Southern ghost story by Amy Mitchell, illustration by Geoff Mitchell.
She was born with hair the color of the morning sun. As she grew, it grew, down to her waist. To her it was only a nuisance, so she wore it tied back with a thick cord. Her brother would give it a yank every so often to annoy her, but she just laughed and gave him chase. When she was sixteen he left home and it broke her heart.
He wasn’t gone more than a few months when word came of his death. He had gotten mixed up with the wrong men and one of them shot him for drinking the last sip of whiskey. Her parents didn’t shed a tear for their son turned outlaw and refused to pay for his headstone. She knew he deserved better.
One night, she disappeared into the woods wearing his pants held up with a worn rope. She wore his favorite leather hat and an oversized shirt, carrying only a rucksack with a few provisions. When she found a quiet spot to camp, she built a fire ring just like her brother taught her.
Being all alone in the black night with only a sliver of moon for light, frightened her more than she expected. In the dark, she felt around in her bag for the flint. She could feel her heart pounding so loud in her ears that it threatened to drown out the night crickets. Just as her fingers grazed the stone, the fire sparked up and soon the flames rose to meet the sky.
She gasped, looking around for the source of the fire. She felt a tug on her hair and then heard a familiar laugh. She called his name and suddenly he was there, looking exactly like he did the day he left home, but when she rushed to embrace him her arms passed right through.
The next morning, he watched as she took the hunting knife to her hair, cutting it just under her chin. When she threw it in the fire, the flames danced blue, then green, then purple. They drew the plan out together, her drawing with a stick in the soil, erasing when she heard him sigh.
By the time the train was there, she was ready, chasing it with a frenzy. A single rider couldn’t stop a train, but they hadn’t counted on her brother who changed the signal. When the train screeched to a halt, he boarded and took money right out of the passenger’s pockets, throwing it out the window to her.
They were back at the campsite, counting their profits, by the time the sheriff arrived to a frustrating railcar of confused passengers claiming to have seen nothing. Within a week she bought him an ornate headstone that he liked to sit on. For years nobody could explain the string of robberies by the invisible outlaws until one day they just stopped. Another headstone went up and side by side, beloved brother and beloved sister were finally at rest.
About the author
Geoff and Amy Mitchell
Multimedia artist, Geoff Mitchell, grew up in the Deep South’s Gulf Coast with a long history of storytelling. On hot summer days, it was common to share local legends, tall tales and ghost stories. Immersed in the tradition, he recalls listening to his grandmother add her own colorful accounts to a story while talking on the telephone. All this narrative fueled his imagination and provided an array of subjects for visual art. His work today, including miniatures, paintings, music, short films, and storybooks, consistently embodies a curious feeling of nostalgia. There is a desire to pull the past forward into the now and even propel it out into the future. Never in a sense of resisting change, but rather to remind us of where we have been, so we have a better look at where we might go. What he loves the most about making art is that it is a way of carrying on the tradition of storytelling and bringing imaginative tales to life. He and his wife, Amy, recently founded the Museum of Make Believe as a place to keep this tradition alive. Amy has been a lifelong storyteller, creating new worlds and a cast of characters by putting pen to paper as soon as she learned to write, masterfully weaving ghost stories and fairy tales to accompany paintings, miniature scenes, sculptures and exhibits. This led to founding the Museum of Make Believe: a fantastical world of miniature dioramas, puppetry, dreamlike paintings, thematic light and sound, all depicting original tales of the mystical and mythic. The stories are timeless and somehow familiar, as if conjured from a shared memory; or an imaginary world that has to be believed to be seen. Learn more at: www.museumofmakebelieve.org .