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    Texas | Ghosts

    THE SURVEYORS' GHOST

    by Bob Hopkins
    The following tale came by way of Mr. Pete Kendall, one time sports writer for the Cleburne Times Review newspaper in Cleburne, Texas. Mr. Kendall relayed the story in 2003. It is a ghostly article he found in a 99-year-old-newspaper. The author of the piece is unknown and long removed from this life but gives us a Victorian insight of a poltergeist of certain demented intent. The story is taken, word-for-word just as the author intended from a 1902 newspaper in Burleson, Texas.
    - A Good Ghost Story -
    Surveying party encounter
    A haunted house and
    thrilling experience!
    A SPOOKED INHABITED COTTAGE
    -
    Mysterious noises disturb their
    slumbers and search confirms
    supernatural character of
    their ghostly visitants
    -
    “A first class and thoroughly confirmed ghost story is told by returned members of the party, which for its realistic features and the previous record of the locality served at the time to raise the hair of the campers as well as to remind the readers that there are intangibilities in the observance of our human senses, ‘that’, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Haratio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. And the surveyors do “a take unfold whose highest word did “harrow up” their very souls – but, to the story.

    Last Saturday night the surveyors had reached a point about two and a half miles northwest of Burleson and finding there a vacant house concluded to utilize its sheltering roof for their night’s repose. This house is one far above the ordinary farmers’ residence; being the most neat appearing and spacious modern cottage of several rooms and an “upstairs”, the stairway leading from the front gallery to the upper story. It was in apparent good repair and thought open to campers concluded to sleep on the broad porch. Here they spread their bedding and at an early hour had gone to sleep – all except Mr. Ransone.

    Mr. Ransone relates that as he lay in a semi-sleeping condition suddenly just at his head and in the front room of the cottage there rang out two shots in quick concession, which aroused the whole party and created momentary consternation in the minds of all. Each one jumped out from their pallets and the strange occurrence was freely discussed among them. Footsteps in the room were heard as if someone were leisurely walking about and these coming out the door right among them turned up the stairway from the porch and were distinctly audible as they ascended the steps. Then about through the upper story went the footsteps echoing loudly through the building, finally approaching the stairs and coming down again.

    The party was composed of Mr. J.R. Ransone, Mr. G.A. Human, Mr. Shaw, Berkley Collard, Elmer Collins, and Lucian Wilson, all more or less well known here.

    Mr. Collard was on his pallet the nearest one to the stairway and as the disturber descended the steps he arose armed with his own heavy shoes and attempted to close with the intruder, but in the clinch he only embraced the empty air and though heavy pedal coverings were hurried into the stairway with all the violence of intense excitement they smote only the intangible air and bounded back down the staircase – but the steps proceeded – tramp, tramp, tramp through their midst into the room and finally died away into indistinctness into the further part of the house.

    The mystery of the visitation was discussed amongst the campers for some time and they finally determined that their senses had been mysteriously deluded or that mischievous practical jokers of the neighborhood had determined to have a lot of enjoyment at their expense. In either case there was no danger, so they laid down again to sleep, their hair standing stiffly outward forming a natural pillow for their puzzled heads.

    No sooner, however, than they had began to dose off again than – bang! came some heavy object against the wall from the inside and with such a force that the windows of the room which had been raised fell with such a violence that the glass in the window shattered.

    A strange feature to this occurrence was that the party had tried ineffectively to close the windows down and found that impossible because the rains had swollen the wood and stuck the frame fast. This episode convinced them that some supernatural agency was at work and they determined on a thorough search of the premises.

    This they made by stationing guards at the front and rear to cover exits while two of the party with lighted lanterns explored every room, closet, nook and cranny, but without developing anything further than empty rooms and resounding walls. They then searched the surrounding approaches, went “into” and thoroughly searched the storm cellar in the rear of the house and found – nothing.

    Like wise men they then returned to sleep convinced that no human agency had disturbed them and all through the mysterious noises, rapping’s, and persistent plodding of the footsteps continued throughout the night they slumbered at intervals and at intervals sat up to listen intently to the nocturnal prowler.

    When morning arrived they again explored the whole house and surroundings, but absolutely nothing tangible did they find as explanation of the nights experiences. Afterward, they inquired of a gentleman living near and learned that he had also heard the apparent shots as he sat up in the waiting on his family to return from church at Burleson.

    This gentleman is Mr. Bristow and lives about 400 yards from the “haunted” house. From him the party learned also the history of the record of the place, which from his story bears the reputation of a dwelling place of spooks.

    The house is on a tract of land in the J.H. Catlett survey and now belongs to Mr. Bristow. It was erected about ten or twelve years ago by a Mr. Bills, from whom Bristow afterward purchased it. It has not been occupied for about three years, Mr. Bristow’s brother and family being the last occupants they left allegedly on account of the disturbances which were of nightly occurrence. No one was ever known to have been murdered there or nearby, but two parties – a man and a woman – have died in the building and it is certain from the narrative of those present that some disembodied spirit returns on the shades of a friendly night to go again over old scenes and to frighten trespassers upon the premises.

    Asked as to their theory on the haunt these gentlemen have none to give but it has been suggested that perhaps the place is the rendezvous for some lawless band – thieves or counterfeiters – who have hidden doors or traps and an underground resort in which they ply their nefarious trade or store their purloined property and have some mechanical devices by which they produce the nocturnal noises and protect their retreat from the encroachment of a too investigating public.

    Whether this be true or whether in fact the ghost of some departed inhabitant has taken up its abode and resents intrusion from men of mortal mold is matter for speculation. But one fact stands out boldly from mystery of the surrounding scenes and that is Human and his party were so thoroughly cognizant of the conditions that all tell the same story – all heard the same noises and all are credible to the extent of the physical facts they relate.” The end. Aug 7, 1902
    * * * * *
    It would be most interesting today to find exactly where the house once stood, given the exact abstract locations by the author makes it possible. Was the haunting real? Hauntings are as old as mankind. Most true hauntings are a plethora of strange happenings and occurrences which create more questions than answers as they tend to defy logic and the natural laws of physics while terrifying any unfortunate witnesses. In late Victorian America it was not a custom to discuss such matters openly as it is today. Modern America embraces everything about ghosts and ghostly activities as scores of television shows have been spawned creating celebrities out of geeky regular people who believe their seems to be a ghost in every house or building older than 50 years. But, official documentation of such occurrences prove that a real haunting is much less likely to happen and even less has actually been officially documented.

    Some people are skeptical of ghosts and should be while others think they see a ghost behind every old house or building in town. True hauntings, though rare, have terrified those who have experienced them and leave deep spiritual and psychological scars. It would be best to leave ghost hunting up to the spiritual experts as not to taunt things you can’t see. Like the surveyors of old Burleson, you may get more than you bargained for as things around your home begin to go bump in the night. Happy Halloween!

    © Bob Hopkins
    October 25, 2011 Column
    More Ghost Stories | Texas Ghost Towns | Texas Murders...
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