Who is the ghostly organ player in the creepy house down the road? Read this South Carolina haunted house tale from Tony Young.
When I was a boy I frequently spent some time with my grandparents. They were country folk. Their house was on a dirt road on the county line between Greenwood and McCormick counties in South Carolina. I would sometimes spend the entire summer with them. Grandpa was a farmer and the nearest house to theirs was a mile away.
One day I was riding with Grandpa in the wagon back from Uncle Jake’s when we passed an old burned out house. There wasn’t much left of it, just some old charred timbers and an old chimney. “Grandpa,” I asked, “whose house was that?”
Grandpa cleared his throat and said, “That was old Mister Gulledge’s house. It caught fire one night a long time ago when I was a boy and burned up. Mister Gulledge got burned up in it! He was the organ player at our church, you know. But they say he learned to play the organ when he ran away as a boy and joined the circus.”
“My goodness,” I said, sounding real grown-up.
“Yeah, they say you can still hear the organ play on some nights,” he added.
“You mean that house is hainted!” I said with excitement in my voice.
“If you believe in that sort of thing…” Grandpa said with a bit of disgust in his voice. I decided that the less said about haints and ghosts the better.
After a supper of buttermilk and cornbread Grandpa and I sat out on the front porch while Grandma cleared the supper table. Grandpa took a rollin’ paper from a sheaf of them, pulled the Prince Albert pipe tobacco tin from the breast pocket of his bib overalls, and deftly made a cigarette. I was always amazed how he seemed to do it in one fluid motion with only one hand. I hoped he would show me how to do it when I got older. He struck the match with his fingernail, and in a flash of light he had his cigarette lit. Grandpa exhaled a puff of smoke that formed a ring that floated across the warm summer air. I knew he would teach me how to do that one day too.
The sun was setting in the west when Grandpa said, “Someone’s comin’”. And sure enough I could hear a car coming from toward Winterseat, and it was going fast. It was a flashy new car, and it turned into the driveway. As it slid to a stop a cloud of red dust followed. The door of the car opened, and a man got out. He looked younger than my daddy and had on a white shirt and necktie. I noticed his necktie was loosened and his sleeves rolled up almost to his elbows. There were brown and white wing-tip shoes on his feet. He walked toward us. ‘Bout halfway to the porch he stopped and spoke, “Hey! Is this the shortcut to Edgefield?” he asked in kind of a funny voice. I had heard a man talk like that before, and Mama said people who talked like that were Yankees.
Grandpa let out a puff of smoke slowly and answered, “Well, yessir, young fella, it is. But you’d be better off going back the way you came. Go back down to Bud’s store and hang a left onto the main highway. That’ll take you right into Edgefield.”
“I don’t have time for a tour of the county. I’ll take the shortcut,” he said as he turned and walked back to his car.
“Don’ say I didn’t warn you!” Grandpa said to his back as he was getting into his car..
The fellow backed out of the driveway, slammed his car into forward gear, and floored the gas pedal. A cloud of red dust and gravel followed as he raced down the road toward the Gulledge place and Edgefield.
By this time the sun had completely set, the whip-poor-wills were calling, and in the distance I could hear the sound of the hoot owl. When I was very young my Grandma would tell me that the hoot owl would get me if I didn’t go to sleep. I’ve never figured out how that was supposed to work. I still can’t go to sleep when I hear their haunting sound.
I happened to look down the road toward the Gulledge place, and I saw a flickering light. I didn’t say nothin’ to Grandpa as it seemed to get brighter. And then I heard it an organ playing. It reminded me of the merry-go-round at the fair. I nudged Grandpa as he blew a big smoke ring. “Do you hear it?” I asked.
He said nothing. He just raised his eyebrows. He heard. I turned my eyes back toward the flickering light. The organ played louder, then began to quieten as the flickering light dimmed and then went out. The night became very, very quiet. No organ playing. No sounds of the night birds. Nothing.
We sat there in silence a little longer and then Grandpa said, “Bed time.” And that was the end of another day.
A couple of days later Grandpa and I were picking some string beans in the garden beside the house. A car drove up into the driveway and stopped. The man who got out of the car stretched up to his full height. He was taller and bigger than my daddy. Then he put a hat on his head, pulled his pants up, and walked toward us. Then I saw the shiny star on his chest and the big gun on his hip. Walking toward us he spoke in a big deep voice, “Mr. Dorn!”
Grandpa did not say anything nor look up from the beans he was picking until the man repeated himself. You see, Grandpa doesn’t hear that well anymore. He finally answered, “Yep!”
And the big man said, “ I’m Sheriff Dixon of McCormick County, and I’m looking for a missing person.”
“A missing person?” Grandpa said, now standing.
“Yessir. The sheriff from over in Edgefield called me and said a lady over there had reported her husband missing. Said he had been missing a couple of days. Seems he’s a salesman who travels these parts but didn’t get home when he was s’posed to. She was worried ‘bout him and contacted the sheriff. You seen anything of him around here?”
Grandpa took off his straw hat and scratched his head. “Naw, Sheriff, we ain’t seen nothin’ of ‘im.”
“But Grandpa,” I said, “What about that fellow in that fast car?”
“Oh yeah, Sheriff, there was this young man who stopped by here a couple of days ago looking for a shortcut to Edgefield I told him to go back the way he came and get on the main highway to go to Edgefield,” Grandpa said.
“What did he do?” asked the sheriff.
“He took the shortcut,” said Grandpa and then he added, “But I warned him.”
“Down by the old Gulledge place?”
The big man put his hand under his chin, seemed to think for a few minutes, and then he said, ” Well, I guess I’ll call the sheriff over there in Edgefield and have him tell the widow… he ain’t comin’ home”.
And he was gone.