Monday, August 31, 2015

The Headless Boy of Little Geronimo

Little Geronimo is today a peaceful little town in central Texas just north of the larger town of Seguin. In the early 1900's, it was a collection of a few business buildings surrounded by hard-working German farmers and one old house where nobody lived for long.

There were stories about the big old house sitting on the south edge of town. Only uninformed newcomers would move into it and they all left within a few months, usually in the middle of the night with no warning, not even taking the time to pack all of their belongings. None ever returned to tell what had driven them from the house. The stories told of "someone else" who lived in the place, an evil someone who had so frightened a big, strapping teenage boy whose family had moved in that one night he had fired his hunting rifle at it. The shot went through his locked bedroom door and wounded his little brother asleep in the room across the hall.

Not long after "the war to end all wars" was finished,Ludwig Neumann emigrated to America with his family and eventually moved to Geronimo and the big house on the south edge of the town. Like their neighbors, the Neumanns were farmers and they toiled from daylight to daydark. All was well that spring and summer with an abundant crop and new friends made. Ludwig did wonder why everyone seemed inordinately interested in their home, but he chalked it up to curious neighbors just being interested in a house bigger than theirs. 

One dark September night, Ada, one of Ludwig's daughters, left the rest of her family talking in the kitchen and walked to the other side of the house to sit on the porch and wait for a friend who was coming to visit. In the middle of the dark living room, a sudden chill enveloped her and what felt like an ice-cold hand brushed across her cheek! Frightened, she ran through the room to the porch, but it was pitch black outside and she was too scared to stay there. Ada steeled herself to run back across the living room to get to her family. Sure enough, she felt the chill in the middle of the room and then that ice-cold hand touched her face again, this time fingers pulled at her hair as she ran past! She made it back to her family and the light in the kitchen. Knowing her sisters would surely make fun of her, she said nothing of her frightening encounter.

The very next night, the youngest daughter came running back into the house after emptying the dishwater off the porch, her eyes wide with fear. No amount of coaxing however, could get her to tell what had scared her so. 

For several days and nights, all was normal until one evening when just after the supper dishes had been put away and the moon was rising, the two middle girls were outside bringing down the clean clothes from the drying line. They had placed a lamp atop the milk safe on the porch to provide light for them to work by.   Suddenly they heard what sounded like someone walking through the brush out by the windmill just beyond the reach of the feeble lamplight. Knowing the rest of the family was in the house, they worked faster. Then they saw it. From behind the windmill it came out of the darkness, a white, luminous, indistinct form that seemed to float just above the ground. As the girls stared in horror, it turned to face them. When it started coming toward them,they ran screaming toward the house. As the first opened the door, the second dared a look behind and saw the thing, formless and close enough to touch them! Both girls crashed safely inside and slammed the door shut.

"What in the world is the matter with you two?" an alarmed Ludwig asked. They couldn't describe it exactly; how could they when they had ran as fast as they could? Before it came for them, it seemed kind of small, like a little boy, but not. It moved so fast, much faster than anyone could run and it got close, so close! As they cried and told in halting sentences what had happened, the other two girls spoke up and told what they had also experienced. Ludwig, a stern, no nonsense kind of man, admonished the girls for such a story and for leaving a lit lamp out on the porch. He would retrieve it and the girls should go straight to bed. The children begged him to take his gun, but he didn't need a gun against what was nothing but a fanciful story.

Ludwig did return with the lamp, but there was a look on his face and in his eyes that the girls had never seen before. There was a pair of double doors at the end of the house leading out to the far end of the porch. Those doors had been stuck closed and no matter how hard the strong Ludwig had tried, he had been unable to get them open. While he had been on one end of the porch retrieving the lamp, he had glimpsed a misty shape at the other end and heard a loud screeching noise. The double doors were standing wide open. They knew what this meant - it was inside now!

As a group, the whole family went from room to room throughout the house lighting all the lamps, turning them up high so they would provide as much light as possible. Ludwig cleaned his gun and they all spent the long night together in the living room. Nothing happened and in the morning, the back door which had been securely locked was found to be standing open. Evidently the thing had returned outside.

A week later, the oldest of the Neumann girls, Bertha, who was married and lived in San Antonio, came for a visit. When her sisters told her of "the thing," Bertha, a pious, God-fearing woman, shamed them for having over-active imaginations. Good Christians do not see ghosts, she said, and she wanted to hear nothing more of that nonsense. 

A very methodical young woman, Bertha spent each day working and doing chores as proper ladies should. At the end of each day's work though, she enjoyed cooling herself on the porch with her feet being soothed in a pan of cold water. While sitting all alone enjoying this small act of indulgence late one evening several days after arriving for her visit, she clearly saw the buggy house door slowly open seemingly all by itself. The buggy house was only a few yards from the big house with nothing in between so it was impossible not to see the door opening wide, the interior blacker than the night. Suddenly, out of that blackness, a hazy, white mist came forth and right before Bertha's wide-open eyes, began to take the shape of a small boy. Much to her surprise and confusion, she noticed the misty figure was wearing very large, glowing shoes, shoes that were much too big for a little boy. She then tore her eyes from those huge shoes and was astounded to see the figure had no head! "It" seemed to be looking at the woodpile beside the buggy house, but how could it? It had no head! As it turned toward her, Bertha broke from her trance to run into the house screaming, "It has no head! It has no head!"

Again, the family went from room to room, turning up every lamp in the house, making sure all the windows and doors were securely locked. Without anyone prompting this time, Ludwig loaded his gun. Once again, a long, restless night was passed by the family all gathered together in the living room. The Neumanns were relieved to see no doors standing open in the morning. It had not gotten inside.

Several weeks went by with no appearance by the headless thing and the family began hoping it had simply gone somewhere else. The German families occupying the nearby farms had a love for singing the old songs of their homeland and a number of them had formed a choir. The Nuemanns were no exception and having the largest house in the area, volunteered their home for choir practice. One evening, about 30 singers had gathered in the large room near the back hallway. Ludwig's wife sat nearest the door to the room so she could join the singing and still get snacks for their guests. It was she who saw it first.

When the family had found the double doors standing open that previous night of terror, Ludwig had wedged them shut and nailed a large board across both doors. Over the singing, Mrs. Nuemann heard the sound of someone coming up the stairs and walking across the porch toward those doors. As she looked down the hall, there was a loud noise as nails and the cross-board flew across the room! At the crashing sound, the singers fell silent and as Mrs. Nuemann looked on, both doors slowly opened wide.

As she watched in horror, the misty form of a boy entered the room. He turned and straight down the hallway he came, not exactly walking, just silently moving. As it got close, Mrs. Nuemann screamed and ran further into the room. As more than 30 people watched, the form floated right into the room and before their horrified gaze, kept going across the room and up the steps to the 2nd floor. Several of the women fainted dead away and more than a few of the men took quick steps toward the back of the room. All noted later "the headless boy" carried something in his arms, perhaps a pillow? Or at least something wrapped in a pillowcase. Some swore whatever it was, it had the shape of a head.

Ludwig gathered his wits just a few seconds after the headless boy had floated up the stairs and, followed by several brave men in the choir, rushed up to the 2nd floor. Every room was searched and found empty. It was noted all windows were locked shut and the people who remained behind were sure nobody, or nothing, had come back down the stairs. The choir practice quickly ended.

Less than a week later, the Neumann family, like so many others, moved away. Later, Bertha received a letter from her father saying they left because he was getting too old to farm. Perhaps that really was the reason.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Letter From The Beyond

Godfrey Barnsley" by Source (WP:NFCC#4)
Godfrey Barnsley was born in Derbyshire, England on August 26, 1805. His father owned a cotton mill and as Godfrey grew up, he was taught all aspects of the cotton business. In early 1824, while still only 18 years of age, Godfrey immigrated to America seeking his fortune. 

Settling in Savannah, Georgia, he became involved in the lucrative trade of brokering cotton. Buying cotton at a low price in the south which was awash in the crop and selling at a much inflated price to England, it wasn't long before Godfrey became wealthy. In early 1828, he met Julia Scarborough, the daughter of wealthy ship builder William Scarborough and on December 24 of that same year, the two were married. Godfrey and his father-in-law developed a close friendship and with William's help, Godfrey began shipping his cotton to England with his own fleet of ships. The Barnsley family became one of the richest in the whole south.

By 1842, Godfrey and Julia had 6 children. Godfrey deeply loved his wife so when Julia's health began to deteriorate that year, he sought out the best doctors in Savannah. Due to the heat and humid conditions of the city, yellow fever and malaria were constant threats and when the doctors told Godfrey his wife would be better served to live in a more hospitable climate, he began searching for a better location. He found land near Adairsville, Georgia to be suitable so he bought 3,600 acres of woods and valleys which used to be occupied by the Cherokee Indians until they were forcibly removed onto a reservation. 

Godfrey had plans drawn up for a grand estate and had his ships seeking out and bringing back marble from Italy and exquisite furniture, windows, exotic shrubbery and plants from around the world. Julia loved roses so he purchased and had planted in ornate gardens every known variety of rose bush in the world. The mansion, designed as an Italian Villa, was to have 24 rooms and such ultra-modern features as hot-and-cold running water. By April, 1845, the mansion and gardens were still under construction, but were complete enough to allow the family to move in and get away from the heat in Savannah. Shortly after moving in though, things took a nasty turn.

In May, Julia's father died. It was a terrible time for the Barnsley family as William was much loved by all. Just a few weeks later, Godfrey and Julia's infant son became ill and quickly died. It was devastating for the family who was still grieving over the death of William, but the worst was to come just a month later when Julia's health took a decided downward turn and in late summer, she passed away of tuberculosis. Godfrey buried his beloved wife next to their son in one of the estate's beautiful gardens. 

For weeks afterward, Godfrey spent hours every day sitting in the garden which held Julia's remains. He said he felt her presence there and could often be seen talking to her grave. Work on the mansion and grounds had ceased upon Julia's death, but one day he came from the garden and ordered work to resume as Julia had spoken to him saying the home should be finished for their children and future generations.

For the next two years, work continued on the home and gardens until it was at long last complete. Godfrey, still openly grieving, could be seen visiting Julia's grave daily. He doted on the children, but even with the comfort they provided, he seemed adrift since her death. He even lost interest in his business, but it continued to be profitable due to the dedication and business acumen of the managers he had hired to run it for him.

Over the years, he continued to be so depressed that his children and friends began to worry he might commit suicide in order to rejoin the love of his life. They tried to find anything that would bring a smile back to his face but nothing worked until one day, exactly 10 years to the day after Julia had been laid in the ground, a letter was delivered to him. It was postmarked from Savannah just a few days earlier. 

The later stated, "My dear mortal Barnsley, Julia is with me and all doing just fine." It was signed William Scarborough and was written in his deceased father-in-law's distinctive handwriting.

Godfrey immediately seemed to be better and once again began to take interest in his business and life. He never remarried, but his smile and zest for life returned. In 1873, he passed away of natural causes and was buried beside Julia in the garden of roses. The mysterious letter was handed down for several generations but it eventually was lost and now nobody knows what happened to that very unexplainable missive.  For Godfrey, it was a desperately needed message, a message from a different realm which arrived just in time to give life back to a good man.