Our Q and D post earlier this week was about everyday events involving the supernatural featured in Eric Metaxas’ book, Miracles.
Earlier this fall we featured the story of Member Contributor Julia Burn’s practically miraculous cure of cancer. Today on Halloween, we present another brush with the supernatural in Member Contributor Roscoe Brumback’s account in the video above.
Need a couple of great ghost stories to tell your children, Indian Guide or Princess groups, or Boy or Girl Scout troops?
Or just to tell your friends at night on the trail?
We offer two such stories here, if you’re new to Praxis Circle.
Last Halloween we featured a true story about a ghost who saved a Texas settler, Josiah Wilbarger, in the early 1830’s after he’d been scalped by Indians and left to die.
Unknown to him, his sister, Margaret, had died just before in Missouri; that night she appeared to him by a river and then in successive dreams to the wife of another settler who’d escaped the Indian attack, telling her each time that Josiah was still alive and needed help.
At the wife’s insistence, her husband and others returned the next day to save him.
The story of Josiah Wilbarger is well-established in Texas lore, was written down in detail (we link to that account in last year’s blog), is memorialized in a Texas historical marker in Austin, and was portrayed in a popular TV show in the 1960’s, Death Valley Days (also linked in last year’s blog). The episode is available on YouTube and is entitled The Man Who Wouldn’t Die.
Watch it, and you have your first spooky story guaranteed over generations to be a hit around any Scout campfire!
The facts of the story are well–verified, have multiple witnesses, and involve circumstances that are nearly impossible to refute with scientific, naturalistic explanations.
Do you have any such stories to share? Please do; we want to know all about it.
Second, we feature another real-life ghost story experienced in 1972 by yours truly in the Northern Neck of Virginia, 47 years ago when 16, with one of my best friends, again, Roscoe Brumback. Roscoe now lives is Michigan with his wife, Margie, where he operates a manufacturing operation and farms bees. We recorded the video above in 2016.
The story is also told in a 1336-word account here at the bottom (with an illustration by Henry Payne, cartoonist for The Detroit News).
In the story written below, Roscoe is the Boss, and I’m the narrator. The incident occurred in Irvington, Virginia, USA around midnight.
Our account is largely the same except for a few minor details. What and how much we had to drink is perhaps in dispute, but whatever the case, we functioned quite well as mid-teenagers, with clear recollections then and now. We’d been classmates in elementary school at Chesapeake Academy in Irvington.
At the time I was home on spring break from a boarding school in Orange, Virginia, and Roscoe was attending the local high school.
Since I’m related to Josiah Wilbarger and then knew the story well, I’d always believed in the paranormal as a possibility. My father’s mother, Margaret, was a direct descendant of Josiah Wilbarger on her mother’s side, and she owned the Cabin that Roscoe and I slept in that night.
In our story, no normal person could have moved from “here to there” and then disappeared, as we witnessed.
What I truly believe is that you don’t go looking for apparitions (if they exist); they decide to appear unexpectedly. Such is rare in life, but common enough that many have had similar experiences.
Furthermore, since they choose you rather than vice versa, all such encounters leave the feeling that the time and places involved are somehow special, even sacred.
To help you with the story, we offer the 1:10 video below.
The slideshow offers pictures of where the bicycle ride occurred and where the “ghost” was clearly seen twice. The first pictures are of the Cabin and the room where we had a fire going while watching a TV that was then to the left of the fireplace, with the drawing of the cowboy Grandmom Sis (Margaret) loved and called “Tex,” hanging over the fireplace.
The next shots are of the hill we rode our bicycles down, where we saw the woman under the cedar tree ahead of us, where we took a right, and where over our left shoulders as we turned we could still see her standing under the tree.
The next pictures show where we continued pedaling up the street at top speed, then the steps on the other side to the right, where we saw the same woman again, but this time sitting on those steps and somehow never the whole time noticing us whiz by.
The remaining pictures show where we rode up the street a few yards before turning around to go back to talk to her, and where she disappeared, somewhere around the large oak. (That’s the only part we can’t verify – exactly how/where she disappeared.)
As an aside, that oak is famous in the area and listed as one of the most notable trees in Virginia. I understand the elementary school mentioned above, Chesapeake Academy, owns the property and sometimes holds ceremonies nearby, like graduation.
Not to sound like a Druid, but Roscoe and I believe that séances under that oak tree and a full moon will take you to the stars, just about every time.
It happened to us.
Beware & Happy Halloween!
P.S. – “Ghost on Steamboat Road” has a happy ending . . . or beginning, shall we say. We later discovered that no one was killed in the fire that burned down the family’s house next to the oak. So who knows what happened that cold, dark night in 1972?
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Ghost on Steamboat Road
As you might expect, it was good to get back to the Northern Neck
for spring break, where I could count on normal people and routine
events. In Irvington I could clear my mind because people and events – both
good and bad – were generally worth face value. Marching through
Mr. Quirkle’s physics class had been taxing, though I had gotten a good
grade. My plan was to relax and hit as many golf balls as possible to get
ready for the new season.
Overall, things hadn’t gone so well for me that winter. I’d struggled
through the J.V. basketball season with a lower back pain that had caused
me to miss about half of the games, and, even worse, I hadn’t ever found
my jump shot from the year before. Just before spring break, I had caught
mononucleosis, the so-called kissing disease, and the only thing that bothered
me more than the digs I’d gotten from friends had been the irony of it
in view of the near total lack of culpable facts.
As a result of the mono, I had done poorly in the qualifying varsity
golf rounds held prior to spring break. The golf coach had his eyes on me
as a former varsity player at Lawrenceville, and this spotlight made it
even more embarrassing. Today, I would have taken my golf play as an
omen, a harbinger of things to come, and quit while I was ahead.
However, I was still very young and quite glad for the chance to practice
when spring break arrived.
Naturally, I called the Boss immediately in order to get plugged back
into events at home, and we decided we should immediately do an
overnight. On my suggestion, we decided to spend the night in
Grandmom Sis’s Cabin down by Sam’s Cove behind her house.
Ever since the night of our narrow escape from Mr. Jones after lifting
his prize watermelon, the Cabin had become one of our favorite places.
With its two bedrooms, kitchen, fireplace, and screened-in front porch, the
Cabin was the perfect place for early teenagers to hang out where there
was no one else – adults, that is – around.
In preparation for the overnight, the afternoon before the Boss came
over I stole a bottle of Virginia Gentleman from Grandmom Sis’s liquor
cabinet. She had so many liquor bottles in her cabinet I’m sure she never
missed any – at least she never mentioned missing any. In our early
teenage years, the Boss and I would simply utilize the watermelon rule on
her liquor cabinet whenever it seemed appropriate. In this case, I felt it
would be okay since we were going to spend a harmless, peaceful night at
the Cabin, where no one could get hurt and nothing would disturb us.
With a fifth of Grandmom’s best bourbon in waiting, we thought we had
all of the “spirits” we would need – but were we ever wrong!
I was driving by this time and had picked the Boss up at his house. As
we were cruising down Steamboat Road in Irvington, laughing about the
watermelon rule, we saw Mr. Jones surveying the path children used next
to his property to get to Chesapeake Academy. The Boss said, “Isn’t that
the clearing where the house burned down years ago?” I said I thought so
as we turned down the road to the Cabin.
For March, it was very, very cold that night. In fact, it was so cold the
Boss and I lit a fire in the fireplace and turned on the electric portable
burner Grandmom Sis kept in reserve. We also warmed ourselves with
about half the fifth of whiskey each over the course of three or four hours.
Eventually, I got ”brave” enough to get to the most important question,
and he told me that the brown-eyed girl had asked about me after the fall
dance, but she had since given up after my poor follow-through. I
lamented this but kept to myself that I still didn’t feel quite confident
enough to play in her league.
Around 11:45, after Johnny Carson’s monologue ended, I shut off the
TV, and we decided to go for a bike ride in the cold down Irvington’ s
empty streets. You three know the area quite well. The Boss and I hopped
on two bikes that Grandmom Sis kept on the porch and scooted down the
Cabin’s dirt road to the main road – the Lane – and on down Crockett’s
Hill to the “T” intersection with Steamboat Road at the bottom. When we
got to the bottom of the hill, we were going pretty fast and took a hard
right in a parallel position together.
Just as we made the turn, we noticed in front of us to our left a woman
dressed in a red-checkered dress with her head down, walking out from
under the old cedar tree that still stands there. She looked as beautiful as
Snow White, and she reminded me of the image of Josiah Wilbarger’s
sister in “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die.” We could see her fairly well
because of the streetlight across the road from the cedar tree. We shouted
“Hello” to the woman very loudly, but she didn’t look up.
Even though we knew we were the only human beings crazy enough
to be outside at that time of night, we didn’t think anything of it as we
headed up the street, until just twenty yards farther, when we saw the
same woman on the other side of the road to our right, sitting on some
steps by the sidewalk. She was sitting with her hands on her knees and
was still looking down. We said “Hi” again but not so loud this time
because she had been rude to us in not responding the first time. I was
maybe four feet from her when we rode by as she sat there.
The Boss got a little ahead of me as I slowed to try to get a third good
look at her. About ten yards ahead I called to the Boss to get him to come
back. I wanted to turn around and ask the lady what was bugging her. She
appeared to be about thirty years old and rather sad, but I couldn’t tell for
sure because I hadn’t seen her extremely white face directly.
The Boss turned his bicycle around but wiped out in the process on
the pavement. He cussed, picked himself up, and rode back to where I was
waiting while straddling my bike with both feet on the ground. When we
rode back to the steps together, maybe forty-five seconds after we had
passed her the second time, we saw that the lady in the red dress had
vanished into nowhere.
We both looked each other dead in the eyes. “Holy shit!” the Boss
yelled. Realizing fully what had happened, we didn’t think about looking
back until we were inside the Cabin again, the screen door slamming
behind us. If bicycles could burn rubber, the Boss and I had done it in all
After we were back inside the safe confines of the Cabin , I turned on
the TV and every light in the house and stoked up the fire. For some
reason, and I’ll never forget this, Johnny Carson was doing an interview
with the Bee Gees. I didn’t know whether this was the beginning of the
end or the end of the beginning.
The Boss and I had realized simultaneously on Steamboat Road in
front of the steps that there was no way for the “red lady” to have gotten
from our left on one side of the street in a standing position below the
cedar tree to our right on the other side of the street in the sitting position
on the steps in front of the huge old oak tree – while we were riding up
Steamboat Road together at a fast pace.
With an intimate knowledge of every inch of Irvington, we believed
that the steps were the only remains of a house next to the old oak that had
burned down years ago, killing several of the family members who were
trapped inside. We knew the clearing behind the steps next to the
monstrous oak was the site of the old house. It had occurred to both of us
at the very same time that the woman must have been an apparition
lamenting the loss of loved ones, her family, and that we’d witnessed
enough to know that our first impressions were real.