Kentucky Civil War ghost story of two boys on a camping trip that encounter the ghost of a mysterious girl during a lightning storm. Written by Nikki Satterlund.
Ryan Gilthsburg was 14 years old and slender, with shaggy blond hair and stunning blue eyes. He was camping with his friend Mark Smith, who was about a half a year older, with green eyes, red hair and a freckly face. The two boys were the best of friends; one was rarely seen without the other. They would be gone for five days, just the two of them in the wilderness, having the adventure of their lives.
The campsite was in a woods in Kentucky. It was filled with tall, sturdy oaks and maples reaching to the sun, and low shrubbery fighting for the same sunlight. The boys were messing around, doing what boys do alone and camping together. Between cracks in the trees were streamers of sunlight, shining on the boys’ bright, playful faces. They did as most kids do alone and camping; messed around, tried to burn as many things as they could find in the campfire, and dared each other to jump from the highest tree branches they could find into the lake by the campsite. The adventure was bliss.
On the third night, the boys were awakened by a blinding flash of lightning, and a deafening crack of thunder. BAM! Ryan opened the tent and glanced out. A tree near the tent had been stricken straight in half, split down the middle. A fire flared above it.
“Mark!” he shouted. “The storm’s right above us!”
“What do we do? We’re in the middle of nowhere!”
“I don’t know! Find shelter?”
The boys ran frantically, calling for help. The wind tore at their faces, and rain battered them. Lightning flashed, thunder cracked. Each flash was blinding, sometimes splitting trees. They were soaked and freezing, calling for help. Mark slipped in the mud and landed on Ryan.
“Ouch!” Ryan yelled.
“Sorry,” Mark replied, getting off him.
“S’okay,” Ryan grunted and hoisted himself up.
After that, the boys only ran a little farther, still calling for help, before Ryan looked up and saw out of the corner of his eyes a large portion of a split tree falling. It was about to hit Mark.
“MOVE!” Ryan shouted pushing the red-headed boy out of the way just in time.
The branch hit Ryan on the head, and he collapsed.
Ryan had a strange dream. He was in the forest, near a stone path surrounded by flowers he was sure didn‘t grow there before. There was a girl about ten or eleven standing in front of him holding a bouquet of wildflowers. She had curly blond hair, vivid blue eyes like his and a pioneer-style dress. The girl was beautiful, and a bit pale. She seemed to glow eerily. She looked upset.
“Who are you?” Ryan asked.
The girl ignored the question. “I’m sorry I threw the branch at your friend,” she said. “I thought you were my brother, you look so like him. I saw him land on you; I thought he was trying to hurt you.”
“Oh…well, its okay… I guess,” Ryan replied. “Who are you?”
The girl again ignored the question. “My house is gone.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Ryan told her. She looked so sad. The poor little girl seemed so lost, he felt bad. “Can I help?”
Her eyes brightened. “Yes, you can! Please! I will help you get home if you help me get my house back.”
“When you wake up, go down the stone path until you come back to the woods. The worst of the storm will be over. Sorry, that is the most I can do. Find the stone path again. It will be faded. Follow it, until you see the clearing in the woods. Look for a clump of wild flowers, dig there until you find what you have to. When someone finds you, show them.”
“What am I looking for?”
The girl smiled. “You’ll know,” she said. “I really am sorry about that branch. I sit in that tree all day sometimes, waiting. I jumped to conclusions I guess. I feel attached to that tree, it killed me you know.”
“MOVE!” Ryan shouted pushing the red-headed boy out of the way just in time.
The branch hit Ryan on the head, and he collapsed. Mark screamed, and called out his friend’s name. He pulled the boy from beneath the tree branch. His eyes were closed, his forehead caked with blood. Mark called for help. Lighting flashed again and a young woman appeared. She had golden curls and hazel eyes. She was dressed in a pioneer-style dress, and was deathly pale. She seemed strangely unfazed by the horrible storm.
“Oh dear,” she said, in a soothing sweet voice. “What happened here?”
“The tree…it…it…broke.” Mark sobbed.
The women suddenly looked very grim, “That tree…” She quickly changed tone. “Come, I will take you boys to my house.”
She carried the limp form of Ryan, and Mark followed. They entered a log cabin, where the fire at the hearth was the only source of light. The furniture was very old-style, wooden chair and tables that looked handmade. Beds of straw, hand made quilts, an old stove you lit by hand. Cornhusk dolls, toys carved from wood, a couple of books, and a Bible. The women laid Ryan down on one of the straw beds. Mark looked outside. The storm was gone. There was a field of crops and a path leading away from the door. He looked at the women with golden hair.
“W-What happened to the storm?”
The women looked puzzled. “Storm? What storm?”
Mark frowned, and the women smiled and handed Mark a blanket. “Poor dear, you must be tired. Oh, I wish Fabian had told me he was coming home. I’ve missed him so much.”
Mark was confused, “Fabian?”
The woman smiled, “I’m not sure what pet name you boys gave him in the army, but ‘round here he’s Fabian.” she replied, gesturing at Ryan.
“I think you have him confused with someone else, his name is not Fabian.”
“Oh, silly boy. I think I’d know my own son.”
“That tree’s a real problem isn’t it?” She sighed. “Killed my daughter not two months ago. Noel was her name. I have planted wildflowers by her grave. She loved them. Real spirited girl, as I am sure you know. Dear Fabian has probably told you all about her.”
Mark felt bad for the woman, her eyes gleaming with sadness, a tear streaming down her face. Obviously, this woman loved her daughter so much. Mark didn’t have the heart to tell her that Ryan wasn’t her son.
“I-I’m sorry ma’am,” he told her.
“Oh, I just don’t know how I’ll tell Fabian. He loved her so much.” The women said, wiping her eyes. “But she’s not gone.”
“I thought you said she died? How can she not be gone?”
“She leaves wild flowers on the table for me every day while I’m out in the field, just like she used to when she was alive. I miss her so, but I can still hear her laughing in the forest sometimes. I do not think she could leave without seeing Fabian again. She really looked up to him. Especially after the Confederates killed their father. She couldn’t wait for her dear brother to come back from the war.”
Now Mark was uncomfortable. Confederates? War? Fabian? What was going on here?
The next morning Mark spent sitting by Ryan’s bed. Finally, his eyes fluttered open. Mark quickly told him about the women, and the girl, how she thought he was Fabian. Ryan told Mark about the little girl in his dream. The boys agreed to get out as fast as they could-this was creepy. They snuck out of the woman’s house and crept down the path until the house was out of site. They broke into a run, until suddenly it was no longer dawn but night time and it was raining, hard. The thunder and lightning were gone mostly. What thunder they did hear was soft and the lightning they did see was distant and far away. The boys followed the path, and just as the girl had said, they came to a clearing in the woods.
“There,” Ryan said, pointing out the wild flowers.
The boys sprinted over, and knelt down by the flowers, shivering from the cold. They bruised the dirt until they came to a stone with the engraving:
Age 11 fell from a tree
Loved dearly, missed sorely
Near that when they kept digging, were three other stones:
Age 32 died for his country
Loving husband and father
Age 28 died of old war wounds
Loving Father and Brother
Age 49 died of grief
With her family again
“Ryan Gilthsburg-that’s your name!” Mark asked.
“It’s also my great-great-great grandfather’s name. I am named after him. He died in the Civil War,” Ryan replied.
A police officer suddenly appeared and shone his flashlight on the boys. “I FOUND THEM!” he shouted.
The boys showed the officer the graves they’d found, and he helped them talk to the state about it. The cabin that was there before was rebuilt, and the land declared as belonging to Ryan’s family. It became a small, preserved tourist attraction. When tourists came, they would plant wild flowers by Noel’s grave, and pay other respects to the family. People would say that the house was haunted, as people tend to do about old houses with sad stories behind them, but Ryan knew that Noel and her family had left. They’d moved on.
Shortly after the graves were rediscovered, Ryan had a dream. Noel had appeared in front of him in the forest again.
“Thank you,” she had said, “Now we can move on.”
Then she sprouted wings and a white robe, and flew into a light, followed by people three people. First, the women in with golden curls, then a man about her age, with brown hair parted neatly and slicked, then a boy who looked a lot like Ryan: Fabian.
-THE END –