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Volume 26, Number 10 — October 2018

Campfire Stories: "The Girl at Grandmother's House'

The girl held a finger to her lips as if to say
The girl held a finger to her lips as if to say "sshhh," and then she appeared to be pulled back into the wall. She disappeared. (Illustration: Steven Shortridge | Bristol herald Courier)

By VIRGINIA L. GRANT | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER | September 12, 2010

*** Third in a seven-part series of (mildly) scary stories. Published Sunday, Sept. 5 in the Bristol Herald Courier. Click HERE to see guidelines about writing a (mildly) scary stories and winning money! ***

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.

The wind blew hard that night. it whistled around the old house, throwing tree branches against windows. the branches scratched against the windowpanes. by the dark of the night, they looked like hand bones clawing at the glass.

My mom and dad had gone out of town that Saturday, so I was spending the night at my grandmother's.
Grams had wrapped a blanket around me, and I pulled it closer to my chin as I sneaked a glance towards the "hands" clawing to get in.

My grandmother lived in (and still lives in) an old farmhouse at the end of a little country road. As a child, I didn't know just how old the house was, but I did know that kids at school referred to it as "that old house." In fact, they seemed to enjoy teasing me now and then with, "That old house is haunted, you know?"

Did I know? Sometimes I thought I did know, but other times ... well ... I just wasn't sure one way or the other. I sometimes felt like someone was close by watching me when I visited my grandmother's; but then, my parents had raised me to believe that "There is no such thing as a ghost!"

"Do you believe in ghosts, Grams?" I asked that windy night years ago, when I was a young girl, just 10 years old.
My grandmother sat down on the couch beside me and picked up her needles to knit. "Now, why do you ask me that tonight, Pumpkin?"

"Some people say that this house is haunted."

"Well, some people don't live in this house, now do they? Some people don't have a clue about what does or does not go on in this house.)

"And, you know, even if a house is haunted, it doesn't mean that the haint is hateful ... or so I've heard."

"But, Grams, is it true about the little girl?"

"What little girl might that be, sweetheart?"

"The one who fell down the stairs and ... and ..."

Grandmother peered at me from over the frame of her glasses, her knitting needles poised for the next stitch. "And broke her neck? There are stories of just such a little girl."

"The kids at school say that it happened on the night of her 10th birthday, and that today is the anniversary of her ... accident."

"The kids at school know everything, don't they?"

"But have you seen her, Grams? Please tell me the–"

"I'll tell you what I hear, young lady." Grandmother set her knitting on the table beside the couch. "I hear a teakettle whistling, telling me that it's time for hot chocolate and then for bed."

Chocolate, in any form, has always been the best of distractions for me ...

Grams and I never did finish that conversation.

I sipped my hot chocolate while my grandmother tidied the kitchen.

Then Grams sent me to the bathroom to brush my teeth while she let her dog, Lucy, out "to water the lawn" – as Grams put it.

Having done her watering, the fuzzy, little black dog followed my grandmother and me up the steps to one of the three bedrooms upstairs.

Grams tucked me snugly under the covers and patted the bed for Lucy to lie down beside me.

With a kiss on my cheek, my grandmother turned off the bedside lamp and made her way back down the steps to her own bedroom.

Settling under the covers, I was thankful to hear that the wind, too, had settled herself. I pulled Lucy to my chest and kissed the dog's head before I drifted easily into sleep.

With sleep comes dreams, and I dreamed of Grams knitting while rocking in her rocker ... until I woke to hear the chair creaking back and forth, back and forth. I stroked Lucy's ear, kissed her head again and went right back to sleep. I slept for some time longer until I woke a second time, feeling as if someone were standing by the bed.

I sat up on the bed and looked to either side, but I saw no one. I looked to the window for signs of the wind having stirred up again, but all was still.

And then I heard the rocker again, creaking back and forth ... back and forth.

I wondered to myself, why is Grams still up at this time of night?

I snuggled back under the covers, pulled Lucy to my chest and kissed her head before I fell asleep yet again. I don't know how long I had slept before I woke for the third time. Again, I felt as if someone were watching me. And again I sat up on the bed, but this time ... I saw her.

The girl stood in a corner of the room. She looked real, but at the same time, as if she were made of light. She looked to be about my age but from another time.

Her brown hair lay in braids by either side of her face. The bows tied on the ends of her braids matched the white apron she wore over her dress. On her legs, she wore white stockings, and on her feet, she wore low-heeled black boots that laced up the front.

My heart beat hard and fast as I stared at the girl ... and she stared back at me.

Was I dreaming? Could I still be asleep?

I clutched Lucy's fur into my left hand, leaned towards the dream-like girl and whispered, "Who are you?"

The girl held a finger to her lips as if to say "sshhh," and then she appeared to be pulled back into the wall. She disappeared.

Within a moment, the girl was gone.

As I sat staring at the empty corner, the rocking chair started again ... creak-crick, creak-crick, creak-crick.

I didn't understand if I had dreamed the girl – or what – but I decided definitely that I would sleep better elsewhere.I slid off the bed, pulling its top cover with me. Then, calling Lucy to go with me, I tiptoed down the stairs to the living room couch.

When my grandmother found me in the morning asleep on the couch, she asked when I had come downstairs.

"You could have waked me, sweetheart. An old lady like me needs to get started early on the day, you know?"
"Grams," I spoke as I rubbed my eyes, "why were you up all night?"

"Up all night, Pumpkin?"

"Yes, I heard you in your rocking chair all through the night. The creaking kept waking me up."

"Sweetheart, I had your Uncle Jim take that old chair to the attic last week. I've worn that old thing out. The seat needs mending."

"But, Grams, I heard–"

"The wind. You heard the commotion the wind caused last night. Now enough of this prattle ... let Lucy out before she springs a leak. I'll get water going for hot chocolate."

Chocolate again ... my grandmother did know how to distract a young, inquisitive mind.

I let Lucy out, drank my hot chocolate and ate my egg sandwich without mentioning the girl I had seen – or dreamed? I had a feeling that my grandmother was familiar with the girl and comfortable with her as well.

I also had a feeling Grams knew that others – including my parents – would not understand, nor be comfortable with my experience.

To this day, though, I still remember the girl's birthday, but I never have spent the night at Grams' on that date again. And I never have seen the girl again.

Yet, even now, when I visit Grams' house – especially on windy nights – I sometimes catch the creak-crick, creak-crick, creak-crick of a rocking chair that still sits in my grandmother's attic ... unmended, but not unused.

© 2007 VIRGINIA L. GRANT