Ghosts Are Nuts
Shrieking sirens pierced the calm of night in late October, 1942. Startled birds zoomed skyward, their wings flapping against the limbs of denuded trees as they sought to escape from their forest shelters, frightened by the screaming whistles of the alert signals emanating from the roof of the Rehrersburg fire tower. Ted Apple, lone motorist on Roue 83, doused the lights of his car and mumbled to himself:
“Rotten luck caught in a blackout 20 miles from nowhere.” No use complaining, he mused. He would sit in his car and wait, until the world stirred once more. Things might be worse, much worse!
Clap!Clap! the sound of horse’s hoofs on the black macadam approaching from the direction of Rehrersburg! What Paul Revere was aboard tonight?!
“Whoa! There!” to the horse, and then “Hello, there,” to the parked auto came a voice out of the stygian darkness of Blue Mountain.
“Hello,” responded Ted Apple, welcoming the presence of a fellow mortal.
“Get out of the car and find shelter came a crisp command, I am district warden here. Be quick about it!”
“Walk alongside and I’ll show you to Spook House. It’s an all-night blackout and you will have a roof over your head in case it rains or snows.”
“Spook House,” repeated Ted as he clambered out of the car and trudged along the mountain road with his erstwhile companion. “Doesn’t sound very inviting on a night like this, now does it.”
“Oh, don’t let that bother you. Old Jake Schwalm’s ghost has been flitting about the attic for 20 years and thus far he has never harmed anyone. He’s just struggling to get out of the rope.”
“Out of the rope?” Ted Apple was puzzled.
“Yep, Old Jake got his head mixed up in an old trunk rope hanging from one of the rafters and after that Jake was hanging there, too. The noises you will hear are Old Jake trying to get loose. Well, stranger, there’s the house, you won’t need a key.” Then with an unpleasant chuckle the modern Paul Revere fired his parting shot “Pleasant dreams, Ichabod- Giddap Bess, I see a lantern burning in Widow Braucher’s cottage.”
Confound the fellow’s impertinence! Wasn’t it bad enough to be shanghaied in a mountain cabin on Halloween without a yokel’s superstition for mental diet while he whiled away the hours? But on second thought and with a shrug of shoulders, he, Ted Apple, a man of the world, a world which apparitions never invaded, would make the best of it and tomorrow at the Lamb’s Club in Baltimore he would regale his friends with a lurid tale of his adventures.
Bare floors, bare rooms, paneless window frames and hingless doors, Ted’s fingers fumbling in the blackness of night discerned. A musty stench, eloquently proclaiming the decay; eerie creaking noises, subtle unintelligible, creepy, uncanny jangled his senses; weird fluttering sounds of loathsome bats swirling about his bared head; the pit-pit-pat of scurrying rats as the scampered hither and yon, playing a game of leaping over his shoe-tips: grimy, filthy and clammy were all the boards he touched and a death like chill coursed along the ganglia of his spine when his numbed fingers touched the latch which opened the staircase door.
“Pull yourself together man,” he told himself. “Ghosts indeed,” he scoffed. In sharp staccato he began to whistle to himself. “What was that?” his tune broke off. A sepulchral echo of his tune seemed to be wafted down the winding staircase. Was it a whine, a groan, a gasp sucking for breath through strangled tubes? Old Jake had hanged himself in that attic.
“Something rolling or scraping the attic floor,” he tried to reason but his senses became taut when the rolling sounds drowned by an unearthly roar, not unlike the rumble of distant thunder. The rolling began again, the scraping was repeated at intervals and the “yeep yeep” of some doleful tune continued to echo his whistled notes. Subconcious reflexes won their mastery, mercifully, as Ted crumbled to the floor in an unconscious stupor.
“Hi there stranger,” shouted the Paul Revere early next morning.
Unsteadily Ted regained his senses.
“Saw your car there on the highway,” explained the warden. “Thought I would check up on you.”
“Thanks,” was all that Ted could muster.
“Don’t bother, I had to come this way anyhow. Got a lot of walnuts drying on the attic here and squirrels play hob with them rolling them across the floor. Guess they are dry enough now to put away. Funny sound those squirrels make when they are rolling nuts, don’t you think so?
Ted did not answer. Instead he walked to the staircase opened it and listened. The scraping, rumbling, thunderlike noises were clearly audible.
“All right, I understand about the squirrels and the nuts, but what is that sounds.”
“Oh! Ha! Ha! Did Old Jake’s ghost get you? That, my city friend is no more than the branches of the Old Walnut tree scraping the roof of this cabin when the wind blows.”
The Lamb’s club of Baltimore never heard the tale that Ted Apple had to tell.