“‘Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world.” — Shakespeare’s Hamlet
I grew up in the country, on the northeast corner of my maternal grandparents’ sixty acre horse farm. Surrounded by ash trees, and with Turkey Creek cutting a path through our backyard, it was a near idyllic setting to be raised in. There were not much in the way of neighbors. It was quiet, peaceful, and the nights were black as pitch.
The steady diet of that childhood for me was ghost stories and urban legends, ouija boards and folk tales, late night horror movies, comic books, and a lot of reading. I had one, some would call peculiar, pastime that began when I was eight years old.
My most prized possession was a book by Manly Palmer Hall called Unseen Forces that had belonged to my great-grandmother. It being a collection of lectures on nature spirits, thought forms, ghosts and spectres, and the dweller on the threshold, it fed into my overactive imagination and thirst for the preternatural.
Luckily for me, I lived but a few hundred yards from one of the more fascinating landmarks of folklore in the area — the Little Pipe Creek Cemetery.
A small, one acre cemetery plot sat atop a hill, only slightly closer to Little Pipe than Turkey Creek, an ancient oak in the center of the old boneyard standing sentry against encroachers. Surrounding the place was a fence, leaning awkwardly from years of neglect, with a gaping maw where a wide gate once offered entry in the northwest corner.
Legend said that the gate had been removed because it would often take on a life of its own, striking out at men as they tried to enter, while allowing women to pass freely. That gate had been removed before my time, it was said, as a means to protect those coming and going from the small, secluded cemetery grounds.
It being so close, I was drawn to it like the proverbial moth to flame and so took to sneaking out of our home, near nightly, to spend long, late night hours among the dead. I climbed that old oak and rested myself in its mighty, out-stretched limbs and called out to be visited by the spirits that I had been warned made Little Pipe Creek Cemetery their home.
Would it surprise you to learn my calls were answered?
In the southeast corner of the boneyard was a series of weathered stones from the eighteen hundreds that housed several children, all dying within weeks of one another. My eyes were always drawn there, and one night, a mist hung there, then moved out and away, toward were I lay sprawled in the arms of the oak.
I shivered with fright as this effluvium swept across the moist grass beneath me, the wind carrying with it a mournful sound, echoing against the surrounding forest.
Was it the ethereal form of one bound to earth, unable to cross over into the hereafter? Or was it a trick of the moonlight and but a natural curiosity that my imagination gave unlife to?
Regardless of the truth of it, my course was set for certain on that night, some forty-five years ago. That same thrill that fired my furtive imaginings then and there fuels me to this day. Unlike others who seek out to prove quantitatively the existence of paranormal phenomena, my own journey is more about the stories they can tell, whether as a true haunting experience, or merely the urban legend that breathes life into the backwoods of American folklore.
writing from the banks of
Little Pipe Creek