Tell your favorite ghost story.
Around midnight, I pulled to the side of the back country road out around St. Joe, TX. My friend and I had been out chasing ghosts for about a month in the town, and thought we should expand the area we were covering. Down town St. Joe always provided some wonderful pictures, occasional sound recordings, and a lot of fun. But, we had worked the area so often now, we could recount who we’d find in which location. Not to mention, the local ghosts were either becoming camera hams, or getting to be rather camera shy. This gave us an opportunity to let them “rest” from the intrusion into their goings on, and give us a chance to chase a hunch.
As I turned off the car, we both heard a faint sound that made us both grin like absolute fools.
“They’re active tonight, aren’t they?”
“A barn dance of some kind?”
“Either that, or a freight train coming through.”
“There’s no tracks. Besides, that cattle cute has been here since the time St. Joe was founded, if the wood’s any indication.”
We got out of the car, staring at the deep blackness spangled by a multitude of stars overhead. Even though there was no moon to provide light, we could still tell where an old, moldering cattle chute continued to stand despite decades, possibly even a century, of disuse. I didn’t leave the flashers running on the car, trusting the lack of traffic to prevent a wreck, because I wanted to have the best exposure possible once we started taking pictures.
While my friend was locating the barbwire that defined the pasture’s boundaries, I collected the small camera case that held our gear: a mid-grade digital camera, a small tripod to set the camera on, our mic, and the microcasette recorder. As I made my way over to the fence line through the knee high weeds, the faint sounds I’d heard when we turned off the car got louder and louder. Not quite enough to say I was actually hearing them, but loud enough for me to pick out at least a dozen feet stamping in time to a fiddle or two.
“Wonder when they held the barn dances around here.” I said, handing my friend the recorder and mic so he could set them up.
“Probably about the same time as they built the coral and cute. Unless I’m mistaken, that’s oak wood, which is the only reason it’s still standing.”
I ambled over to the coral to take a closer look. Along the way, I kept feeling little puffs of chill even though the night was still. The encounters weren’t hostile. They were more like someone moving through an overcrowded room.
I kept watch on the ground for two reasons. This was a pasture that was used regularly by a medium size herd of cattle. The second reason was because I wanted to see if there were any remnants of a barn hidden in the shorter grass. I never saw any sign of a barn – if one had ever existed here, it had deteriorated back to dust a long time ago. Even the coral and chute were in really poor condition.
I turned around to look for my friend even while I idly panned across the cleared area snapping photo after photo. I wasn’t too worried about getting things focused. I knew more than likely when we downloaded the pictures onto the computer, they’d just be solid black exposures we’d have to manipulate to tease information out of if there was anything there to find.
I finally spotted a black-on-black figure heading back to the fence line by the car. I was pretty sure it was my friend – it wasn’t bulky enough to be a cow, and wasn’t long enough to be a deer.
Taking that as my cue, I sidled along the coral, using it to guide me back to the fence without interfering with the ghostly festivities. I could still hear the fiddle and stomping boots. Sounded like someone was playing some form of “Turkey in the Straw”. I never heard the caller, but a few of the more intricate fiddle combinations sounded familiar to me from when I was much younger.
When we reached the car, and got in, I grinned at my friend. “We should have some great pictures from tonight.”
“Maybe. My phone died not long after we crossed the fence.”
“Didn’t you make sure it was charged before we left?”
“Duh! But something drained it. It should have been good for the entire night.”
I shrugged. “I’m sure you’ve got something on it. I can’t wait to see what.”
I started the car, the loud blast of engine noise ripping through the night. I let the car settle back to idle, just to see if we’d disturbed the party, and only heard a crow caw its displeasure about being woken up in the middle of the night. With a sigh, I shifted into gear, and edged back onto the smoother surface of the road.
As we passed the far edge of the coral to where we’d parked, I flipped on my running lights and almost had a heart attack. There was a man standing in the middle of the road, leaning on his pitchfork. Slow as I was going, there was still no way I could stop – the blacktop had turned to pea gravel. I swerved to go around him. But, when my door came abreast where he’d been standing, the road was empty. (Not to mention, my tires were squealing on black top from the violent jerk I’d just given them.)
My friend grabbed hold of the door post with a yelp, and glared at me.
“What was that for?”
“Please tell me you saw him.”
I slammed on the brakes, and looked in the rear view mirror. All I saw was empty darkness.
With a sigh, I dropped my head to the steering wheel. “Remind me to sleep before we go out next time. I’m seeing things. I must be seeing things.”
“What on Earth are you talking about?”
I looked up, flipped on the head lights, glanced around at the confining darkness, and shook my head. It took me the thirty minute drive home for me to convince my friend I had seen that farmer standing on a pea gravel road. I think it took me that long to convince my SELF I’d actually seen that farmer standing on a pea gravel road!
This post is a mirror of my reply on the original page.
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