Every year I throw a Witches Party at Halloween time. This year was epic! We gathered in a 112 year old schoolhouse that many believe is haunted. To play to this idea and to heighten the creepy-factor, I decided to write a ghost story to read during the party. The story is based on real paranormal investigations that have gone on at the location. One investigator claimed to pick up a ghost saying “I am swimming”. That was my inspiration. I played that the story was real when I read it and man did I have them going!
Here it is:
Excerpt taken from the journal of Nora Miller, a school teacher for a short time at Camp Floyd.
October 1, 1898
I saw her again today. This is the third time and I am beginning to question my own sanity. I didn’t even bother to write about it before now because I was sure that it was a trick of the shadows or some of the children teasing their new teacher. But now…I am frightened. I never believed such a thing could be possible and yet there she is, standing behind the schoolhouse, an amorphous figure in the trees, watching me with sad, hollow eyes. Her body is not solid and seems to billow and bend like a sheer drape in front of an open window. And her skin, pale as the dawn sky. Her hair matted to her head and face as if wet. I can still feel the chill in my bones.
I must not write anymore or I will not be able to sleep tonight.
October 18, 1898
How I wish there was someone I could talk to. Someone I could take into my confidence and discuss this. I had just begun to forget, to dismiss it all as a hallucination brought on by the stress of being in a new place, so far from home, and my first teaching job. A friend would help ease my suffering, but there is no one. The mothers of my students are too busy it seems to talk to me and the officers’ wives look down their lifted noses at me. To them I am a second class citizen. A cast off of proper society. An unmarried, working woman. To them there seems to be nothing worse. Such small mindedness. The worst happens to be the woman I board with, Mrs. Coles. She has barely said a civil word to me since I first arrived on her doorstep. But she is an angry woman in general so I stay out of her way. At least, Sarah, the help, is civil, even talkative at times. Perhaps I could talk to her, but I fear I would get her in trouble with Mrs. Coles. So perhaps not.
And so I must bare this burden on my own and I fear I may break under it.
I was sweeping the leaves from the front walk, after all the children had gone home, when I saw her again. This time she stood at the corner of the schoolhouse, peaking around the edge of the structure, watching me with those pitiful eyes. Her appearance startled me so severely that I stumbled back into the building, nearly fell, only to catch myself on the bell rope, ringing it loud and harsh. With my heart threatening to break from my ribs I forced myself to walk back outside, but she was gone. I walked all the way around the school, but there was no sign of her.
I am at a loss. Who is this girl…this ghost, as I fear she certainly is.
October 20, 1898
My hands are still shaking. I hope I can write this legibly. This morning when I entered the schoolhouse there she was, inside, sitting at one of the desks. At first I thought her only an early comer, but then her body began to shimmer. My breath stopped in my chest and cold terror washed through me. And then, dear heaven, she turned. So slowly, so deliberate, her wet hair dragging across her shoulders with the movement. Her pale eyes had come alive, burning with an intensity that will haunt my dreams until the day I die. And then, she spoke to me, her voice like the rustling of dried leaves. “I’m swimming,” was all she said. Then in the blink of an eye she was gone.
I must admit I became sick and had to run to the bushes outside. Now as I sit at my desk waiting for my students I can still feel her presence. It is like a echo of a dream that lingers in my mind. She pollutes this pleasant house. And I am more at a loss than ever. She spoke to me, as real as anything. I can no longer deny that she exists and that she wants something from me. What does it mean? “I am swimming.” She certainly looks wet. Perhaps she drowned.
Oh, the first children are arriving. How will I make it through the day?
October 21, 1898
I tried to busy myself with several tasks today only to find I was too distracted to maintain focus. As I sat at my window staring at the schoolhouse Sarah passed by with the laundry to hang on the line. I knew that Mrs. Coles was away visiting some of the other wives, so I decided to ask Sarah about the girl.
I began our conversation with some basic pleasantries, to put her at ease. Then finally I asked the fated question, “Sarah, did a young girl die in the schoolhouse?” She was reaching up, pinning a sheet in place. She froze, her back stiffening. She tried to hide it, of course, but her reaction did not escape me.
“Not that I know of, Miss,” was her curt answer. She then immediately dismissed herself with claims of something on the stove.
Sarah knows and somehow I must find a way to pull the secret from her.
October 25, 1898
Something most unexpected just happened. I had finally managed to rid my mind of the girl’s image and slip into a fitful sleep for the first time in almost a week when I was awakened by a figure standing over my bed. After I sat up in fear, Sarah whispered that it was only she. I had nearly screamed, but thank goodness I did not. I put on my glasses and saw that she held a single candle under her chin, illuminating her thin, oval face. She looked frightened and uneasy. I asked her to sit on the bed beside me and tell me why she had come. She sat, but said nothing as she looked around the room several times as if expecting something to emerge from the corners.
“Sarah, what is it? It must be important.” I placed my hand over hers and smiled. My heart was racing; I had no doubt what she had come to tell me.
“You saw her. At the schoolhouse,” she whispered. It was not a question, but a statement of fact. And it seemed to crush her, to break her heart.
“Yes,” I answered. “Several times now.”
“Oh, no. I didn’t want to believe it was true.”
“Sarah, tell me who the girl is?”
She took another deep breath and her chest hitched with a stifled sob, “She was…the Coles’ daughter, Miss. My charge. My sweet girl. Like my own.”
My jaw dropped at this unexpected proclamation. “Oh, Sarah. I am so very sorry.”
She wiped a few tears. “Thank you. Her name was Rebecca and she was the sweetest thing there ever was. But she was a bit mischievous, independent. I had the hardest time getting that child to listen. It wasn’t that she was deceitful or contemptuous, just free spirited. Her favorite thing in the world was to swim and I often found her sneaking off to the swimming hole a ways down the road. Do you know it?”
I shook my head.
“Well, it’s a favorite spot for everyone in the dry, hot summers here. But it’s not safe for a small child all alone. But no matter how many times I warned Rebecca she didn’t care. She thought she was invincible.” Sarah chuckled darkly and then wiped her eyes.
“I remember the night so well. It is burned into my mind and hovers inside me like a thick, chocking fog. Full moon, last September. Harvest celebration. The heat held on that summer and it was still hot even in the evening. Rebecca had been begging me to go to the swimming hole all day. But I didn’t have time to take her. I had breads and cakes to make for the festivities. She tried to listen I know, but eventually her willfulness got the best of her and while everyone was here in the yard talking and eating, she ran off.” Sarah began to cry in earnest. I waited with baited breath.
“I knew something was wrong. I could feel it, like a whisper on the wind. I was placing more hot bread on the table when my blood turned cold. I looked around the yard for Rebecca. When I didn’t see her I ran. I knew where I would find her. When I came around the corner there she was…the moon lighting the scene like noon day. She was floating on the surface, her new white dress spread out around her like the petals of a flower. My legs gave out on me. I collapsed to the ground, sobbing. Not able to take my eyes off her still, lifeless figure.”
Sarah collapsed against me and I held her, my mind racing back through the details of her story.
“Sarah, if she dies at the swimming hole why does Rebecca haunt the schoolhouse?” She pulled away from me.
“Miss, that is the most terrible part. Oh dear, I shouldn’t tell you this. No one knows that I know. I shouldn’t know.”
“I am safe, Sarah. I will keep the secret,” I urged.
Sarah sat back, tall and stiff. Her eyes widened and even in the dark room I could see the whites shining. “Rebecca didn’t drown. She was murdered, strangled, behind the schoolhouse, while it was still being built”
“Yes. You see as I sat in the road crying, watching her body I saw him standing in the shadows of the trees. A soldier. He had the strangest look in his eyes. A look that pierced my soul. He stared at Rebecca almost in amazement, but also in horror. And he stood so very still. I could not even see his chest moving with his breath. That look on his face told me everything.” Sarah began to wring the life out of her kerchief. My own heart felt squeezed and wrung.
“I knew the soldier,” Sarah continued. “He had been at the house earlier. He and the lieutenant had fought. Yelling even. I’ve never heard a soldier yell at an officer before. I had a sense of foreboding even then, but the pile of tasks for the day soon distracted me.”
She turned to me then, suddenly urgent, “He killed Rebecca as some kind of revenge on Lt. Coles. And when the LT saw the marks on his little girl’s neck I think he knew. And Miss Nora,” she looked around the room and then lowered her voice, “that soldier ended up dead. They found him floating in the swimming hole only three days later.”
Sarah nodded, “I don’t know why her spirit is back and why she appears to you, but I have an awful feeling in my heart. You must stay away from her. Ghost you were wronged in this life are often dangerous in the next. I know. My grandmother told me stories.”
That is where Sarah’s story ended. I have been sitting at my desk for the past hour, thinking and staring at the schoolhouse, my skin crawling with the new knowledge I possess. A full moon hangs in the sky, casting harsh shadows across the landscape, which only adds to my trepidation. I will not be able to go back to sleep.
Oh, dear heaven, there she is! I see her standing on the steps of the schoolhouse. There is an ethereal glow about her and I can feel the intensity of her eyes even from this distance.
What do I do? Will she talk to me, tell me what she wants?
Oh! I hope you can read this. I have blotted the page. As I stood to leave something caught my eye. Another shimmer of movement behind the girl. It’s him! I am sure of it. I can see his blue, wool uniform and cap. He has his hand on her shoulder. I think I may be sick. My blood has turned to ice, my heart feels as if it will explode and my hands shake. And I hear my name on the wind. She is whispering to me. Her call is strong, a force that nearly compels me.
I shouldn’t go. I can’t.
Nora Miller was never heard from again. Her journal was found left open on her desk and all her belongings were in place.
However, during last nights’ paranormal investigation one of the participants thought they saw the figure of a woman in one of these windows. She was wearing glasses.