My great-grandfather had a brother-in-law of questionable character, known in the family by the name “Bunk”. By the term questionable character I am referring to the stories told of his travels, and the rumors of his being a member of some notorious outlaw gang–I can't really remember which one, but it was a famous group, like the James Gang or such. Anyway, Bunk would often disappear for long periods of time, with no word to anyone at home, only to just as quickly reappear, acting mysterious and paranoid, as though he feared being chased by unknown persuants.
One one such occasion, Bunk arrived at the family cabin unannounced and unexpected late one night, rushing in frantically, and carrying an old rug covered bag, known as a valise( sp?). Hurriedly, Bunk gathered a few changes of clothes, some food and other supplies. He then proceeded to tie the old valise to the rafter in the loft portion of the cabin, admonishing everyone not to touch it, regardless. He gave no explanation of his actions, but the look in his eye, and the somehow fearful, desperate expression on his face convinced the family to obey his instructions. Then, gathering his belongings, he disappeared once again into the night.
Much time passed, and no word was heard from Bunk. The valise bore heavily on the family's minds. They were itching to look into the bag, but the promise they had made to Bunk kept them from giving in to the almost uncontrollable urge to check the bag out. But finally, after over a year had passed, and still no word from Bunk, the family, believing he had died, decided to cut down the valise and look inside, hoping to find a clue to both his whereabouts and his strange actions of the night so long ago. His brother, taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, climbed on a stool and reached for the valise, knife in hand, to cut the rope that held it by its grips to the rafter. But before he could even touch the bag, it began to spin rapidly around and around on its mooring. This, as could be guessed, shook up his brother and the other family members, and dissuaded them from fooling with the valise. But curiosity gets the best of all of us , and( urged on by the thought of moneys Bunk might have gained during his time with the outlaw gang, no doubt) they decided after a time to try again. Again the bag began to spin madly around, only stopping when the person retreated. After several attempts, the family decided to leave well enough alone. Whatever was in the valise, whatever mysteries it held, could just stay mysteries.
The valise hung suspended from the loft rafter for over two years. After that time, Bunk surprised the entire family by reappearing. He gave no explanation of his time away, and was not questioned too closely. A few days later, Bunk, his newly recovered valise in hand, left once more, this time, never to return. Both his fate, and the contents of the valise, remain a mystery to this day. There has been a lot of supposition as to the contents of that mysterious bag, throughout the years. Some believe it full of money, others, the answer to Bunk's strange travels and life. But, somehow, given the nature of the bag, I think it best that we never know. I mean, if it's contents could guard itself by making the bag spin, what could they have done if the bag had been opened?
When my grandfather was a child, his family lived in a small house located up a very long hollow. It was a lonely place, surrounded by woods, and with only a rugged dirt road leading to it, fit only for a wagon and team of horses. Nearby, on a cleared hillside, was located what was reputed to be an old slave graveyard, with only humble rocks marking the gravesites. ( I have seen the graveyard myself, and it does look to be so–the jagged rocks too evenly placed to be a natural phenomena.)
A trip from the homestead to town to trade, etc., could take the family several hours, and usually meant arriving back home after dark. Since my grandfather was the oldest child, and the only boy, he had several chores to perform around the farm each day. One day, his mother and step-father left in the wagon to make the long trip into town to trade, leaving my grandfather and two of his younger sisters at the homestead to attend to the morning and evening chores.
Dutifully they performed them (amid much playing), and when evening fell, retreated to the house to await the arrival of their parents. It grew later, and they began to become a bit anxious for their arrival. As they sat in the front room waiting, they suddenly became aware of the sound of a wagon, traveling at top speed, being pulled by racing horses, approaching the homestead. They heard the cry of the driver, urging the horses on, the rattle and bump of the wagon banging along on the rough road, and the pounding of the horses hooves. As they listened, the sound grew louder and faster. They rushed to the front window, but saw nothing. The sound continued, closer and closer, and finally, swung into the yard, where it stopped. No one was there. They all ran outside, but found nothing and no one.
Shaken, they retreated inside, and huddled by the fire, where their parents found them when they arrived home some time later. No logical explanation was ever found, but I can still remember the way my grandfather looked as he told me the story–kind of embarrassed, kind of still scared, even after all those years. ***
© Paulette Boyd
Back to Appalachian Ghost Stories