The ghost of mahogany la.., p.1
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       The Ghost of Mahogany Lane, p.1
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           LThornhill Crane
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The Ghost of Mahogany Lane


  The Ghost of Mahogany Lane

  by L. Thornhill Crane

  Copyright 2012 L. Thornhill Crane

  In Memory of Chance- Forever in my heart.

  

  Chapter 1

  When we moved to Jesup we rented a small little cracker box house on Mahogany Lane.  It was just half a block off Cherry Street down where the original arch was situated many years before. Our neighbors said that then that was almost out in the country, but now the town has grown to surround our neighborhood.   It was a cute little three bedroom house built in the 1940’s with wood floors and unique shelving built into the wall in the parlor room.  It was quite a charming little house, but it was small and had fallen into disrepair.  The yard was about as big as a postage stamp and it was littered with sandspurs.  I could barely walk to the mailbox without being impaled.  I only tried to walk there barefoot once, when I first moved to South Georgia, and it was almost like walking through a minefield so I never considered it again.

  My dog, Bear, however never quite learned that lesson.  He wanted to be a yard dog so badly but every time he went outside we spent fifteen minutes pulling sandspurs out from between his furry little toes.  Bear turned out to be strictly an indoor, maybe lay out on the front porch kind of dog and he mourned the freedom he once had back on the farm.  In town had to walk him every morning and every night all around the neighborhood so he could have some exercise and wouldn’t go insane.

  We started out going down the alley beside our house to the church and turning and walking back up Cherry Street.  Then we moved on to walking out the lane to Walnut Street past the "Black Church" as it was called in our neighborhood. I always wanted to visit, because every time I passed I could always hear preaching and singing.  It sounded fun and I would enjoy the music until we crossed the empty lot by the church and turned around and down back the alley home.   The empty lot by church was our turn around spot, I could let Bear off his leash and he would bounce through the tall grass looking for rabbits.  He would always find one.  I don’t know if there were that many rabbits living in that empty lot or if it was just one rabbit with a bad memory, but 9 times out of ten he’d chase it around and it would disappear in the shrubbery.

  When the weather got cooler we decided to mix it up a bit and we began to branch out in new directions. In Jesup you can still walk around in most neighborhoods without fear of being mugged or molested.  I carried pepper spray just in case and I had my ‘guard dog’. Bear was about the size of a very large house cat but he had the heart of an African lion.  He figured he was the dog we had and it was his responsibility to protect us from all harm.  In his little doggie mind that was his job and he took it seriously.  Over time, I learned to trust his doggie senses.  If he waved his tail and smiled his little dog smile at someone they were probably okay but if he ever growled or raised his hackles, I knew I had to watch out.

  Eventually we found our way to Wayne Street where people say that once upon a time, every body that was anybody built a house there.  I liked looking at the grand old houses that lined the road.  My momma said once that I looked at houses like some people look at babies.  I’m drawn to old houses.  They’re like time capsules or visitors from a bygone era.  Houses have personalities all of their own.  They tell stories if you’re careful enough to listen.  

  We had never owned a house of our own; we were just renters so I looked at those grand old ladies on Wayne and Cherry streets with a covetous eye.  One day, I promised myself, I’d own a house with some history. Maybe a creepy old one that people said was haunted.  It wouldn’t really be haunted of course, because I couldn’t stand that, but it would be okay if there were some kind of haint tale to go along with it.  Either that or there was a story about some sort of hidden treasure inside.  Any one of the two would do for me.

  As we branched out from our 4- 6 block dog walking routine I made my way to the Cracker William’s park Area and found that a lady I knew from church lived in that area.  She first rented a small apartment across from the pool, but then moved a couple blocks away near the school in a large Victorian.  It was a beautiful white two story with a wide columned front porch and pretty red shutters and two red doors in the front.  Her husband was an immaculate landscaper and he always kept the yard in pristine condition.  It could have been on the cover of a southern living magazine. One day she saw me walking by as she was sitting on the front porch and she called out to me.

  “I’ve seen you at my Church.”  She said as she bounced down the front steps.  “I’m Vicky.  You’re new in town, right?”

  I told her we were and when I told her we were originally from Alabama she beamed a huge smile at me.

  “I’m from Alabama too.  Slocomb- it’s down near Dothan.”

  I had a faint recollection of Dothan from our first road trip to Panama City Beach. I couldn’t find it on a map but I did remember that it was in the vicinity of the Big Peach water tower.  Everybody loved the Big Peach- people stopped and took pictures of it.  Not because a town having a water tower shaped like a peach is such an unusual thing but because if you looked at it from the right spot on the interstate, it sort of resembled a butt and a crack.

   Finally she asked us up to sit a spell on her porch and get out of the heat.  That was how our friendship started.  We were new in town and we didn’t know many people and we started talking.  I told her that I lived on Mahogany.  I didn’t realize that Mahogany was a street and a lane.  Mahogany Street was one street over.  We lived on Mahogany Lane.  I just said Mahogany and left it at that assuming that she lived in Jesup longer than us, she would know the area.

  One day I commented on how much I admired her house.

  “It’s just a rental.  She confessed.  “The lady that owned it was a widow and she used to rent it out to single teachers. We needed a bigger house because my husband’s family often comes to visit and we need room for them.”

  I told her it was a beautiful house and how much I loved old houses.

  “It is an old house.  Old houses do funny things.  They make weird noises.  Sometimes it sounds like footsteps upstairs when there’s no one there.  You can’t live in an old house if you’re too easily scared. There are too many strange noises.”

  I cut my eyes at her and grinned.  “Are you saying your house is haunted?”  I teased.

  She laughed.  “No. Not mine.  You live by the haunted house.”

  I looked at her suspiciously.  She had gotten my attention.  “Which one?”

  “The one on the Lane behind your street.”

  There wasn’t a lane behind my street. I lived on the lane. The street behind mine was Palm.

  “Mahogany Lane?”  I asked.

  She nodded. “Over close to the school.”

  My heart seemed to skip a beat.  “The brick one.”  I finished for her, sure that was the one she was talking about.  It looked haunted.

  “No, the little blue one.”

  I felt like someone had just poured ice water all over my body.

  “The little blue one with the white shutters?  Little crackerbox house with a postage stamp front yard?”  I asked just to be sure.

  “You know it!” She cried happily.

  Yep.  I knew it. I knew it well.  I lived in it. 

  Chapter 2

  Well, I had to find out why she said it was haunted so I fought my first inclination to blab that that was my house and instead asked her to tell me about it.

  “I’ve never heard that.”  I said.  “Who is it haunted by?”

  She grinned at me over her glass of sweet tea.  “They say the lady who owned the house lost her husband in some sort of accident.  She s
tayed there for years until she was too old to care for herself. Her husband had built that house and they always kept it up.  She planted flowers in the front yard and the shrubs were always trimmed.  It was their perfect little cottage.  They had planned on having children but they never did. He was killed and she lived the rest of her life there alone.”

  I shrugged.  “That’s it?”  I asked, somewhat disappointed.  I had expected a little more.

  ”Let me finish!”  She waved her hand at me.  “Mrs. Smith got sick one night and the ambulance came and took her away.  While she was in the hospital she kept saying that her husband was there alone and she needed to take care of him.  She got so agitated that one of the doctors called for the police to go check the place out.  The officer came in looked but everything was locked up and there was no one to be found.  He went next door and asked the neighbor who told him that the husband was killed a long time ago and she lived alone.”

  “Wow.”  I commented.  It wasn’t much of a story.

  “I still ain’t finished. “  She snapped.  “You want to hear this story or not?”

  I guessed.  It was too hot to continue our walk, so I nodded for her to finish.

  “Well, since they had no children and Mrs. Smith couldn’t care for her own self, then she was sent to a nursing home and the house was sold to pay for her expenses.  It’s a rental place now.”

  Yep.  I knew that.

  “I knew not the last people, but the lady before that who lived there.  She said you would hear footsteps and things would move around.  Every once in a while she saw shadows and heard voices.  She said it was spooky and it scared her sometimes but she didn’t feel threatened.  The people before her had had a bunch of German Shepherds in that house and they destroyed the house.  The rental place had to have it redone.”

  It didn’t help.  I thought bleakly.

  “But you know remodeling brings the ghosts out.  He must have liked my friend because he didn’t scare her too much.  The last family threw their stuff in their car and left in a hurry.  They said they wouldn’t stay there a minute longer.”

  Hey!  The landlord told me that they were in the military and were transferred suddenly!  I’d been lied to!  I felt violated!

  “I didn’t know them.  All I know was that it was a black family that left in a hurry.”  She finished her story and took a sip of her sweet tea.

  Racist ghost?  I thought and raised my eyebrows.

  I shrugged and told her I’d better be going and Bear and I continued on our walk.  We had lived there six months and we had never heard or seen a single thing.  The dog never let on and everybody knows that dogs are supposed to be able to see spirits.  Despite her story I wasn’t convinced.  The brick house next door was MUCH creepier than my little house.  What self respecting ghost would want to spend eternity in our house?  I was alive and didn’t want to stay there any longer than I had to.

  When I got home that afternoon I told my husband that Vicky said that our house was haunted.  He laughed in my face and told me that Vicky was on crack.

  That was when I started LOOKING for things.  I would hear noises which could very well be a ghost but it could just be squirrels in the attic. It wasn’t enough to convince me we were haunted.

  Then the kid next door decided to ring the doorbell for about an hour straight one day and stuff started happening after that.  I don’t know if the two were related, but I blamed Daniel and the doorbell.

  Chapter 3

  The kid next door was Daniel.  He was about eight years old, looked like Opie Taylor and  was about eighty pounds of nonstop noise.  I had just about decided that he had two settings on his voice- loud and so loud you went into convulsions.  He didn’t have an off switch for his voice either- if he was breathing he was talking and you hoped it was a loud day or otherwise you’d end up in the hospital.

  Daniel rode to Awana with me on Wednesday night and on our first trip to church he discovered that if he rang the doorbell it would make the dog howl.  His game every Wednesday was to try to race over to my house and ring the doorbell as many times as possible before I could answer it just to hear Bear’s reaction.

  The day of the doorbell incident I had to run a few errands before church.  When I arrived back home to get my Bible and Daniel, I found him on my steps furiously pushing the doorbell button.  He was so engrossed that he didn’t even notice when I pulled up behind him in the car.

  Dingdongdingdongdingdongdingdong the doorbell sang out.

  Inside the dog was having a conniption.

  Outside, Daniel was laughing wickedly.

  I screamed at him to stop and asked him what in the Sam Hill he thought he was doing.

  He turned and gave me an angelic smile.  “Oh THERE you are!  I thought you were inside!”

  I was furious.  Inside the dog was still howling.  He probably would never be able to hear a doorbell without going into some kind of spasm.

  “I’m NOT inside!”  I snapped.  “Don’t you think I would have opened the door by now?”

  “I thought you might have been asleep.” The angelic voice replied.

  I turned and pointed at the empty garage which he had to walk through to get to the door.  “The car is gone Daniel!  How could I be asleep if I’m driving?”

  His face said “Awww, busted!”  But he quickly recovered and gave me the same angelic smile and asked if it was time for Awana.

  The dog slept between us that night.  He wasn’t normal for weeks.  Well, who am I kidding? He wasn’t normal for life.  From that day on, anytime a doorbell rang he would go into hysterics.  Even if the doorbell was on TV he would go nuts and start running through the house growling and howling.  Dominos commercials became the bane of his existence.

  That was the night that things changed.  There was a whole different feeling in the house.  It felt—electric.  It was hard to explain.  The closest I can explain it was that it felt like there was someone with you- like you were being watched.

  Then there were the shadows.  It usually happened to me while I was watching TV. It would look just like someone would walk across the dining room or down the hall.  It made my hair stand on end and then I’d get that electric feeling.  I didn’t like it but I came up with a simple solution. I commenced to leaving every light in the house on.  It’s kind of hard for shadows to hide when your living room is brighter than the surface of the sun.

  No more shadows after that.

  Fine with me.

  It got to the point that Don decided I was just born without the light turning off gene.  I didn’t tell him our house was haunted and I was afraid of our ghost.  He would have laughed in my face and asked if I was on crack.   I just left the lights on.  It got so bad I would have left every light in the house on and then bought a sleeping mask to sleep in if my husband would have let me.  Don on the other hand is one of those got to turn off the light when you leave the room kind of people, even if you’re coming right back.  So he was constantly switching them off and I was constantly turning them back on.  Our neighbors thought we ran a disco with all the light flickering in our house at night.

  It was easy to say that it was all in my mind until the dog started noticing it too.  I was watching TV and saw my husband walk down the hall to our bedroom.  Bear raised his head and gave it a disinterested look and then went back to sleep.  About half a second later, Don stepped into the living room with a Dr. Pepper in his hand.

  I looked at him and then back up the hall. My first thought was, for a fat guy he sure could move fast, but then I reconsidered.  I KNEW he could not have gotten in the living room THAT quickly- unless I was having a matrix moment.

  That’s when I started watching Bear very closely and I noticed that he would take a sudden keen interest in things that weren’t there.  In my mind I tried to say that he was looking at dust particles or watching a gnat.  That’s what I told myself to keep myself sane but more and more often I notice
d that he would sit at the foot of the couch and stare up at nothing just like it was something… or more precisely someone.  And sometimes while he was watching nothing his ears perked up and his eyes danced like nothing was holding a dog treat.

  That bothered me immensely.

  Weird feelings and dogs staring at nothing- that was one thing. Those kinds of things you could put over in the corner of your mind and file under the heading of “things that make you go humm?”

  When it said my name I was ready to burn the house down.

  Chapter 4

  I was at home alone.  It never bothered me when Don was there.  Maybe it just liked me.  I don’t know.  I had come home from school and went to the Library and got myself a book and had every intention of stretching out on the couch and reading until midnight.

  I was totally engrossed in my novel.  Then I heard it.  Clear as day.

  “Lillah.”

  I jumped up and chills ran all over my body.  The logical part of my brain wanted to explain it away and the illogical part just wanted to run away.  It didn’t make sense.  I didn’t really believe in Ghosts.  If you’d asked me before that I’d have said ghost stories were bull hockey.  I believed in spirits.  I believed in angels and demons but the spirits of our departed went to either one of two places.  I found it hard to believe that Mr. Smith’s spirit was spending his eternity hanging out in my house creeping around in the shadows, entertaining the dog and whispering my name.  It bothered me to think that, but it bothered me worse to think that if it WASN’T Mr. Smith, then WHAT was it?

 
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