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May 14, 2012 / hippiechickamblings

Haunted School-house

I’m sure if I thought about it hard enough, I’d remember having all the typical childhood fears of the dark and under-the-bed monsters, but by and large, I wasn’t a wimpy kid. Growing up where I did, a fair number of spook tales around the fireplace at Grandma’s was part of the territory, but I don’t remember taking any of them seriously. My parents harbored none of the mountain superstitions they’d been raised with, and they were careful to instill in me a strong sense of reality and the ability to tell the difference between the real thing  and make-believe. As a result, I wound up being the kind of kid who grew to love scary movies and tales of the macabre. It was all fake, so why not enjoy it? Even today, there are few things in this world that truly scare me (with the exception of clowns and domestic fowl, which creep me out, big-time). I did, however, have one experience when I was very young which convinced me beyond all doubt that sometimes, things that go bump in the night are not just fun and games.

I can’t recall exactly how old I was, but I was at least in first grade, because I could read the stanzas in the hymn books we used for church service. It was fall, my favorite time of year, and the scent of wood smoke drifted on air that had a delightful bite to it. A local church was having service to be followed by a “diner on the ground,” which is a huge, outdoor potluck with cooking over open fire pits. A huge crowd was present under towering oak trees, and picnic tables groaned under the weight of chicken and dumplings, shucky beans, fresh pork tenderloin, and too many desserts to count. All around us,  maples and poplars were dressed in scarlet and gold, and I remember standing underneath that colorful canopy, breathing in the damp odors of earth and wood and roasting meat. That made me happy. I heard laughter and chatter, and children giggling and calling to each other as they played. I’d wandered away from the adults near the edge of the clearing, when I noticed the old, abandoned school-house in the distance, through the woods.

It fascinated me. I knew it was the same school-house my mother had attended as a child. I could see the long, wooden slats, peeking through peeling, red paint and the sloping roof. I was drawn to it. I had to see more. I don’t know how far that walk led me away from the crowd –probably not as far as it seemed. My legs were short back then, even shorter than now, which is saying a lot, but it seemed like quite a journey. Halfway there, I heard the hammering. And the whistling. They’re fixing it up again, I thought, and the idea excited me even more. I walked faster. The hammering grew louder, making that hollow sound you get in large empty rooms with wood floors and walls. The whistling grew in volume, a happy, pleasing melody. I ran the rest of the way, eager to meet those enthusiastic carpenters.

I stumbled up on the porch, panting, calling out, “Hey, are you making it new again?” I gripped the bannister and paused to get my breath, waiting for them to stop and answer me. No answer. Just more hammering and whistling. It was quite loud, now, almost deafening. The rickety door swung open on its rusty hinges, and I peered into the big, dusty room to catch a glimpse  of the workers. It was littered with cobwebs and dirt, but sun streamed through the dirty windows giving me a clear view. No worker in sight. Yet, the hammering and whistling was as loud as ever. I crossed the threshold, confused. They must be out back, working on the outside, I thought. I walked to the far wall and peered out the back window, sure I’d see them bent over, nailing a loose board or something. Not a soul to be found. I even went back outside, walked around the entire building before returning to stand in the middle of the lone room, where so many children had learned their three “r’s.” The hammering and whistling continued, unabated. It was then that I felt it: that cool, subtle change in air pressure, lifting the fine hairs on the back of my neck. Goose-flesh skittered up my arms and spine. My breath caught in my throat and I froze, reality sluicing over me in an icy wave. Suddenly, I didn’t need to search anymore, for there was no one to find! I ran like a scalded dog, out the door, down the steps, and across the yard, tearing through the woods like the hounds of hell had been loosed on my heels.

By the time I got back to the gathering, I’d convinced myself that it would somehow go badly for me if I told my tale. I knew I would be petted, soothed, and laughed at, Oh, so gently. I didn’t tell.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally told my mother. Her reaction surprised me. She didn’t mock. She didn’t laugh. “What do you think it was?” she asked. “How do you explain it?”

I can’t explain it, even after all these years. Can you?

copy right 2012 written by hippie chick all rights reserved no part of this may used. The above picture of Sully, from Monsters, Inc., was created by Disney Pixar who owns all Copyrights–I only use it here to illustrate those furry beasts that plagued us all as children.

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