There are more people who believe in ghosts but will not admit it. I try to let you draw your own conclusions as to what I write. Unless I specify that what I am writing is fiction, it is based on facts.
Take, for instance, what happened on a Saturday night hayride. The driver of the wagon took us up to a big oak tree on Park Road and told us a ghost story. We decided to bring our group of people back as soon as possible.
All the next week the excitement grew at the thought of getting a good scare out of the girls. Duke and I had been planning to go to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on the next Saturday night, so we told them to be in the park after we got off from work on Friday.
It was just getting dark when Duke and I got to the park. I moved from the front seat into the back. We had a car full of people as we headed for Park Road. As usual, every one was talking at once. But when Duke turned from the road and started up the dirt road to the tree, you could have heard a pin drop inside the car.
With the car at a stop and the motor off, very quietly everyone began to get out. I walked over to the big oak where I had stood the night of the hayride. I felt the presence of someone close to me. I knew who it was, for she was always next to me at all of our ghost trips. She said, “Do you remember what we saw from the road when we were on the hayride?” I nodded, saying, “Your imagination was working overtime.”
What she said then has stayed with me down though the years “You can deny the things you see and feel to others but, inside, you know.”
I remember taking her hand and putting it against the tree. I don’t think either one of us was prepared for what happened next. I looked at her and she looked at me. Her eyes in the moonlight looked like two big marbles. I dropped her hand out of mine and stepped back. We had heard a voice and it didn’t sound like anyone in our crowd.
We walked over to where the others were. I had cold chills running up and down my back. The hair on my arms was standing straight up. As we moved away from the tree I heard the voice again. I turned back to tree and stopped. We both stood still, listening, then we turned back to the others at the car.
I sat down on the fender and listened to a story that Carlton was telling. We all knew that his story was fiction. Carlton could spin a good ghost story and when we went on a ghost hunt he always had one ready. Francis and I looked at each other and smiled, remembering we were at a cemetery once and we found him lying beside a tombstone, moaning. He claimed that a ghost had threw him over the tombstone to the ground. Everyone had got a big laugh out of that one.
I leaned over and whispered in Francis ear. I told her to get the girls over to the tree and I would tell them what the driver of the hayride wagon had told us. Once we were under it, that old chills-and-standing-up-hair took over again.
“Listen up,” I said, and began to tell them about the woman who lived in the area who had come up missing. A search party found her several days later. She had been tied to the tree and killed. We had been told by the wagon driver that an escaped convict had done it. He was caught and punished. If there was any truth to this story, I never knew. I will say that there was something going on under the tree.
I moved back over to the car and sat down on the fender. The crowd was milling around. I watched Carlton as he laid it on real thick to the girls. Francis had just come over when one of the girls let out a scream. I jumped down and ran to where she was. She was pointing to the ground beside the tree.
I took out a pen light from my shirt pocket and shined it on the ground. There lay Duke, as still as if he was dead. I knelt down beside him and saw he was still breathing. He had blood on his forehead from a cut. I got him sitting up and wiped his forehead with the napkins Francis got from the car. A cup of leftover ice was handed to me and I began to wipe Duke’s face with the cold mixture of coke and water. It did the job, for he opened his eyes and began to moan.
Duke was able to drive so we all loaded up and headed back to the park to let the girls out. Then Duke drove me home. We parked in front of the house and I said, “OK, tell me what happened.” He sat still for a few seconds and then turned to where I could see his face. “I will tell you because you will believe me,” he said. “I walked behind the tree and, the next thing I knew, you were washing my face with wet napkins.”
We let it go at that. The next day he had a knot with a cut in the middle of it. I remember that the last time I saw him he had a scar on his forehead.