Believe: A Twilight Ghost of My Childhood

Today's Believe installment is going to be about one of the many hauntings upon the property I grew up on. The estate was built in the 1700s but in the time of the Civil War, taken over by the North for a field hospital and later by the South for the same purpose. As I am doing outdoors para month, this seemed an appropriate subject - (for more stories about the hauntings from the perspective of me and my family - read my award-winning book Growing Up With Ghosts)

The Screaming Nurse 

At the Estate in Fairfax, Virginia, where I grew up, there was a creek running through the property called "Pohick Creek," a tributary of the Potomac.
I caught a lot of crayfish, turtles, frogs, and even fish from it when I was growing up. It was a great place to play. 

It winded for miles through the woods around the estate and I would launch an expedition each early summer through the brambles to walk the creek - literally standing in the creek, walking for miles through overgrowth to find secret pockets of beauty that I officially named and stuck a stick in the ground with a piece of cloth as a flag to claim it.

We had a ghost in our creek too.

Only at twilight on a summer's night, when the light was halfway gone and starting to dim, you would hear her scream from this one spot just down from "Adam and Eve's Court" (one of my named locations, a wide and deep spot). It was on the border of the woods and our manicured estate. 

She would scream in agony a few times, go quiet, then scream again. It sounded like mourning more than distress. But it got our attention. All us kids, no matter where we were on the property, would hear her and run to the creek. 

The odd thing about the screams was that no matter where you were in the yard that year when she was doing it, it sounded the same amount of "loudness." I could be standing at the creek when it happened and it sounded just the same intensity and level as it did all the way at the barn, maybe 7 acres away. 

The water would be disturbed in this pooled area, murky, filled with silt, and sometimes even claw marks on the wet muddy banks that looked like fingers clawing.

I would toss some wildflowers in, sit down and chew on some sassafras root I wiped clean on my shirt, and ponder this ghost.

One time, I asked my mother about it. She mentioned that a local woman during the Civil War volunteered as a nurse in our home when it was a hospital. She fell in love with a man who was very badly injured and infection set in. She could not take his death and drown herself in the creek.

I asked her about how the woman could drown in 3 feet of water.

Mom said that the water used to run a lot higher there long ago before others cut into the tributary and rerouted some of it. It ran more like a river.

I had to wonder how someone could drown herself, but then I was taught to swim at a very early age. Back in Civil War Era, they did not leisurely go on swims and few people had the skills. All she had to do was get into the currents and that was it. 

Every summer, sometimes a few times each summer, but usually in the hottest, most muggy time of the year. Twilight. It was her time. And we ran to her screams each time, knowing we would not rescue anyone.

A fistful of wild violets tossed into the currents, a prayer said, and I walked away to wait for the lightning bugs to come out and give me a new diversion....


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