The Whistling Tea Kettle
-- From the New York Times Reprinted in a textbook, Basic Writing
By Harold Y. Moffett and Willoughby H. Johnson
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1937
No this is not a personal experience. It was in a writing textbook back in the forties, but originally it was in a newspaper. I don’t know if it is still under copyright or not but it is a good story and I used it frequently in my classroom (5th grade) at Halloween.
Back in the 1890?s when trains of the Santa Fe Railroad first began to run in the vicinity of Ardmore, Oklahoma, one was held up by bandits seven miles from town where the tracks crossed Caddo Creek. Afterwards the robbers retired to an old house, where they divided and quarrelled over the spoils. One robber was shot and killed. It is a tradition that part or all of the booty was hidden for a time in or about the house. People soon began to say that the ghost of the murdered bandit walked about the place trying to find where the money was hidden and for many years nobody was willing to live there.
However, about seven years ago, a family named Lynch moved into the deserted building. One afternoon, in the summer, Mrs. Lynch left her two oldest children at home and crossed the fields to visit some neighbors. An hour later, she heard her children screaming and ran out with her friends to learn the cause. Almost in hysterics, the youngsters came flying along shouting that someone was tearing the kitchen to pieces and that the tea-kettle was laughing and singing. Mrs. Lynch and others went to investigate. They found the tea-kettle steaming in the middle of the kitchen floor. A fire was burning in the cook stove, though none had been burning in it when Mrs. Lynch left home. The mystification of the onlookers was changed to horror when they observed that drops of blood were sprinkled about. The next day, the Lynches moved out and no family has lived in the building since . . . .
Ellis Perkins, who lives in the vicinity, had the latest known experience in the old dwelling. One afternoon, about four years ago, he was caught in a heavy rain storm while hunting. The only shelter . . . was offered by the old house, so he and his bull dog ran into it to get out of the rain. He walked upstairs and looked around the second floor, but there was no sign of recent occupancy. He shut the door at the top of the stairway and descended. As his foot left the lowest step, his dog sprang around and looked toward the top, his hair bristling; then began to bark as though he scented the presence of a stranger. Mr. Perkins said that he also looked back toward the top of the stairs. Under his gaze the door knob turned. The door opened, as though to permit someone to pass on to the stairway, and closed noiselessly. The hunter waited for nothing more. Followed by his yelping dog, he sprang to the front door and rushed out into the downpour. The wind must have blown the door open, friends tell him, but his invariable retort is, How could the wind have turned the door knob?