By Junior Johnson
Have you ever heard the sound that a horse or mule makes as they eat corn from a wooden trough? It’s a distinctive sound that I cannot put into words. The crunching sound as they eat the corn from the cob as it rolls around on the wood is remarkable.
Now imagine that same sound coming from the barn and there are no mules or horses eating at the trough. This is what my Dad and Uncle Dempsey experienced several times as youngsters living with Grandma Johnson after their father passed away.
Before their father died one of their chores was to feed the horses and mule each evening. They’d pour out ears of corn in the trough, which was under the eve of a barn next to the house. They’d sit on the back porch and listen to the sound of them eating, and when they could no longer hear the crunching it was time to move them into a lot next to the barn.
Not long after Grandpa John Wesley died, Grandma sold the animals because feeding them was too expensive.
Soon after, strange things began happening around the house that couldn’t be explained by Grandma or any of the neighbors.
There was a picket fence surrounding the house with an old iron ring securing the gate to the fence post. On evenings after supper Grandma and the boys sat on the front porch to relax.
On one such evening with no wind blowing, the iron ring fell from the fence post to the ground and the gate swung open. There was no one there.
About the same time as the gate opened they began to hear the horses eating corn from the barn in back. The only problem was, there were no horses back there. They all walked around back to see what was making the sound. There was nothing there. Upon returning to the front of the house they found that the gate was closed and the iron ring back in place.
Dad said that Grandma tried to explain that it might be their father’s spirit that came by to make sure they were doing well.
The sounds of the animals eating corn and the gate opening happened several times over the next few months and it just began to seem routine and something to laugh about. Until something new happened.
Grandma Johnson had taken ill and was bedridden. One night she told Dad and Uncle Dempsey to walk up to the neighbor’s house and get some medicine for her.
The old house they lived in had no electricity so they used oil lamps for lighting. There was a lamp burning in Grandma’s room and the living room when the boys left.
It was a short walk to the neighbor’s house and as they began their journey home they could see the lamp light from Grandma’s room move toward the living room and soon there was two lamps burning there. They thought she was feeling better since there was movement in the house.
As they got closer to the house they heard the sound of growling behind them. When they turned to look in the shadows there appeared to be images of pigs with red glowing eyes running toward them.
The boys rushed the remaining way to the house and through the front door as the growling grew louder.
Once safely inside they looked through the window but saw nothing outside. They also noticed only one lamp in the living room and Grandma was asleep in her bed with the other lamp burning on her nightstand.
The boys woke her so she could take her medicine, and when asked she said she hadn’t gotten out of bed. Very strange indeed since there was no one else in the house.
That night as the boys lay in bed trying to understand the events of the evening they began to hear the sounds of a baby crying in the woods. As the crying grew louder they both huddled together under the covers.
The next morning when they woke up the first thing they did was to check on Grandma and prepare coffee and breakfast.
While the coffee was dripping they walked to the front porch and noticed that the gate was open. Since they were in such a rush the night before they reasoned that it might not have gotten closed. They then noticed that the yard all around the house was covered with tracks that appeared to be those of pigs.
Were there ghosts or evil spirits in the Gorum and Flatwoods Communities? No one could explain the strange happenings that my Dad and Uncle Dempsey experienced that summer but I was intrigued at the stories that were revealed to me years later when I was a young boy their age.
When I was visiting Grandma Johnson with my cousins we made sure that we were inside before dark….just in case.