Tag Archives: stories

The Boogah Man – Paul Laurence Dunbar

Recently , while researching ghost poetry I came across a poet and story-teller that I really like and felt like his style was right up my alley of spooky historical verse. His poems are simple and stirring and reflect the times in which he lived.  I could not decide on just one, so I am including 3 of my favorites so far, that I enjoyed reading. The first one, made me feel like a kid again, sitting by a warm fire on a dark night, listening to a good spooky bedtime story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Boogah Man

W’en de evenin’ shadders
Come a-glidin’ down,
Fallin’ black an’ heavy
Ovah hill an’ town,
Ef you listen keerful,
Keerful ez you kin,
So ‘s you boun’ to notice

Des a drappin’ pin;
Den you ‘ll hyeah a funny
Soun’ ercross de lan’;
Lay low; dat’s de callin’
Of de Boogah Man!

Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Hyeah him ez he go erlong de way;
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Don’ you wish de night ‘ud tu’n to day?
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Hide yo’ little peepers ‘hind yo’ han’;
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Callin’ of de Boogah Man.

W’en de win ‘s a-shiverin’

Thoo de gloomy lane,
An’ dey comes de patterin’
Of de evenin’ rain,
W’en de owl ‘s a-hootin’,
Out daih in de wood,
Don’ you wish, my honey,
Dat you had been good?
‘T ain’t no use to try to
Snuggle up to Dan;
Bless you, dat ‘s de callin’
Of de Boogah Man!
 
Ef you loves yo’ mammy,
An’ you min’s yo’ pap,
Ef you nevah wriggles
Outen Sukey’s lap;
Ef you says yo’ “Lay me”
Evah single night
 
‘Fo’ dey tucks de kivers
An’ puts out de light,
Den de rain kin pattah,
Win’ blow lak a fan,
But you need n’ bothah
‘Bout de Boogah Man!
 

The next poem on my list of favorites by this author,  is The Phantom Kiss. It is a dreamy little poem that made me smile and yet still left me with a little shiver.

The Phantom Kiss

One night in my room, still and beamless,
With will and with thought in eclipse,

I rested in sleep that was dreamless;
When softly there fell on my lips

A touch, as of lips that were pressing
Mine own with the message of bliss—
A sudden, soft, fleeting caressing,
A breath like a maiden’s first kiss.

I woke—and the scoffer may doubt me—
I peered in surprise through the gloom;
But nothing and none were about me,
And I was alone in my room.

Perhaps ‘t was the wind that caressed me
And touched me with dew-laden breath;
Or, maybe, close-sweeping, there passed me
The low-winging Angel of Death.

Some sceptic may choose to disdain it,
Or one feign to read it aright,
Or wisdom may seek to explain it—
This mystical kiss in the night.

But rather let fancy thus clear it:
That, thinking of me here alone,
The miles were made naught, and, in spirit,
Thy lips, love, were laid on mine own.

Lastly, I chose The Haunted Oak. This poem has a lot of historical significance. Being from Mississippi, I have often been attracted to old trees and have often wondered when I am near one that seems alive with a story, if it were possible that the events mentioned in this poem, had ever happened on it’s branches. If only the trees could speak their secrets.

The Haunted Oak

Pray why are you so bare, so bare,
Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;
And why, when I go through the shade you throw,
Runs a shudder over me?
My leaves were green as the best, I trow,
And sap ran free in my veins,
But I say in the moonlight dim and weird
A guiltless victim’s pains.
They’d charged him with the old, old crime,
And set him fast in jail:
Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,
And why does the night wind wail?

He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,
And he raised his hand to the sky;
But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,
And the steady tread drew nigh.
Who is it rides by night, by night,
Over the moonlit road?
And what is the spur that keeps the pace,
What is the galling goad?
And now they beat at the prison door,
“Ho, keeper, do not stay!
We are friends of him whom you hold within,
And we fain would take him away
“From those who ride fast on our heels
 
With mind to do him wrong;
They have no care for his innocence,
And the rope they bear is long.”
They have fooled the jailer with lying words,
They have fooled the man with lies;
The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,
And the great door open flies.
Now they have taken him from the jail,
And hard and fast they ride,
And the leader laughs low down in his throat,
As they halt my trunk beside.

Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,
And the doctor one of white,
And the minister, with his oldest son,
Was curiously bedight.
Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?

‘Tis but a little space,
And the time will come when these shall dread
The mem’ry of your face.
I feel the rope against my bark,
And the weight of him in my grain,
I feel in the throe of his final woe
The touch of my own last pain.
And never more shall leaves come forth
On the bough that bears the ban;
I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,
From the curse of a guiltless man.
And ever the judge rides by, rides by,
And goes to hunt the deer,
And ever another rides his soul
In the guise of a mortal fear.
And ever the man he rides me hard,
And never a night stays he;
For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,
On the trunk of a haunted tree.
 

“The Haunted Oak,” written and publsihed in 1900, could have been based on one of the 105 lynchings that occurred that year, but it was inspired in Washington, D.C., by a story that Dunbar heard an old black man relate concerning his nephew in Alabama who bad been hanged on an oak tree by a mob of whites after having been falsely accused of “a grave crime.” According to the story, shortly afterwards the leaves on the limb used for the lynching yellowed and fell off; and, unlike the rest of the normal tree, the offending bough shriveled and died. Townspeople began to call the tree “the haunted oak.” Dunbar, using the ballad form to enhance the superstition, personifies the tree and makes it the most sensitive and remorseful participant in the crime.”  from a review by James A. Emanuel

About The Author

Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national prominence as a poet. Born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio, he was the son of ex-slaves and classmate to Orville Wright of aviation fame.
Dunbar was prolific, writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs and essays as well as the poetry for which he became well known. He was popular with black and white readers of his day, and his works are celebrated today by scholars and school children alike.
His style encompasses two distinct voices — the standard English of the classical poet and the evocative dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America. He was gifted in poetry — the way that Mark Twain was in prose — in using dialect to convey character.

Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872, to Matilda and Joshua Dunbar, both natives of Kentucky. His mother was a former slave and his father had escaped from slavery and served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War. Matilda and Joshua had two children before separating in 1874. Matilda also had two children from a previous marriage. Dunbar married Alice Ruth Moore in 1898. A graduate of Straight University (now Dillard University) in New Orleans, her most famous works include a short story entitled “Violets”. She and her husband also wrote books of poetry as companion pieces. An account of their love, life and marriage was depicted in a play by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson titled Oak and Ivy.
Dunbar took a job at the Library of Congress in Washington. In 1900, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Colorado with his wife on the advice of his doctors. Dunbar and his wife separated in 1902, but they never divorced.
He wrote a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, five novels, and a play. He also wrote lyrics for In Dahomey – the first musical written and performed entirely by African-Americans to appear on Broadway in 1903
His essays and poems were published widely in the leading journals of the day. His work appeared in Harper’s Weekly, the Saturday Evening Post, the Denver Post, Current Literature and a number of other publications.
Depression and declining health drove him to a dependence on alcohol, which further damaged his health. He moved back to Dayton to be with his mother in 1904. Dunbar died from tuberculosis on February 9, 1906, at age thirty-three.

He was interred in the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. To read more about this poet and writings, please see the resource links below. See his Find A Grave Memorial Here:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=307

Research Links

More Poems : http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dunbar/additionalpoems.htm

http://www.dunbarsite.org/

http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/302

“The Crowded Years: Paul Laurence Dunbar in History” in A Singer in the Dawn: Reinterpretations of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ed. Jay Martin. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1975. Copyright © 1975 by Jay Martin.

Black Poets of the United States, from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Langston Hughes, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973. Copyright © 1973 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetryindex/the_boogah_man.html

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetryindex/the_phantom_kiss.html

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetryindex/

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/bookcover_gallery.html

University of Dayton –http://www.dunbarsite.org/

Modern American Poetry Web Site – English Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dunbar/dunbar.htm

Paul Laurence Dunbar House Ohio Historical Society
http://www.ohiohistory.org/places/dunbar/

Paul Laurence Dunbar PAL: Perspectives in American Literature A Research and Reference Guide – An Ongoing Project
http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap6/dunbar.html

Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection at the Dayton and Montgomery County Library
http://home.dayton.lib.oh.us/archives/dunbar/DTABCONTENTS.html

The Writings of Paul Laurence Dunbar Springfield Library
http://www.springfieldlibrary.org/dunbar/dunbar.html

Ohio Memory – Paul Laurence Dunbar Scrapbook
http://worlddmc.ohiolink.edu/OMP/YourScrapbook?scrapid=6698

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/gallery/dunbar_photos.html

compiled and posted by Angela L Burke – MSSPI

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Filed under Dark Poetry, ghosts, Paranormal Authors, Spirits, Unexplained Experiences

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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Traumatized..by Alexander S. Brown

Dark Fiction lovers and horror fans won’t want to miss this chance, to explore the world of the supernatural,  the occult, dark creatures, maniacs and eternal damnation,  in Alexander S .Brown’s book,  Traumatized. Published in 2008 by Xlibris.

Fans of the horror genre are in for a treat as Alexander S. Brown presents a fascinating and raw collection of  15 short stories and novellas that will surely bring chills down your spine.

I had the opportunity to meet the author, Alexander S. Brown, at the  February Fright Fest 2011, in Jackson Mississippi this month.  I also had the pleasure of exchanging books with Mr. Brown. He is a delightful person, with a sincere love for the horror genre. I found his book to be  quite an exciting surprise!  But, definately  not for the faint of heart, weak of mind, nor is it a book  for young readers.. 

Mr. Brown told some tales in his book, that not only made me shudder, but actually disturbed my core. This is the effect that a true horror story should leave the reader with.  If a horror story, doesn’t rake a nerve or two, then it isn’t worth reading, in my opinion. 

With that being said, Alexander S. Brown is a true, horror story-teller and excellent, dark fiction writer, he definately raked raw, a nerve or two of mine, with his chilling book of tales.  I had to keep reminding myself that it was just fiction. 

I encourage all horror and dark fiction fans, to get a copy for yourself  and read it…… but with fair warning…. you might be left, a bit Traumatized. 

I would like to thank Alexander Brown for his permission in using his photo and his cover art for this blog post, and for taking the time to speak with me about his book, for allowing me the opportunity to read it, and write a blog post about it for our Darkpens readers. But mostly, thanks, for giving me the creepy crawlies, I love that in a good book of horror stories.

You can read more about Traumatized  and the author, Alexander S. Brown, or check out an excerpt from the book, by visiting www.traumatizedsouls.com or by going to the publishers website at www.Xlibris.com

Book Review and Darkpens Post written by Angela L Burke- MSSPI Darkpens Blogger

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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 Shadow Watcher

The Shadow Watcher

Sequel to : The Davidson Farm

by Angela L Burke- MSSPI

 

I left Michigan in March of 1993. I was moving back home to be near my family with my two young children.

I was terribly sad to leave my home at the Davidson Farm which I have written about in a previous post. If you have not read that post, I would encourage you to do so as it might shed some light on where I’m coming from with this post.

The first few months back in Tennessee had been uneventful as far as unusual activity, and after about six months, my husband at the time, had decided to move to Tennessee and we were going to make one last attempt at working out our relationship. We moved into a three bedroom ranch on the North side of Memphis. My husband had brought what remained of our furniture and belongings that I’d had in storage in the basement of the previous Davidson Farmhouse.

For 3 or 4 months we attempted to repair the damage done to our relationship, but things changed little for the better and had in fact become much worse. The violent outburst and fighting all the time were more than I could deal with. And we separated again with some resistance on his part. In fact it would be a long and drawn out divorce proceeding.

About a week before I finally called it quits for good, I was home alone. In the front part of the house was a formal dining room that had frosted glass French doors and a frosted glass wall that separated it from the entry way and the kitchen. I was standing in the kitchen, trying to gather up my papers and packing up things I wanted to take with me. It was daytime and the light from the dining room was fairly bright coming thru the frosted glass. I thought I saw something move in the dining room and I looked up towards that direction. I was very startled to see the tall thin shadow of what looked like a man, standing there , facing me from the other side of the glass. It was very scary and for a brief few seconds it just stood there, frozen. Then without any warning it darted into the front wall and disappeared. I very cautiously walked toward the dining room and opened up the French doors, but there was no one there. I thought perhaps it had been a shadow from outside the house, so I walked outside and looked all around the house , but there was no one there either. Later that week I moved out into a nearby apartment.

It was a really nice place and at first I didn’t really notice anything strange, but after about a week, I started to hear footsteps in the hallway. And on a few occasions I would see a shadow go past the bedroom door, I would open it up and look out, but no one was there, I would go check on the kids and they would be asleep in their rooms. This was a bit unnerving, being as I was a single mother , living alone in a new apartment, but I just tried to brush it off as my imagination. On a few occasions over the next few months, I began to notice that every time I had company over, especially if they were male, that my ceiling fan in my bedroom and in my living room would make an awful noise and begin to shake and vibrate erratically. I called the maintenance man and he came out and looked at the fans but could find nothing wrong with them. After about the third time I had called him to come back out, he changed them and put up new fans, but the activity continued. It was sporadic and usually only happened when I had company over. Many of my friends would joke that I had a ghost and that it must not like my friends very much. We all laughed and joked about it, but in private I began to take it seriously. One night after my company had left and the activity had been rather strong that night, I made a comment out loud that I didn’t think it was very polite to rattle the fans like that every time I had company and I turned off the fan. Just about the time I was out of the room, The fan began to turn, faster and faster until I thought it might spin itself plum off the ceiling. I said, Hey, don’t get ugly with me and immediately the fan stopped rotating. I high tailed it to bed and was a little nervous after that every time I would walk under the fan or attempt to turn it on. After about six months, I began dating again and I met a man who I’ll call RM for his privacy, after a several months of dating, he asked me to move in with him. I was having trouble paying for my apartment and trying to raise two kids alone and he was very good with my kids and treated them like his own and so I agreed.

We moved into some old apartments in Millington, TN, very near the Naval base. He was in the Navy at the time and it was very convenient for him. His room-mate had been discharged from the service and had moved all his furniture out and so we used my furniture as a replacement. Immediately after moving in , we began to notice his ceiling fan making the same noises and vibrations that mine had made. He said that it had never happened in the year he had lived there, until I moved in. We also began to notice that the light in the hallway would come on and shut off by itself. It became almost a nightly occurrence. I would see the light come on under the bedroom door and I would get up to look and the kids would be sound asleep and no one would be there. One night it became so annoying that I took the bulb out of the socket and placed it on the dining room table. The next morning I got up to find that the bulb had been replaced and the light was on. I asked RM if he had replaced it and he said, no I’ve been in bed ever since you took it out. I knew that the kids hadn’t done it as they were only about 3 and 5 yr old and they could not have reached it even if they had pulled up a chair to stand on.

After this started I also began to notice things being moved. One night, I wasn’t feeling well and I went to bed without doing the dishes, I got up the next morning and they were all done and put away, I went to thank RM for doing them and he said, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I didn’t do any dishes. My kids of course didn’t do them, and so then it became somewhat of a joke for RM that I had fairy elves helping me with the dishes.

On another occasion I had left a pair of scissors on the dining room table where I had been doing some sewing, I got up to go use the restroom and when I came back the scissors were gone. I looked all around the house and finally found them in the kitchen drawer. There was no one home at the time but me and I had been using them all morning. I know for a fact that I did not put them away as I was still using them.

That same week I was in the kitchen getting ready to cook some spaghetti. I had turned on the stove burner to brown the meat. I had made a plate of fudge and had it in a glass serving dish which I had removed from the refrigerator and sat on top of the stove top. A few moments later I heard someone call me ” Mama, Mama” My kids were in the living room in my view and I thought it was them calling me. I went into the living room and said , what? , and they both turned from their tv show and said, what? we didn’t call you mom. I said are you sure that you didn’t just say Mama or maybe someone said it on TV? and they both said no, just about that same time I heard a large boom come out of the kitchen and heard the shattering of glass. It was so loud I ducked down on the floor on top of the kids, because I thought someone had shot a gun through the window. I went back into the kitchen to find that the plate of fudge had exploded all over the kitchen into tiny glass shards. Apparently I had turned on the wrong burner and the heat from the stove had caused the cold glass to shatter. There was chocolate and glass stuck in the ceiling tiles, blown clear across the kitchen into the sink, and all over the floor, where I had just been standing. if I had not walked into the living room in response to my name being called , it probably would have cut me to shreds or taken out an eye. I sort of felt like, whomever said my name was trying to get me to leave the kitchen, out of harms way and the only way to do that, was to make me think, that the kids needed me.

On another occasion , I had thought I heard someone moving around in the kitchen, I got up and went to look and there was no one there, I went to the kids room to check on them and they were sound asleep. As I was about to come back to bed, I heard a gunshot. It sounded as if it had come from the apartment above me. As I reached to get the phone, I noticed that there was a hole in my ceiling directly above my bed and little flecks of insulation were drifting down from the hole onto my bed. I thought OMG, I have children sleeping down here and what if this lunatic starts shooting thru the floor and hits one of my kids or me?

I called the police and reported the gunshot and they came out and went to the apartment upstairs.The apartment manager came out to see what was going on, when I told them about the gun shot and showed them the hole in the ceiling, they all just looked at each other oddly, the apartment manager informed me that the man who had lived there had moved out unexpectedly over a week ago and that the apartment was empty. The manager went on to say that he couldn’t keep a tenant in that apartment ever since a few years prior when a sailor who had lived there had committed suicide in the upstairs apartment by shooting himself in the head with a pistol. He also said that there had been numerous reports of gun shots coming from that apartment when no one was living in it. I said well, I’ve been hearing someone walking around in there all week but I thought the guy still lived there, I asked him if he could explain the hole in my ceiling and he said that he had repaired the ceiling on 3 previous occasions for the same reason, but no one ever found a bullet. The police checked all the doors and searched the entire apartment and the attic space above it and found no signs of entry or that anyone had been there. It had never been explained, where it came the shots came from or how the hole kept appearing. He said, just between you and me, I think the damn place is haunted.

About a week or so later, RM and I were sleeping on a Saturday Morning, the sun was already up and the room was lit with early morning sunshine, the kids had gone to their dad’s house for the weekend and so it was just the two of us. Have you ever had that feeling like someone is standing over you, staring at you while your sleeping? Well, that’s what I felt. But when I opened my eyes, no one was there, , I saw movement like a shadow walking at the foot of the bed. I turned over to see who it was, as I thought maybe RM had gotten up and was moving around, but I realized he was lying next to me. As I looked towards the door I saw a tall dark grey shadowy figure with a bony hand sticking out of a sleeve and it was pulling the door shut. This really freak-ed me out and I thought maybe I was dreaming with my eyes open or something, so I rolled back over, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I didn’t say anything to RM at the time, I thought he was still sleeping. When I did decide to get up, I was scared to death to open up the door, afraid that some tall, bony, shadow man would be standing on the other side of it, but there was no one there.

Later that morning RM got up and came to the table for breakfast. Out of the blue he said” The strangest thing happened this morning and I want to tell you, but I don’t want to freak you out. ” I said “what is it?” He said “this morning, I thought I saw someone walking around in our room.” He said ” I saw a bony hand on the door knob, pull the door to but I couldn’t see a face.” He was serious and a little shaken by it. I said, “I saw the same thing, but I thought I was dreaming it.”

He said “are you serious?” I said, “yes, I’m serious, I really did think that I was dreaming it”. He then proceeded to sketch a picture of it and it matched exactly what I saw to a tee. We both just kind of looked at each other with a ” so what do we do now?” kind of look. We finished our breakfast in silence. Then he said, “well I guess if it wanted to hurt us it would have done it by now.” Trying to be the positive one I said, ” “Maybe it’s just trying to look out for us, I mean look at all the times weird stuff has happened just before some event that we could have gotten hurt, like the fudge incident”. . We had no explanation for what we had seen or the things that had been going on since I moved in. He said, “I think you have a ghost or something following you, because nothing like this ever happened here before you moved in”. I felt kind of bad and wasn’t sure if I should take that as just a comment or an accusation. Most of the time, we just didn’t discuss it and would try to ignore the goings on. But it was a little unnerving when RM would leave for duty for a few weeks and I would be there alone. But, I never felt alone, even when I was.

A few months later RM was honorably discharged from his tour in the Navy and we were going to move to Houston. I was going to go and stay with my Dad for a few weeks while RM secured a job and a place for us to live and then he was going to send for me and the kids. He helped me move all our belongings to my Dads and we were going to store our belongings in my dad’s barn until he found us a place. As soon as we opened up the door to the back of the moving trailer, a very thick, sweet-smelling, warm breeze shot out of the back of the trailer the minute we opened the door, it was like standing in front of the heater vent when it first kicks on. It swirled around my head with enough force to move my hair and then it was gone, smell and all. RM and I both looked at each other at the same time, He said,” did you feel that?”, I said “yeah, I did ” and we just looked at each other and smiled but we didn’t say anything to anyone else. We both knew what we were feeling.

I never felt or heard or saw anything else after that. It was almost as if, whatever was there, knew I was safe with my Dad and I didn’t need protecting anymore. I knew when it was gone. The air and the atmosphere around me was different and it wasn’t just me who felt it, RM felt it to. I have never been able to explain any of these incidents, which is yet, another reason, why I study the paranormal. I don’t believe that it was there to harm me, I always felt more like it was just looking out for me and I missed it when it was no longer there. I have always personally believed that one of the spirits from the Davidson Farm, had attached itself to me and followed me until they knew that I was safe. Then again, maybe it was a guardian angel of some kind or the spirit of the sailor who had killed himself,  wandering about, I don’t really know. What I do know is that it was a crazy , hair-raising experience that I don’t regret having, I just wish I knew who or what it was.

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The Ghost of Clara Barton

A creepy experience at a nursing home, where black shadows bring death.

by Angela L Burke- MSSPI

In the early 1990’s I worked as a Charge Nurse at a Nursing Home in Michigan which was named after the famous nurse, Clara Barton. I was working the 11 pm to 7 am shift and it was usually pretty quiet..

Around 3 am on this particular Friday night, I was getting ready to lock up some medication that had been brought in by the pharmacy. The medication cart was parked just outside the nurses station, in front of a long hallway, which was my unit. It was a large unit with approximately 65 beds. I was the only nurse on duty for my unit but, I had several Nurse Assistants working with me that night.

The lights in the hallway were dimmed each night to help facilitate sleep but, there were generator type lights on in the corridor and it was lit enough that you could see anyone who was walking in the hallway.

As I was locking up my medication cart, I happened to look up and at the end of the hallway, I saw a black figure, which was like the outline of a woman in what looked like a long black dress. It darted across the hallway from one doorway to the other. It was so creepy looking that I got chills up my spine. I knew that the room on the left was empty..we used it to store wheelchairs and shower chairs in.

I walked to the end of the hallway and as I got near the end, one of the nurse assistants came out of a room to drop some dirty linen in the laundry barrel and I asked her if she had seen anyone down this end of the hall..she said no and I asked her if she would walk with me to the end and see if anyone had entered the last room on the left as I had thought I had seen a woman go into the room..

She said “ok” and we went to the last room on the left..the door was closed and I pushed it open and reached inside to flip on the light..As I did the room was freezing cold..so cold in fact that we could both see our breath.. I checked the windows ..they were closed and locked..I checked the bathroom there was no one there..I checked the thermostat on the wall and it said that it was 72 degrees in the room ..but there was no way it was that warm…we could find no explanation for what I had seen or why it was so cold…we searched the unit for wandering patients or anyone who wasn’t supposed to be there and there was no one who wasn’t where they were suppose to be.

I went to the other side of the hallway and asked the two gentlemen in the room if they had seen anyone and they both said no..I of course didn’t tell them why I was asking, for fear of freaking them out .

The next morning, I called maitenance to come check out the thermostat and I reported what had happened with the temperature.

The maintenance man walked with me down to the room and when we entered the room, the thermostat was set on 70 degrees but, it was about 90 degrees in the room, so hot that he started to sweat almost immediately. He couldn’t find any reason for the thermostat to register wrong but, he changed it out anyway.

I went home and had the weekend off . When I returned to work on Monday I found out that one of the men in the last room that I had spoken with the previous Friday night, had passed away on Saturday evening. His roommate told me that he was sleeping and all of a sudden, he got extremely cold and thought he could see his breathe..He said he thought he saw someone standing at the foot of his roommates bed and he called out to them and no one answered…so he put his call light on and when the nurse came into the room she had found that his roommate was deceased. No one had come into or out of the room, as the nurse had been only about 10 feet away from the door when he had rang for her. It creeped him out so bad, that he asked for a room transfer and I obliged him, as I knew the anxiety of what he was feeling.

There was never a real explanation, but I did speak to my nurse manager about it several days later and she told me that there had been many reports over the years from the staff of a figure in black lingering in the hallways at night, usually followed by a death in the facility. It was rumored, for lack of a better explanation, that the figure was the ghost of Clara Barton who had came to help those who’s time it was, to pass over,

She said “no one tells the new nurses when they come to work here, because if we did, we would never get anyone to work the graveyard shift.”

 

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Filed under ghosts, Short Stories, Spirits, Unexplained Experiences

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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