Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Point-Comfort: A Southern Tale of Haunting Part 1 of 3

(Above: Old vintage picture of the summer home in New Point-Comfort, a quiet town on an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay near a dock on a place called "Doctor's Creek.")

(Above: Not much different when we owned the place)

My father was retired from the Navy, having been in the Asiatic Fleet during WWII and Korean Wars. He was a water-loving boy from Norway. He needed to be on the water. So, my parents found this charming Victorian home on the southern part of the Chesapeake in Virginia, complete with a dock and a 37-foot cabin cruiser called the Vixen II.

(Above: Vixen II)

The home was interesting. It was on some stilts which was a good thing because a few times we went down to board up the home for a hurricane and ended up having to sit it out inside.

When we bought it from a well-to-do older bachelor, he let us having the contents of the house too which was furnished with amazing antiques and a library filled with books from the 1800s. The floors were all yellow pine. Downstairs, there was an entry way with a stairway, a library, a large living room, a big kitchen and a bathroom. There was also a long screened in veranda. Upstairs, there were three bedrooms, one of them an odd shaped one inside the "turret."

I kept the "Captain's Chair" supposedly carved by a sea captain in the 1800s. This gem sat in the library room where I would curl up on a rainy day and read the ancient books. In fact, I kept my favorite book from there, as well. It was the only children's book and used the term "soused," which for a kid I put into context of the character and figured he was mentally handicapped.

We would come in the springtime, plant a vegetable garden in the rich soil and go back home. When we came back in the summer, the garden was filled with abundance, there were pecan trees and us kids would rush to the docks to drop crab traps with chicken necks in them to catch blue crabs.

At 4 in the morning when the tide was low, father would wake us kids up and we'd pile into a rowboat with a lantern on the bow. We'd be sleepy and yawning but excited to go on an adventure in the dark. He'd row us way the hell out in the bay and we'd jump overboard into 3-foot deep water and walk around, feeling for clams and then dive down and get them and fill up the floor of the boat until sunrise.

It was there in the pitch darkness of the bay that we would hear the woman. She would call out one word, it sounded faintly like a name she was calling. A name that ended with an "ee" sound. We debated what she was calling. My father would gesture and we would all stand there in the warm bay water eyes darting all around us to figure out where the voice came from. There was no rhyme or reason. She would repeat it a few times in a row, be silent for minutes, yell it once, then nothing for 15 or 20 minutes. One time, father had us pile into the boat and we sat there listening until the sun rose. None of knew where this mysterious oyster beds were located. We always left in the middle of the night. When the light came up, we realized we could only see the tiniest hint of some land in the far off distance, a jut of land we knew was marshes and held no homes.

Later, stories came back to us through fishermen in the area that the woman's voice could be heard all over the Mobjack Bay area and it came from all directions, all times of the night and sometimes the day. There were plenty of maritime stories about it, but no one ever knew who she was or why she called out. One time, we all attempted calling back, but it didn't provoke her in the least. Apparently, we could hear her, she could not hear us.

This kind of living off the land attitude was important to our parents. They grew up in the Depression Era and knew how important survival was. Ironically, this lifestyle got me very attuned to the earth and healthy eating habits. They wanted us to have a rich childhood, but one that was grounded to the earth and not belongings which was why they never bought a TV for the house and did not buy toys for us as children. They wanted us to be resourceful. I wasn't thankful when I wanted a Barbie Corvette, but I am so thankful now.

With no radios or TVs, so us kids would go out on crazy adventures along the sandy roads of the backwater area. It was desolate and quiet and sometimes we'd play on the boat while father pumped the bilge, trying to get the poor boat running, or we'd play in the cemetery across the sandy road from the house, or perhaps go out to the abandoned lighthouse on an island and play pirates, but those two places are better left in the next two entries of this series over the next two days...


  1. How exciting to be taken on such wild adventures.

  2. You have the best stories. I certainly hope you're putting this all down in some book. They're just full of detail and a sense of place-time. Something tells me you guys got that house a great price, too. I suspect back then it was just a house on the water, no big deal. I bet it goes for quite a bit more these days. Isn't that the way it goes? Seems like certain things are WAAAAAYYYY more expensive than they should be or once were.

  3. Even that chair looks haunted!! lol.

  4. I believe the house was gotten in the early 60s for the grand price of $12K. Hee hee

  5. Kids today are missing out on using their imaginations to have fun and play games. My brother and I, along with the neighborhood kids, always had things to do even in the hot summertime. I love your stories. I bet the house costs a wee bit more then $12K today. I would love to stay there on vacation.

  6. I remember getting woken up at 4am to get out there while the "fish were biting." Seemed like a fool-proof plan, and yet we still never caught anything...

  7. Sis; I did some of those things with my son like every summer getting tons of boxes and building an enormous fort with rooms and letting him use it all summer--make it into a space station or a castle and decorate it and cut out windows and make tunnel passages and leave it indoors (AZ heat) for 3 months. By the time school started, I was happy to take down the building!

    Yeah, but isn't there something really weird about being up before everyone else in the darkness, it's like you're plotting a coup.

  8. that was my favorire, tp take my bamboo fishing rods, climb on the big granite rock and fish those suckers out for breakfast.

  9. R&S;
    I tell you, if I won the lottery, I'd move back there and get a Victorian in that Hudgin's area of Mathew County. It was so idyllic, but of course not a lot of industry around there. If I make it as a writer, that is where I'd like to park my ass, drop crab traps, go out to the lighthouse with my laptop and get some serious writing done. I'm hoping to get to a cabin this summer and do some fishing. I have this yummy fish I love to do over a propane stove--stuff the cavity with sage leaves and lemon slices. Yum!

  10. Somehow, you and the Barbie Corvette paints a funny picture.

    Seriously, It's really cool how you would go out as a family and gather food.

  11. Yes, we were hunter gatherers (hee hee). I have to admit that my father and I had competitions for who could grow the biggest tomatoes and I would talk to my plants to try to get them to grow faster. When I got bored, I'd sit on the dock and take a stick into the water, pulling out jelly fish and making them into soup in the sand. Jeez, I hated those things! If I cleared out enough of them, I could jump in and swim for a short while before more of them came back. I'd open up clams and throw the insides in the air to see the seagulls swoop and catch them. Those birds are annoying but they're also fucking talented.

  12. What a marvelous childhood! Have you ever considered professional storytelling? I know I'd love to just sit and listen to you spin stories of ghosts and your childhood.

    New Point Comfort...where is this in relation to Point Comfort? Isn't Point Comfort where Fort Monroe is located?

  13. It's on Mobjack Bay in Mathews County, the southern part of VA on the eastern shore. I think the biggest "city" near there is Gloucester. It's not far from Susan, VA. You know, you have me wondering if maybe I should do some video storytelling for the blog, nighttime tales of the south... Hmm... Ever see Prince of Tides? That movie kills me. It was my family and my childhood. Scary how Pat Conroy nailed it. As idyllic as the setting was, to make a truly good story, you had to have a cast of character that are contraindicated.

  14. Conroy is one of my favorite authors. As I was reading, I was recalling scenes from Prince of Tides. Wow...

    Mathews County...do you know anything about Old House Woods there?

  15. LP IV;
    I didn't even delve into the family dynamics, but jeez, that book/movie was so dead-on! I have heard of Old House Woods. In fact, there was a woman who had a blog, she was called Chesapeake Bay Lady and for some reason, I can't find her blog. Can't remember the address, but she was working on a book about the area and, in fact, drove over to the old summer home and got new pictures of it for me. I think she mentioned that a few times and I don't remember hearing about it as a kid much, but later I did hear that.