I'm a fifty-year-old sober, drug-free grandmother. My sanity has never been questioned; not to my face, anyway. My folks settled in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee, and we have what might be described as a very country way of speaking. Ghosts, or haunts, are 'haints' to us. Around here, the word 'such' is sometimes pronounced 'sitch'.
One winter night, when I was about seven years old, I was at my aunt's house. The adults were in the living room, sitting around the fireplace, talking. We kids (my brother, our cousins, and I) were scampering all over the house, playing hide-and-seek, raising the occasional ruckus, and generally having fun. I was hiding in an old wardrobe when I noticed that the grown-ups had lowered their voices. I jumped out of the wardrobe and, for optimum listening purposes, scuttled behind a bedroom door.
They were telling ghost stories. One, particularly chilling, story involved an abandoned house. It was said that in this house, at a certain time of year, one could hear a baby crying just before midnight, then on the stroke of the hour itself, a coffin, containing a baby, would appear in the parlor.
I marched into the living room.
"Is that true?" I demanded. "About the baby in the casket?"
The grown-ups sat there a moment, looking at each other. Then Aunty reached for my hand and pulled me over to stand beside her chair.
"Honey, we're just sitting around telling a bunch of old stories. Just passing time, is all," she said. "Now, some parts you heard might be true..." Before I had time to wonder which parts she was talking about, Aunty, looking me straight in the eye, declared, "but there ain't no sitch a thang as a haint..."
I took her words to heart. They echoed authoritatively throughout several decades of my life.
Many of my childhood friends believed in ghosts. They wouldn't go near a cemetery unless they had to, fearing a haint would get them if they did. Smugly secure in my belief that "there ain't no sitch a thang as a haint", I took shortcuts through graveyards whenever it was convenient, day or night.
Later on, when my daughter wanted a Ouija board, I got her one. "There ain't no sitch a thang as a haint", so why shouldn't she have one of those Ouija toys to play with?
For some forty-odd years, I lived a happy, haint-free life. But not anymore.
I recently worked for a gentleman who sold repossessed mobile homes. On the lot one morning, Bill, a co-worker, called me on the radio and summoned me to #087, a newly arrived double-wide. I climbed up inside it.
"Bill? You in here?"
"In the master bath," came Bill's reply.
He was standing in front of the tub with a sour look on his face. I walked in, then backed right out. The bathroom stank to high heaven. There were mounds of dead flies on the window sill and on the floor behind the toilet.
"Where's it coming from?" I asked.
Bill shook his head. "I don't know. But we'll have to find out. Ain't nobody going to buy a trailer with a bathroom that stinks like this..."
Over the next several days, Bill, and I, along with three others, worked on #087. We searched high and low for the source of that stench. We removed wall panels and examined the hidden interior room that housed the furnace and water heater. We poked around between the vapor barrier and flooring. We flushed the drain traps. At one point, in fits of desperation, we even peeled back the bathroom carpet and padding. We found no evidence of any leaks, no dead vermin, nothing.
In the course of these events, we noticed some odd things about the odor. For one thing, it was sporadic. Whenever it showed up, piles of dead flies showed up with it. The smell would dissipate, but the flies stayed behind. We had to suck them up with a hand vac. Also, the odor was strong, almost overpowering, inside the bathroom. One step outside the bathroom door, though, the smell was undetectable.
Now, I've watched the same movies everyone else has watched, and I know that, confronted with this same circumstance, a lot of people would have been immediately clued in that some sort of spook was fiddle-farting around. Not I, though. Huh, uh. "Ain't no sitch a thang as a haint".
As a matter of fact, one of the guys did say something about #087 being possessed, instead of repossessed, but he was joking. As far as I know, that's the only allusion to the supernatural that any of us made.
We opened windows. We sprayed disinfectant, and set out air fresheners. We burned scented candles and incense. If it smelled good, we tried it. Finally, three days passed with no odor presenting itself, and we thought we had cured it. Maybe we did.
On a hot, very busy, day in September, I climbed up inside #087 to get started on one final job that had to be done before the home would be ready to sell. A sheet of drywall in the dining area needed to be replaced. I was measuring the wall when the toilet in the master bathroom flushed.
I nearly lost my religion, right then and there. Here I was, in a sweltering, airless trailer, sweat pouring off me, and some idiot, probably a prospective buyer, had just used a toilet that wasn't hooked to a sewage system. It was not unusual for these used mobile homes to arrive on the lot with enough water for a flush retained in their lavatory tanks. And, despite taped-down lids, and do-not-use signs, people sometimes did avail themselves of the facilities.
I dropped my tape measure and went stomping off toward the bathroom. On the way down the warpath, it didn't dawn on me that, until I had entered it, this trailer had been locked.
The bathroom door was standing wide open. The pig hadn't even bothered to close it. He was standing right there in front of the throne, hitching up his pants, with his right side facing me. He was tall, had a beer gut, and a mop of tangled, red hair. He had on jeans, and a gray muscle shirt that looked as though it had seldom seen the inside of a washing machine. His pudgy arms were covered with jailhouse tattoos; one was a pair of dice rolled to snake-eyes. I remember wondering why he hadn't opted for boxcars. Attached to his belt, there was a leather sheath with, what appeared to be, a six-inch boot knife in it.
"Um, sir?" He went from 'pig' to 'sir' in the span of a heartbeat. A sight like that will just naturally take the wind out of your sails.
Judging from the look on his face, he was surprised to see me, which was puzzling, because he had to have heard my approach. As we stared at each other, his expression changed, becoming sullen. I perceived a threat. He lowered his head slightly, still watching me. His right hand reached for that blade. Then he clicked off. He just wasn't there anymore. It made me dizzy. Either I had just witnessed a ghost, or I had a horribly defective mind.
"You didn't even wash your hands..."
I said that out loud, hastily departed, and took a break outside, wondering how I was going to get that Ouija board away from my daughter. I decided to do what all parents do whenever a child acquires something she's better off without: I'd buy something bigger, better, and more expensive, and attempt to negotiate a trade. I thought about my childhood jaunts through the local cemeteries. No telling what kind of boogers had been lurking in the shadows back then, just waiting to pounce on my unsuspecting self.
I saw the apparition only once, and I never smelled the foul odor again. The last time I was inside #087, the whole trailer smelled like a smoked coconut, thanks to our dedicated freshening efforts.
Shortly after all this happened, my employer had a heart attack (not haint-related, as far as I know). Resulting health issues forced him to sell his inventory, including #087, to other dealers around the region. It's an attractive mobile home, so it's reasonable to assume someone has bought it by now.
It's a '96 model, 28x48, with three bedrooms, and two baths. It has beige siding. All the front windows, including a large, and very lovely, bay window, are trimmed with red shutters. There is a rectangular skylight in the kitchen. The ceiling in the dining area has a framed mirror with a swag light dangling from it. An identical mirror, sans light, is mounted to the wall behind the pastel yellow garden tub in the master bath.
If this sounds like your home, you might want to arm yourself before going to the bathroom. Or, at least, knock before you go in. Because there is such a thing as a haint, and you just might be living with one.