Friday, June 24, 2011

Tales of the Kind of Shady Side

Every  city these days, regardless of size, that's worth its salt, has a ghost tour.  I've been to tours in Williamsburg, Virginia, Savannah and St. Simons Island, Georgia.  I went on a tour of the Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon with an employee who told spirited tales about the hotel.  That counts as a ghost tour.  It comes as no surprise to me that my daughter is now giving ghost tours in Asheville, North Carolina. 

When Katie learned to talk, she began asking everyone she met if they had ever seen a ghost.  Larry's Uncle Bob Estep even asked me why she did that.  I didn't have an answer.  If Katie has ever seen a ghost herself, she hasn't shared that with us, but her interest in spirits, for some reason, began at a very early age.

Pleasan Hill Methodist Church
in Runa, WV.

I don't remember my mother telling ghost stories to Katie, but she and other family members certainly scared the water out of me with tales that were the equivalent of a good horror movie.  Let me be clear about one thing:  these were not the contrived mechanisms shown on television now with equipment that measures an increase in electrical emissions or cold spots.  Those shows are hooey compared to our family ghost stories.  After all, my family actually saw things that can't be logically explained.

The Amick side of the family lived in Runa, West Virginia, and attended the "Amick" church, so called because Jacob Amick sold a team of horses to build the church.  It is mostly known as Pleasant Hill Methodist Church.  Now the church sits at the top of a hill, and the road travels down the heavily wooded, dark hill to Anglin Creek where the Amick homestead sits.  I personally think that the road going down that long hill is one of the creepiest places I have ever been.  I don't even want to think about walking up that hill in the dark.

The Amick homeplace, as it looks today,
sitting along Anglin Creek
 in Nicholas Co, WV.

Many years ago it was common to visit, and the main entertainment was tale-telling.  On one such evening, a visitor stayed too long at the Amick house, so he decided to go on home even though it was dark outside.  He arrived on horseback and that was the way he would go home.  He started up that darkly forrested steep hill.  About halfway up the hill, the visitor felt someone get on the horse behind him.  I imagine that he spurred the horse on a little faster; I know I would have.  At the top of the hill the hitchhiker jumped off the horse.  When my mother told this story, she knew the name of the visitor, but the name is now lost, and the tale becomes just another good ghost story.  The hitchhiker is supposed to have been an Indian who was murdered on the  hill. 

Being an equal opportunity story teller, now I'll switch to the other side of the family:  the Humphries.  Will and Lucinda Ott Humphries lived on toward Mt. Nebo in Nicholas County near Mt. Gilead Baptist Church.  Will Humphries was a carpenter, and one of his means of support was building caskets.  Often when someone came to tell Will that a casket was needed, he had already started to work on it.  One day when Lucinda had dinner ready (the lunchtime meal), she told one of the children to go out to the workshop to tell Will that it was time to eat.  She had heard him working all morning, but when the child went to get Will, he was walking up the lane from the road.  He hadn't been home all morning.  Knocking and pounding noises were common in that workshop.

Will and Lucinda Ott Humphries.
Will and Lucinda's granddaughter, Lori Dorsey Miller (my mother's first cousin), told about an experience she had when she was a little girl.  The family was leaving Mt. Gilead Baptist Church with the children on the back of the wagon with their feet hanging over the edge.  They were looking toward the church as the wagon pulled away.  Lori saw a woman standing on the steps of the church dressed in old-fashioned clothes, a long, black skirt and a long-sleeved white shirtwaist.  As Lori looked on, the woman slowly disappeared. 

My mother said that her family told so many ghost stories, that when she was told to go upstairs to get something, she almost killed herself running up the stairs and back down because she was always scared.  She got it from both sides, too. 

There must be more stories than the few I've told, but they are lost, I suppose, unless another cousin remembers them.  I could always make some don't, the Amicks and Humphries would never make up stories just to scare children.

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