Cajun ghost story about a miserly father whose cruelty to his only daughter comes back to haunt him during a gulf storm. Written and told by J.J. Reneaux.

Audio Story – Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

Listen to stoiryteller J.J. Reneaux narrate her story “Knock, Knock, Who’s There?”

Around La Ville, New Orleans, the land is so low and wet that the dead have to be buried above ground in a vault. Folks don’t bury their dead in a grave in the ground. If the river were to overflow the levee, or a hurricane to flood the land, your loved one might just float back up from the grave and pay you a return visit!

Down the river a little ways from La Ville, there once lived an old man with his only child, a jolie fille called Therese. Her maman had died and Therese was left in the care of her papa, a greedy, miserly man who worked his girl like a mule and dressed her in rags. Though she was of a marrying age, he would not allow any young man to court her. She saw no one except her mean ol’ papa.

Louisiana Swamp

All he ever cared for were the gold coins that he kept hidden under a loose board in the floor beneath his bed. Every night he’d lock the door, and by the light of a flickering candle, he’d count his golden coins. He loved the way they clinked and glowed and weighed so heavy in his hands. But poor Therese, she was so lonesome. Every night she’d come knocking on his door, knock, knock. Her papa would yell out, “Who’s there?”

“Papa, c’ est moi,” she’d say. “It’s me, Therese. Papa, let me in, talk with me. I am so lonely.”

But her papa would only holler back at her, “Girl, get on outta here and get back to work. You only wanta get your hands on my gold, and thatta be over my dead body!”

And so it went until one night, knock, knock. “Who’s there?”

“Papa, it’s me, Therese. Me, I’m sick-sick,” she moans. “Papa, let me in!”

But he just yells back, “You lazy good-for-nothin’! Get outta here. You’re not sick. You just wanta get your hands on my money, and thatta be over my dead body!”

Again and again Therese returned to her father’s door, knock, knock. “Who’s there?”

“Papa, c’ est moi. Papa, let me in. I’m bad sick. I need the healer. Please, Papa, send for the traiteur!”

Knock, knock. “Who’s there?”

Historic Louisiana Swamp Cabin

“Papa, please help me. The pain is worse. Oh, Papa, open the door!”

But her papa’s heart was as cold as his golden coins. At last the girl’s cries faded to silence, and she knocked no more. The old man was full of curiosity, and so he opened the door. There, lying lifeless on the porch floor, was jolie Therese. The old man was too stingy to buy a vault for his daughter. Instead, he laid Therese in a crude wooden coffin and buried her in a shallow, swampy grave down by the cypress tree.

The neighbors all shook their heads. They warned there would be trouble. How could poor Therese rest in peace in such a grave?

Three weeks went by and a storm began to coil up out over the gulf. The winds churned and rain fell like needles as the hurricane passed over the land. Night found the old man sitting in his room counting his gold coins by flickering candlelight. Outside, the wind howled and blew sheets of rain against the house. The old man did not know that the river had already spilled over the levee and sent its dark water across the land. He sat in his rocking chair, his lap full of gold, rocking and counting, “Un, deux, trois …”

Something thumped against his porch with a hollow, wooden clatter. Knock, knock, knock sounded at his door. “Who’s there?” he hollers.

Only a great sigh like the wind answered. “Just a loose shutter bangin’,” he thinks, and went on counting his shining gold. “Un, deux, trois …”

Knock, knock, knock pounded at his door, stronger this time. “Who’s there?”

Only a whining wind answered him. “Just that good- for-nothin’ hound dog tryin’ to get in,” he thinks. Again he returned to his golden coins. “Un, deux, trois …”

Knock, knock, knock! Three great booming knocks hammered at his door. “Who’s there?”

Only a low, sad moaning. A cold shiver ran down the old man’s back. “Storm’s gotcha all jumpy,” he says to himself. “It’s just the wind blowin’ that ol’ live oak tree, scrapin’ its branches against the house.”

But the moaning rose and rose above the wailing wind until it became a horrifying scream. “Papa, c’est moi, Therese! Let me in! It’s me, Therese!” Knock, knock, knock! “Papa, let me in!” Knock, knock, knock! “Papa, let me innnnnn!”

As the eye of the storm passed over the house, a bloodcurdling shriek pierced the deadly calm. Three days passed and the waters receded. Neighbors came by to look in on the old man. They rode onto his land, and as they passed by the cypress tree they saw that the flood had washed all the dirt away from Therese’s grave and it was empty. They knocked at the back door but no voice answered. Fearing some harm had befallen the old man, they went inside.

They found him sitting like stone in his rocking chair, cold as marble, his hair gone snow white. A silent scream was frozen on his face, and his eyes bulged in glassy terror.

New Orleans Louisiana Above Ground Crypt

Across the room, the door hung limp from one hinge, as though some monstrous fist had pounded it down. Before it lay a battered, splintered coffin and, inside, the gruesome corpse of Therese. Her withered hands clutched her papa’s golden coins, and a ghastly smile lay fixed upon her decaying lips.

With the money, the neighbors bought Therese a whitewashed vault and gave her a proper above ground burial. There was not enough money to buy the old man a vault, so they buried him in a pine coffin down by the cypress tree.

Since that time, whenever the river threatens to flood the land, the old man’s troubled spirit rises to warn all that danger is at hand. Folks know he’s payed them a visit when they hear someone knock, knock, knocking at their door but nobody is ever there!

– THE END –

Schoolhouse

Teachers can download instructional materials based on this story and others on our Lesson Plans page.

Story Credits – Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

Written and Told by J.J. Reneaux

Artwork by Berta Fuller

Audio version from the tape, Cajun Ghost Stories
Copyright 1992 J.J. Reneaux
Published by August House Publishers, Inc.
Used by Permission

Text version taken from the book, Cajun Folktales
Copyright 1992 J.J. Reneaux
Published by August House Publishers, Inc.
Used by Permission

We’ll let storyteller J.J. Reneaux tell us how she came up with this story:

“This is a blending of two family stories passed down through my family and told for true. It’s a good example of how stories evolve from real events, and survive time and distance to become folktales.

The story is based on fact. Buried coffins did indeed float up during flooding– hence the practice of burying the dead above the ground in vaults and “ovens” (wall vaults). According to family legend, one of my ancestors was too cheap to properly bury his wife and, when the land flooded, she floated up and knocked against the house, so terrifying her miserly old husband that he went mad by morning.

The rest of the story as I have presented it is based on the further legend of my poor Tante Claire. As the story goes, when she was sixteen, she knocked on her father’s door one night, complaining of being sick, but he thought she was just putting on and refused to get her any medical help. By the time he realized just how sick his daughter really was, it was too late. She died on the kitchen table while the unprepared country doctor tried to perform an emergency appendectomy with a butcher knife.”

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. Nate

    wow that was creepy

  2. Mykey

    This story will always hold a special place in my heart! I had it on audio tape as a kid. It is actually on the iBooks store as an audio book for anybody wanting to hear her other stories.

  3. Anthony N.

    This is such a cool story! So specific and unique! Always loved horror stories!
    *Shuts computer and leaves room smiling*

  4. Alec Torres

    This story is very good, as my brother was scared out of his pants. He couldn’t have anyone knock on his door all night! We was terrified! 😀

  5. Cheyenne

    Nice….. I always loved stories like this one!!!

  6. Rue

    Where and where is the setting?

  7. jj

    this is a great story. I couldnt even imagine something like this happening to me.this is a very spooky story. thanks for sharing this

  8. kick

    nice story!!!!! a good bit spooky though…….Papa its me Papa Therese Im so sick Papa let me innnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. jaret

    this was soo scary it was awsome

  10. pooperscooper

    this was soo scary

  11. hattie

    woa i think this story is aswome and i think the dad is mean but she dersived to die so she dont have to be there with her dad best story

  12. Sunshine

    Whoa…… The person who read out this story is definitely qualified to read much of anything. SOOOOOO SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SCARIEST STORY EVER. Although it sounds more Mexican then American. Won’t be sleeping for weeks. THE ILLUSRATIONS ARE QUITE SCARY TOO……

  13. E'nya__

    very….. umm scary? but whoever made this damn story has a great and incredible mind! (and excuse my french)

  14. Mrs. Donigan

    My students absolutely love this story. They insist on hearing it over and over again. The story teller is awesome and brings the events to life for my kids.

    1. themoonlitroad

      Thanks, Mrs. Donigan. I’m sure J.J. if she were with us would like to know that.

  15. sofia

    Woah. Thats scary

  16. Virginia

    One of my favorite stories on this site (among many). Maybe the old man’s soul has finally redeemed from his selfish, miserly ways, as indicated in the end (his restless spirit does beneign work – knocking on doors to warn of floods).

  17. WebcomicSurfer

    Serves the old fart right, right? Now that he’s dead, he has no more use for his precious gold.

  18. animal*lover

    i dont get this… anybody wanna help?

  19. Jessica

    Great story. So sad to know that a father greed will go so far as to foget about his own daughter. But he had what was coming. And Therese came a knockin. OOOOOOOOoooo

  20. Madelaine Love

    I heard JJ tell this story. She came up to Idaho and did a workshop for our storytelling guild. I had never liked ghost stories, but I love this one.

  21. Toby

    Whatever she was, I hope she doesn’t come knocking at MY door!

  22. Dr. Egon Spengler

    From the description, Therese was probably a class 4 full roaming apparition.

  23. james

    greedy selfish man poor girl

  24. alexis

    (: this is the most heart filled story ever

  25. Chrissyg

    Great story…The old man got what he deserved!

  26. Katiebeth

    Ooh. I really liked that one. Creepy, but not overly terrifying; just enough to send a chill down your spine. =)

  27. leah

    wow that’s scary i know someone who lived near there and i showed her it and am still waiting to see if she recognized it or any comment she has about it.

  28. Therese

    Papa, c’ est moi It’s me, Therese. Papa, let me in, talk with me. I am so lonely.

  29. awesomwe!

    I realy liked it. I wright scary stories to. poor girl Therese……(sigh)

  30. Dundevan

    Thanks really found this story scary, definitely one for our Halloween party ghost story.

  31. patrick

    The bad part about that is I could see it as I read it. I live nere swamps in black river n.c. . and ,no joke, that place is creepy. It can have your mind going in many places. None of witch are good. floating down river at some 3:00 am. and the many wind things make sounds that don’t sound of this earth. and you cast your light across the water to see the eyes looking at you. You just man up and keep checking your lines.

  32. Lori

    I realy love this story. Knock, Knock!!