I'm taking a short break from writing about the occurrences in my home. This story took place in my sister's home many years ago. There is a reason I feel the need to write about it now. I received a phone call from my sister last night. She was finally returning my calls. I had been trying to get hold of her all day yesterday. Three phone calls, three text messages but never an answer. My messages were simply, "We need to talk." Today's date is April 18, 2016.
Our conversation in part: My sis: "Hey, are you busy?"
Me: "No, what's up? It's nice you decided to return my calls."
My sis: "Sorry, my brain has been preoccupied. Do you remember that Christmas Eve my house almost went up in flames?"
Me: "Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me? I've been trying to get hold of you all day about exactly that."
My sis: "All I've been able to think about today, is that night. You really need to stop playing in my head."
Me: "But there's so much room in there..."
My sis: "You're so funny..."
Me: "Have you seen him again?"
My sis: "No, have you?"
The question is like a ritual, we play out each time one of us mentions that night. I don't believe either of us expects to see him again. It's just a question that has to be asked.
It all begin Christmas Eve, 1989. That morning my husband and I woke to a very cold house. Our power was out and the water pipes were frozen. Winter was hitting hard, harder than I can ever remember before in Arkansas. Temperatures were in the teens or lower.
At that time we had two children, a 5 year old boy and 6 month old girl. We knew we had to get them someplace warm. We lived in the country so going to a hotel really wasn't an option, besides there was a freezing drizzle that had us extremely worried. We thought of going to my parents who lived about 6 miles from us, but reasoned they would probably be without power as well. Our other option was going to my sister's house. She also lived about 6 miles from us, in the other direction, but we knew her house would be warm because she heated with wood.
After deciding on my sister's house, my husband gathered up the Santa gifts while I bundled the kids up. We loaded the car and were on our way.
Here I'll tell you a little about my sister's house. I was with her the day she found it. The year was 1981. We were driving around trying to find a rental house for her family. We decided to drive down this gravel road neither of us had been down since we were kids. We noticed what looked like a driveway long forgotten. We stopped, got out of the car and walked as far as we could. Peering through the overgrowth of wild ivy and grapevines, we saw it. A magnificent old house just begging to be loved.
The yard was littered with different colored rose bushes that had not been pruned in years. In the middle of the yard, straight in front of the steps that led onto a huge porch, was an arched trellis with beautiful velvety blood red roses growing across it.
We gingerly walked towards the house, knowing full well we were trespassing. However, since neither of us had seen any posted signs, we thought, hoped it would be OK to just take a quick look. It was as if we were meant to look at it. As if it was calling us.
The front porch spanned across the width of the house. It had large columns supporting the roof. On either end there was an old worn porch swing. The house itself had two front doors. Looking through the door on the right, we could see two large rooms separated by only an arched frame. Each room had its own fireplace. The floors were hardwood that had long ago lost their shine. From the door on the left we could see what looked like a bedroom, equally large as the other two rooms. And with the same hardwood floor.
We were like little kids running around the outside of the house trying to peek in windows to see what other surprises we could discover. We could not see a whole lot other than the rooms in front, but my sister was already planning how she would decorate it.
She became obsessed with this house. Asking around whom owned it, would they rent it. She planned to live there and no amount of trying to talk her into looking elsewhere worked. After several days she found out the owner's name and asked me to go with her to talk to the lady. Someone told her it was an old family home. And while the family had rented it out in the past, they didn't believe the lady would rent it out again due to the last renters not taking care of it.
Even though I figured it was against all odds she would be able to rent the place, knowing how folks around here are about their old family homesteads, I went with my sister to talk to the owner.
Right off the lady said she didn't want to rent it. The house had been in her family for over 100 years. She hated to see someone else destroy it. My sister, not one to take no for an answer, kept trying to persuade her. The lady said it needed tons of repair. My sister said she and her husband would do them. The lady reminded her of how grown up the yard was. My sister told her not to worry about it, they would take care of it. As a last-ditch effort the lady said, "It's haunted. Many of my past renters have heard and seen things." My sister smiled at me and replied, "Awesome!" The lady laughed as she agreed to rent the house to my sister...
Christmas Eve morning 1989.
We made our way slowly down the long gravel road towards my sister's house. By this time little droplets of water was beginning to freeze on the tree limbs. I was thinking how glad I was to have some place to take our children so they could stay warm. I did not worry that we had not been able to call ahead because I knew my sister would welcome us with open arms. As she did.
We spent the day baking and getting ready for Santa's visit. The house was filled with laughter and excitement of four little kids punctuated with a giggle from our baby daughter once in a while.
All four kids were put to bed in the same bedroom. My daughter stayed with the adults in the living room as we watched TV. The kids had long gone to sleep when I suddenly heard my son coughing. It was nearing midnight. When I went to check on him I smelled smoke. Smoke was coming from the closet which was on the wall where the fireplace in the other room butted up against.
I yelled that I thought the house was on fire. While my husband and I got the kids up, my sister and brother-in-law were inspecting the closet where the smoke was coming from. My brother-in-law said he thought the fire was contained in the chimney but to be on the safe side we should all get out of the house.
We bundled up the kids and took them to one of the cars, we had started because it was way too cold for little ones to be outside. Since the house was so isolated we knew we were on our own.
My brother-in-law and husband ran to get the extension ladder while my sister and I stretched the water hose as far as it would reach towards the house. The faucet was out in the yard quite a way from the house. Unfortunately we soon discovered the hose was frozen.
One of us found a pail while someone removed the hose from the faucet. We were lucky enough that the faucet wasn't frozen.
I filled the pail with water, handed it to my sister, she handed it to my husband who was towards the top of the ladder, he then handed if off to my brother-in-law. He poured it down the chimney. In between times of filling the pail, I ran over to the car to make sure the kids were still safe and warm. It was one of these times as I was coming back to re-fill the pail when I noticed there was someone else besides my brother-in-law on the roof. About the same time my sister noticed him too. I asked, "Who is that?" She replied with her own question, "Where did he come from?"
I refilled the pail, gave it to my sister, she gave it to my husband, he gave it to my brother-in-law. It was then that we heard the man speak. "Here, let me help," he said taking the pail from my brother-in-law. He was standing next to the chimney and didn't turn to face us, just sort of reached for the pail. My brother-in-law handed it to him. He poured it down the chimney.
I refilled the pail several times more, handing it off to the next person. No one spoke. Finally, when he was sure the fire was out, my brother-in-law broke the silence by simply saying, "It's out." He turned towards where the man had been standing, at the same time my sister and I looked in that direction, he wasn't there. He was gone. He had just vanished.
My brother-in-law searched the roof for the man. My husband, sister and I walked around the house searching for him. We could not find any footprints in the newly fallen sleet. The only footprints on the roof was that of my brother-in-law's.
He was wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt with a vest over it and cowboy boots. He didn't seem to mind the cold as we did. I can't remember ever seeing his face, only his profile. He never looked directly at us. His voice was very flat in tone. There has always been a debate as to what color his hair was. My brother-in-law says it was black. My sister and I say it was a dark blond. My husband never actually saw him because of his position on the ladder, but he says he heard him talking.
The one thing we can all agree upon is that he was there and there is no way he jumped from the house and could possibly have walked away. And he couldn't have gone up or came down the ladder because my husband was on it the entire time.