It’s a strange place, that house in the valley below Raven Hill. It’s the only house for a couple or more miles around, nestled in among some trees, a stone house that can’t be more than two or three rooms downstairs and a couple of rooms on the top floor. I’ve never been inside and don’t intend to. Facts be known, it is just an abandoned old farmhouse built in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s and there is an old family cemetery a few yard back in an oak grove behind the house. There is probably nothing to it but stories are that there have been some strange happenings at Ravenwood and that the place is haunted. You know how folks like to make up tales. I don’t know but just recently there’s been fresh tales about the place.
There are strange and foreboding stories about this place called Ravenwood House. No one lives there. No one has lived there for nearly a century now. The town took the property, house, land and all after the last folks living there died or the town folks think they died. That’s an odd story if ever there was one.
The last folks to live at Ravenwood were an elderly couple that no one knew much about. They were squatters, just moved in one day and took over the place. It had been vacant for quite some time before that, no electricity, no running water and an outhouse in the back next to a woodshed.
No one knows where those old folks came from or even their names, not even their last name. They never came into town and didn’t associate with any of the town folks. These old folks were definitely loners who wanted to be left alone. Apparently they lived off the land and that was good enough for them. They weren’t bothering anyone so no one bothered them.
It had been Will Birch, farmer down the valley about two miles that first mentioned someone was living at Ravenwood. He said he’d seen them; old couple, probably well into their eighties and dressed like Quakers or something from the mid eighteen hundreds. Will had been out looking for a stray calf and thought it might have wandered up that way. He’d seen the old couple from the hill behind the house but by the time he’d made it down the hill to the yard there didn’t seem to be a soul around.
Will was telling Sheriff Bridgman this story the next day while they were drinking coffee and eating doughnuts in the diner on lower Main Street. Will said he’d knocked on the door, thought maybe the old folks might have seen his calf wandering about and he’d just introduce himself and be neighborly. No one answered the door and he didn’t see anyone around. There was no sign of a vehicle of any sort, not even a horse and buggy. Will said he’d hollered “Howdy,” and checked the barn but he hadn’t seen anyone there, not even any animals, no cows, goats or sheep, not even a pig or a flock of chickens. That was probably a good thing since the barn was about ready to fall in on itself anyhow. Strange.
Will swore up and down though that he’d clearly seen an old couple, real old like maybe pushing a hundred or so, in the yard that day, no one familiar to him and Will had been born and raised here, knew everyone for miles around. He said the woman was picking wild mint and the man was sitting on a stump smoking a pipe. He said once he got close to the house he could smell the smoke from the pipe, scent carried on the breeze, smelled like that Prince Albert tobacco his grandfather used to smoke. Will said he’d check around the place pretty good but there wasn’t hide nor hair of anyone there. He couldn’t see through the windows they were so crusted up with years of neglect. He’d shrugged and gone back home the way he’d come. Will never did find his calf.
Sheriff Bridgman had listened and nodded and made a mental note to check Ravenwood out the next time he was in the area. The town owned the property so it might be a good idea to know if there were folks squatting on it. He checked with the Town Manager later that day and no, the town was not leasing the property and as far as he knew no one was out that way unless the ghost tales were true. “Maybe he was seeing ghost.” The Town Manager snickered and said Will had probably been sipping a little too much of that hard cider he was famous for just a little too frequently again.
“Well he was sober as a judge the other day when he was telling me this story,” Sheriff Bridgman said as he left the office. “I’ll check it out myself when I get a minute.”
It was the following Sunday morning when Sheriff Bridgman was leaving church and going to do his rounds before going home for dinner when Joe Kidder
motioned him to one side to speak with him. Joe Kidder is the youth pastor of the Baptist church and the last person you’d expect to be hearing farfetched tales from.
“Sheriff, I got something to ask you, just curious really but I think you need to hear this.” Joe looked down at the toes of his shoes and cleared his thought. “You probably know that Ravenwood used to be a mission house back in the early 1800’s and this church is an outgrowth of that early mission.”
The sheriff nodded and Joe Kidder continued to tell his story.
“Well yesterday we took the kids on a hike out to Ravenwood. Thought we’d check out the old gravestones and have a picnic in the yard there and I’d share the early mission history. You’ll probably recall from your own learnin that the first missionaries were a young couple with two young children that died at the hands of Indians and how later it was thought that their ghost haunted the place. Well, I don’t believe in ghost, Sir, except of course the Holy Ghost, but there is something strange going on out there at Ravenwood.”
“What are you talking about, something strange,” Sheriff Bridgman asked?
“Weird,” Joe scuffed the toe of his shoe in the dirt and drew a circle, “there’s an old couple apparently living there only I got the feeling they weren’t really living. Believe me, I don’t believe in ghost stories. Anyhow, we had just finished eating our picnic lunch and were walking around the old cemetery when two huge black ravens swooped in on us and put up quite a ruckus, screaming and hollering and dive-bombing us. Scared the kids, scared me a little too so we headed back to where I had left the church bus. When we got to the end of the drive and the kids were boarding the bus I looked back and there were them to old folks there dressed in late 18th century attire, black as raven’s feathers.
Now you know I am a sober man, Sheriff, but sure as we’re standing here I saw them and they watched us and then turned toward the house and they floated, they weren’t walking, they were floating and floated right through the walls of that house, never opened a door or a window. I’m telling you the truth.
I’d driven into the yard a little bit to turn the bus around when those ravens were back. I swear I saw them come right up out of the chimney of that house and they flew right at the windshield of the bus and then followed the bus to the end of the driveway and landed beside the road. When I looked back in my mirror that old couple was standing in the road watching us. It is just too weird. Anybody living out there that you know of? The place sure doesn’t look lived in.
Sheriff Bridgman shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been hearing stories. Maybe I better go check it out. You get thinking and dwelling on them ghost tales and they can play tricks on the mind. Cemeteries can be spooky sometimes.”
“Not in broad daylight,” Joe muttered. “Sheriff, check it out. Let me know if you see anything.” About that time couple of the young people ran up to see Pastor Kidder and that ended the conversation. Joe Kidder walked back toward the church and the sheriff left to do his rounds.
It had been a couple weeks since Will and the Joe Kidder had told their tales to the sheriff and Sheriff Bridgman still hadn’t gone out to Ravenwood. He’d never taken much stock in ghost tales and if there was an old couple took up squatters rights out there, leave ‘em be and let ‘em live. He’d do one of them so called “wellness checks” one of these days just to make sure they were okay and find out if there was anything the town could do for them; when he got around to it.
It was Saturday morning about ten when two boys, probably eleven or twelve years old came bursting through the door of the sheriff’s office like the devil himself was on their tail and white as a ghost.
Once the sheriff had the boys calmed down and had given then each a glass of water to drink he listened to their story. It was the strangest story he had ever heard but these boys were too danged scared not to be telling the truth.
The boys had been trout fishing in the stream that runs behind Ravenwood, just fishing and minding their own business when they heard the strangest sound coming from up near that old haunted house, they said, sounded like a high pitched humming sound, like a jet but not as loud and then a loud “Waaa-phump” “Kaboom” followed by what sounded like a lot of giggling and chattering in some strange language; and then everything got real quiet, too quiet, not even the sound of a bird chirping; it was kind of eerie. They’d left their fish poles there beside the stream and sneaked all quiet like through the woods until they were in sight of the old house. That’s when they really got scared but they didn’t dare run.
There was this old man and woman in the yard, off toward the side of the barn, they was real old like maybe they should have been dead for a long time and their skin was sort of dripping off them and these really weird creatures with big heads and skinny necks and eyes that burned like hot coals all chattering, sort of sing-song like all around them old folks and as their skin fell into a puddle on the ground they began to look just like those other weird creatures. Suddenly there was this big ball of light, really bright like ball-lightning and every one of them disappeared in that light even them old sort of dead like folks. That ball of light rolled around a little bit and then it just went zoom, zoom right up into the sky and vanished just like that. The older of the two boys snapped his fingers.
Both boys still looked like the living be-geezum had just been shook out of them so the sheriff was pretty sure they had seen something but he wasn’t quite ready to swallow this tale they had just told him whole, least of all not without a beer chaser.
“Okay boys, I’ll check it out. You both run along home and don’t go spreading any stories around town. You both keep quiet about this until I’ve had a chance to see what is going on. It was probably just some freak ball lightning and you’ve let your imaginations get the best of you. It can be kind of scary out there in the woods alone at your age. I already heard there was an old couple living out there.
“No Sir, we saw it. We really did, just like we said. You gotta believe us.”
“Yeh, okay. I believe you. I’ll go check it out. You boys run on home now and keep your mouths shut.”
“Sheriff,” the older boy said, “We can’t go home. We gotta go back and get our fishin’ poles. Pa just bought them for us and we go home without them we’re gonna get a whoopin’ we ain’t never gonna forget. Would you please come with us, please, Sir; and bring your gun, maybe two guns.”
“All right boys. Come on. I’ll give you a ride out there. You get your fish poles and skedaddle on home. I’ll check things out and stop by later to let you know what I find out.” Sheriff Bridgman chuckled to himself but he was beginning to wonder what in the world was going on out there at Ravenwood.
He let the boys out at the bridge that crosses the stream and watched while they ran upstream to where they had left their poles. When they got back to the bridge he sent them home and didn’t move until he saw them disappear around the bend. He picked up his radio and called for back-up.
He waited ten minutes and then drove up the road and into the driveway at Ravenwood. The place looked deserted. There wasn’t a sound around or any sign of life. It was only another couple of minutes when two other patrol cars arrived and the three officers began to check the place out.
The front door to the house wasn’t locked. It opened with a creak and squeak on its ancient hinges. They looked around and gingerly followed the stairs to the second floor. Nothing. Not even a speck of dust or grime had been disturbed since God knew when. Even the cobwebs were all intact. No one had been here.
They checked out the barn and the shed. They even checked out the outhouse. Nothing. No one and no sign anyone had been there. The sheriff did notice a small pond, probably a fish pond at one time to the side of the barn. It was covered with green slime now. If anything lived there it would only be a few frogs. Funny, he didn’t remember there being a pond there. Maybe there was and he’d just forgotten about it.
It wasn’t until they walked around back to the old cemetery that they were brought up short and brave as these men were their hearts began to pound in their chest so hard they could hear them in their ears.
“What in hell is this?” All three men stared in disbelief. Every gravestone was laying flat on the ground and every grave and coffin was wide open. There was not a single body, not a bone, not a fragment to be found.
“Grave robbers,” one of the men asked?
“Nope, not the kind you are referring to,” Sheriff Bridgman answered. “Look at this.” He pointed to a perfectly round burned spot on the ground. There were seven more just like it, two on each side of the cemetery and not one sign of anything else being burned or even scorched in the area.
“How are we going to explain this one,” one of the officers asked the sheriff?
“Aliens,” the sheriff answered. “Let’s go home.”
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