The Empty Swing, A Haunting Tale #79

Shortly after this blog posted ‘Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…Not!‘, my friend Sheila hesitantly confided that she had experienced some very odd goings on at her house. She was so spooked she could no longer sleep in her own bedroom anymore. This is her story.

Sheila lives in a home located in a beautiful spot in Cedar Point NC, on a narrow finger of land nestled between the Intercoastal Waterway and The White Oak River. Her rental sits one house in from the Intercoastal, affording her sweeping views of the water. Could any location be less spooky?

While she has lived in this rental home for three years, nothing too strange had happened, with the exception of the strong smell of a woman’s sweet, floral perfume around her bed at night. A scent so unsophisticated it was almost something a child might wear. Her teenage son reported, on several occasions, seeing a very dark silhouette of a man in a loft area above the garage. This space is directly across from the front door access to his bedroom. He has emerged from his room, onto the landing, and spied the dark figure coming up the stairs, but it always retreats when he sees it, drifting backward down the steep staircase. He and his friends have also seen the face of a female bobbing around in the loft area.

Garage stairs leading up to son's bedroom and loft area

Loft area at top of staircase, where man's dark form and female head is seen

From time to time, Sheila would be lounging on her couch and hear the sound of feet pounding up and down this staircase, which shares a wall with the living room. When she called her son on his cell to inquire about how many friends he had up in his room, the answer was chilling. “None, Mom. I’m in Jacksonville with the band; we have a gig tonight.” When she goes into the garage to see who is making the racket, she never finds anything and all the exterior doors are tightly locked.

But, several days before Hurricane Irene was due to hit our area, things changed. Sheila and her friend Erin are two of many people who keep our tourist industry afloat by cleaning and prepping the beach houses on Emerald Isle on weekends, and keeping local homes spotless during the rest of the week. A more radiant, upbeat, sparkly lady you will never meet. Not one prone to hyperbole or hysteria. So what she told me left me with chills for days.

Weary and exhausted by their hectic summer cleaning schedule, Sheila arrived home one night, and fell gratefully into her bed. Mere moments later she felt the weight of a person seating down on the opposite side of her mattress. Assuming she must have fallen asleep briefly, she spoke to her son, who comes in from time to time after playing with his band to have a chat. No response. Her eyes reluctantly drifted to the other side of her bed and there is no one there, yet the weight of a person and the indentation they make is still quite evident, even in the darkened room. Now so frightened she can’t find her voice, Sheila oh so gingerly slid her foot over to the spot. While the indentation remained, there was no one there. Horrified, she fled to the living room on the opposite side of the house, where she slept for the next week.

Sheila's bed

That grew old quickly, and deciding to reclaim her room, she did a thorough spring cleaning, flipping mattresses and tearing the place apart in an effort to purge whatever might be lurking there. That same night, when she entered her bedroom, it was unusually frosty, despite the late August heat outside. It would not have been possible to turn any air conditioner down to the level of chill that permeated her room. Determined to reclaim her rightful place in her house, she slid into bed. At that moment, her ceiling fan began to spin at a frantic speed, and came hurtling down from the ceiling, toward her on the bed. Numerous times, she also heard someone enter the hallway outside her room through an exterior doorway onto her side yard. Throwing open the door in terror, there was never anyone there.

Hallway looking from Sheila's bedroom down to exterior door to side yard on the left

In a bid to hold onto her sanity, Sheila decided to believe that this might be the spirit of her deceased father, come to warn her of the danger of the impending hurricane. Having lived here her entire life, it is easy to become complacent about the never-ending round of hurricanes that descend. But perhaps her Dad was sending her a message to take an extra measure of caution and beware? That was what she chose to believe, anyway. Until a few days ago, when she got an email from an old acquaintance, Bob, who, for the first time, had driven past her house.

“Hey Sheila! I didn’t realize you had rented “The Ghost House”.

No Bob. I’m not in ‘The Ghost House’. That house is about three houses down. It’s where the owner’s brother was a pharmacist and went crazy on too much of his own product and killed himself in there.”

“Actually, I hate to tell you this, but it’s actually YOUR house that is called ‘The Ghost House’, not the other one. Have you had any weird experiences there?”

Sheila recounted to Bob the odd happenings. He replied, ‘I think I can fill you in on some of the history of your house, if you’re interested.”

In the 1970’s this rental house had been a trailer owned by the landlord, whose home sat directly behind it, on the Intercoastal. It was owned by Capt. William “Deck” Smith, who, in 1947, had a 46’ shrimp boat built named the Judy Canova. He named it after a popular singer he liked on the radio. Capt. Smith was particularly fond of his tenant’s young daughter, Estelle, who was five or six years old at the time. After a day out shrimping, Capt. Deck would pull his nets onto the shore for any repairs, where they remained overnight, until the Judy Canova left her berth the next morning.

On the night of a full moon, little Estelle slipped from her bed and out the side hallway door to go play on her swing, tied to a huge tree by the water’s edge. Growing tired and sleepy, she curled up in Capt. Deck’s shrimp nets and took a nap. Sadly, high tide came in and the child drowned, entangled in the wet and heavy nets. She wasn’t discovered until the next morning, when the nets were being prepared to be reloaded onto the boat. Devastated, and unable to remain so close to the place where they lost their beloved daughter, the tenant family moved out and a family named O’Toole moved in.

Sheila’s friend Bob, who was now sharing this story with her, had been the close friend of Willy O’Toole, the new tenant’s son. As best friends are wont to do, Bob spent much of his time at his friend’s house, and it was there that he first saw Estelle’s ghost. In those days televisions had a brief moment of darkness when switching from programming to commercials. It was a tiny speck of time when the screen went black before bursting forth with the joys of Breck shampoo, or the latest toothpaste ad. It was in those moments when Bob and others would see the clear reflection of a little girl in the TV screen. When they quickly turned to see who it was, no one was ever there. These reflections always coincided with full moons and high tides.

Hutch where TV used to stand, showing girl's reflection

On other occasions Willy’s mom would fuss at him to clean up his room, STAT. When Bob and Willy got to his room moments later, it would be spotless, with everything in place. Spooked, Willy’s mom couldn’t figure this out. Combined with the family’s increasing sightings of the little girl, they soon moved out.

Capt. Deck was torn up over the loss of little Estelle and never spoke of it, except when he’d had too much to drink. The legend of this place being deemed ‘The Ghost House’ started shortly after his death at a very ripe old age. Soon, tenants were regularly reporting seeing two ghosts, one of a little girl, and one of an older gentleman. Thus began a very high turnover of tenants for this rental, despite the desirability of this beautiful location. Legend has it that Capt. Smith lingers here in death to protect and look after little Estelle, something he was unable to do in life.

Now armed with the knowledge of the history of her rental, Sheila believes her current bedroom is the one that belonged to Estelle, and it was down that same hallway and out the same side door, that she went on the night she died. Following the hurricane, these strange events have stopped, except for the certain oddities. Little things. Like shaking out a scatter rug and replacing it on the floor, only to find it moments later, with corners neatly folded back. Or putting freshly folded towels away in the linen closet and turning around to find them stacked neatly on the kitchen table. Little things indeed, but still strange. Like the day, shortly after the hurricane, when Sheila decided to go clamming down by the swing, something she’d done many times before. Suddenly her clam rake pinged against something. Curious, she stooped down to uncover a perfectly preserved doll-size teacup and saucer, with a seashell design. Faded, but perfect. No children have lived near this property since the O’Toole’s hasty departure in the 1970’s.

Sheila has arrived at the conclusion that Capt. Deck is simply there to keep a watchful eye on his tenants and little Estelle, and feels no sense of alarm or concern, now that she’s aware of the entire story. As for me, I’d be on the classifieds looking for a new casa faster than a gringo can fart pinto beans. Happy Halloween, y’all!

View from Sheila's house of her yard and tree with Estelle's swing. To the right is where shrimp nets were kept

6 thoughts on “The Empty Swing, A Haunting Tale #79

  1. Thank you so much Renee for publishing my story…yes this is very true..and Oh do I wish I could wake up and my lawn mowed, trees trimmed, all laundry and any messes cleaned up. I will keep Renee posted of any other occurrences, if any to add to this. As for now, it’s been many quiet nights of blissful rest in my own bedroom.

  2. Wonderful story, and what a beautiful property. I always wanted to live by the water.
    I’ve never had experiences like those you spoke of, but rather have had ‘feelings’ in my home and several of my friends. Sensitivity runs in our family (my mother had it big time) and I just associate it with being able to feel emotional prints left behind by those that were there before us as I believe everything is made of energy. I will say though that since I got my digital for Christmas last year and began taking a lot of pics, I’ve noticed that there are many orbs surrounding me. I don’t know if you believe in that kind of thing or not–I do–but it does reinforce that I’m not alone and there are others around me. In a way it’s almost comforting.

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