22. The Strange Case of George Harding

George Harding was a young man who fell into the Harpeth when it was swollen one spring and, though he was as strong swimmer, he went under and never came up. Though there is a marker for him in the graveyard by the Ensworth School, his body was not recovered until recently. He was found by Jim Sharp while he and his son were walking along the Harpeth in the small park under the Route 100 bridge. The flood had, apparently, uncovered the bones which had been buried in the bank.

Sharp, upon discovering the bones, immediately called the police who came out and marked off the area as a crime scene. They took a statement from Sharp and he and his son headed for his nearby home.

Everything was fine until he got out of the car. Even before he could get around to his son’s side of the car, he felt what he later described as a hard wind.

“I felt,” he told me, “Like I had been punched in the face, from the inside. Especially, right along my nose and under my eyes. I felt this enormous pressure.

“And then, I was seeing double. I mean, it was like seeing double or wearing bifocals or something. Except, if I looked one way, I could see my house and car and everything, like I had always known it, and, if I looked another way, I saw farmland.

“Hell, I’ll be honest. I thought maybe I was having some kind of flashback. Like I’d be the guy who dropped acid once and had flashbacks about rural America.”

The double-vision came and went, throughout the rest of the day. That night, he dreamed he was at the Belle Meade Mansion and there was a huge party. He was dancing with three or four different young women who were all vying for his attention, and who were decked out in enormous ballgowns supported by layers of petticoats.

“It wasn’t a dream,” he said. “I woke up and I just knew it wasn’t just a dream. It was so vivid, like when you dream about your kid being born or the moment your wife tells you she wants a divorce. You dream about it like it happened. Only, obviously, it hadn’t happened to me.

“In the morning, I called the police to find out what was going on and they told me that they’d turned the bones over to the state after determining that they were over 150 years old.

“‘Probably that Harding kid,’ the officer on the phone said and when he said the name, it was like, I don’t know, it was like my whole body just ached, like some part of me recognized that name.

“I called my ex-wife. I didn’t know what else to do. I told her I thought I was possessed. She took it better than I thought she might. She did a bunch of research on drowned Harding kids.

“‘George,’ she said, ‘His name was George,’ and I just busted out crying. Only, it wasn’t me. God, this is weird. But you see what I’m saying. I couldn’t have cared less. But the kid in me did.

“And then, then I said, ‘Ma’am, I would like to see my sister, if you can find her.’ Only, obviously, I know where my sister is. But my ex, she was always much better about this weird stuff life throws you than I am. She says, ‘Okay.’

“So, she starts doing research, trying to track down this kid’s sister. Meanwhile, now he’s in my head. And he’s freaked out. I mean, if I could keep the new stuff to a size he could manage, he was fascinated. He loved indoor lighting and television kind of blew his mind.

“But, when I went to the grocery store, I got stuck in the meat department, because he got all freaked out and afraid. I had to call my ex to come get me.

“I told her that, if this kept up, I was going to have to move back in with her, just so she could mother this kid, too. She even found that funny, which was nice.

“I know you didn’t come to hear about my problems with my ex, but that was the moment when we became friends again. Hundred percent improved things for my kid. Weird as it was, I’m grateful to George for that.

“Anyway, so she found his sister. I mean, yeah, she found her buried over in Mt. Olivet. But more than that, his sister, Elizabeth Harding, was sent to stay with the other side of the family, out in Donelson, after George died.

“And now, she haunts Two Rivers.”

“Really?” I said. “Two ghosts in the same family?”

“You know that’s how those two families are, right?”

“What two families?”

“The Hardings and the Donelsons. Being a ghost runs in both families. You see a ghost in Nashville you don’t know, you just holler ‘Harding’ or ‘Donelson’ and chances are pretty good they’ll turn around.

“So, really, if it were any other family, yeah, I guess it’d be strange, but they’re Hardings, so of course they’re ghosts.”

Now, I have to tell you, when I say this kind of stuff to other people, I don’t think it sounds strange. I figure that, if we’re talking about ghosts, you’re kind of prepared for any weirdness that might come up. But sitting there listening to Sharp talk about ghostliness running in old Nashville families? I admit, I had half a mind that he was crazy.

He continued, “So we arranged for a tour of Two Rivers mansion, claimed we were considering getting married there and my ex took the lady who was showing us around off into a back room under some pretense and George and I stood at the bottom of the stairs.

“‘Is this where Liza lives?’ he asked and I said, ‘Well, kind of. She’s dead.’ and he just started crying so hard I had snot all running down my face. ‘What kind of terrible place is this?’ he wailed. ‘Everything looks different. Everyone I love is dead.’ and I said, ‘You know you’re dead, too, right?’ and I don’t know if he just hadn’t quite thought about it or what, but that though seemed to calm him down. ‘Why don’t you go see if you can’t find Liza?’ I said and he nodded and sniffled a little bit and then, there was this incredible pressure on my face and I thought I might throw up. I opened my mouth and I pushed out my tongue and it was like he just poured out of me.

“And then, he was gone.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. But, hey, his body’s in his grave now and now I hear stories about a young man who haunts Two Rivers. So, maybe he’s okay?

“I hope he’s okay, anyway. I never heard from him again.”

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