In My Room…

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Her Icy Charms

I will sense her presence in my room tonight,

Though I will never feel her warmth.

Like exploitations of the recent past,

My memories distort her image.

To grope for her in darkness

When she cannot be felt

After feeling her in darkness

When I could not feel

Is tantamount to taking trips

To towns where once you lived

Without stopping.

I will walk with her to the grave this morning

Before Phoebus warms the earth

And sears her icy charm.

His chariot, whose heat and radiance

Gives life to undeservers,

Destroys hope of life for two cursed souls

That once could live as one

And now must form their union –

Protected by darkness – clothed in chill.

Our love was never blessed by God,

Nor was it blessed by Satan.

Venus screamed when first she saw us,

For I am blind and she is a ghost…

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John Thomas McElheny – October 30, 1968

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Copyright 2015, Real Spooks – John Thomas McElheny

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The Only Thing Mac Could Never Explain…

The Marshallville Chronicles…

(Vingette from “119,  in remembrance of J. T. ‘Mac’ McElheny, Sr. of Marshallville, GA)
…  As a young man growing up in Monticello, Georgia, in the 1930s, Tom’s father, ‘Mac’ often worked after school and on the weekends. Sometimes it was near dark when he started his trek to the outskirts of town, and the shortest route was by way of woods, through a large erosion gully near his parents’ farm. It had tall clay embankments bounded by low undergrowth.
Mac’s friendly collie, “Laddie” was usually there to greet him along the way, and would often lie in ambush on the embankment waiting for Mac to walk by so he could playfully jump down on top of him. It was part of a little game they both enjoyed. The other part was to race to the farmhouse once they reached the backyard gate.
REAL SPOOKS © 2012

Moonlit Gully

One bright, moon-lit evening, Mac spotted a white shape running through the undergrowth just above him on the ledge. It looked very much like the underside of his dog as it paced him, so he pretended to ignore it by walking straight ahead, and kept his eye on it all the same.  He was planning to spot it before it jumped, so he could grab it, but soon found he was having to quicken his steps just to keep up with it.

“Hey, boy!” Mac whistled. He was hungry and tired and ready to get home. “Come on now! I see ya!”

He slowed his pace, but the shape continued to move, almost as if it were ‘scooting or gliding’  like a mechanical ‘rabbit’ on a dog track. It made no cries or sounds.

“That’s odd,” Mac thought, and he stopped.

Several yards up, the silent shape also stopped as if it were waiting on him. Mac watched as it slowly turned a seemingly mechanical body his way, and for an instant, two gleaming eyes peering from the strangely perched head, locked dead-on with his. Then, they blinked.

Just as Mac was beginning to think he’d imagined this, he felt something cold and wet on his hand. Startled, he looked down, and there, behind him, was Laddie, licking vigorously and wagging his tail.

Mac yelled and took off running down the gully, and didn’t look back. He and the collie reached the gate together, but Mac beat the dog to the house.

In coming years, Tom’s father would tell this story many times, always prefacing it with the same, “That was the only thing I ever saw that I couldn’t explain,” and he meant it.  He never encountered the strange ‘shape’ again, though he passed through the gully a thousand times and always looked for it.  But he also made a point to entice Laddie down from the embankment early on, to make damn sure the faithful collie accompanied him the rest of the way home.

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Copyright 2012 – 2018, Real Spooks – Cynthia Farr Kinkel

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I Saw It On My Wall…

The Marshallville Chronicles…

(Vingette from “119, by John Thomas McElheny and Cynthia Farr Kinkel, told in remembrance of Marian Y. Clay McElheny of Marshallville, GA.)

  * * *      First United Methodist Church of Marshallville     Tom’s mother, Marian, walked into his room in the wee hours one Sunday morning, woke him and told him that fellow church member Graham Bell was dead.

       Tom sat up in bed. “When did it happen?”

     “At five o’clock this morning,” his mother replied.

     Tom blinked his eyes and stared at the clock. “Mama, it’s only three-thirty.”

     But Marian was convinced, so he humored her. “Why don’t you call him, and tell him whatever he’s planning to do at five o’clock, not to do it.”

     Marian shook her head. “Whatever is going to happen can’t be prevented.

     “Well, how do you know?” Tom protested.

     Her tone was resigned. “I saw it on my wall.”

     She requested that Tom get up and learn the Douglas Sunday School lesson for the men’s class that Graham Bell was supposed to teach. She instructed him to walk into the Sunday school room and say, “I’m your substitute teacher today.” 

Graham Bell's Watch - Real Spooks

     Tom was to teach the lesson, then, go down to the choir room, put on Graham Bell’s robe, rehearse the anthem, process with the choir and sit in his spot, so that Graham wouldn’t be missed. After the service, he was to tell Pastor Emitt Davis that Graham had died, and was to also insist that Pastor Emitt go over to the house to verify the event. 

     A goodly representation of First Methodist folks were sent directly to the Bell’s house. They found Graham in the bathroom. He’d had a massive heart attack and had fallen into the tub, hitting his wrist watch on the side, stopping it at exactly five a.m.

 * * * 

     Helen Johnson was one of Marian’s best friends. She had returned to Marshallville, to her parents’ house across the street, after the death of her sister Irene, to become guardian of Irene’s three children, Clara, Ricky and Albert. Eventually, Helen also cared for her parents, Miss Ethyl and Mr. A.N. in their declining years.

     One afternoon, Helen checked into the hospital to have some medical tests done. She was accompanied by her sister, Lucy Clair.

     That night, Marian came into Tom’s room and roused him. “Wake up,” she whispered. “Come look at this.”

     Tom followed her to the bedroom where his father was still sleeping. His hearing aid lay on the bedside table.

Marians Bedroom with Helens Flowers      “Isn’t it beautiful?” Marian quietly exclaimed.

     Tom had no idea what she meant.

     “Look at that beautiful field of flowers!” she sighed, and she began pointing to them as if there were many.  

   Tom was perplexed. “All I see is what I know in the dark to be a celery green paint job.”

     But Marian insisted. “Helen Johnson! Don’t you see her,… there? She’s picking flowers.”

    Tom laughed softly. “Well, that’s nice, Mama.” He didn’t see.

      Marian shook her head. “No, it’s not nice.” Her smile faded. “She’s dead! Helen’s dead.”

     The next morning, Lucy Clair came to the house in tears, and rang the doorbell.

     “She’s gone, Marian,” she sobbed. She held out her hand.“She wanted you to have these.”

     There was nothing there, but Marian replied, “Thank you, I’ll put them in water,” and she invited Lucy Clair into the kitchen for coffee.

     The woman proceeded to tell Marian that during the night in the hospital room, Helen suddenly sat up in bed, and started crawling around. She was pointing and reaching out into thin air.

     “Aren’t these beautiful?” she kept asking.

     Lucy Clair said that when she inquired about what was beautiful, Helen replied, “These flowers. See?– I’m picking them for Marian. She will love them.”

     A moment later, Helen handed Lucy Clair the invisible bouquet, and with a radiant smile, lay down on her bed, and died.

* * * 

       Dolly Rock was a native of Marshallville, She resided in the first house on the road heading toward Tom Town directly in back of Miss Ethyl’s across the street. She’d once worked for Tom’s grandmother, Inez, and for neighbor, Omie Crowe, and Marian knew her well.

     It was Christmas break one year when Dolly’s grandchildren had come for a visit that Marian awoke one night to see an inverted orange ‘half-moon’ glowing brightly above a ‘horizon line’ on her wall. When the vision returned the second night, Marian roused Mac. Their spirited conversation was enough to wake Tom from sleep in the middle bedroom. Marian also said she heard children screaming. 

Marians Bedroom with occupants and half-moon      On the third night, Marian was sleeping soundly, when Mac was awakened to see a glowing orange reflection on the wall, and he called out to Tom.

     “Come see this, Buck! Look! Here’s her half-moon!” He pointed out the window at what appeared to be a raging fire a few streets over toward Tom Town. 

     “We better look out for the children,” Tom gasped. “Mama said she heard ’em.”

     Sure enough, a few minutes later, Mac opened the front door to frightened screams. “Dolly’s house is on fire! Her house is on fire!” By now, Marian was awake, as were other family members, and many in the rest of the tiny neighborhood. The fire, which an investigation later proved had been electrical, burned the wooden to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt.      

     When Dolly’s grandchildren reported that not only had “Miss Marian’s” household anticipated their arrival, but that Marian had foreseen the tragedy, rumors spread quickly. Numerous versions of the story circulated town that winter. Some marveled at how such things were possible, while others scoffed, but one thing was certain. The mind’s eye vision of the fiery glow on his mother’s wall was burned into Tom’s psyche forever.

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Copyright 2013 – 2018, Real Spooks – Cynthia Farr Kinkel

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Tybee’s Dune Man

Tybee Island Ghosts..

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… Up and down the eastern seaboard there are stories about strange ‘entities’ that inhabit the shorelines. From the rocky coasts of Maine to the sandy beaches of South Florida, tales are numerous and varied, and those from Georgia’s barrier islands are no exception.

The Golden Isles, which have stood for centuries against the Atlantic, are nothing more than a series of dunes that have been accumulating one on top of another since ancient times. Anchored by floating mats of sea rack and other debris that gather along the shore, dunes are formed as the ocean’s winds pick up sand and drop it inland from the beach. Year after year, the sand piles high into ridges that eventually collect enough mass to sustain small trees, island shrubs and other vegetation,… tall sea oats, native grasses and weeds.

These newer formations rising along the beaches are not only the first line of defense against the powerful forces of wind and water, they support a unique ecosystem that thrives beneath the shelter of the small trees and underbrush.

At certain points along Tybee’s main shoreline, dunes are so large that they appear as rows of small hillocks running horizontally along the beach with a shallow depression between them. In recent years, the City of Tybee installed wooden cross-overs so that beach goers wouldn’t have to navigate the gulfs.

Micheal Elliott’s book, Running with the Dolphins (1995) specifically references one of these depressed areas as the ‘Valley of the Sea Chicken’  in his chapter about ‘Tenth Street.’  Apparently, locals used to joke that some small creature roamed the dunes at night – most likely, one of their own playing tricks on campfire gatherings or couples petting on the beach.

These days there are restrictions against building fires on the beach, and strict protections for the dunes, but you still hear stories,… and they’re not about the sea chicken.

Tybee has also placed wooden swings on the beach near the end of each of the crossovers. They are seldom vacant, even at night as residents and visitors relax at the edge of the ‘valley’ beside the mesmerizing sounds of the surf, to enjoy the ocean breezes and other ‘extracurricular’ activities.

Facing directly East, with one’s back to the dunes, the sight is particularly captivating, especially on nights when the moon is full and its rising affords a panoramic view of sailing clouds and glistening waves stretching out as far as the eye can see in three directions.

One frequent visitor to the beach used to spend long hours on the swing at the end of Twelfth Street after midnight.  He swears that on several moonlit occasions, out of the corner of his eye, he saw figures running between the surf and the dunes, sometimes farther down the beach, sometimes closer.  He calls them shadow people and says what makes them surreal is the speed at which they streak back and forth.

He admits that eyes can play tricks, but he’s not alone in his descriptions.

Others have seen these figures, especially in the winter when the island is quiet and the beach, deserted. More than one beach stroller has testified they also get the distinct impression they are being followed by someone or something that retreats to the dunes.

One particularly interesting story comes from three young Atlanta friends who were recently spending the weekend on Tybee during off-season. They’d walked to a local restaurant on South End for dinner, and later, after discovering that the moonlight was as bright as day, decided to take a late-night walk back to their rental by way of the beach.

They passed a number of dune crossovers as they made their way down, and eventually two of the friends, a couple, decided to rest in one of the swings. As the third stood facing them engaged in conversation, he noticed what he thought was a bush moving in the dunes about twenty yards away. At first he shrugged it off, but when suddenly it moved again, he mentioned it, and quietly pointed it out.

His two companions turned to see, but there was no movement.  As the conversation continued, however, the young man kept his eye on the spot.  Sure enough, nearly ten minutes later, the bush moved again. This time, he was able to quickly nudge his friends, who also noticed, but as they were poised to investigate, not only did it move, it slowly rose – an expanding, crouching shadow, and began to slide sideways.

The movement stopped their advance, as did a chilly change of temperature. The young man described the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.  Immediately, his curiosity drained away.  He and his friends could think of nothing but getting off the beach as quickly as possible. Thankfully, they were just yards away from the Eleventh Street crossover…

A similar story appears as a  reader’s submission on a site known as GHOSTS AND GHOULSThis one takes place on a night when there was a lot of heat lightning on the beach, but it also describes what appeared to be a dark, transparent figure in the dunes,  ‘a luminous shadow, shaped like a man.’

(More to come)

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Real Spooks © 2012 – Cynthia Farr Kinkel

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She Folded Time

Folded Time

The Marshallville Chronicles…

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She folded time like a lacy linen napkin
And then snapped the creases out before
Draping it over my lap to catch the flood
Of memories and tabled dreams that my
Heart in my mouth could no more contain
And that cascaded in red rivulets
From between pouted lips now too soft
To dam the flow that had been held
Prisoner behind my still clenched teeth.
The memories splashed onto my lap
Making ripples in the newly formed
Puddle of unfolded time.
We held our breaths and played
Unabashedly in our puddle child.
I opened my mouth to rejoice and
Drowned us in a frozen tide
Of fiery emotion.

She folded time like the traveler she was
And then jetted across the empty room
Of our togetherness
Fast enough to vacuum the dust of life
Swirling just high enough off the floor
That it could not be stepped upon
But taken back as it had been given
When it was the dust of death
And the firmament from whence she came
Screaming like the Banshee she wasn’t
And threatening to yet return
On the day when I folded time
And she was real.
She folded time in a bare room.
She flew in the heaving of the drapes.
Again, she was never here.

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Copyright 2012, Real Spooks – John Thomas McElheny

Turn Out the Lights

REAL SPOOKS © 2012

Dear God,

Forgive us for being so noisy so often that we are distracted from your perfect pageantry.

I think, sometimes, that more people would be in awe of your works if you would just turn off the electricity every now and then.

Thank you.

Amen.

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Copyright 2012, Real Spooks – John Thomas McElheny  

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Song for Lazaretto

Real Spooks © 2012 cynthiakinkel

Tybee Island Ghosts…

“SONG FOR LAZARETTO” – f# minor (copyright Jan. 2001)

1. It runs to the mouth of South Channel, with the tide, it meanders ’round winding its way through the marsh’s waving grasses and soggy ground. It curves like a rippled gray ribbon, the sash on a satin gown, and touches the back of the island on the side where the sun goes down. Many red sunsets have lingered high above this floating plain, to promise relief from the storms at sea – from the waves, the wind, and the rain.

2. The Uchee walked on Tybee long before the Spanish came; … from the Hitchiti-Maya word for ‘salt,’ the island got its name. Though fearsome pirates ventured here whose deeds became renowned, where Blackbeard buried his treasure dear, has never yet been found. While pirate days were numbered, also, French and Spanish gain, the English anchored at Tybee, determined to remain.

3. The founders envisioned Savannah: ‘No tenured property – a viceless, yeoman’s utopia; no rum, no slavery.’ Then trade in Chatham began to fail, and small farms but survived, while over in South Carolina, the rice plantations thrived. As loss and disenchantment overshadowed past convictions, they offered the land grant titles, and lifted the slave restrictions.

4. For years, when ships reached Tybee Light, they’d stop at South Channel Sound. They’d unload the sick and the dying, both the free, … and the bound. They’d leave them here, where this little creek, still far from Savannah town, touches the back of the island on the side where the sun goes down … at a place called ‘lazaretto,’ where a quarantine would hold all the ones with dreaded diseases, and the ones too sick to be sold.

5. While great blue herons nested out beyond the island’s view, mosquito swarms would buzz and bite ’til evening breezes blew. Windswept cedars, and pines, and palms, and crooked oak trees spread … alms of mercy at ‘lazaretto,’ like a summons to ‘raise the dead.’ Though comforters braved the perils, and full moons waxed and waned, there was no such ‘resurrection,’ for the dying who remained.

Refrain 1: Lazaretto! Here, beyond the stormy sea, was no promise for tomorrow, in your sunset reverie? Why must these things be so? What hope can ever be, as we lie here, Lazaretto, to rise again and be free?

6. Now, the South had known misfortune, but the price was high to pay, when the Union armies marched right in, and took it all away. Though Sherman spared Savannah the flames that others knew, the way of life was ended … and the means of living, too. While great plantations emptied, and the fields were laid so low, the slaves were freed, but many stayed. They’d nowhere else to go.

7. But the worst they’d fear on Tybee now were fevers and hurricanes. The days of the quarantines would close, leaving the last remains of the site where many perished, tide-washed and over-grown, … while rails were laid, then, a road was made, and seeds of progress, sown. Nothing survives to mark the graves of the souls lost in that place, … nothing perhaps, but a secret mark, that time cannot erase.

8. Today, the bridge that spans the creek affords a scenic view of the waters off Cockspur Light, as they rush to the ocean blue. Here, the island ‘shrimpers’ dock, and nearby, dolphins play, while hungry seabirds circle low to scavenge what they may … and out on the west horizon, where the miles of marshes grow, the sunsets still do linger as they did so long ago.

9. Many tales are told of those who’ve walked these timeless beaches, and the ways of former slaves live on where the GeeChee culture reaches. The creek still curves like a ribbon, as it winds along with the tide, though it cannot tell a single word how any have lived or died, but at times out here, there’s a sound on the wind, the voice of a memory, that fills the heart of these marshes, like the tide that’s up from the sea,

Refrain 2: “Lazaretto, … many things should never be as the deeds and reasons sleeping fill the pages of history. Yet, there is no doubt as the years rush out to meet eternity, they who lie here in the depths below, … asleep in mystery ….

10. … May also hear that trumpet blow beyond the stormy sea – down … where your waters flow the day you set them free … down, …where your waters flow on the sundown side of Tybee, … like a witness, Lazaretto, you wait so patiently – a witness, Lazaretto, wait and see…”

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Copyright 2012, Real Spooks – Cynthia Farr Kinkel