Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
Publisher’s Note: This story is preceded by a prequel. To read the earlier chronological installment of this series, please click here.
After my dad shared his Halloween tale about the disappearance of his best friend Jake and the town’s O-Lantern Man urban legend, I asked him if he would tell me another story…and he did, several. We were actually up pretty late that night talking about my dad’s childhood.
My dad said he had experienced so many terrifying and bizarre encounters, he figured it would be best to start from the beginning.
To give you a quick introduction, my dad’s name is Martin, but his friends called him Marty growing up. He moved to a small town in Mississippi when we was 8 years old. It was about a twenty-minute bike ride from the Mississippi River. It wasn’t an ideal place to live, but his parents could not afford much better. My dad ended up spending the remainder of his childhood, stuck in this town. He plotted several attempts to run away, but he wasn’t able to escape until shortly after he graduated high school.
When his family first arrived at their new home, my dad immediately noticed there was something strange about the house across the street. It was two stories, but the top half leaned to one side like it could collapse at any moment. The old house was an eyesore for the neighborhood. Every glass window had been shattered and boarded up. It had once been painted a light green, but most the color had been chipped away, revealing the dark rotting wood underneath. The front yard was nothing but dirt, with a short staircase leading to a roof covered porch.
When my dad asked his parents who lived there, they told him it was empty, and that he should never, ever, go near it.
My dad’s bedroom window faced out in the direction of the street. He had a direct view of the decrepit house and as the days passed, he started to notice that both his fear and curiosity were intensifying.
He began waking up with nightmares, terrified that something might be happening across the street. After his parents would tuck him into bed, he found himself frequently getting up at night and staring outside his window. He wanted to make sure that all appeared safe before closing his eyes.
About two months after moving in, my dad stood in front of his window late one night. He noticed that there was something unusual about the house. It had always been an eerie pitch black, but that night, there was a light on the porch, ominously flickering in the darkness.
He was afraid, so as any young child would do he went to wake his parents. His mom and dad followed him back to his bedroom and together they peered outside his window, but the light was gone. The pitch-black darkness had returned.
My dad swore and promised that he saw a light, but his parents assured him it was probably just a bad dream, kissed his forehead, and tucked him back into bed.
The following morning was the first day at his new school. He would meet some of his best friends in his third-grade class. It was Jake, Boone, Grady, Parker, and my dad Marty. They would call their group the High-5 Troop. They were inseparable and would frequently show off their super-secret high-five handshake in front of their fellow classmates. They were definitely the “cool” bunch on campus.
The boys were immediately fascinated when they found out where my dad was living. They each had their own stories about the infamous house, and shared that their parents had also warned them to never go near it. There was a lot of mystery surrounding the house and their stories varied, but one thing they all agreed on was that it was definitely haunted.
Every night, my dad would continue to check outside his window to see if the light had returned.
About a week or so passed, when he was awoken by a strange noise. The days had been warm and he would leave his window cracked open at night to catch an evening breeze. He silently laid in bed, holding his breath, trying to determine what the eerie sound was and where it was coming from. He soon realized it was resonating from outside. It was a repetitive high pitch creaking, like a rusted door hinge opening and closing over and over again.
He got up and stared out his window. The light had reappeared, once again flickering on and off. However, this time he could see that the porch was not empty, something was swaying in unison with the odd noise.
He rubbed his eyes and slapped his cheeks hoping that it was just his imagination or a bad dream, but he was wide awake and the flickering light held just long enough to reveal what was making the disturbing sound. Seated in a tall rounded chair, was a woman, and with each creaking movement, she rocked slowly back and forth.
My dad was frozen in fear, and remembers trying to scream for his parents, but all that exited his lungs was a heavy breath of heart-pounding emptiness.
He watched as the woman slowly sat up from her rocking chair. The tall mysterious figure began to rigidly walk down the porch stairs, across the dirt yard, and towards my dad’s house. She stopped in the middle of the dimly lit street.
My dad says she was standing hunched over, with long gray hair that covered her face and dangled passed her waist. He could see that her hands were raised out in front of her. She was holding two long crochet hooks, and moved her hands back and forth as she stood knitting in the middle of the road.
He was able to snap out of his state of paralyzing panic, as he turned and raced for the hallway. He began hysterically crying at his parents’ bedside. My dad tried to explain what he saw to his worried parents, but says he was barely able to speak clearly. His parents were finally able to calm him down, and his mom spent the rest of the night in his room comforting him.
At school, he shared what he had witnessed with the rest of the High-5 Troop. They were captivated and his story sparked the boys’ imagination with suggestions on how my dad should approach the situation.
One such bright idea came from Boone, who sarcastically recommended that my dad just walk over, ring the doorbell, and introduce himself to his freaky neighbor. This got a good laugh from the group, but ultimately led to the concept for their final plan.
The boys had all been told stories about the haunted house next door, but Jake, Boone, Grady, and Parker were ready to see it for themselves. So, one night, they arranged to have a sleepover at my dad’s house. They did not all fit in my dad’s bedroom so they set up their stuff to camp out downstairs.
With the hopes of catching a glimpse of the strange woman, the boys devised a plan to take a ball of yarn from their school’s art supply closet. They would sneak out before it was dark and string each end from house to the other. They believed that if they were lucky, the knitting woman would take their bait and follow the line back to my dad’s house.
Jake was brave enough and volunteered to run one end of the ball of yarn up to the porch, while the rest of the troop kept watch. It was a success, the plan was now in place, and all the boys had to do was wait.
“Absurd idea…right?” my dad asked me.
“Maybe just a little bit it…” I admitted with a playful grin.
“Well, we were just a bunch of third graders, but guess what? …the plan worked.”
My dad continued to elaborate.
The idea was that the boys would take turns staying awake. Whoever was on watch was equipped with a flashlight and was ready to wake up the rest of the group if anything suspicious happened. The nearby kitchen window was left open for the purpose of both running the other end of the yarn inside the house, while also to listen for the sounds of the rocking chair.
My dad stayed up for the first hour, handing off the flashlight to Parker, before settling into his sleeping bag and falling asleep.
He’s not sure what time it was, or who was supposed to be on the lookout, but he was startled awake by a loud and familiar noise.
He sat up, looking around the room. It was hard to see in the dark, and my dad started calling out for his friends, nudging them all awake.
“Who has the flashlight?” my dad kept asking in a loud whisper.
Boone had fallen asleep during his watch. He was alerted awake by my dad’s commotion and immediately turned on the flashlight shinning it in the direction of the creaking noise. The rest of the group was now awake and together they gasped when the light revealed an empty wooden rocking chair, rapidly swaying back and forth in the corner of the room.
“Where did that come from?” Boone asked startled.
The boys were all terrified, huddle together, and unsure of what to do.
Suddenly, a deep and raspy shriek came from the darkness behind them.
“MAAARRRTTTYYY….MAAAAARRRTYYY….” the voice cried.
Boone turned around shining the flashlight into the direction of the kitchen. Standing just beyond the open window was the mysterious woman. Parker was the wimp of the group and screamed jumping into his sleeping bag to hide. The rest of the boys gripped each other tightly, interlocking arms.
“MAAARRRTYYY…WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR???…MARRRRTTTYYY…”
“What is that thing?!” Jake shouted. “How does it know your name?!”
My dad was just as afraid as the rest, and even more disturbed to hear the unfamiliar woman calling out his name. Boone was shaking, as you could see he was struggling to hold the flashlight straight.
The woman was slouched over with her head down. Her hands were moving quickly back and forth as she was holding on to her crochet hooks.
‘WHAAAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR MARRRRRTYYY…?” the woman shrieked again as she began to move closer one stiff and rigid step at a time.
My dad was speechless, in a state of complete terror-stricken shock.
“Answer it!!!” Grady shouted, shoving my dad in front of him.
“MAAAAAARRRRTYYYY….TELL ME MAAAARRRRTTYYYY…”
The woman had slowly walked her way from the kitchen and was now towering above the terrified kids. She slowly lifted her head, revealing a ghostly face hidden underneath her long gray hair. She stared directly into the beam of the flashlight. My dad still vividly recalls her sinister appearance. Her eyes were dark empty holes, her face was sickly white with wrinkles on top of wrinkles, and the bottom half of her jaw dangled loosely like it was dislocated.
“MAAAAARRRTTYY…WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR??…MAARRTTTYY?” the woman scowled one last time before my dad shouted out his response.
As soon as my dad answered the flashlight bulb exploded. The room was again pitch black, and all at once in unison, the boys all let out a horrified scream.
Then suddenly, the lights in the room turned on.
“What in god’s name is going on down here?” My dad’s mom hollered.
The boys were all frantically looking around the room, but there was no sign of the woman or her rocking chair. Everything was in order, like nothing had happened.
The boys tried to explain what they had witnessed, but my dad’s mom was clearly upset by their raucous behavior. They promised they would keep quiet for the rest of the night, but requested that all the lights be left on.
This was only the first of many bizarre encounters Jake, Grady, Boone, Parker and my dad would experience. They all came to the agreement that they had indeed seen a ghost that night…but the story doesn’t end there, not for my dad.
The boys never saw the spirit of the rocking chair woman ever again, but my dad is pretty certain that she came back to visit him one last time.
A couple of short months later, it was Christmas. The last gift my dad opened was tucked behind the tree, in an unwrapped cardboard box. It had his name scribbled across the top in messy cursive handwriting.
He slowly broke the taped seal and peeked inside.
“What is it Martin?” his mom asked in excitement.
He reached inside and pulled out a fuzzy hand-knitted sweater.
His mom began to smile. “Wow that is beautiful, who’s it from?”
“It didn’t say…” my dad responded as he could feel a rush of fear-induced panic beginning to course through his body.
His family never determined who the holiday gift was from, but my dad says he immediately knew. The first thing he noticed when he pulled out the sweater from the box was that it had been hand knitted in his favorite color, blue.
My dad says his mom forced him to wear the sweater that year for the family Christmas pictures. Somewhere at our house, stored away in the attic, are some of my dad’s old childhood photo albums. He insists that if you look through his pictures, you’ll find one of him wearing the blue sweater. It is a Christmas my dad will never forget, and a haunting gift he wishes he did not receive.
“So the ghost you saw, do you have any explanation for who? …why? …or how the heck it knew your name…?” I asked him.
“Well, we are talking about the supernatural, so anything beyond understanding is possible…” he retorted. “But…I remember that Christmas my mom kept saying the sweater reminded her of something Nana would have knitted.”
“Did you ask your grandma if the gift was from her…?” I replied.
“I never had a chance to meet my grandmother…I’m not even sure what she looked like, we had no pictures of her,” my dad responded in a softer tone. “She had passed away shortly after I was born.”
“Sorry to hear that, I never knew that happened,” I sympathized. “So…then you are saying…you think maybe the spirit you saw was…”
“You choose to believe what you want…” my dad interrupted. “In the town I grew up in, your truth is all you had, because nothing made any sense. ” My dad paused for a brief moment.
“To answer your question, yes. I do think I was visited by the spirit of my Nana, but what else did I have to believe? You see, without creating your own interpretations, finding a plausible explanation for the improbability of what you experienced…you would just go crazy, and some us did.”
My dad ended his story by saying he still has a lot of unanswered questions about what he and his friends saw that night, but there was one thing he did know for certain…he never wore that blue sweater ever again.
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