Ah, Halloween: that most haunted of holidays when we gather with one another to scare the fur off each other and bribe our little pups not to destroy our property by satiating them with sweets. We also come together to celebrate the arrival of autumn, carve jack-o-lanterns to ward off evil spirits, and host parties filled with frivolity and the wearing of costumes that draw out aspects of our personalities we would be ashamed to share any other time of year. (Thankfully I don’t need a costume on Halloween, and that’s good, because they don’t make many in my size.)
’Tis also a time for the sharing of ghost stories, the telling of tails (yes, I misspelled this on purpose) of the spirits who walk among us, wishing us harm or happiness, or having complete indifference. On the outskirts of my home in Ratlanta dwells a tiny town called Rex, whose history goes back more than a century-and-a-half. In Rex there stands an old one-lane bridge spanning a small creek, a dilapidated old grist mill, and several buildings in the heart of the town that are as old as the settlement itself. As the years have gone by a dam has been built just nigh of the bridge to tame the cascade of the creek, and a railroad track has been added about a stone’s throw from the old buildings. It is here that the Tail (also misspelled on purpose) of the Revenants of Rex begins.
My grandpaw lives close to Rex Mill, and loves to listen to the stories told of the town by the owner of the mill and his wife. In the spirit of the season, the mill’s owner recently imparted a tail (you guessed it, misspelled on purpose) so scary that it made Grandpaw’s whiskers stand on end. Apparently several revenants (which is another name for ghosts, phantasms, apparitions, and the like) haunt the little town of Rex; I present to you now three of their stories.
Although the dam is designed to reign in the rush of the creek, residents of past and present will tell you that during the torrential downpours that sometimes engulf Ratlanta the creek has been known to overflow it violently. Many years ago a mother and her child, caught up in one of these severe storms, were sadly drowned and are now said to haunt the bridge. On clear nights the residents claim that you can hear the child playing in the waters, while the mother gently calls his name to come home for supper.
In another tail (yep, misspelled on purpose), it is said that two suicide victims, having committed the acts that led to their demise within the town's borders, now roam the roads of Rex, and even, on occasion, appear in the yards of long-time residents. Ironic, it seems, that though their intent was to cut their lives short, they should ceaselessly walk the streets as the undead, forever trapped between this world and the next.
Finally there’s the tragic tail (misspelled on purpose, as you may have surmised) of a family killed while crossing the railroad tracks, who now traverse the trestles along the place of their passing. One can sometimes see their spirits slowly walking along the railway, only to vanish about a yard from the crossroads. On the anniversary of the accident it is said that a train whistle can be heard, even though no train approaches, as a phantom conductor warns future travelers to watch out for the train.
I hope I haven’t frightened your whiskers off – my grandpaw’s tails (have I misspelled it on purpose enough yet?) can be a little scary, even for creepy critters that crawl through the night like me. One thing is for sure, though: the things of which I am most afraid are the feral cats that live in the shadows of the mill!
Keepin’ it squeak,