I would like to begin this story with a bit of a disclaimer regarding the title and my use of the term "Indian" - I use it here as this story involves a dear friend of mine and it is the term used by her people and her perspective, I feel, is integral to the scenario. If the term is offensive to some readers, I do apologize, it is absolutely not intended as such.
I have worked as an artists' model for fourteen years - long before I went full freelance - my friend Anne was the first artist I had ever worked for privately... To be honest, the notion had never even crossed my 20 year old mind at the time and had it been any one other than her (a sweet faced woman my mother's age and even from the same region of North Carolina hill country as my mother's parents), the idea of going over to a veritable stranger's home to sit about attired in little more than a bedsheet while they drew or painted me (as opposed to a structured classroom setting) would have seemed truly alarming (amazing, how things normalize as you get more experience in a field -hah!).
I still remember the first evening I drove to her little house after getting off work for a planned sitting. Her home is in James City County in between the two historic former capital cities (Williamsburg and Jamestown) in a small older development whose name, as many, reflects the history Native American presence in the area. The house itself sits in a deep gully - so much so that on approaching from the street, all you can see of it is a mailbox at the street's edge until you look very closely and realize through the trees that from where you sit on the street you are well above the level of the roof. The driveway (much to my chagrin as, by that age, I had only been driving for mere months... I was a late bloomer in many things, driving being one of them) is pitched at about a 45 degree angle (I'm trying to be conservative with that estimate because, believe me, it feels far steeper) and of pebble gravel. All around, there are tall slim trees that wave in the breeze.
That evening, we had a lovely time, chatting and joking as she drew and making Coke-a-Cola floats. By the time it was time for me to go, it was around 9:30 in the evening and darkness had fallen. Heading out the door, I was already keenly dreading having to navigate that driveway with my fledging driving skills...backwards...up the rutted gravel hill... In the dark. So I tried to dismiss the jarringly foreboding feeling of being steadily watched as I flounced out the door from an evening happily spent. Just the same, it felt like being splashed full in the face with a bucket of cold water so grave was the change in feelings between inside and out. I made my way to the car with my eyes cautiously trained on the woods to my right - fearful of what I might see as I just knew that whatever it was, it was watching me from those woods... The woods that surrounded and seemed to all but swallow up the little house in the pit of the gully. Every footfall in the gravel seemed to shatter the silence. I was holding my breath, my hand trembling when I finally reached my car door, yanked it open, hopped inside, slammed and locked the door, flicked it on and filled the drive at least with the comforting glow of my headlights. Sitting there for a moment, I thought how silly I was to have let my anxiety surrounding the reverse journey up the precipitous drive get my goat like that. Resolutely, I put my little coupe in reverse and carefully powered up the dark drive and away towards the comfort of street lights and civilization.
Everything in me wanted to chalk the feeling up to anxiety about reversing up that crazy driveway; and yet, every time I went back, the feeling was just as strong and just as frightening as I left her door in the dark. You would think that I would, over time, develop some degree of confidence reversing up that hill and those fears would subside and, I did feel far more confident every time, soon as my car door closed shutting me in and away from the eyes in those woods. The fearful feeling only existed in the space between her front door and my car and subsided the moment I was inside my locked car. I returned to Anne's house that fall, winter, and spring almost once per week. And though our sessions slowed a bit, we continued to meet not just for art's sake but to hang out as friends many times over the years. The feeling leaving her home never changed. Something was in those woods. Something was out there watching. Something strong. Something very powerful.
One weekend, I stayed with her as I was working with several photographers in the area and, though my home is within an hour of Williamsburg, it still was far more convenient to stay with her so that I didn't have to get up at four in the morning to get ready and then get to my morning shoots - and it gave us an excuse to have a sleepover and watch movies we'd been meaning to get to for months. This was my first time sleeping in that little house - it really is a charming place filled to the gills with her lovely art and artifacts from her life. The guest room is in the second story loft with an attached full bathroom. Sometime around ten, I made my way upstairs to get ready for bed. After finishing my evening routine, my head hit the pillow and I started trying for sleep as I tend to have a hard time getting to sleep away from home but knew that I needed to get at it if I was going to look my best in the morning. As I laid there, I began to hear footsteps. Mind you, the window was open but she lives in a fairly rural area - I even got up and looked - there was a floodlight that stayed on all night so the visibility was pretty good and there was no one and nothing out there. In fact, it was far quieter than one would expect a country night to be - no chirping bugs or rustling of critters... Just the footsteps, very measured, very clearly human footsteps circling the yard. I could hear them coming so close to the house below the window that it would have been impossible for me not to have seen whoever was making those footsteps. After gazing into the half dark for almost thirty minutes trying to puzzle out those footsteps, I finally closed the window and gave it up. With a sense of unease just like what I felt going out that door in the dark to my car, I laid my head on the pillow and finally managed to sleep.
The next night, started the same way - the weather was too cool for the air conditioner but too warm to be fully comfortable without the windows open. So, with my fingers crossed, I opened the window and got in bed... And there they were again... The footsteps. Around and around the yard - this time pausing beneath the window now and then as if to look up. I couldn't take it, I hopped up and slammed the window shut. Getting back in bed feeling more than a bit uneasy, I laid there staring at the ceiling praying for sleep to come before anything else happened. No such luck. Within minutes, the footsteps were back... And now, they were inside my room. The circled the bed, went into the bathroom, I could hear rustling in there, then they came back out again and roamed the room again. I laid there positively petrified - they circled and circled now and then pausing, now and then rustling something here or there. Finally, I had reached the end of my courage, rolled over and flicked on the lights. Of course, there was nothing there and nothing amiss. I slept with the light on for the rest of the night.
The next morning, over coffee, I finally came clean to Anne about the footsteps and the feeling of being watched in the drive. She smiled and laughed "That's my Indian!"...What?!?!? Evidently, when she first moved in, she had experienced some of the same things (and continued to occasionally) - eventually, she had an acquaintance over who was a psychic - she told her that a Native American was buried somewhere on her property. He was not of a local tribe but had travelled from his home land only to meet with death in this place. She didn't know what tribe he was from or where - she couldn't get that much detail as he wasn't too keen on communicating with her - but she said he "hung out" most often in the corner of her guest room and roamed the woods. I can't say knowing what had been disturbing my sleep made me feel much better about the whole thing.
Several months later, she was kind enough to put my husband up as he had to work an event nearby. I didn't tell him about her permanent house guest - I didn't want to spook him and we live next to a mass grave anyway so I figured it wasn't anything he couldn't handle. When he returned Sunday night, he had a story of his own. Not only had he sensed a presence in the corner and heard the footsteps circling his bed but the light in the bathroom had flicked on and off all night and the taps had turned on and off on their own at least twice.
Anne and I are friends to this day. Needless to say, I don't tend to spend the night there all that often!