A ‘Modern’ American Soldier Ghost Story

We knew right from the start that Johnny was going to be a soldier. Even as a child, all his concentration was on the military. So we weren’t surprised when he joined the Marines right out of high school.

Johnny excelled in his chosen career. He was so happy to be serving his country. I could see it in his face every time he came home on leave. He was itching to get into some “real action”, something that – as a mother – frightened me. He was my only son, and I didn’t want to lose him. But he was also a grown man with a wife and a baby on the way. I was very proud of the way he was living his life.

Then came the terrible day in September when everything in our world changed. I knew as soon as I saw events unfolding on the television that Johnny was going to get the action he craved. And I started praying: “Please God, keep him safe.”

Johnny went to the Middle East and I started sending weekly care packages and checking my email several times a day. The tone of his communications was always cheerful, if a little strained. He was in danger many times, but somehow he always made it through unscathed, although he lost a few friends along the way. This deepened him and I saw a new maturity in my son that made an already proud mother even prouder.

My relief was intense when Johnny came home. I ran to him and almost knocked him over in my excitement when he stepped out of the car. He hugged me tightly, and then reached into the backseat to remove his little daughter from her car seat and show her off to us.

I tried to conceal my fear when he told us a few months later that he would be going back to the Middle East. But Johnny knew me pretty well. On his last leave before deployment, he took my hand, kissed me on the cheek, and said: “I love you, Mom. We’ll be together again real soon.” I held back the tears until he was gone. Then I wept like a child.

Johnny’s emails on this trip were sporadic and his tone was grim. Things were tough over there, although he did not say much about it. He just spoke of little things like the rapid growth of his beautiful girl and the many activities of the wonderful woman who was her mother and his wife. After he’d been gone nearly a year, Johnny started making plans for his return home. He thought he might make it home in time to celebrate Hannukah with the family, and I clung to that hope with all my strength. My husband and I always made a big fuss over Hanukkah, ever since Johnny was a little boy. The eight-day Festival of Lights commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV and celebrates the “miracle of the container of oil.” According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was exactly the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. Since that time, the Jewish people have celebrated both victory and miracle each year by kindling the lights of a special candelabrum, the Menorah or Hanukiah, one light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. We read the sacred story, pray special prayers, eat latkes and fruit-filled donuts, play games with our children, give gifts. It is a time of great joy for our family.

When Johnny emailed us the news that it looked like his tour would be extended, I was upset. I had my heart set on us being together for Hanukkah this year, and the news hit me hard. But I kept on smiling, proud of my soldier boy, and only cried once when no one was around. We had my daughter-in-law and granddaughter over on the first night of Hanukkah, and showered them both with food and gifts. If, perhaps, we acted a little too happy, a little too cheerful, well, who could blame us? We were all keenly aware of the beloved one who was missing from the occasion.

Late that night, I awoke from a deep sleep, certain that I had heard Johnny’s voice. “Mom,” Johnny said again. I turned over and blinked in the dim light coming from the streetlamp outside our window. Johnny was standing beside the bed, gazing down on me tenderly. I sat up immediately, my heart beating faster in excitement. Johnny was back. He had come home for Hannukah after all! They must have decided against the tour extension.

“Johnny,” I gasped.

He smiled and sat down beside me, as he had often done when he was little. He took my hand and said: “I want you to know how much I appreciate you and Dad. It couldn’t have been easy, raising a head-strong boy like me, but you did a wonderful job.”

Johnny’s words filled me with a great joy and a terrible fear. The military had sent him home, hadn’t they? (Hadn’t they?!?) Something in his beloved face told me that this was not an ordinary visit. That he hadn’t come home the normal way. My heart thundered in my chest and I began to tremble, dread making my limbs feel heavy. Tears sprang to my eyes, and Johnny gently wiped one away with his finger. “I came to tell you that I am all right,” he said quietly. “Take care of my girls for me.”

“We will,” I managed to say, realizing at last what this visit meant.

“I love you, Mom. We’ll be together again real soon,” Johnny said. He leaned forward, kissed me on the cheek, and then he was gone.

I fell back against the pillows, too stunned even to weep. My husband, who was a heavy sleeper, woke when he felt the bed jerk. He rolled over and mumbled: “Are you all right?”

“Something has happened to Johnny,” I said, too grief-stricken to be tactful. “I think he’s dead.”

My husband jerked awake. “What?!” he exclaimed fearfully. I started sobbing then, and told him about Johnny’s visit. We held each other close for the rest of that long night, waiting for dawn and the news which would surely come with it.

The days following the official notification of Johnny’s death — killed in action in the Middle East — were mind-numbing. I clung to the words my boy had spoken to me in the moments right after he died. Johnny had said he was all right, and I believed him. My son’s body was gone, but his essence, his soul, everything that made him my Johnny was safe and well. And we would be together again real soon.

Source: S. E. Schlosser




The Moultan House – Hampton, NH

If the passing tourist could get a good look at the General Jonathan Moulton house which is practically hidden by trees near where Drakeside road runs off the Lafayette highway in the south part of the village, they would find it a very handsome old mansion and also a very peaceful one. But 150 years ago and more, ghosts were dwelling in it — ghosts of the General and his first wife. They frightened the wits out of the servants in Col Oliver Whipple’s household (he being then the owner); and even before that, there had been a horrible affair in Moulton’s second-wedding night.

Not until the minister came and “laid” the ghosts was there any peace in the place.

Gen Moulton — or Colonel as he was until later life; how he got the “General” title doesn’t seem to be of record — Gen Moulton was a very wealthy man. He was so rich that inevitably the story was told that he had sold his soul to the Devil for gold; and when his house burned down everybody knew that the Devil had done it because Moulton had tried to trick him.

But the General built himself an even finer house (that which stands here now)[212 Lafayette Road] — and his first wife having died in 1775, he married again just a year later.

The wedding was a very gay affair, it seems. Mr. Harland Little, who with his two sisters now lives in the Moulton house, handed me a letter dated Hampton Falls, Sept. 15, 1776. It was written by Nathaniel Weare (son of Gov. Weare of the Weare house, which is still there at Hampton Falls [13 Exeter Road], and is addressed to his brother Lt. Richard, who was with the American forces at Ticonderoga. Richard was afterwards killed, and the letter came back among his possessions.

“I have not much News if any to write you,” began Nathaniel, in the way of letter-writers before and after him. “except that the Privateers continue to bring prizes from the West Indies bound to England. Col Moulton was married last week to Miss Sally Emery; had the honours of being at their Wedding which frolick lasted three days. . .”

Even while the gentry frolicked, the townsfolk talked — whispering that it was mighty suspicious about the first wife’s death . . . and now here he was marrying this handsome young woman. (The fact seems to be that he was 50 and she about 35.)

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Fletcher Church Ghost – Fletcher, NC

Our story begins in the mountains of North Carolina, just south of Asheville in the town of Fletcher. Two young lovers had just gotten married when the War Between the States broke out, and the young man went north with a small band of Confederates to join the army.

Late one night soon afterwards, the new bride received a knock on her door. Dread filled her heart as she opened the door, and her worst fears were realized as she saw on her doorstep one of the young men her husband had gone off with to war, now barely recognizable through his bandages. The soldier handed her a letter her husband had written just a few days previously, as well as the Confederate cape that her husband had worn into battle, her husband’s sole possession at his death. Inconsolable, she took to wearing the cape where ever she went, and died of a broken heart just a few months later.

Calvary Episcopal Church, Fletcher, NC

Her spirit made its first appearance back in 1865, when she led a troop of yankees into an ambush near the town. The yankees had followed her along the road near the Calvary Episcopal Church, which was known to be used as housing by the Confederate soldiers. Though the yankees were soundly routed from the town, the retreating union soldiers were given orders to locate the young woman in order that she might be prosecuted for her treachery. While they had no luck, the soldiers may not have searched all that long, as the survivors of the ambush reported that the woman in question just vanished in front of their eyes as soon as the Confederate troops opened fire.

Townspeople said she acted in revenge of her husband’s death, and they say that she can still be seen out on the road near the church, her Confederate cape draped around her shoulders.

Directions: Take Exit 50 off of I-40 in Asheville, so that you are headed South on Highway 25, AWAY from the Biltmore House. The exit for 25A (to bypass Skyland), headed south, will work too, but I forgot to write that exit number down, sorry. Anyway, about 8.5 miles south on Highway 25, also called Hendersonville Road, you’ll cross over into Henderson County, and you’ll see a traffic light just ahead. The Calvary Episcopal Church is on your left just before you get to the light. The light is at the intersection of Hendersonville Road and Old Airport Road, and as you’ll realize if you go, neither road is a terribly good place to try riding a horse these days….

Fletcher Church, Fletcher NC

The Story of the Fletcher Church Ghost

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1116 Cemetery Lane

My partner and I were on night duty in our squad car when a call came for us over the radio.  It was a dispatch of an anonymous report of a dead body being found in a house at 1116 Cemetery Lane.  Cemetery Lane got its name for the small old cemetery there, in which lie the earthly remains of the town’s founders, their relatives & several lesser folks.  Like I said, the cemetery was small, so it was by that time full, and no one had been buried there for many decades.  It wasn’t well kept and the weeds had taken over.

We were only five blocks away when we took the call, so we were there in minutes.  I stepped into the street.  It was black.   No moon.  Across the street lay the cemetery, some railroad tracks just beyond, and the river levee just beyond the tracks.  I couldn’t see any of these landmarks in that darkness, but I guess I sort of sensed them, as I breathed in a deep breath of the night; you see, I knew that neighborhood: that was my patrol, my beat, and I had been down that road literally hundreds of times.

We got our flashlights and walked up the sidewalk to the rundown old house.  I rang the doorbell, but we didn’t stand there waiting too long for anyone to answer, because it was plain there was no one living there.  We would go around to the backyard.  At the side fence a dog was inside the gate, sort of scratching at the bottom of it while barking softly and unconvincingly, and crying a little.  He seemed friendly.  The gate wasn’t locked, so we pushed it open.  The dog playfully jumped up to my partner’s waist.

There was a flat tray filled with what looked like enough dog food to last that little fellow a week.  Suddenly the dog let out a low growl and hurried past us to the pitch darkness of the backyard.  He stood there, still growling, staring into the blackness.  What an eerie feeling that gave me—this dog staring like that, being certain of a presence, someone or something out there, which was beyond the range of my human senses.  I set aside my fear and walked, guided by my flashlight, all the way back to a low wood fence.  There was nothing there.  I looked over the fence into the backyard behind the fence, waved my light around and saw nothing there either.  “Silly boy,” I said to the dog, as I walked back to the back stoop where my partner stood pointing his flashlight at the back door.  “It’s open.” he said.

And so it was.  A screen door was in place and closed, but the back door was standing open.  We went inside.  I felt for a light switch.  The power was turned off.  The darkness continued.  The door opened into the kitchen.  In the hall just off the kitchen was a body hanging.  Suicide.  We were both startled.  We took a closer look.  An elderly black woman with lifeless, gazing eyes.  Her tongue protruded from her mouth.

Somehow this poor old creature had pulled down the stairs that led to the attic, climbed up and tied off an end of an elastic rope up there, come back down, and then tied the other end around her neck.  A footstool, upon which she must have stood, was several feet down the hall as if kicked there by her as she stepped off it.  She didn’t leave herself much line and her toes touched the floor; her slippers lay beside them.

We talked it over.  We figured the person who reported the body must have been burglarizing the place; and then, finding this frightening corpse, he must have changed his mind, because a quick walk through of the place revealed nothing had been disturbed.  What a scare that burglar must have had!

My partner radioed the station to confirm there was indeed a dead body at 1116 Cemetery Lane.  I thought how I had just seen a dead body the night before, a convenience store robbery victim; I wondered how many dead bodies would accumulate over a career.

A further search of the kitchen produced a suicide note lying on the stove.  It said, “They have done turned off my lights.  I can’t SEE to do NOTHING for myself now.  I can’t do NOTHING!  And God help me, there is NOBODY to help me.”  She closed simply with her name: Genia Johnson.

Well, the power company had turned off her electricity.  I wondered how much her bill was.  I cursed the power company.  It was obvious Miss Johnson had set out plenty of food for her dog because she knew she wasn’t going to be around to feed him in the future.

I went out to the trunk of the patrol car while my partner remained to secure the house.  What was taking him so long? I wondered.  I could see the beam of his flashlight moving haphazardly behind the curtains in the front room.  Then, without any warning, I heard a deep voice right behind my neck, asking “Do you know where the dead body’s at?”

I nearly jumped out of my shoes, I was that startled.  This person seemed to have appeared from out of nowhere.  I wheeled around, acting on pure survival instinct and adrenaline, and grabbed whoever it was by the collar while shining my light in his face.  His eyes grew to the size of saucers.  It was a young black man who had recently signed on and was there to fingerprint the body at 1116 Cemetery Lane.  I had scared him as badly as he had scared me.

You have to believe me that I have never been the fraidy-cat type.  There was just something about that night.  It must have been a combination of things: the cemetery, the dog staring off that way, the corpse.  Anyway, I have never forgotten that night.  I guess nothing much good can ever happen down on Cemetery Lane.

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I am a lecturer & online entrepreneur. I love reading, writing, travel (particularly in Paris, throughout England, Amsterdam), gardening (which mostly amounts to weeding, I’m afraid), karate, Ebay, Internet, Asian philosophies and religions, marketing, and much more.