I remember when I was growing up looking forward to Saturday night. Most of the time Saturday night meant a story from our mother. I often wondered where she got them. I learned later on that my grandmother also was a storyteller. We were told that it was of things that happened when she was growing up. I know now that the stories were passed down through the years.
Ghost stories were my favorites. I didn’t understand why until I got some years on me. I always had a nose for things that I didn’t understand. Get my curiosity up and I would walk into things that I didn’t have any business poking around in. One instance was when I was growing up, what made the noise in the upstairs rooms of the house we lived in on Armstrong Street in West Rome. That’s another story that I will get back to later. The one that is on my mind is one that was told by my mother.
According to her, it went this way. On the next farm from them, close to Pumpkin Vine Creek, lived a man and his wife who had two kids, a boy and a girl. The girl was small and tiny in stature, the boy was the opposite. At age 14, he stood six foot and weighed around 200 pounds. The story goes that he was very protective of his sister.
The boy’s name was Riddell as best as I can remember. The girl’s name was Anna, and most of the people in the community called her Ann. They were well mannered and you never heard anything bad about them. It was said, regardless of size, Riddell was a person who was never in trouble. There were several boys who were bullies but due to his size they left him alone. There was one boy named John Thomas who would move in on Ann whenever he caught her alone. Riddell caught him and persuaded him that he should leave little sister alone. He still watched her, just awaiting a chance to get her alone.
There was a general store in the community where the people bought what few groceries that they didn’t raise. It was a gathering place for families to meet on the weekend. A small church was close to the creek. There was the swim hole where the kids would go on Sunday when the church services were over.
This Sunday was no different from any other, when the service was over the people gathered outside and talked. Riddell and Ann’s parents looked but could not find them. Word went out among the crowd and they begin to look. The search went on until dark but they were not found. A tent was set up and the people searched into the night. Riddell and Ann could not be found. The search began early the next morning and went on all day. The search for Ann and Riddell was given up after a time.
Life went on but the people in the community always wondered what happened to Ann and Riddell. Some boys swimming in the creek told their parents that they saw a boy and girl sitting on a rock in the middle of the creek. It was checked on but no one was found. The road came close to where the boys supposedly saw the boy and girl in the creek. A man was going to the store and it was late and dark along the road. As he approached the place where the rock was in the creek he saw someone on it. He stopped and moved over to get a better look. Then he saw them, Ann and Riddell was there on the rock. A crying sound came from the girl. It scared him so bad he dropped his groceries and ran down the road as fast he could go.
He ran into the house screaming. It took a few minutes to get him quieted to where he could talk. It was said that when he went back the next day with the sheriff that his groceries were scattered over the ground. A deputy went into the creek and waded over to the rock. He took a hold of the rock and moved it. Those that were standing on the creek bank swore they heard a cry.
The deputy turned a pale white and backed away from the rock. He wiped his face with a handkerchief and slowly moved back to the rock. Putting the handkerchief back in his pocket, he again reached down, moving the rock. Then, as the story went, everyone present heard the cry. It was a cry that bought shivers to them, a cry of anguish that was never forgotten by those that was there. The deputy carried the rock and laid it down on the bank. He motioned for the sheriff to come in the creek with him.
The sheriff waded out to where the deputy stood. The deputy pointed to the water. The sheriff was heard to say, “Oh, my God.” The two men reached down and picked up the remains of Riddell and his sister Ann. They gently lay them on the ground. All that remained was skeleton remains with bits of clothing. A knife was found among one of the skeletons. Everyone present knew who the knife belonged to.
John Thomas was charged and convicted of murder. He was sent to prison for life. It is said that if you are close to where the bodies were found at the right time of night you can hear the scream of a woman. Is this story true, I can’t say. If I knew where the creek was and could find the spot I would go and see if I could hear the woman scream.
Lonie Adcock of Rome is a retired Rome Police Department lieutenant. His latest book is “Fact or Fiction.”