When my father was a teen, he worked at a small movie house in Honaker, the very small town about three miles from his home. He worked as a projectionist. Since he had no car, he relied on his trusty bike, or more often, the soles of his feet for transportation to and from work.
On this particular evening, he had walked to work, and had a dark and lonely hike to look forward to after the evening's show. Now, our locality is quite rural, and was even more so in the early 40's. A small one lane road led from town, curving through the countryside, through farmland, and beside, for a stretch, nearby Clinch river, before passing our home. (I say “our”, since the house we reside in has been in the family since the early 30's.)
It was quite late when my father left the movie house to make his way home. The air was crisp and clear, with a moon that shone brightly enough to distinguish the hands on a watch face–it even cast shadows through some of the trees that sporadically lined the roadway. About halfway through his journey, my father had to pass by a small family cemetery that lay beside the road. It was surrounded by a tall wire fence, and an old wooden wagon gate, latched in the time honored country way, with a short length of chain nailed to a post, and attached to an old horseshoe which was fastened over one of the boards that constructed the gate itself. (If you are familiar with this type gate, you will be aware of the very distinctive rattle the chain and shoe make as they are latched or unlatched.) My father had traveled this road many times on foot, at night, before, and gave no thought to anything spooky in regard to passing the graveyard.
After traveling a few (10 or 20) feet beyond the graveyard gate, he heard the distinct sound of the gate being unlatched, opened, then closed, and relatched. Stopping, and thinking that it must be a friend of his, which he had often met on his nighttime jaunts, he waited for Ed to approach. The footsteps entered the paved roadway, and approached where he stood waiting . However, much to my father's dismay, no one could be seen!!! Though the footsteps continued, walking slowly and steadily, no visible cause could be found. Startled, and most probably a bit frightened (though it was rare for that emotion to be admitted to), he turned and continued his journey, at a slightly more rapid pace. The footsteps followed, keeping pace with his tread. When he sped his pace, the footsteps followed suit. Really afraid now, but trying to maintain his composure, for he feared that if he gave in to his panic and began to run, he might quite easily run himself to death before reaching safety, he sped his pace to a near run, and by doing so, was able to gain some space between himself and the pursuing footsteps.
Just ahead of where he was located, the road curved steeply, and was bordered by a rock wall on one side, about four or five feet tall, and overhung by some trees that grew beside the wall on the outside of the curve. Having put some small distance between himself and whatever was pursuing, he jumped atop the wall, and lay hidden in the darkness of the over sweeping branches, and waited with trepidation. The footsteps steadily approached his hiding spot, and stopped directly beside where he lay, as if awaiting his next move.
That was it! Such determination on the behalf of some unknown entity was more than any adult should be required to endure, much less a half grown boy. Panic took control, and, jumping down from his hiding spot, he began to run madly homeward, never taking time to stop and listen for the continued following footsteps. About a half mile further on, the road passed close by the riverbank. And miracle of miracles, he spotted as he rapidly approached, his father's car parked beside the road. His father and younger brother were busily setting trout lines in the nearby riverbed. He raced to the car, opened the driver side door, and made a dive inside, slamming the door behind him. As he sat there, huddled in the darkness, he heard, through the open passenger window, the distinct sound of approaching footsteps along the roadway, following the path he had taken in his flight.
As the footsteps neared the front of the car, he turned on the headlamps, hoping for a clear view of his pursuer. Unfortunately, though the footsteps continued, no one– but no one– appeared in the glare. He sat frozen as the steps passed through the headlamp glow, approached the side of the car, and then, without hesitation, passed on by, and continued down the road. His father and brother found him sitting there when they returned to the car some few minutes later, having completed their chore.
His father asked what was wrong, remarking on his pallor and rapid breathing, but my father remained stubbornly silent. No explanation was forthcoming, at least not for several years, when other stories of the ghost began to emerge, from other residents of the community. Only then did my father confess. This ghost has been heard by many area residents, my brothers included. No one has ever discovered the identity of the ghost, and it gained legendary status, after a while. It has not been heard for several years, but the area has grown both more populated and noisy, and the roadway on which it walked so frequently, though still there, is much less traveled, due to a larger, more easily accessed roadway through the community.
© Paulette Boyd
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