The following story appeared in the February 1959 edition of FATE.
My husband and I, with our three children, left Portland, Ore., in the hot summer of 1928 to join my parents in the high mountains of California five miles from Georgetown, where they had purchased a gold mine and were working it together with my uncle Charlie. There were no buildings at the mine and they rented an old farm, which was badly in need of repairs.
It had been unlived in for several years and my folks spent some time making it livable, so that it was real comfortable by the time we reached there with our family.
During the day, while the men were busy at the mine, Mother and I went to work in the attic, which we reached by a very narrow, steep stairway. We piled old trunks, boxes, a very tiny old-fashioned organ, an old music box and other discarded articles of the departed family, all in one end of the attic.
An Unseen Presence
As we were working, I suddenly felt as if someone had walked up behind me but turning I saw nothing but the cobwebs which hung from the peak-roofed ceiling. I told Mother that I had the odd feeling of being watched, but she only looked at me queerly, then talked of other things.
Later on I ran downstairs to get something for Mother. As I came back up the steps someone brushed by me almost knocking me back down the stairway. Still, I could not see a thing, although I had felt the contact distinctly.
We worked up in the attic for several days before we had it ready for use. During all that time, I felt an unseen presence near me. After what had happened on the stairway, I wouldn’t let my mother out of my sight and followed at her heels the whole time. We had put two beds side by side in the narrow room, leaving only a two-foot space between them. Then we hung thin lace curtains in the doorway to hide all the things piled in the other end of the attic. And still, air from the two windows at each end could circulate through the area where we were to sleep.
My husband did not like the idea of going up into that hot attic to sleep, so he put his bed under an old apple tree near the front porch. Therefore, our small daughter and I slept in one bed and our two boys in the other. That first night I was terribly nervous, so Mother turned the kerosene lamp down low and said, “Just leave it burn if you will feel better.” But even with the light burning I still could feel that unseen presence and I don’t think I slept over five minutes that whole night. I was terribly tired the next day, still I could hardly bring myself to go to bed that next night.
Finally the children could not be kept up any longer and I slowly climbed those steep stairs, with cold chills running up into my hair. I got the children into bed and climbed in beside my little daughter. I forced myself to close my eyes and finally fell asleep, only to be awakened much later by an icy wind blowing over my body.
With my eyes wide open, in the dim light of the kerosene lamp, I saw him!
Standing just outside the lace curtains was a young soldier in uniform. He was tall and straight and looking intently at me as if he were about to speak. The curtains blew out toward me and he started moving in my direction. I screamed and then was unable to move until my parents came dashing up the stairs. I sobbed out what I had seen and I thought there was a look of horror on their faces. Mother slept up in the attic with us the rest of the night, but she wouldn’t talk much about it the next day.
The following night I forced my feet up the stairs. I did not want the children to know how frightened I was. Mother stayed up there with us until the children were asleep and I had become quite calm. I tried to make myself believe that I had imagined the whole thing and when morning came and there had been no frightening experiences during the night I almost believed this.
Cold as Ice
A week passed and I was feeling quite safe as we went to bed and almost at once I fell into a sound sleep, only to be awakened about two o’clock in the morning. I felt as if someone had shaken me. I sat right up in bed, wide-awake and trembling. My body was as cold as ice.
There, sitting on the edge of the other bed, right against my small son, was the same young soldier. He was looking into my face, smiling, and he had his elbow on his knee. He held a hat in his hand, which he was swinging back and forth. I recognized the hat as a soldier’s hat of World War I. It had a wide brim with a heavy, bright cord around the crown. It, or a hat like it, had been hanging in the hall when my parents moved into the house and I had been wearing it as a sun hat since coming to the mines.
Now this ghostly soldier had the same hat in his hand as he smiled at me with his face not over a foot from my own. He leaned toward me, closer and closer!
I have never remembered making a sound but I must have for my parents were soon there. This time I could still see the soldier long after they were in the room.
I was weak and trembly for several days after that and my dad put up a cot at the other end of the attic, just outside the lace curtains, and slept there himself every night. So things settled down and I was beginning to think and hope I would not see the soldier again.
Looking into the Eyes of a Ghost
When I quietly slipped into bed beside my little daughter on this particular night, I felt quite safe with my dad so near. Turning on my side with my face to the wall, I was soon fast asleep. But sometime in the early morning hours I was suddenly wide awake and again as cold as ice. A large, heavy hand was pressing down on my shoulder. I tried to rise but I was held tight by this pressure. Turning my face up I found myself looking right into the eyes of the soldier. His face was only inches from mine and I still felt his hand as plainly as I have ever felt the hand of my husband. I felt as if I were dying.
I still think I would have died and that the soldier would have taken me with him except that at that very instant my small daughter sat up in bed screaming the most unearthly screams I have ever heard. Still it seemed her screams receded farther and farther from me.
To this day, that child, now a woman grown, thinks a soldier was taking me away.
Her screams, of course, brought Dad and Mother, and my mother had her arms around me before that soldier took his hand from my shoulder.
They finally got me downstairs and in my hysterical condition I managed to make them understand that I wanted the children brought down at once. My dad and husband hurried to do this, and my mother held my little daughter until she cried herself to sleep. We all sat in the kitchen the rest of that awful night.
My husband was very doubtful of what I had seen. He said that he wanted to sleep upstairs the next night and see for himself what was going on. I begged him not to but he was determined. He went off to bed and the next morning said he had slept fine. This continued for almost a week. Then one night about midnight he came bounding down the stairs, blankets and all. We never could get him to say what he had seen or what had happened. He was very pale and said only that he would never sleep up there again, that this so-and-so house should be burned and the ashes buried.
The Old Lady’s Warning
Then in the bright light of day my parents told us what the old lady had said to them when they rented the house. She had looked at them for a long time and then said, “You are welcome to live in the place if you can stand it!”
Pointing to great piles of rocks all over the place, she continued, “See those rocks? Well, I have piled them just to have something to do, to keep me out of the house. For my husband still lives there, although he has been dead many years.” Then she added, “Yes, and the boys come back too, so I have left the house to them most of the time.”
She explained that her husband had died in a drunken stupor in that house; one of her sons had dropped dead on the back porch; her youngest son had died in the kitchen while having a fist fight with his brother; and her oldest son, a soldier in World War I, had come home after being wounded and died in his sleep in his bed in the attic.
“This house is bad!” she had gone on to say. “But if you can stand to live among them, you are welcome.”
Now at last my parents believed her. The menfolk went to work at once and built a large cabin at the mine. My husband and I stayed there only long enough to help my parents move out of that house with its ghostly inhabitants before returning gratefully to our home in Portland.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons