October 25, 2011

A haunting in Newnan..

In the year 1975 we moved from down town Newnan to Doc Perry road. The move was exciting to me as a second grader at Elm Street Elementary because of the destination. My grandparents lived at the end of Doc Perry road, to me, it was a place of magic and wonder that I held close in the deepest parts of my heart. Every holiday was spent there with the extended family, from week long barbecues around the fourth of July to Christmas in their tiny home packed with people. I thought life would take on that magical air round the clock once we got everything done and were set up in the new house.

My parents had the house built to their specifications and it was a tremendous change from what we were used to. We came from Martin street, just off Sprayberry road, near what was then the American Can Corporation. I had lived in the small three bedroom house with a carport converted into a fourth bedroom for my entire life. The new house had two floors and too many rooms to count. The idea that we would have to go up and down stairs was a mind scramble to me, I couldn’t imagine why you would need that much room.

The first night in the new house was one of tossing and turning until I thought I would go insane. The night was cool and dry so we had our windows open.. A whippoorwill had taken up residence in the front yard and would not be quiet. All night the steady call drilled into my head until I was ready to hunt the thing down and pull each feather out of it with slow relish. My brother and I shared a room on the top, or main, floor of the house. We shared a bathroom with my sister, who’s room was next to ours. My parents bedroom was across the hall from ours and my two older brothers had bedrooms downstairs. The style of construction that was used on the place was to dig into the side of a small hill and build the house so that from the front it looked like a single level dwelling. Half of the bottom floor was basically built into the hill, a good design because you never really need to run the air conditioner during the summer, it’s always cool downstairs.

One of the first tasks to be done was the landscaping work outside, the clearing of the yards and surrounding woods was a tall order. During the fall of that year my father and I were the only ones at home on a Saturday, he woke me in the wee hours of the morning to go with him to clear the area on the other side of the driveway. He cut trees as I pulled limbs across the road to a pile that was, at its completion, over eight feet tall. A few times that day, as I was walking back across the road to gather another load of limbs, I noticed the curtains in the front window moving. I asked my father several times where everyone was, every time I asked he ran the list down as to the location of each family member, but I was convinced he overlooked somebody and they were hiding in the house, not wanting to work in the yard. During the evening, as the sun began to sink, he set the pile ablaze with a mason jar of kerosene. My grandfather walked up there and we wound up sitting on the side of the road watching the huge spectacle as they fell into conversation about the clearing process. I had taken to staring across the small field of high, dead grass towards my grandparents house just down the road, it reminded me of a scene from Disney’s cartoon Sleepy Hollow.. My thoughts were lost in visions of a headless horseman riding hell bent across that field when I was snapped to attention by grandfather asking me a question for the second or third time..

“You notice anything strange out here yet?”

“No, what do you mean?”

“Well… this place is covered up in haints.. ’specially up here around ya’lls house. I’m always seeing lights moving around in the trees and hearing strange calls up in those woods late at night.”

“The only calls I’ve heard have been from whippoorwills, they wont go away..”

“Well don’t tell your granny that, them whippoorwills are bad business. That’s an omen. Something bad’s gonna happen when you start hearin’ ‘em all the time…”

My eyes grew bigger with each word he spoke, my heart was beating at least five times faster than it should as panic began to rise from the pit of my stomach. My father saw what was going on as he told my grandfather to hush and reassured me that he was just going on, simply trying to scare me. By this time his words of assuagement held little currency for me. They continued on in conversation about clearing plans, but my paranoia had firmly set in. I was convinced that the house was now crawling with haints, whatever they were, and that each one was carrying a lantern as they called out for my immortal soul.

The first of the cars came down the road as everyone began to return home, I saw my sister, mother, and little brother exit the car as my father called out, “Here they are, lets go eat supper..” We took leave of my grandfather and I walked towards the house on wobbly knees as I saw my two older brothers pull up in an old jeep… I kept looking from the driveway with everyone in it, as they exited the jeep and started helping to gather groceries, to the front window of the, what I now knew for sure, empty house…. My mind was racing as I tried to figure out why those curtains had been moving. During supper I began to ask questions… I wanted to know what haints were when my father interrupted me and explained to my mother what my grandfather had done. My older brothers seized on this opportunity and began to regale me with stories of bodies hanging out of the wall against the hill downstairs at midnight, and ghosts walking around in the woods, just outside the boundaries of the back yard, looking for the rest of their bodies… I made the mistake of telling them about seeing the curtains move, so they began to dare me to go into the living room. All night this went on, “Chicken… you’re too scared to go in there.. I dare you…” All this did was increase my fear and paranoia about the house and ensconce me into the farthest corner of the couch away from the living room, until they pointed out that I was the closest one to the top of the stairs and that the ghosts would get me first when they came up to reclaim their bodies…

The downstairs of our house was initially set up as a rec room. At the far side of the main room was a bar, on one side was a fireplace with a couch, recliners, and television around it. On the other side of the room, between the bottom of the stairs and the bar, was a pool table my parents had picked up. My fear was at its peak, as my brothers continued to goad me, when my father said the worst possible thing he could have, “Clay, run downstairs and get me that crossword puzzle book I left behind the bar.”

Holy shit.

Could he not hear what was going on? My brothers were beside themselves as they silently rolled around, doubled over with laughter. I just sat there until he looked over the top of his newspaper at me and let it be known that I was taking too much time to do what I was told. I began by standing at the top of the stairs looking toward the complete darkness below me. Thirteen steps was all that stood between me and certain death. I finally worked up enough nerve to do a mad dash down the stairs, hit the light switch, run across the room, grab the book, and run back to the steps, all the while sure that I was about to be grabbed by ghosts. I think I actually had the book in hand and was half way back before the florescent lights came all the way on..

The attempts to frighten me and my brother were a constant as we grew up there. The worst of it was always the pronouncement of “Go downstairs and get me…“ The fear train Culminated in a grand finale of the two of us being locked in the huge, walk in, cedar lined closet my mother had built to hold out of season clothes.. My older brother had been on a rant about ghosts in the house for a while when he dared us to go into the closet and count to thirty. We finally succumbed to the relentless barrage of taunting and made our way in. Shutting the door behind us, we did the fastest possible count to thirty we could and grabbed for the doorknob… it wouldn’t budge. He was holding it from the outside, laughing as we screamed for the help we knew wouldn’t come, we were the only three at home. It seemed as if we were in that room for hours whimpering in fear as we waited to be devoured by evil spirits. We noticed, after a while, that all was silent in the hallway so we crept to the door and turned the knob… it was free! We took off straight outside and began to plan our revenge. The revenge was stopped cold when we later found him upstairs and started yelling at him about doing that to us, “What are you talking about? I just got home..” I knew he was kidding, yet he remained adamant, for some reason we just never talked about it after that, I think it was simply too disturbing to think about…

Those early days of taunting and fear laid the foundation for what was to come in our teen years there, some say for what we invited into the house…

One by one my older siblings moved out, my brother and I found ourselves alone in the house with our parents. We moved from our upstairs room to occupy the two bedrooms downstairs that had been vacated by my brothers. Occasionally the subject of ghosts would come up, we would then launch into old tales and stories as we tried to frighten each other. My older brother was there for dinner one night when the subject arose and we began to talk about some things that had happened. We were alone in the house one evening while my parents had gone out to eat. We were upstairs watching television when we heard a familiar sound… The balls on the pool table downstairs had knocked together, one dropped in a pocket and rolled down to fall into the collection box located at one end. We didn’t mention it until I thought, “Wait a second… We are the only ones here…” My brother and I looked at each other as we realized this at the same moment. We went to the top of the stairs and stood listening as we stared into the darkness… I quietly crept to the kitchen window, which overlooked the driveway, to see if anyone was there. I was shaking my head “no” when I came back into the den and looked into the fear laden eyes of my brother. He did the classic “dammit” head jerk as our only hope of reassurance leapt out of the window. Finally, after much silent debate and exasperated hand waving, we turned on the lights of the stairway and headed down to investigate, making as much noise as possible. When we got to the bottom of the stairs I reached around the wall and clicked on the lights. The room was empty, and so was the pool table. There were no pool balls on it at all, they were all in place in the collection box. We made our way slowly around the entire downstairs area, armed with a fire poker and bb gun, searching for what could have caused the all too familiar sound, but we came up empty. We even went outside to check and see if there were any signs that someone had been there, we locked the all doors behind us as we exited the house onto the driveway. We made our way around to the front door and went back in, feeling better, but still slightly shaken from the ordeal. We headed into the kitchen to make ourselves something to eat. We then settled in to watch television and had just started on our sandwich laden plates when… the sound of pool balls clacking together once again came up the stairs. We sat, frozen in place, mouths full of food, as we both stared at the door to the stairs, shut tight against the evil that dwelled down there. I swallowed hard and looked at him. Without a word, we sat the plates down and headed outside, not breathing until we were in the middle of the yard. There was much cussing and bent over, hard breathing as we wondered what was going on. The return of our parents found us outside playing basketball on the driveway, too afraid to go back inside. They wondered why it took us so long to go to bed that night…

When we had relayed a few stories of that nature to my brother he sat back for a minute, then leaned in close to whisper, “We need to have a séance down there…” Our eyes raced from one another until we reached a silent agreement. We discussed it and decided that the following weekend would be good. Over the next few days the plan grew into a large undertaking involving several people and a video camera. Those were the days of the huge, shoulder mounted vhs cameras, one of which my brother had. We decided it would be a good idea to tape it and watch it later to see if anything happened that we didn’t catch. People began showing up Saturday evening as we made preparations for the night. The camera was set on a tripod at the end of the hallway, providing the best angle of the entire room. No one really knew anything about holding a séance so it was decided that instead of a medium, we would use an old Ouija board that a cousin had given to me. I had gotten it out of my closet and set it in the middle of the table, ready to use. When nine pm rolled around we all sat down at the table and began the séance. We used a legal pad and wrote down everything the board spelled out. The gist of the story we got was that there were several entities located there all in search of a way to move on, not understanding where they were or what was happening to them. They seemed to be confused as to why there were people living there where they alone were supposed to be. At the direct stroke of midnight, as dictated by a clock in the room, someone asked, “If there is anyone here, show us, appear to us, give a sign that you are here…” nothing of consequence happened, other than a strange flicker of the candle light. The séance broke up in the wee hours of the morning.

The next day my brother called, telling us to come over and watch the video tape, he thought he had found something. We immediately went over, he hit play on the vcr once we were all settled in. He told us that he had watched the entire tape that morning and saw nothing strange at all, until this one moment. It turned out to be the stroke of midnight when the question was asked… the second the question was asked there was a blip on the tape, the only one on the entire video, followed by what looked to be a light spot moving across the room from the hallway toward the table where we were all seated. We watched it over and over until we decided that it was just a malfunction in the recording process, but we each felt as if something strange had occurred.

Over the following months each weekend saw the Ouija board getting more use, eventually garnering many legal pads of information about the different entities that were communicating through it. The stories they were telling about the group of people there were getting to be downright disconcerting, causing personal information within the group that individuals had thought was known to no one to be made public, it happened when they were just in the room and not touching the board. This led to several people refusing to be a part of the board play. I was a bit nervous about the goings on as activity within the house had increased to a feverish pitch with the introduction of the board. The sound of pool balls had become a regular thing, witnessed by many people that hung out there. We would be gathered in my bedroom watching a movie, when we would hear it, at first we investigated each occurrence, some times finding the table empty, sometimes not. Eventually we just accepted it and paid no attention. At one point we took all the pool balls off the table and placed them on a rack that hung on the wall that my father had purchased to hold the cues and balls when not in use. Half way through a movie on a Saturday night we heard the distinct sound of the balls rolling around and clacking together, we ran into the room and there they were.. All on the table. We quietly headed back to finish the movie.

Along with the pool balls, water being turned on was starting to get to me. I would be alone in my bedroom when I would hear the water in the bathroom sink turn on. The first time that happened I was watching television, alone downstairs with just my parents there upstairs, when I heard a sound. I couldn’t make out what it was, so I hit the mute button on the remote and heard the water running. I went across the hallway and saw that the water, both hot and cold, was on full blast. I began to get paranoid, thinking I was losing it and couldn’t remember turning the water on.. I turned it off and went back to the television. A little while later, it was back on. That began happening with more regularity, and eventually with someone else there to witness it. We had gone to movie gallery to rent a few tapes, then to a drive through to get a huge bag of food, headed home and settled in for a movie marathon. Not long into the first movie one of the guys went to the bathroom and came back, asking. “Which one of you left the water running?” I acted as if someone left it on and chided the group to be sure to turn it off. A little later someone else went across the hall and returned with the same story, it bothered me because I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. That happened a few more times that night, ending with everyone telling me that I needed to get a new faucet in the bathroom. Indeed, I had a plumber look at it once when my mother had called them to work on an upstairs bathroom. I told him that it would be difficult to turn off, like it was loose and would turn back on sometimes. He looked at me sideways and checked It out, telling me there was nothing wrong, it felt solid like it should.

During one séance with the board several people were set up on the floor in front of the fireplace using it when one of the girls headed to the bathroom. She stopped at the beginning of the hall and announced how pretty the candle was in the sconce hanging on the wall, the light was “eerie”.. that one bothered me as I had just returned from the bathroom and knew damn well that candle wasn’t lit, they never were, and no one had gone down the hall toward the bathroom after I got back. Several times after that one of us would be at home alone and go to the bathroom, only to have to blow the candle out on the way…

In discussing this with my brother we termed it as the “paranoia setting in”… it always got worse after a board session.. That phrase came to encompass several things, the worst of which was the feeling of being followed closely while moving around downstairs. The feeling of another person right behind you, so close you could feel their body heat, became something close to maniacal. You would find yourself turning on the spot, swatting like you had walked into a group of gnats. Without fail, every time you would start up the stairs you could hear someone on the steps behind you, leading to you moving at a panic stricken dead run by the time you reached the top. That gave new meaning to the call of “dinner’s ready” coming down the steps from my mother. There were several times I would go outside and around to the front door to avoid using the steps. Other people came to feel this too and it eventually became part of the conversation that floated around.

The sessions with the Ouija board ended abruptly one evening when something happened that I simply could not accept. During a family gathering around the holidays we were talking about it when my older brother and a cousin decided that they wanted to give it a try. A group of us headed quietly downstairs to my room where I retrieved the board for them to use. They sat on the floor as we gathered around to watch. Keeping in mind that neither my older brother, nor my cousin were present during any of the past sessions what followed bothered me a great deal. I was standing next to my other older brother, with whom I had worked at a construction company in Peachtree city. There was an older gentleman that worked there that could neither read nor tell time. He wore a new watch that had been given to him by his children, yet each time you asked him what time it was, he would always answer the same thing, “seven thirty”… His name was Beaman and he was quite a character. Beaman gave nicknames to all the guys that worked there, my brother was known to the people there as “goatman” due to him meeting a guy there at lunch one day to buy a group of goats… the havoc they wreaked around that place was legendary, thus Beaman labeled him goatman from that day forward. For me, Beaman went the more pragmatic route and simply called me “fatboy” from day one… I hadn’t worked there for a while and wasn’t up on any gossip concerning the employees…

The session began as normal, immediately they contacted an entity that gave a familiar name to them. This was the first thing that bothered me, as they had no idea of knowing any names of anything that had been talking to the regular weekend group. Shortly after talking to that one, another presence came through and was completely confused. It seemed to have no idea where it was or why it was there, it described itself as being locked in the dark and said repeatedly that it was afraid. For some reason, my eyes began to water and the hairs on my arms stood on end. They asked it for a name and it spelled out beman. After a few more questions they asked it if it knew anyone there and it spelled out gotman and ftboy.. At this point my brother spoke up and said, “Ask him what time it is..” My cousin then asked the question and the answer came up, 730... Both my brother and I left the room, we stood in front of the fireplace in the other room for a few minutes not speaking, both of us were suffering from watering eyes and goose bumps. After a few sighs and turning round and round in front of the fire he asked me if I had talked to anyone from the construction company lately. I answered no, he then said, “I got a call the other day, Beaman died last week…”

Later that night I kept staring at the box containing the board as it lay on the floor of my bedroom. I had explained the meaning of what the board had said to my brother, he came walking into the room from the bathroom, sat down on the edge of my bed and said, “Well… what do you think?” I stared at the box and said, “I think I’m going to get rid of it.” At that exact moment the door of the bathroom slammed so loud we both jumped. “Yep… I think I will get rid of it, right now…”

The board was then disposed of with great prejudice. But… still to this day, late at night in that house, if you are quiet enough, you can sometimes hear strange sounds all around you…

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