Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Appalachian Ghost Stories

I can remember a few of those that my great grandparents Stewart & Flora "Mae" Burress related to us when we were very young. Grandpa Burress used to sit in his chair outside and tell us stories. I was always facinated by his being able to hand roll a cigarette with one hand while he talked and shared with us so many things he knew.


The Haunted Rocking Chair

Grandpa Burress used to work for the city of Bluefield, West Virginia. He was a blacksmith by trade and made sure metal tools were kept sharp or made items they needed by welding etc.


He said one day he was delivering a couple of tools to some fellers working on some city street project and passed by a house where he noticed that someone had put out in the garbage a perfectly good rocking chair to be picked up. He delivered the tools and on the way back stopped and knocked on the door of the house to ask about the rocker in the trash. A man answered the door and grandpa said if they minded if he took the chair home with him. The man told him he could take "the infernal thing anywhere he wanted" and slammed the door. Grandpa thought the whole thing odd but it was a good chair.

So grandpa loaded the chair in the back of the truck and brought it home to grandma. It was fine old rocking chair. Grandma, he said, "was as pleased as punch with it". And she placed it next to a window in the sitting room of the small house where she could sit and look out while working on sewing or just to rest.
She sat down in it and it had a good comfortable seat and when you rocked it would creak ever so slightly as old rockers do. But Grandma said she noticed right off the bat that something was wrong with that chair. She said when you set in it you felt cold and it didn't matter if you moved it close to the coal stove or not. You could wrap yourself up in a blanket and you still felt cold.

Well problems started off the first night. They went to bed and in the middle of the night heard the old rocking chair creak like someone was rocking in it. Grand pa got up to investigate and as soon as he turned on a light the noise would stop. Several times they woke to the rocking sound and by morning he said he was plum wore out with that rocking chair.

The next morning when they looked and the rocker had been moved. Rockers that are old will sometimes "walk" when you rock them from the rockers being uneven and that is what that chair had done during the night with no one in it.

Grand ma said she was beside herself a bit with a little fear but it was a real good chair and they thought they had imagined it all. But every night for several days the same thing happened. Every night they heard the chair creak like someone rocking in it and every morning it had "walked" to a new place in front of the window.

Grand pa said that in the mountians if you had a haint or ghost haunting something you needed to put new on it to get it to stop. If it was made of wood, put new wood on it. If it was metal, put new metal on it.
He went out and cut a small piece of a hemlock tree limb, debarked it and shaved it down with his pocket knife. He went to nail it on the bottom of the chair seat and he said he had the worst time getting the nail to attach that piece of wood onto the chair. He said the wood was so hard it bent the nails. He finally attached it however it wasn't as tight as he wanted it to be.

That night they went to bed. In the middle of the night they heard a pop and the sound of that hemlock stick hitting the wall, and the rocker went to creaking again. They turned on the light, the rocking stopped and there was the piece of wood next to the wall all the way across the room.

Next day the old rocker was out in the trash, grandma said. Even if it was a fine old rocking chair.

Ghost Whispers
I used to stay several days during summer vacation with my Aunt Florence when I was younger. She died here a few years ago at the age of 94. She was one of many in my family that had such an influence on me. She taught me many things of the old ways like quilting and canning. One summer I was up in her garden on the hillside above her house helping her to pick bush beans in the early morning.

It was a little cool this early mountain morning but the day was going to be a hot July day. The ground was still a bit wet from a heavy dew and the beans were wet from that too. Uncle Freddie had mowed all around that garden and up the entire hill side. I stood up to take a break from bending over and looked up the hill. What I saw was a column of what looked like a fine white mist move across the top of the hillside. It was so odd and the way it was shaped and moved it reminded me of a person floating above the ground. I pointed up the hill to Aunt Florence and asked her what it was. She told me those are "ghost whispers".
According to Aunt Flossie, ghost whispers are spirits that can manifest themselves near water or the smoke of a fire. It's the only thing they can pull together so you can see them. I asked her if she knew which ghost it was haunting the hillside. She said no but there was an unmarked grave on the other side of the hill that her neighbors told her about and maybe it was that person. She told me, they won't harm you none. They just want to be seen. Since then, I haven't seen them often through the years but I have seen a few.
One at Wolf Creek Indian Village & Museum. It stayed long enough to get a picture of it.