I am not a superstitious man but these matters shook me, and my unsettled feeling was intensified by a pair of widely separated newspaper cutting relating to deaths in Allendale—one from the Gallatin News dated April 12, 1915 and the other from The Nashville Banner dated October 27, 1945—each of which detailed an appallingly grisly circumstance whose duplication was remarkable. It seems that in both instances the dying person, in 1915 a gentle old lady named Stafford and in 1945 a school-teacher of middle age named Eleanor Murfree, became transformed in a terrible manner; glaring glassily and attempting to bite the throats of the attending physicians. Even more puzzling though was the final case that put an end to the renting of the house—an anemic teenager who succumbed to some kind of madness that caused him to attempt to slit the throats, necks, and wrists of his sleeping family members.
This was in the 60s, when my uncle had just graduated from college and not yet left for Vietnam. He said that the teenager was the talk of the town with people blaming his behavior on that rock and roll music. But the really inexplicable thing was the way in which all the victims—somewhat desperate people whose lives had already been difficult, for the ill-smelling and widely shunned house could be rented to no others—would babble maledictions in French, a language they could not possibly have studied to any extent. Again I was reminded of Eliza and the children’s song. And, in fact, it was the common fact of French being spoken that so moved my uncle to begin collecting all of the data I was now sorting through.
I could see that my uncle had fretted over the troubles with the house and that he was relieved to have someone to share his interest. Finally he could discuss the matter with someone who would not laugh or shy away from the subject. He had not begun to imagine the possibilities of vampires or other outside curses, but he felt that the place was rare and strange and, perhaps, if he could come to understand what made it so, he could understand why such stories emerged about it.
Hey all, I wrote a story which you can read here. It is about how you meet people if you never leave the house. It’s also about how you protect yourself from burglars if you don’t have a gun. And it’s spooky. And, um, that’s it.
I think the South is corrupting me. This morning I called a church I don’t go to in a town I don’t live in to tell them that I thought their LP tank didn’t smell right when I was in their cemetery yesterday.
The guy I talked to said he thought he smelled something weird in the church last night, too, so he was going to go right out and check on it.
Who does this?! What has become of me?
Has this place made me nicer?
(In my defense, I had to call, because I am a notorious fretter and I could not stop myself from fretting about the church and the cemetery exploding in a fiery disaster unparalleled since the cannons knocked over gravestones during the Civil War. But I assert that the real me would just fret privately and then, when the explosion happened, wonder why no one noticed and told them about the smell. This fake me, obviously corrupted by the good influence of you people is calling folks up and warning them! What the fuck?)
Before we get started on the main point of this post, I just want to say that yesterday Mrs. Wigglebottom was so stiff in her back hip that she could barely get down the steps to go to the bathroom. One peanutbutter and baby aspirin cocktail later and this morning she was running through the yard chasing the cat, who was as gobsmacked as I was that the dog was, you know, running. There may be nothing funnier than the look on a cat’s face when something it finds utterly bizarre is happening. The orange cat literally seemed to be saying “What the fuck?” as the dog ran it over.
Oh, which reminds me. Now the dog has decided she doesn’t like cheese. Won’t take a baby aspirin in it. That made me want to make a face like the orange cat and say “What the fuck?”
Anyway, ever since I was out to the Carney/Demonbreun cemetery last week, I have been wondering about the weird not-quite-ditch looking thing in it. But I couldn’t figure out what it was. Well, it just took S. maybe five seconds to figure out a better angle to stand at and then, duh, it was so obvious it was the old cemetery wall and the lane that used to run along it that I was almost embarrassed.
But it reminded me of how nice it is to have a second pair of eyes on things. I mean, I am a cemetery junkie and I have had kind friends indulge me and come with me and pretend to be interested. But S. is the first person I’ve known who is also a cemetery junkie. And man, is it great to have someone you can say “Okay, look at this–natural or man made?” and have her seriously consider it.
I know it’s just the season. It makes me all grateful. But really, I have been extraordinarily lucky to meet amazing people who really make my life better.