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Child Scarer

December 2000

My father's family come from a tiny farming and oil community in West Texas. My father spent most of his summers as a child in this community with grandparents, aunts and uncles, who all gave him a lot of attention, played with him, cooked special things for him etc. The best times in his life were hunting and fishing with one of his many uncles (his mother came from a family of 9). Naturally, when he had children he wanted to share the happy place of his childhood with us. Fortunately, my sisters and I also enjoyed visiting in the same homes with the same, albeit a lot older, folks who were as kind to us as they had been to my dad. This little community really did seem to be a place where time stood still, and things were done the way they had been 30 years before very different than the modern city where we lived.

The day after school was out in 1968, I was 14, and excited about going to this town for the first few days of summer vacation. We were welcomed by my Great Aunt and Great Uncle in their tiny little home. I had stayed there many times in the past and enjoyed being with them, always having a good time. My father and uncle insisted on going to bed early, since we would be getting up at 5:00 AM to go fishing, still one of my favourite things to do. I was to sleep in the livingroom on a sleeper chair (sort of like a sleeper sofa, but actually a chair with a twin foldout).

I laid down and began to read The Five Little Peppers, a real goody-two shoes kind of book and not at all scary, when my dad yelled from the next room to turn off the light and go to sleep so we could get up early. I told him I wasn't sleepy, he said "too bad, go to sleep anyway". I turned off the light, and immediately saw across the room something stand up from behind a chair in the corner. I did not have time to feel afraid, just confused as to what I was seeing and thought it must have been a trick of the moonlight coming through the venetian blinds. Perhaps unwisely, I blinked hard to clear my vision, when I opened them, whatever it was stood 2 feet in front of me. True to form for any good ghost, it floated about 8 inches off the floor. I could make out the shape of what appeared to be a slightly built man, wearing a fedora type hat and a long overcoat. The hem of the coat was ragged and something seemed to be dropping off the hem. I was absolutely terrified the longer I stared, the more I felt it staring back at me. It began to dawn on me that whatever it was fully intended to frighten me and it was doing a fine job of it too. I tried to call for my dad, but couldn't get the voice to do so for some time. It continued to hover, not moving any closer, until, I finally shut my eyes and was able to call for my dad.

Now, my dad could be scarier than any ghost when aggravated, but he has never been the type to ignore a frightened child, even a 14 year old one. I have never felt more relief that when he came into the room and turned on the light. On the other hand, I knew he would laugh at me if I told him what I had seen, but he saw how frightened I was and changed rooms with me. Nothing more happened again in that house and I thought that was the end of it. Until.......

About two years later, my sisters were home visiting, and my mother, sisters and I were all chatting one afternoon. I don't remember how the subject of ghosts came up. This was not a common subject in our home, and both of my parents were scoffers of "true" ghost stories. I finally told my story and sure enough, my mother laughed and said it was my imagination. I had not forgotten the intensity of the fear that I had experienced and felt angry at her reaction, so I left the room. I went into my bathroom to fume and to be alone, but the door opened and in came my middle sister, shutting the door behind her. She asked me if I swore what I had seen was true, which I angrily assured her it was. She then told me that she had seen the same thing when she was visiting when she was 5 or 6 years old. The same phantom had appeared immediately upon lights out, as if it couldn't wait to scare a little girl. She was lying on a pallet on the floor with my older sister, who had immediately gone to sleep. The "thing" leaned over her, staring at here for hours. She was unable to move and felt paralysing fear as it seemed to want her to. She was afraid to take her eyes off of it and stared back unable to do anything else. She thinks she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion several hours later.

Finally, after a few more years, we found out that our Great Grandmother had lived in the house for the last few years of her life. As the story goes, she claimed that the house was haunted and that the ghost came to her every night. No one believed her, thinking she was just a senile old lady. The house wasn't very old when she moved into it in the 1940's. The only thing we have ever found out is that it was a rental property previous to her living there. It was owned by the husband of a distant cousin of ours. It seems that this man was a banker who hated children and was reputed to enjoy foreclosures during the Depression years. I really don't know who the "thing" was supposed to have been, but I do know it was not a pleasant experience for either of us.

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