Gather round the hearth my friends and warm yourselves by the fire, safe from the wind and the rain … but not, perhaps, from the chill that’s likely to tickle your spine as I tell you a tale of the ghosts of Dimond Hill.
You see, the Dimond Hill Farm seems to sit at a sort of crossroads of days gone by and those yet to come, where the energies of the present and the spirits of the past wander the same ground, and, on occasion, bump into one another.
Sound like another one of my tall tales? Well … normally I’d tend to agree, but that was before I joined the converted after a sighting of my own a couple years back, here.
Early one morning on the way to the main house, I saw a tall man dressed in jeans and a black jacket, wearing a baseball cap and leading a small black terrier across the front lawn. I was still up the road a bit, but kept my eye on the pair, wondering just who it might be at this time of the morning. As I got closer, man and dog passed behind one of the big maples and out of my line of sight. I kept walking and looking, but they never did come out the other side.
When I got over to the farm I asked Jane who the guy with the dog was. She listened and nodded and said that it sounded like it was her dad and his dog, who for many years had walked that piece of ground on their way to morning chores … of course, that was before both had passed away quite some time ago.
Then she went on to tell me about empty footsteps along the haylofts and scaffolding in the barn, strange whistling throughout the dooryard and barn, and figures, seen by workers and customers alike over the years, looking out the barn’s back door or walking along the stone walls.
She’d gotten used to it all, Jane said, and then she told me a story that still has me looking over my shoulder from time to time.
When Jane was just ten years old, she slept in the front corner bedroom on the second floor, with a view to the west and easy access to the attic stairway, located behind a doorway just outside the entrance to her bedroom. Growing up, Jane had gotten used to the echo of footsteps down deserted hallways, doors shutting on their own accord, and rocking chairs rocking away on the side porch without a breeze or a prankster to set them in motion.
Jane’s mom and grandmother seemed to take the whole show in stride, saying things like “There goes so-and-so out for his morning walk” or “That must be Uncle What’s-His-Name out on the porch or mucking around in the barn again.
Being young and full of energy, Jane never gave much thought to the whole deal … it all seemed to be business as usual at the Dimond Hill Farm. That all changed, however, during a mid-autumn evening when time folded back on itself right there in her bedroom mirror.
Jane was woken up just after midnight by a peculiar noise coming from across the room. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes she wondered at first if it wasn’t a bat that somehow had gotten into the house, which happened from time to time in those days. But bats typically course around and around the room, while this scratching seemed rooted just off the foot of her bed.
She next thought of her cat, which always slept in the bed beside her. The cat was gone and Jane wondered if it hadn’t crawled into one of the dresser drawers. As her eyes adjusted to the moonlit room, Jane called out for the cat. The methodical scraping of nails against wood was the only reply. She called out again … the scraping grew louder, more deliberate this time and she shivered reflexively in the chill of the night air.
Slipping out of bed, Jane crossed the room on tiptoes until she reached the antique dresser. The scratching was definitely coming from inside, she thought as she started pulling open the drawers, figuring the cat would pop out at any time now. Nothing out of sorts in the bottom drawer, the same with the other two full-sized drawers, she pulled open the top two half drawers, one at a time. When she slid open the right-hand drawer the scratching stopped, even though no cat was discovered.
Confused, Jane raised up her head and happened to glance into the mirror. That’s when she became a believer.
Gazing back at her from the depths of the century-old mercury glass was the image of a man … his forehead and eyes were shaded by the brim of a black parson’s hat, and his black frock was buttoned up to the chin. His jaw line was rigid; not a trace of emotion creased his pasty complexion.
Startled, Jane could only stare back until something in her ten-year-old brain warned her that if the man was in the mirror, chances are he was standing right behind her. This thought frightened Jane, and she whirled about expecting to come face-to-face with the midnight intruder. What she saw was her bed and the window and the full moon sitting just above the bare branches of the old elm in the side yard.
Catching her breath, Jane turned back to the mirror where the man was still looking out through what had become a window between two worlds. As Jane stood watching, the man’s image started to fade, and in a few seconds it had disappeared altogether, leaving nothing but a reflection of a lanky little girl in front of the bed and the moon and the old elm tree dancing in the breeze. Before she could recover he senses, Jane heard the attic door open and close again, and then the plodding of footsteps up the attic stairway.
Just then, her missing cat raced back into the bedroom and hopped up onto the bed, meowing for Jane to come and join her, which she did. After a sleepless night, Jane told her tale at the breakfast table where a lively discussion ensued over just whose spirit might have made the midnight visit.
A young girl’s fantasy? Maybe. An elaborate prank? Unlikely. A visitor from times gone by? Well, you’ll have to be the judge.
After all, people have been living and dying on Dimond Hill for almost three centuries now, and for many, heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without the farm and fields they spent a lifetime working and improving and passing along from generation to generation.
So, there you go. A fitting story for this Halloween season, and one I’m sure the spirits of Dimond Hill would appreciate. So the next time you’re in the barn and you hear footsteps above or somebody whistling a tune behind you … or if you see an odd figure walking along the stone walls, remember to look twice … you might have just joined the club.
Well, nuff said …