It's a dark and gloomy morning here on East Mountain. After a night resplendent with flashes of lightening and the roar of thunder echoing across the landscape, a moderate rain continues to splatter upon the windows, thereby enhancing my feeling of melancholy--a melancholy brought about by the sudden and unexpected passing of an acquaintance whom I saw on a regular basis. He was a good man--a person who suffered the loss of a child some years back--an occurrence that inspired him to work for the good of others. Now he too has crossed that mysterious threshold into the beyond. I wish him well on his journey.
There are those however, who seem to linger closer to this earthly place of existence after their passing; and from time to time, we the living find ourselves experiencing chance encounters with these ghosts, disincarnate spirits or beings who visit from other nearby realms. Sometimes we experience their presence directly. Then again, there are occasions when something just clicks--some piece of the puzzle falls into place unexpectedly and we find ourselves pondering something unexplainable but intensely profound. I believe that I have experienced both phenomena, and I would like to relate two such episodes to you on this dark day.
There are times when the history of a locale somehow blends into inexplicable occurrences flowing forth from the paranormal. At least, that's the way I see it; and that's why I remain so fascinated by things that have occurred and continue to unfold here on East Mountain. In order to understand the significance of any paranormal events that may have taken place here in the recent past, I need to impart you the reader with a little understanding of this mountain's history.
The largest of the burial grounds on this hill is the Confederate Cemetery. It is the final resting place for several hundred soldiers who fought on the side of the South during the War Between the States, which took place from the year 1861 until 1865. Most of those interned here died in battles that were fought some miles away--at places such as.Prairie Grove and Pea Ridge, Arkansas. In the year 1873, a group of women known as the Southern Memorial Association
had raised enough money to buy a few acres of land from the Walker family, which I have mentioned previously, and then had the remains of the fallen soldiers removed from the battle sites and brought here to East Mountain as a final resting place.
On April 18, 1863 a battle was fought very close to this historic hill in what is now a part of Fayetteville's downtown district. The Battle of Fayetteville
was the last major conflict between North and South that took place in Northwest Arkansas. At the time, the Union Army had set up their artillery on the land upon which the Confederate Cemetery is now situated. By 1863 Fayetteville had fallen under Union control and those force's leadership commandeered a structure called The Headquarters House, which is still in existence today. The Confederate troops had attacked with the intention of removing Union forces from the entire community as well as the structure in which its commanders were located. There was a loss of life on both sides that day as well as some civilian casualties. So how does all of this fit in to my experiences with ghosts or phantoms of the past? Well, here's my story:
One summer night during the 1990s I was sitting on the wall surrounding the Confederate Cemetery just playing my acoustic guitar. At the time, there was a security light--a street light in reality that cast a narrow streak of luminance into the graveyard. I say narrow, because a good part of the light was blocked by a sizable monument. At some point I stopped playing and looking up, noticed a silhouetted figure of a heavy set man sitting upon one of the grave stones. Whoever was sitting there wasn't moving and instead, remained fast in a position reminiscent of Aguste Rodin's sculpture, The Thinker. At first I considered that it was simply my neighbor who lived across from the main entrance of the cemetery. On further thought that didn't make much sense however, as the person I'm speaking about was disposed to come home from work, drink several cocktails and become rather boisterous. Further, why would a heavy-set man want to sit on top of a grave marker that stood only about 18 inches from the ground and had a thickness of little more than an inch? Finally, it just wasn't the guy's style to sit at a distance while remaining quiet. Even though it was my job to keep people out of the cemetery at night, I was fascinated with what I saw sitting motionless only a few yards away from me. I left the thinking person alone and refocused on my guitar, glancing up occasionally to see that the dark figure was remaining in place.
Eventually, I realized that Star Trek Next Generation was about to come on; so I got off the wall, glanced in the direction of the man and saw that he was still sitting on the grave marker. After taking about three or four steps toward the house I turned toward him again. This time he had disappeared--vanished without a trace. There was no way in which anyone could have gotten out of my line of vision so quickly; yet, he had done just that. I make no claims as to what it was that I saw that night, but I remain certain that I did indeed, see someone on that stone--for a good fifteen minutes or so! Perhaps one of the soldiers buried here decided to enjoy some live music.
My second tale of the unusual involves some friends who used to live across the street and just down a tiny way from the aforementioned Headquarters House, where the Battle of Fayetteville had taken place so many years before. I remember them telling me how, from time to time, they would see a young girl roaming around their back yard as they pulled onto the short street that led to their driveway. They would even describe her to me but reiterated that she would always disappear by the time they got home.
It was a few years later and after they moved out of town that I realized the full impact of what they had told me. At the time, I drove a bus for the local school system and on one particular day, was tasked with bringing a class of elementary students and teachers to the Headquarters House. After I parked the bus, I rejoined the group inside where I found a young lady in Civil War period dress, offering the finer details about the Battle of Fayetteville. During her discourse she mentioned the situation involving a young girl who, in a panic, had fled the building and got pinned down by gun fire across the street--closer to where my friends once lived! Allegedly, the young lady was killed by cannon fire--quite possibly from artillery that was situated very close to where I now live. So who did my friends occasionally see when returning home? I can't say for certain but I do know that my school visit to the Headquarters House that day gave new meaning to the tale they had once told me.
And now, I'll leave you to ponder the possibilities.
Photo source: Gothic Stock Photos and Images.