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A Most Unappreciative Tenant

Valerie Chapman , Kentucky, USA
May 2001

I am from rural Eastern Kentucky in Appalachia. This area is notoriously a very superstitious area of the country, so I was raised believing that ghosts and hauntings were relatively commonplace. Therefore, upon hearing such stories, I usually gave little thought. That is, until I had an encounter of my own. I promise that the following story is entirely true and accurate, as I will never forget it.

My husband and I were married in February 1993. Shortly thereafter we learned we were going to have a baby. The timing was not exactly perfect, so we decided we should move in with my grandparents, to allow ourselves to save money in preparation for our new child. My grandparents are very religious, belonging to the Old Regular Baptist Church for many hears. My grandfather is an ordained minister in this church. They live in a rather large home, with an equally large basement which they offered to turn into an apartment for my husband and myself. We accepted their offer and moved in quickly.

My grandparents also have several older homes which they rent. One house, back in a hollow behind the main house, was empty at this time. This was the house I had lived in with my parents as a small child.

One day over supper, my grandmother tells me that the local homeless shelter had phoned my grandfather. They had a problem. There was a woman, with two small children that had no home, no family. Would he please out of the kindness of his heart, let them live in his vacant home until they got on their feet? Of course, he would receive no rent. Being a good and decent man, he could not refuse. They moved in shortly thereafter.

Everything was alright to start, but soon a month turned to two, then three and this woman made no effort to find work, to pay any rent, and so my grandfather approached her about her intentions. He was in a dilemma as he needed the money from the rental property, but did not want to throw this woman and children to the streets.

My grandmothers younger sister Elizabeth, had recently lost her much older husband. They had two small children. As is not uncommon for this area, he was buried on a little hill directly behind their house. She came to the house one day to pick up my grandmother for a shopping trip. As they were preparing to leave, the lady that was staying in the rental house, came down the hollow. She had a brown paper bag which she gave to my grandmother. In it were two enormous turnips. My mamaw said they were the largest turnips she had ever seen. There was no way we could eat all of it, so she gave one to my Aunt Liz to have with supper that night. My aunt put one of the turnips in her van to take home.

On the way back from shopping, her van broke down. She had to have it towed to the shop and my father took her and the children home. That night she cooked the turnip with dinner, they ate, and the two children went upstairs to bed. My aunts bedroom was downstairs. Along about 2 or 3 in the morning, she was woken by both kids. They were hysterical, saying something had woken them, and looking out their bedroom window, they had seen their father coming across the backyard. "Mommy, we're scared. Daddy will be at the kitchen door by now." She looked all around the house, considering a trespasser, but saw no one. Finally she got the children to sleep, in her bed. They never again slept upstairs in that house.

Grandmother saved her turnip to cook the following day. It was so big, it filled the pot. Everyone had some. My grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, husband, my aunt and uncle, and myself. I must add that I have never eaten cooked turnip before, as the smell is sickening to me. I thought little of it, though, chalking it up to cravings as I was about 8 weeks pregnant by this time. After supper, my husband and I went to visit his aunt and uncle who lived about an hour away. This was usual for us and we were always late getting home, when we visited them.

This night, about one in the morning, we crossed the mountain right before you come to our hollow and passed my grandfather's car speeding up the mountain. It worried me a little, thinking that something was wrong. He was going so fast. I went upstairs when I got home and my grandmother said to not worry, things were fine. He was just going to look at something. I found out later, that he had received a phone call from the tenants ex in-laws. They had warned him that she was custom to practicing witchcraft, and there was rumour that she could be dangerous. As I have said, they are a superstitious lot, so this information must have concerned my grandparents enough to investigate. I also later learned that he was speeding to the top of the hill to look over on the rental house with binoculars. A neighbour had phoned to say that there was something strange going on in the house. Although he never told me himself what he saw, my grandmother says that he saw the lady in the window, the curtains were blowing all around her and there was a candle burning. She had her hands folded in some sort of prayer.

But as I have said, I found out all of this later, as my family did not want to worry me, being superstitious about pregnant women, and "marking babies".

My husband and I went downstairs to bed. It was about 2 a.m. at this time. All of our apartment was carpeted, save for the hallway, which was concrete. Remember, this is a basement apartment. At the end of the hall was our bedroom, and from the bedroom you had to cross in front of the hall to our bathroom. We went to bed and slept for some time. I have no way of knowing how long. I awoke to my husband shouting for me to get up, quickly, there is a snake in the bed. He was very frightened and I jumped up. I tried to convince him he was dreaming, but he wouldn't hear of it. He searched the entire bed, and of course, found nothing. He conceded that he must've had a bad dream. We then both went across the hall to bathroom, and came back to bed. We lay there for some time, not able to go back to sleep. That's when we heard something that words cannot adequately describe. It started off, quite obviously at the other end of our hall, in the living room. It was a snarling, snorting sound. It was loud and absolutely horrific. At first I could not believe my ears. I heard it get louder, like it was become more and more agitated. Then it started to walk. Clop, clop, clop down the concrete hall, snarling and snorting louder and louder. Then it became faster, almost a gallop, like horses hooves on the floor. It then skidded to a stop at our bedroom doorway. You could still hear it breathing, louder and harder. And it was right there! I dared not look, but I knew if I reached over my husband I could've touched it. That's how loud it was. The bedroom became warm, probably with its hot breath. My husband and I were absolutely motionless. He was holding my hand so tightly, when I had the sense about me to look, the sides were bruised. I could not breath, I was motionless and knew my heart would stop with terror. Neither of us spoke. The sound started to quiet down, not move away, but quieten, until there was nothing. We lay in the bed, still as death until daylight, then got up and left, going to my mothers.

We woke her, and told her of the "thing" in our apartment. She tried to play it off at first, like it was nothing, but we insisted it was true. That's when she told us of the phone call from the tenants in-laws, of my grandfather looking at her house with binoculars after the call from the neighbour, of my aunt's children seeing their dead father walking through the yard. She also told me that that night, my grandmother had called her around 4 a.m. that she could not sleep and was sitting in her den, with a fire burning and that she had seen the shadow of the fire on the wall change into horrible shapes. Shapes of horns and faces and other things, she could not describe.

I feel that this woman, wanted to make my family fearful of evicting her. I believe that the turnips were her vehicle, that she used them to frighten us, either out of revenge, or hope that we would leave her alone, and not push her to pay rent or leave. That's the only sense I can make out of these events. My husband says that he saw the shadow of the thing on the wall that night. He believes it was meant to symbolize the devil, but I feel that if I would've had the courage to actually look, there would've been nothing there. This was just an illusion, you see, not real of course. And the only purpose of it was to frighten us. Believe me, it worked. But it didn't work for my grandfather, because later that same day, while the tenant was gone, he and my father, moved her things out of the house, and changed the locks. Grandpa, then had no regrets in doing so, and we never saw her again.

Thank you for your consideration of these events.

Valerie Chapman , Kentucky, USA
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