monstrous black horse in the middle of the road, as you wind around the bend on a full moon night. Only to disappear when you slam on the brakes. Many lovers have sought to do some private star-gazing on the dark back road, only to look up and see the ghastly face of Benjamin Blackwell peering through their window. His face swollen with oozing whelps from being stung by angry wasps and bitten by venomous rattlers of the afterlife, in which he is trapped.

It has even been said, that the prints of giant horse hooves, have been seen on the Blackwell Rd. No one with any sense would dare to ride a horse down the old road, due to the number of deadly rattlesnakes that have been seen, curled up in their path, sunning themselves in the warm Mississippi sunshine. Anyone who has ever dared venture down the long, pitch-dark, gravel road at night, or even on the brightest of days, do not feel safe in the largest or fastest of motor transportation. The feeling of being watched and chased by an unseen darkness is inescapable on Blackwell Rd. The fear of being struck by a vicious timber rattler or attacked by angry red wasps, will cross your mind at least once, while you’re considering the risks or taking your chances on the old road.

 Curious cemetery explorers and genealogy researchers have reported hearing the sound of a woman wailing, coming from the nearby woods near the cemetery. As well as, the sound of weeping, near the plantation house foundation. Hunters have reported hearing someone whisper the name “Billy “in their ears, while sitting near the creek, only to find that no one is ever there.

But the most surprising claims, are that Benjamin Blackwell’s grave site, as well as the plantation house foundation, is infested and swarming with large rattle snakes and swarms of big red wasps. Mississippi red wasps have an extremely painful sting and to those who have sensitivity to them, they can be deadly, especially in large numbers. Most people caught off guard by a timber rattler, never make it out of the woods. Alive that is.

The Blackwell Plantation was abandoned after the burning of the main house. The barely visible chimney, is now held tight, in the grips of Kudzu and ivy vines. The foundation of the big house is hardly recognizable. Curiosity seekers, teenagers and hikers have attempted to explore the ruins of Blackwell’s Plantation House, but none have ever stayed long. The ruins are said to be infested with rattle snakes. No one with any sense at all, regardless of their hill country survival skills, would be foolish enough to take on a hot breeding nest of angry timber rattlers.

A group of modern-day paranormal investigators, tried to explore the old site recently, and one of them came out of the woods with his life hanging in the balance. The photographer had to be air lifted to the trauma center for rattlesnake venom, after he was bitten on the leg while attempting to photograph the ruins of Blackwell Plantation. Mysteriously, there was nothing on his roll of film, even though all of his frames had been shot.

Numerous claims of mysterious fire lights, tall lurking black shadows, apparitions of a large man with a shovel, thick smoke from unknown sources and mysterious mists, the smell of wood and flesh burning. They have all been reported over the years at the plantation site. The land has never been lived on again. It is now owned by the state’s national park service. All attempts to develop the land have failed. Visitors are always cautioned to avoid the area as being unsafe and extremely dangerous, due to the infestation of rattlesnakes and red wasps. Don’t count on a cell phone for help. There are no signals in these hills, only the echos of a black buzzards scream.

The land sits vacant, said “to be cursed” by Mammie Faye and haunted by the tormented spirits of Benjamin Blackwell and his family. It is believed that Martha searches the charred ruins of the house whispering for her son Billy, in her desperation to say goodbye to him. Mammie Faye’s whispers can still be heard near the ruins of the plantation house. That the smell of whiskey, cigars and burnt flesh can be caught on a passing breeze near the charred ruins. That Billy Blackwell, still draws pictures near the Blackwell Plantation Creek.

But the most feared encounter of all for those who are brave enough to venture onto the Blackwell Rd and Plantation, is to run into the ghost of Benjamin Blackwell, the meanest man who ever lived in the Hill Country.

May the curious outsider beware! They say that behind every good legend story, there is a hint of truth in it somewhere. Explore The Legend of Benjamin Blackwell, at your own peril. You never know when the curses of a ghost legend, will turn out to be real.

Note from the Author:

The Legend of Benjamin Blackwell, is just that. A Legend. It was inspired by a rumored, Mississippi back road in the Hill Country where I live. The actual location is rumored to be haunted by an angry farmer on a black horse. But this fictional story has been dramatized and exaggerated, mixed up and made up for storytelling effect. The location, character names and claims of activity are purely fictional and any similarities with actual places, persons or events in Mississippi, or anywhere else, are purely coincidental and unintentional. The only part of this story that is known to be true and factual, is that the location, that this story was inspired by, is indeed rumored to be haunted by a dark spirit, riding a tall, black horse. The cursed home site is indeed, in ashes. It’s foundation is absolutely, infested with rattlesnakes and angry, red wasps! The rumored, haunted road thru the Hills, is definitely crawling with rattlesnakes. I will never tell anyone of its true location. It will be to my dying day, a deadly secret.

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The Ghost of Sweetgrass Field- A Southern Tale

A short story poem about a civil war haunting from the book Hauntings In My Head – A Collection of Ghostly Southern Poetry by Angela L Burke.

The Ghost of Sweetgrass Field
A Southern Tale

Once there was a field of sweetgrass,
Where a lonely oak tree stood.
And underneath it’s branches
Stood a picket fence of wood.
The gate had long been missing.
It’s paint had chipped away.
Four, tiny headstones stood there,
Where, three babes and mama lay.

A little girl named Bonnie,
A little girl named Sue.
And a little babe named Emily,
She lived, nine months past age two.
The three little ones were sisters.
They died on the same day,
In the year of 1863,
The Seventeenth of May.

The Story was, their Papa
Had gone away to fight.
And their Mama, she had begged him
Not to go with all her might.
He kissed each one on the forehead,
He kissed Mama on the lips.
He said “‘ I’ll be back in no time….
It’ll be a real short trip.”‘

” I’ll be here beside you
Before you can blink an eye.
This war won’t last six months…I bet.
Be big girls and don’t cry”‘
But their Papa never came back
And they never heard a word.
Their Mama, she was left alone
To raise her three, small girls.

Times were tough in those days.
There were theives at every turn.
And what those Yankees didn’t steal,
They’d turn around and burn.
A trigger happy soldier
Shot Mama in the chest,
When they tried to burn her house down,
And she tried strongly to protest.

And her three little angels
Hiding underneath the bed,
Were trapped by blinding smoke
And met their tragic deaths.
Their tiny little bodies
Were placed in Sweetgrass Field,
By the same Yankee Soldier
Whom, their Mother, he had killed.

Claimed he hadn’t meant no killin,
Claimed he only meant to warn her.
But when he heard those children scream,
Guilt tore his heart asunder.
So he built a picket fence
In a square around their beds.
And he planted a little oak tree,
For some shade above their heads.

He was found in Sweetgrass Field
With a bullet to his head.
Rumor has it , he’s the one
Who walks among the dead.
They say he guards the graveyard
As penance for his sins.
In hope that maybe someday,
God will forgive and let him in.

You can see him in the moonlight,
Walking with his head hung low.
He cannot leave their graveside.
He has no where to go.
So until the Day of Judgement,
To his punishment he yields.
That’s how I recollect the story
Of The Ghost of Sweetgrass Field.

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The Shack

by Angela L Burke- MSSPI

The Shack

The plank board shack stands empty

Its roof now caving in

Its wooden bones start creaking

As they slow waltz with the wind

Vines of Kudzu climb the chimney

Stalks of wheat grass hide her steps

Torn sheets sway in the windows

No longer shielded by the glass

Its tin roof old and rusty

Its core a hollow shell

Eerily it moans and sings,

To the tinkling dinner bell

As a gust of wind sweeps past the porch

The chairs begin to rock

The crosses in the graveyard

Now intertwined with holly hock

The old front door is missing

Now lying flat upon the floor

It no longer is a refuge

From the dark fields, anymore

The cotton and the cornfields

Are now just fields of hay

Where dairy cows and longhorns

Graze in the grass all day

 No longer do the children play

Or linens dry upon the line

No longer do the roses bloom

Or bask beneath the warm sunshine

Just the whispers and the laughter

And a ghostly fiddle tune

Can be heard upon the breezes

On the nights of the full moon.

This poem is an excerpt from Angela’s book, Hauntings In My Head- A Collection of Ghostly Southern Poetry published 2009. Used with permission.

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The Haunting of Davidson Farm

The Haunting of Davidson Farm

by Angela L Burke

I fell in love the moment I saw it. The old Davidson farmhouse was a dream that I had always wished for. It was a two-story white framed house with black shutters and a large country porch that ran the entire length of the house. I had always wanted a porch like that, so that I could have a porch swing and maybe even a few rocking chairs for sipping lemonade on hot summer days. It was October of 1990 when we moved into the house. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my oldest son and was excited to get the nursery set up before his arrival. My daughter Becka was a little over 2 yrs old and my husband and I were excited to have purchased our first home. The house was in the country down a long dirt road. There were neighbors in sight but not so close as to be able to hear their conversations over supper, unlike the crowded apartments, we had moved from in the city.

The house sat on a five acre plot and the land backed up to the State’s National Forest Land. On the left side of the property there was an open field that was overgrown with blackberry vines and weeds. The house had 3 bedrooms and a full bath upstairs and downstairs was a full bath, living room, kitchen and dining area and an extra bedroom which we turned into a small playroom and den for my daughter, so that she could watch her cartoons and not be running up and down the stairs for toys. There was also a large basement and a garage.

My first impressions of the house was that it was lonely and in need of a womans touch. I was excited and spent the day unpacking the kitchen. The first day was uneventful, all I can really say about it is that I didn’t like the basement. It was very cold and creepy down there, even though half of it was finished and had a nice laundry area with plenty of room for a folding table and storage. There was also a work bench on the opposite side where my husband could keep his tools and have room for his deer hunting gear. It was also large enough for a weight bench. This in itself was a blessing to me just to get the barbells out from under the bed.

But I had the feeling right from the start that I was being watched everytime I went down to the basement. There was a window near the staircase that did not open. When you looked out this window you were at dirt level and there had been an extention added to the house, were an addition had been added to increase the size of the kitchen. It looked like an enclosed tomb when you looked inside it. I remember thinking, that would be a good place to put a body. I got the chills when the thought entered my mind and I shook it off and got out of the basement as soon as I could. The first curtains that I hung were to cover this window. I did not like the feeling I got when I would have to walk past it.

My son was born early, 3 days in fact, after we moved into the house. It was something I somewhat expected to happen. He was a big baby and I knew we would not make it the full 9 months. I really don’t remember much activity the first few months we lived there, other than the heavy uncomfortable feelings I had in the basement. Like someone was always standing right behind me breathing on my neck and when I would turn around no one would be there. And the well and sump pump and the furnace in the far corner of the basement made so much noise that winter, that I attributed most of the noises I heard to that. But when spring came, everything changed.

When the weather had warmed we started to do odd jobs around the house. The first thing I wanted to do was paint the shutters. They were faded and chipped and the black paint looked more like charcoal grey, so I painted them a nice shade of burgundy red. The house came alive almost instantly, just from painting the shutters. We painted the inside rooms and put some new carpet down. I also love flowers and as there was very little landscaping, I decided I would put in some flower beds around the house to cheer things up a bit. I had taken a walk one day thru the field next door and I noticed that there was a large field stone foundation that was barely visible thru the weeds and brush. It was crumbling in places so I decided that the field stones would be perfect for a border around my flower beds. I carted several wheelbarrow loads of field stone from the foundation over to the yard. I had enough to put flowerbeds all the way around the house. I was delighted at how it looked. I planted all sorts of different flowers and plants and the house was looking very sharp when I finally finished.

It was at this time that I began to notice a change in events happening around me. It started with the footsteps. It sounded like little children running down the hall of the upstairs. Then I would hear giggling and children’s voices whispering. Sometimes I would hear a child say ” Mama” and turn around and no one would be there. I would hear voices on the baby monitor upstairs when the children were with me and I’d go up to the room to see, but no one would be up there.

A week or so went by and then I noticed that things were being moved. One day I had been doing some baking in the kitchen, I had placed a large bread carving knife on the kitchen counter, I turned my back to stir something on the stove and when I turned back around the knife was not there. I looked around and saw that it had been moved into the sink. My children were very little and were not able to even reach the counter top. They had been down for a nap at the time, and I was the only other person there. Sometimes the rocking chair in the living room would be moving by itself. I always found some kind of excuse for what was happening. I also noticed that things were being moved around in my daughters bedroom.

She rarely played in her bedroom upstairs, most of her toys and her tv and cartoon movies were kept in the playroom downstairs. I would clean her room every morning and make her bed and then I would close the door to her room and we would all go downstairs to play. The staircase was gated so that she could not climb the stairs alone. But on numerous occasions, I would go up to her room to put away her laundry or get diapers from the nursery and her door would be open, when I would enter the room , everything would be pulled out of her dresser drawers, her toy box would be turned over and emptied and all the clothes would be pulled off the hangers in her closet. Her bed covers would be pulled off the bed. I knew that my daughter was not the one who had done it. She had been downstairs with me the entire time. I think I really didn’t know what to do or think, so I did nothing.

On one occasion I had brought the children upstairs for a nap and Becka’s room was tidy and everything in its place. I put her into her bed and she layed down with very sleepy eyes and I knew it wouldn’t take long for her to fall asleep, I walked out her door and pulled it to and entered the nursery to put my son down in the crib. I heard giggling and rustling noises coming from my daughter’s room. So I went back to the door to make sure she was still in her bed. When I opened up the door, she was sitting up in her bed with one hand covering her mouth and her other hand pointing towards the closet. The dresser drawers were pulled out and all the clothes had been flung into the floor, the toy box had been emptied and the clothes from the closet had been pulled off the hangers and a few of them were still swinging empty on the bar rack.

I said “Becka, what happened, why did you make this mess?”, She said “it wasn’t me mama, they did it”, I said ” who is they?”. She said, “those little girls made a mess”. I said “what little girls?”, She said “those little girls in my closet”. She did not understand why I couldn’t see them and I was trying hard not to let her see how much it had shaken me up. I knew that there was no way that Becka had the time to empty the toy box or the dresser drawers and that she wasnt even tall enough to reach the clothes on the hangers in the closet. I picked everything up and put all the clothes back on their hangers and trying to keep my cool, I said, ” Becka, tell those little girls that it isn’t nice to mess up your room like that” She smiled and she said ” they said sorry mama ” Then she laid her head down and fell asleep.

A week or so later on one particular day I had decided that the kids would nap down stairs, my daughter was sleeping on the couch in the living room and I was rocking my son in the rocking chair next to her and suddenly the TV came on by itself. I thought it was strange considering that there was no remote and not really sure how it could have happened. It was an older model tv and you had to get up to change the channels. I got up and switched off the TV and sat back down in the rocker. A few moments later the TV came on again, only this time to a static station and the volume had been turn up to the highest it would go. I got up again and this time I unplugged the tv, as I thought maybe there might be a short in it or something. I sat back down in the rocker and no sooner had I sat back in the chair, the TV came on again to a static station. I was really getting freaked out now. I put the baby in the playpen and walked over to the TV, half expecting some sort of skeleton face to appear on the screen. I looked behind the TV and the plug was laying on the floor. I reached over to hit the off button and as I did, a blue electric charge shot out of the button and shocked my hand. I quickly hit the switch with my fist and turned off the tv. Then out loud I said ” knock it off ok, the babies are trying to take a nap” It never happen again.

I’m not sure why I didn’t panic, I felt like there was something there that was just being mischievous, but I didn’t feel threatened by it , only confused and a little bit irritated. I tried to tell my husband when he came home from work, but he just looked at me and jokingly said ” what have you been smoking?” I don’t think he ever really took me seriously.

A few days later I was outside working in the flower bed, which had begun to bloom nicely, in fact it was one of the prettiest flower beds I had ever planted and I was surprised at how fast the plants had sprouted and grown. Anyway, The elderly couple from across the road, were out walking their dog. They stopped at the edge of the driveway and said ” hello and how nice the yard was looking” I walked down to the end of the drive and introduced myself. The couple told me that they had lived in the house across the road for over fifty years. I said ” well then maybe you can tell me what use to be in the field next door where the old foundation is?”

They looked at each other like they weren’t sure if they wanted to say, But then the wife said, “well back in the late 1930’s early 40’s, I ‘m not exactly sure what year it was, the farmhouse that you live in, was occupied by a couple and their 3 little girls. The father had made them a rope swing out in the barn , which is what use to sit on that foundation.” She said ,” an unexpected tornado came thru this area and hit the barn while the 3 girls were out there playing on the rope swing. All three of them were killed”. She went on to say that “after their death, their mother became severely depressed and she overdosed on sleeping pills. It was very tragic and sad.”

I said “what happened to the father?” She said , “after his wife died, he left and no one really knows where he went. The house sat empty for a long time. Then in the 1960’s another couple moved in” . She said “the father was an alcoholic and it was rumored that he would get drunk and beat up on his wife all the time. One day, I guess she got sick of it and she just disappeared, some say she ran off with another man and some say that he killed her and buried her somewhere on the property, but no one really knows for sure what happened to her. They had a 16 yr old son, and after the wife disappeared, the father would take out his drunken rages on his son. One night, the father had come home drunk and had knocked the poor boy around a bit, the son had enough of it and he shot his father in the back of the head while he was sitting at his workbench down in the basement, then the boy shot himself in the upstairs bedroom.”

Needless to say, I was not prepared for all of that information, but I said, “has anyone ever mentioned anything strange going on in the house since all of this happened?” They looked at each other and the man said , “You might as well tell her”

The wife said, “well, after that the house sat empty again until the last young couple bought it a few years ago. It had been in terrible condition and they did a lot of work to fix it up. But they only stayed 2 years and then they just up and moved. That’s when you came. You might hear some rumors about the house that it’s haunted, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it dear, it’s an old house and old houses make lots of noise, it’s probably just the floorboards settling” . I thanked them for telling me the story , I didn’t let on to them any of the activity that had been occurring, which I knew was more than just the floor boards creaking. I was also worried that they might think I was a nut if I told them all the things I had seen and heard. I certainly didn’t want to be the subject of town gossip. So I kept it to myself.

My younger sister age 15 and one of my younger brothers age 13 had come to spend their summer break with me that year. My sister told me that she never believed in ghosts until she spent that summer in my house. One day she and I had been sitting at the kitchen table, just talking and we had the kitchen windows open. It was a beautiful day and pleasant temperatures, so we were enjoying the fresh air. All of a sudden, we heard a clicking noise. We could not figure out where it was coming from. The kids were in the playroom curled up on the couch with my brother watching tv and you could not hear the clicking noise when you entered the room. We went back into the kitchen after looking all around the house to try to locate the source. When we sat back down at the table we heard it again. I looked out the window to see if it might be coming from outside. My car was parked in the driveway, just a few feet from the window. The manual locks on the doors of the car were going up and down by themselves. I said, No Way! and I jumped up and ran out into the driveway to be sure no one was in the car. The locks were still clicking as my sister and I stood there. Then they suddenly stopped. My sister of course was completely freaked out and I was pretty much trying to stay calm for her sake. But I have to say that it was very unnerving.

Later that year after they had returned back home for school, the activity continued. Mostly footsteps, giggles, laughing, voices whispering and things being moved around. One night, I had finished cleaning up the supper dishes and my husband and kids had been in bed for some time. I was getting ready to go upstairs to bed. The staircase to the upstairs was in the kitchen as was the doorway to the basement. As I began to climb the staircase , the basement door slowly opened and made a creepy creaking noise as it came ajar. I stopped and went back down and shut the door. I thought maybe it hadn’t been closed all the way. As I started back up the stairs, it opened again. I went back down, I checked the basement, and the outside doors to make sure they were closed and that no drafts were coming in, I shut the basement door and as I started up the steps it came open again only this time with more force. I stood there for a moment and then I went down and I said “ok, if you want it open we will leave it open”, I opened it all the way and started back up, as I hit the first step the door slammed shut and scared the hell out of me. I picked up a flip-flop shoe that was sitting near the step and I shoved it under the door to keep it closed. As I took a step back the flip-flop flew out from under the door and slid clear across the kitchen hitting the opposite wall and the door flew open, a gust of wind blew past me with so much force that it moved my hair and I heard laughing that sounded like a child. I ran up the stairs and jumped into bed. I shook my husband trying to wake him up to tell him , but he wouldn’t wake up. Needless to say, I did not sleep at all that night.

The next few months became harder to deal with. My husband had become distant and seemed to anger easily. We began to argue a lot over petty things and we grew further and further apart. He didn’t spend much time at home anymore and when he did, he always seemed to be in a bad mood. He spent most of his waking hours at home at the work bench or lifting weights in the basement.He began to drink heavily and our relationship became strained, to the point that he began to have violent outbursts. He became controlling and paranoid and I did not understand this change in his behavior. He began to go his way and I began to go mine. Eventually we both had short affairs out of anger and misunderstandings, which was a devastating blow to us both.

The emotional tension between us had reached a peak and at times was violent and I was seeing more and more activity in the house. On two occasions I saw a woman in a black dress standing behind me in the bathroom mirror. Her eyes were blackened as if she had been beaten and she had blood on her mouth. This scared me the most and was the only time I felt like I really was crazy, Then not long after this, my husband and I had argued and he had left very angry at me, and I was sitting on the couch crying. I was feeling very unhappy and that things were falling apart all around me, I had many regrets and guilty feelings, as well as hurt and anger for the violent arguments that were becoming more and more frequent. I had become depressed and anxious all the time, I was very tired and just felt like giving up on everything. I had my eyes closed and when I opened them, the same woman who I had seen in the mirror was standing over me, only this time she looked like she was made of fine smoke, and her face was soft and glowing and there was no blood, she touched my face with her hand and it felt like static from a warm sweater fresh from the dryer, She said, “everything will be ok, don’t cry, you have the children to think of”, she smiled and then she was gone.

I decided the next day to pack up the kids and take them home to my family in Tennessee for a while. I thought that maybe some time apart would help, that I needed to get out of the house and take a break from the crazy things happening all around me. I was beginning to feel like I was loosing my mind or having a nervous breakdown and I didn’t like it.. It didn’t change anything though, moving only made them worse and 18 months later after a long and bitter court fight, we divorced. I was broken-hearted to give up my house. When I moved there, I was happy and I thought it would be the perfect place to raise my children and grow old with my husband. But it didn’t turn out that way.

At the time I lived there I was young, in my early twenties. I was not involved in paranormal research at the time. I believed that ghosts where possible , because of the many experiences I’d had as a child and also unexplained things I had seen in my profession as a nurse. But, I knew nothing about ghosts, had no idea there was such a thing as paranormal investigators and had given little thought to the subject. I never expected them to be in my home or affecting me in such a way. I wish that I had known then, what I know now. Maybe I would have been able to prove these occurrences somehow or to help them in some way to move on. I think it is just one of the experiences I ‘ve had, that has led me to be involved in the study of the unexplained. I am grateful that I was not the only one to experience something in the house. My sister to this day will back me up on the claims we experienced. But I will always wonder if placing the field stones around the house had really been such a good idea. I think it may have awakened the spirits. Or maybe, bringing life into an old home, energizes the spirits that linger and they draw from us the emotions they felt when they were alive. The emotional part of this house was a mixture of happiness, laughter, innocence, loneliness, anger, paranoia, betrayal, guilt and pain all rolled into one house. I honestly wonder sometimes , if I allowed them to much freedom to stay in my home. I really wasn’t concerned about getting rid of them, I didn’t feel like they were a threat, I was more fascinated by the idea that they were there to begin with. I guess I felt like, they were there before me and so they had a right to be there. I’ve also thought that there were more than one spirit and that each affected us differently, my husband being the target of the negative energy in the home without even knowing it. Maybe the spirits played on his moods and his temper causing him to lose control. Maybe the children and the mother were drawn to me because I was a mother too. If my ex-husband did have an experience there, he never spoke of it or admitted it to me. In fact , he probably still thinks I’m crazy. But, I know what I experienced and the things that I felt in that house. Even if, I still to this day, cannot explain them.

 After I had moved away from the house, the activity did not stop. I believe that something followed me, but I will save that story for another post.

 

 

 

 

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Meeting Jonathan Peters

A Nurse’s Encounter With The Unexplained

A True Event, by Angela L Burke of the  Mississippi Society of Paranormal Investigators

It was a very busy morning at the Nursing Home. The smell of coffee and eggs mingled with the smells of the aged. I was beginning my first day as a new Charge Nurse at the facility and had arrived to meet with the Nurse Manager to begin the routine orientation procedures. I always hated this part of the new hiring process as it was usually filled with mandatory , amature made company videos of safety procedures and OSHA regulations that I had seen a hundred times.

When I arrived, the Nurse Manager informed me that she had been summoned to an urgent staff meeting and that instead of doing the routine orientation, that she was going to assign me temporarily to assist the nurse assistants and orderlies with basic morning care until she returned. Which I gladly welcomed, as I would much rather have been on the floor working directly with patients than to be stuck in a freezing, cold office watching re-runs of safety videos.

The facility was rather large encompassing 650 beds and was laid out like a grid, in a series of squares that were connected from every direction. If you were to lose your way, you would eventually find it. The Nurse Manager stopped at the first nurse’s station we came to and introduced me to the Charge Nurse and explained to her about the meeting and what she wanted my assignment to be until she returned in about an hour or so.

The Charge Nurse walked with me to the linen closet and told me where the supplies were kept and told me that I could just pick a room and a patient, and take my time as I was an extra hand for the moment. She told me how much she appreciated that I was there, that every little help would be appreciated by her nurse assistants. I filled my arms with linens and supplies and headed down toward the last room on the right. I never start in the middle , it’s too confusing to remember what room you were in, if you should need to return to it. I felt drawn to start there for some unknown reason.

I entered a large room with high ceilings and soft green walls. The windows were large and the morning sunshine streamed in casting a bright warmth all around me. I was surprised at this burst of warmth, as my usual experience with nursing is either, a cold sterile room or a dark and sad one. It was a nice change. There were 4 beds in the room, 2 on each side. Only one of them was occupied.

An elderly gentleman occupied the bed and he looked up at me and smiled. His hair was thick and neatly trimmed and was the color of Colorado snow. His eyes were the most brilliant shade of blue, they almost took my breath away and I felt slightly embarrassed that they held my attention for so long. I had to force myself to look away from them.

He spoke in a strong but gentle voice, “Oh, you’ve finally come, good morning ! ”

I said “good morning” and began to apologize for his wait, but he shush -ed me with his hand and said, “no need to apologize, I knew what time you were coming and your right on time”

I smiled and felt myself relax a bit. But, before I could speak, he said ” I am Jonathan Peters , and you are my Nurse Angel, I have been expecting you. ” I felt my face blush, as it always, embarrassed me when my patients called me Angel, I never really felt comfortable being called Angel, I always felt like I did not deserve the respect that comes with the word. But, it was nice to see that this was going to be a pleasant experience and I graciously accepted it as a compliment.

So many times I had been greeted with scowling faces and cold and sometimes insulting comments from the sick and the old. I tried never to take it personally or let it hurt my feelings, I learned early on that a nurse has to be strong in that respect, if a nurse let’s insults and complaints hurt her feelings she will never survive it. I tried to put myself in my patients position when I was being verbally assaulted. I can only imagine how it must feel to be old and in pain both physically and mentally and often times spiritually. Some had been debilitated by dementia causing diseases and had no idea who they were or where they were or what they were even saying. Some suffered in pain and depression, feeling abandoned and useless. Sitting for hours in their shared spaces day after day, having lost everything they had worked their whole lives to build , only to die sick and alone in a cold facility ward. And some where just plain bitter about everything. They blamed everyone but themselves for their illness and their problems, sometimes including God,,.They were never satisfied with their families or their nursing care. Always ready to throw an insult or a complaint at you, no matter how much you tried to please them or help them.

They were the ones who challenged me the most and taught me the most about controlling my emotions and I would go out of my way to make this type person my “compassion priority”. It was a personal challenge to me to be able to eventually break through their hard shells and get them to open up to me. Being able to do this was my favorite accomplishment as a nurse. I saw so many people get better, once they shed their anger and their bitterness.

But sometimes, they also taxed me mentally and physically. It is an exhausting challenge that takes a strong commitment, that I have to admit, makes you question whether you have chosen the right profession. I had been asking myself this very question for about a month, and had even considered giving up nursing completely . But at this moment, Mr Peter’s had made me feel like there might be hope.

I smiled and said ” my name is Angela and I am here helping with morning care, it’s my first day here and I am just helping out until the Nurse Manager is free to work with me on orientation. I thought maybe you might like to bath and get some clean linen.”    

He smiled and took my hand and said ” I’m glad you decided to come.”  It was a very odd way, that he said it. It almost seemed, like he knew me and I was supposed to be there, and he knew why, but I didn’t. I shrugged it off in my head and proceeded to get set up for his bath.

When I touched his skin, it was very cold, I almost don’t know how to describe it, it was like, touching frozen ice that has been charged with electricity. It surprised me at first, I asked him if the water was to cold or if he needed me to turn on some heat , but he just chuckled and insisted that he was fine.

We talked some idle, “get to know you”, conversation as I bathed him. He told me that he had been a traveling minster when he was young and had never married. He had no children of his own, but that, he did not regret his choices in life. I listened, happy to give him a chance to just talk.

When I had finished and helped him into the chair, I brought a new basin of warm water, and asked him if he would like to soak his feet, while I changed the linens. He looked pleasantly surprised at the offer and accepted.

I assisted him in putting his feet in the basin to soak. “Oh, that feels wonderful” he said with a smile. Having the time to give a foot soak and have your feet rubbed with lotion, was a luxury I intended to make time for, since I was in no particular hurry to move on. I was enjoying being able to spend some time with a patient one on one. Most of my regular duties as a Charge Nurse did not involve such personal time at the bedside. My days were usually hurried and chaotic trying to handle medication and wound orders, doctors rounds, and dealing with delegating care to the nurse assistance in my charge. Making sure that orders were carried out and documentation was complete. Often times for as many as sixty-five patients per shift, I often times felt over extended and overwhelmed with legalities and family concerns. I rarely had the time to spend one on one with a patient getting to know them personally verses medically. This was an opportunity to do that.

 When I had finished changing the bed linens, I gathered some clean towels and got down on my knees at Mr. Peters feet. He looked down at me and tears began to well up in his eyes, as I took his foot and wrapped it gently, in a towel. I asked him, if I had hurt him and he looked down at me, and said ” No, my dear, I am not in pain. It has just been, a long time since anyone has washed my feet. I am overcome with gratitude.”  I had not expected this reaction and was unsure how to respond. I said ” I’m happy to have the opportunity to do it, it is not something, that I normally get the chance to do for my patients. ”

He then began to tell me a story from the Bible about how (in John chapter 7 ) A sinful woman of low esteem had knelt before Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed his feet with her perfume. That the disciples had ridiculed her to Jesus, not understanding, why?  he would let her touch him with her unclean hands. But Jesus rebuked them and made a lesson of them, that she had shown humility, compassion, and kindness in doing so, which none of them had done or offered to do. And he had forgiven her, of her sin, because of her faith and her willingness to serve him.  Mr Peters then said ” did you know that Jesus washed his own disciples feet at the last supper? ”  

I guess I must have looked at him with a confused look, because then,  Mr Peters put his hand on my shoulder.  He surprised me when he said ” this day,  you have shown the same humility in your heart ,and your actions. This is why, you were chosen to be a nurse.  

And this is, you should always remember. We were put on this earth to help each other and to love each other. Every, small thing, that you do for someone else, whether it is a kind gesture or in making sure that they are cared for properly, is your responsibility regardless of your profession.  How you do it, and with what motive, is what matters to God. Not giving up, when you are needed, is the true test. We have to rely on God for our strength. He has a purpose for us all, it is up to you to complete the task. In spite of, what you may think, the little things that you do, are appreciated. Even if, the person you did them for, never acknowledges you for them.

There are many, who will never forget ,that one-act of kindness, that you show, and that one-act of kindness, could change that persons path, or way of looking at life. You are God’s servant and he is pleased with the job you are doing.”

I was taken back by his words and his sincerity, and I was not really sure, how to respond.

 I said ” Thank you Mr Peter’s that means allot to me.” But I didn’t know at the time what an impact his statements would have on me in the future.

I stood from my position at his feet and assisted him back into his bed. He was very unsteady when walking and unable to transfer alone. He held my hand very firmly and he looked me in the eye, and he said ” Angel, I am glad you came and I know that you won’t give up on what you have been placed here to do”

I squeezed his hand back and said ” No worries Mr Peters, I’m to stubborn to give up that easy ” We both chuckled and then I gathered up my linens and walked toward the door. I told him it had been a pleasure meeting him and he thanked me again for everything. We smiled at each other and then I headed out the door back up to the nurses station.

I saw the Charge Nurse sitting at the desk and I said , ” I finished with Mr Peters bath and he is ready for his medicine, whenever you are.”

 She looked up at me with a confused look on her face and she said who? I said Mr Peters in the last room on the right, I just finished his bath and he’s ready for his meds.”

She said “there is no Mr Peters on this hall, This is a woman’s ward and there is not supposed to be anyone in that room, those beds are unassigned.” I was shocked but I said “well, I just spent an hour in there with a man, who said his name was Jonathan Peters and he was definitely not a woman.

She rose from behind the desk and said “come with me, maybe he has wandered from another ward and gotten into the wrong bed by mistake” . We walked to the end of the hallway and when we entered the room, the blinds were drawn and the room was dark and dreary and all the beds were empty and made to perfection. There was no one there. No trace that anyone ever had been.

She said “are you sure, this is the room?”  I said “yes, I was just in here a moment ago, but the room as bright and the blinds were up and he was in this bed. I touched him and spoke with him and he was very real”

We searched every room on the hallway and he was not to be found. We went to the computer and looked at the facility roster and there was no one by the name of Jonathan Peters listed as a patient there. I really was in shock, but I also felt very foolish and not really sure what to say. The Charge Nurse just shook her head and said, ” I don’t know what to tell you, there is no one here by that name and I’ve never heard anyone report vagrants entering the building or anything like that. I don’t know how he would have gotten out of there so quick, he would have had to have come past us at the desk in order to leave the unit. Well, just get on with someone else, we have baths to finish up”

I continued out the day with other duties, but Mr Peters was in my mind through most of it. For the rest of my time at this facility I would look for him every chance I got, but I never saw him again. His words to me are forever, etched in my heart .

I can still see his face and his bright blue eyes, just like he was standing here now. I’m not sure who he was, where he came from, or where he went, but I am inclined to think, that maybe,  he was a Guardian Angel or a Spirit Messenger of some kind.

He had appeared in my life at a time when I was questioning myself and my purpose of being.  He encouraged me, to continue my profession, to not give up on the hardships I would face. And to remember, to keep myself humbled and compassionate.

Whomever he was, an angel, a ghost or a mystical messenger. My life was forever, touched by him and I will never forget his words to me. I am grateful, to have had the experience. Even if, I have no explanation, as to, how it happened. I take comfort in knowing why.

I have no doubt in my mind, that this was a paranormal experience meant for me personally . I will always be grateful to Jonathan Peters for the lessons he taught me and the impact he has had on my life.  Whom ever or what ever, he is, or was, I hope that someday, we will have the chance to meet again.

Copyright Angela L Burke 2009 Posted with permission by msspidarkpens.  

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