I pin this story as much to analyze and understand it better as to share it. My life has been one filled with strange events and happenings, or at least other people call them strange. I always think of them as ordinary everyday occurrences. Knowing some things before they happen, reaching for the phone before it rings, being outside and telling someone I have to go inside because I am about to get a phone call that I need to answer, aren’t strange to me. These things have happened regularly throughout my life, although there are times when they happened more frequently than at others.
One major recurring event often occurred connected to my work in the real estate field. I would have an appointment to inspect a house. This inspection involved going both inside and outside. The outside part included measuring the house. Doing measurements in the rain was impractical at best with water dripping from the roof where I had to stand, leaving me wet and more importantly wetting everything I was holding to record the measurements. In a period of many years, probably ten to fifteen, it never rained on me while I was measuring. I carried a raincoat but never used it. At times, it would be raining as I was driving to the property and the rain would be steady until about the time I reached my destination, then the rain would stop. I would do my inspection and measure, all in the dry. More times than not, when I would finish the outside inspection, the rain would return. Several people over the years witnessed and marveled at this. They all thought it was wonderful, but strange. One used to say “Only you” when I would tell something, but I thought it to be normal.
This event I set down for your consideration happened in the presence of another, a girlfriend, who was present at a number of other “strange” events. In looking back, it seems that the frequency of events tends to increase when I am around particular people. I wonder if their energy combined with mine somehow increases the intensity of the connection I have to whatever causes these occurrences.
With that being said, the story I am about to relate seems strange even to me. The story is true as witnessed by my friend. I will tell the story in as close to chronological order as I can, even though some of the events that happened to my friend were told to me after the fact, as they did not include me.
I was working in a rural area of southeast North Carolina. I had completed the job and my friend, who was helping me, and I were returning home. The road was the normal, narrow winding country road. Houses were within sight of each other in most places. Fields and swamps are the normal lay of the land. The landscape is flat and low lying with a high water table.
We passed through one of those little communities where the sign marking the town had the name on both sides of the same post. This little community contained maybe a dozen houses in reasonably close proximity. As I slowed to cross the railroad, I had a strange feeling. I felt…like I was home. This town, however, was nowhere near to where I grew up. To my left, I noticed a large overgrown home site with huge old live-oak trees and, for a brief instant, I saw a large two-story white wooden building with a wraparound porch sitting among the trees.
I put on brakes and almost stopped as I stared at the empty lot where I had just seen the building. In my mind, I heard a voice cry, “Help me”.
“What’s going on?” My friend asked.
“That place called to me.”
“What did it say?”
Her face paled and she looked around at the lot.
“You heard someone?”
“No, the place called to me.” I stopped moving. We were near the edge of the lot, about to completely pass it.
“Do you know who it is?”
No, it came from back there, in that place. There was a large white building there for a second…a hotel, I think.”
“What do you sense?”
“Fear. It’s terrified and needs my help.”
“I don’t know.”
“Then we need to leave, now. You don’t know what could be calling you…let’s go.”
My heart was pounding. I was sweating. I felt the fear and it was calling to me for help. I pulled ahead and turned down a side street that circled the lot which was smaller than a city block.
“Where are we going?”
“I want to see what is back here.”
There was nothing of any interest behind the lot, so I turned and drove back to the main road. Instead of turning and leaving, I drove across the road onto another side street. I had to see what was around. This place terrified me, but somehow it was also home.
Having found nothing in the surrounding areas, I drove back to the lot. It looked nothing out of the ordinary. Large oak trees with bushes, briers and small young pines covered most of the area. A gravel driveway led into the site with a square graveled parking area near the center. I parked along the road in line with the center of the lot but not in the driveway, a fact that was to provide additional mystery later.
I got out of the car and walked around it to the side away from the road. There was about three to four feet of space between the car and the side ditch. I looked at the lot for a while and felt drawn to it. I couldn’t understand the feelings I was getting or the pull to enter.
My friend got out of the car and told me we should leave, and for me not to enter the lot. I paid no attention to her and walked across the side ditch which contained no water and was very dry and solid. When my friend tried to follow, as she later told me, the ditch had water in it and there was soft mud in every direction. She said she was unable to cross the ditch. She called me to come back and not open up to the place.
I walked further onto the lot. I remember reaching the area of gravel, but I was no longer in the same place. The blue/grey graveled area was gone and I was standing in a yard, if one could call it that. There was no grass, no gravel, just bare dirt. The oaks in the yard were considerably smaller than the huge three to four foot diameter trees I passed when I entered the lot. In front of me stood a large two-story wooden building with a wraparound porch and chimneys at each end.
The building was white but not as you think of a white painted house now. The paint looked thin and the wood shone through as though someone had thinned the paint too much and tried to stretch it out to finish the painting instead of buying more and the building had a whitewashed look. I somehow knew it was a hotel. I could see no one or even any sign of people.
I moved forward into the space and walked past the hotel. It held no particular interest for me. Several small houses stood back behind the hotel, barely more than one or two room shacks and they stood directly in front of me now. I never looked back at the hotel again.
The setting changed. It was no longer daytime, night had fallen and I could only see what was inside a small circle around me, as if I might have been carrying a lantern. The light reached out five feet and then slowly yielded to the darkness.
I felt fear, consuming and paralyzing fear, coming from the shack directly in front of me. Someone screamed, not a loud lingering piercing scream but one that almost instantly decayed into a whimper. It was a noise like people make when startled, but I didn’t hear it as much as I felt it. A loud deeper voice shouted, but I have no memory of what it said, just of the voice, harsh and commanding.
“Help me,” came the small pleading voice in my head. It sounded young but not a child, defiantly a female. “You can help me.” There was no emotion in the voice, just a statement of fact. How could I help? I understand it no more now than then and I have given it a good deal of consideration over the years.
There was a small porch on the front of the shack and a small window in the wall beside the porch. I moved toward the window to see what was going on inside, but in dream fashion, I moved to the corner of the shack instead of the window. I reached out to touch it and I was standing in the corner, inside the room.
It was a small room with tongue and groove board walls and ceiling, like old country homes of the area. The walls were whitewashed. The room was dimly lit in some way, from an area off to my left. I could not see the source of the light and it did not cast any shadows, probably due to the dimness of the illumination. In the wall across from me was a small fireplace with an unsanded wooden mantle. There was no fire burning. A small rough looking board-framed bed was across from me on my left. The covers were not bright or fine but rough pieces in a light tan, off-white color. A small hosier cabinet with a large white bowl sat to my right. There were a couple of rough straight-backed wooden chairs set about the room, one overturned on the floor. Directly in front of me was the back of a man, or rather half of the back of a man. The view of his left side appeared to be blocked by something. In picturing this scene as I have done so often, it seems I am behind something, or not totally in the room. It appears to me as a photo and there is a leaf or something so close to the lens that it blurs and blocks out what is behind. This is the best I can describe the effect I saw.
The man wore a pair of heavy tan pants supported by brown suspenders and a brown shirt with the sleeves rolled up almost to the elbows. The pants were tucked into dark brown boots that came up mid-calf. Something has always bothered me about his pants. They looked so different from modern pants. A recent documentary about a television show set following the civil war mentioned that most work pants at that time were made from canvas. That was it. The pants were a tan canvas. He had a whip coiled in his right hand. It was a bullwhip with a handle of braided leather, not wood.
In front and to the right of him was a small wooden table made with thin legs and boards for a top. Under the table was a young dark-skinned girl of possibly early teenage huddled against the wall. She had big eyes that looked at me and actually saw me. She knew I was there.
“Please…” I saw the word on her lips but heard no sound. “Help me…you can free me.”
During this conversation the man had not moved. He stood in an aggressive stance with his legs and arms wide. I started to move and instantly, I was looking at the table from a different angle and saw, much closer, the frightened girl cowering behind it. I looked down and saw an arm—my arm in a brown shirt with the sleeves rolled almost to my elbows and in my hand was the whip. Was I this man? Was I inside the man? I still do not know and probably never will.
I dropped the whip like a man who discovers he is holding a coiled snake and backed away. The girl’s face melted (I can think of no better word to use) into a strange tight-lipped smile. She looked into my eyes and I saw peace.
“Thank you,” she mouthed the words and closed her eyes.
The next second I was again standing on the overgrown lot about three steps from the ditch. I walked back across the dry firm ditch, which my friend swore had been muddy and wet moments before. She told me that after I crossed the ditch, I stopped after about three steps and stood there. I didn’t move or answer her as she called me and each time she tried to cross the ditch it was squishy with mud and full of water. She admitted it was dry when I crossed it both times but swore to me that as soon as I got across it changed. I believed her.
I got in the car, but there was such emotion stirred up that I couldn’t drive and began to cry. I don’t mean sobbing. I mean bawling like a baby. Tears rolled down my cheeks and dropped off my chin.
My friend was more scared now than before and got behind the wheel.
“We have to get you away from here.”
As we drove, the crying began to subside. She asked me what had happened and every time I tried to explain, the crying returned. Distance did not seem to affect the emotions I had felt. It was days later before I could tell her anything without bursting into tears. The tears weren’t from fear or even pain. Now the crying was from a sense of elation at being free from that moment of terror.
I later talked to an elderly woman who had lived across the street all her life. I described to her the buildings I saw and she responded that it had looked exactly like that when she was a little girl. She didn’t know of any stories about anything involving a young girl at the hotel. She told me the hotel had rotted down years ago.
This happened years ago, but I can still see the face of the girl. The place no longer calls to me as I drive past, but I still wonder why the place called to me and what actually took place that day.