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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Campfire Stories: "Is there magic in the woods?"

"I lay in bed, with my head turned to the window. I listened for the song of the lost girl ... but what I heard instead was...thump-thump, thump-thump! But there were no tree branches reaching from the tree to the window. There is was again ... and not outside the window, but in the room itself!" (Artwork by STEVEN SHORTRIDGE | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER)

A seven-part series for all ages to share.

By VIRGINIA L. "GINNY" GRANT | August 24, 2010

*** Printed in the Bristol Herald Courier on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2101. First in a seven-part series of (mildly) scary stories. Try writing your own (mildly) scary stories and enter the contest. Click HERE for details.***

Written by Ginny Grant, a teacher's aide for the Washington County, Va., School System, these stories are meant to be shared around a campfire, at a sleepover or during a family gathering.

AROUND THE CAMPFIRE — I was a little girl, just 7 years old, the first time I spent the night at Aunt Nan's house.

Aunt Nan, to me at the time, was an old woman. She was my daddy's aunt, and my great-aunt, but I just called her Aunt Nan without the "great" part.

Aunt Nan lived in a little log house deep in the woods.

It took a long time to get to her house from our house in town. Back then, it seemed to take a whole day.

We rode along and rode along on the old dirt road that crept through the trees to the little log house.

Daddy drove, Mama dozed and I admired the colors of autumn through one of the car's back windows. I had never seen so many trees in my life. They crowded together and only allowed the sun's light through to the road every now and then.

When we finally made it through all those trees to Aunt Nan's house, she met us on her front porch.

The old woman held out her arms to pull me into her hug and told me that she was pleased to have me visit her, as my father had when he was a little boy.

Daddy told her that I had been eager for the visit. He explained that we had been reading books which had me believing that woods were magic.

At this said, Aunt Nan looked down at me and winked.

Mama and Daddy stayed for a glass of tea and talk of our kin before they left for home.

After they had left, Aunt Nan and I took a short walk on a path through the woods. We saw prints on the path, and Aunt Nan told me that they were the paw prints of a dog.

I asked Aunt Nan if she had a dog. She answered that she had an old hound named Jack, but that he was very seldom seen during the daytime.

I started to ask my great-aunt why Jack was seldom seen during the day, but she hushed my words and hurried me on towards her house, telling me that cool Saturday nights were just right for soup and a sandwich.

Back in Aunt Nan's kitchen, we sat down to just such a supper that Saturday evening in October.

Then, while I bathed and dressed in my pajamas, Aunt Nan washed our dinner dishes and lit a fire in the fireplace.

Together we sat by the warmth of the fire, and my great-aunt told me a story.

She told me the story of a young girl who wandered into the woods with her dog one October day long ago.

When the girl didn't come home, her family and neighbors searched the woods for her and her dog, but neither was ever found.

"Some folks say, though," spoke Aunt Nan, "that on cool October nights such as this, you can hear a girl singing a song. And it's the very same song the girl's mother used to sing to her every night at bedtime."

"What is the song, Aunt Nan?" I asked.

"It goes something like this, child."

Watch the moon through the trees

by the cool autumn breeze

in the dusk of the eve

catch the leaves

catch the leaves.

"Have you heard the girl singing, Aunt Nan?"

"Well, I have heard something ... though I can't say for sure that it was this young girl."

"And they never found her or her dog?" I asked.

"No, they never did find the girl or her old hound," answered my great-aunt.

"Do you think the paw prints we saw today could have been made by her dog, Aunt Nan?"

"I can't say for sure, but I can tell you this. Every now and then ... when I'm out walking through the woods ... I'll find necklaces."

"Necklaces, Aunt Nan?"

"Yes, child, necklaces made of nuts and berries. They'll be lying on top of a rock, just like they were put there for me as gifts."

"Aunt Nan, do you believe the girl made the necklaces?"

"I can't say for certain if she did or not, child. What I can say for certain is that it's time for all 7 year olds to go to bed."

And with that said, my great-aunt tucked me snugly into bed; then returned to her chair by the fire.

I lay in bed, with my head turned to the window. I listened for the song of the lost girl ... but what I heard instead was ... thump-thump ... thump-thump!

Right away a book came to my mind. It's a book about a monster outside a bedroom window, which turns out to be no monster at all, but a tree branch. I thought to myself, it's a tree branch knocking against the window ... just like in the book.

But there were no tree branches reaching from the tree to the window.

Still I told myself, it is nothing. And I shut my eyes tight, willing myself to go to sleep.

Yet there it was again ... thump-thump ... thump-thump!

This time the thump-thump sounded like it was not outside the window, but in the room itself!

I kept my eyes shut tight and searched my mind for an answer.

It's a mouse, my mind answered. A mouse is in the room, running across the floor.

But would a mouse running across the floor make a thump-thump sound?

Maybe, I told myself, and I pulled Aunt Nan's quilt up over my head.

I kept the quilt pulled tight over my head, focusing my mind on its patches and the stories behind them, when it happened yet a third ... thump-thump ... thump-thump!

This third time it sounded like the thump-thump came from right under the very bed upon which I lay!

I flung the quilt aside, jumped to the floor, yanked the bedroom door open and ran to Aunt Nan sitting in her chair by the fire.

"Aunt Nan," I gasped, "I heard a thump-thump ... thump-thump just now under the bed! Do you think it could just be my imagination?"

"Well, it could be, child ... or it could be old Jack."

"Old Jack, Aunt Nan?"

"Yes, the old hound I told you about today. He sometimes lies on the front porch sleeping. And when he dreams, he thumps his tail against the porch floor. That's all it is, child ... just old Jack asleep and dreaming on the porch. Go back to sleep now. All is well."

Well, I thought to myself, a kind old dog surely wouldn't hurt Aunt Nan's kin. So I gave my great-aunt an easy hug around her soft, wrinkled neck and returned to the warm, old quilt waiting to keep my sleep until the morning light would wake me.

That morning, when I was wakened by the early light, I remembered hearing a song in a dream. It was the lost girl's song, the one about the moon and the autumn leaves.

I remembered hearing it ... but did I dream it, or did I really hear it? I couldn't say for sure.

I didn't mention hearing the lost girl's song during the night to Aunt Nan at breakfast. She hummed a little tune and busied herself with her morning chores, while I ate my breakfast of buttered biscuits at the kitchen table.

After hurrying through breakfast, I went to the front porch to look for old Jack, but he wasn't there. What I saw instead was a necklace made of nuts and berries lying on the seat of Aunt Nan's rocker.

I called my great-aunt to come see what I had found.

"Well, I'd say that necklace was left there for you, child."

And with that said, she pulled the necklace over my head and down around my neck.

Aunt Nan then looked at the string of nuts and berries lying softly against my neck.

"Why, it fits you just right," she spoke.

And she winked at me.

Daddy and Mama came for me not long after breakfast that day. On the way back over the old dirt road, Daddy asked me about the necklace I was wearing. I told him that it was a gift from Aunt Nan. I didn't tell the two of them about the lost girl and her song, or about the necklaces Aunt Nan found in the woods. I wanted to keep those things as my secrets.

Mama turned to me sitting on the backseat and asked if I had slept well on Aunt Nan's big, old bed.

I told her and Daddy about Jack sleeping on the front porch and thumping his tail against the porch floor when he dreamed.

"Jack?" Daddy questioned, "Aunt Nan told me that old dog died ages ago!"

Then he looked at Mama and winked.

I turned to the car window, taking in the colors of the fall leaves, when I thought I caught sight of an old hound running through the woods alongside our car.

Then I thought to myself, maybe there is magic in these woods. I reached up to touch the necklace of nuts and berries lying quietly against my neck, and I said to myself ... yes, for sure, there is magic in these woods.

2007 Virginia L. Grant

COMING SUNDAY AUG. 29 IN THE COMMUNITY SECTION OF THE BRISTOL HERALD COURIER: Scarecrows are very protective of their fields. Find out what happens to those who tread where they should not, and if a scarecrow can come to life.

COMING SOON: Details about a (mildly) scary story writing contest for all ages.