Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

A Good, Old Fashioned Ozarks Ghost Story

In this month's segment of These Ozarks Hills, Marideth Sisco takes us back to her childhood once again, this time for a good, old fashioned Ozarks ghost story.
This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills and this isn’t the story I intended to tell. I had prepared a perfectly good rant about the economy, when I suddenly realized on what day my program would air. And who could resist the chance to tell a good old Ozarks ghost story for Halloween. Now I know you hear this sometimes from people who are about to tell you a big fat lie, but this story is the gospel truth. And as you know, according to the rules, a story you swear to by the gospel has to have at least some truth to it. First of all, the house I grew up in, which had been the town hotel, happened to be haunted, not by anything horrible but just by, well regular folks I think except they were invisible. And they didn’t do anything to scare us really except for that one time. They’d just do things like turn on my bedroom light when I got in late from a ball game or gather in the north room and talk in worried whispers if anybody in the family was ill. And sometimes they’d show evidence of trying to let us know they were there. Mainly, by coming in the front door and walking down the hall to the kitchen, noisily. It was an auditory phenomenon mostly, we rarely saw anyone, but there was this one time they let their opinions be known in no uncertain terms. It all started when we took our neighbors, a man and his wife, over to Seneca to see the spook light. It was the middle of winter, and quite cold when Jack Stanphill, the Butterfield school principal came in the post office and mentioned that someone had told him some nonsense about a spook light. My mother, the post master was surprised, “You’ve never seen it?” she said. He hadn’t and he was surprised she took it seriously. Well nothing would do but we had to take him and Thelma over to see for themselves. We went, we saw it. Jack was amazed and considerably sobered by the phenomenon. He finally worked it out in his head that it had to be reflections from some car lights coming from over west, maybe the Oklahoma Turnpike. “So, would it have been wagon lights when people saw it back in the 1800’s?” my dad asked him. Well Jack was quiet the rest of the way home, and we figured we’d scared him. So when we got back to Butterfield, we invited them in for a cup of cocoa to warm them up before we sent them home. And as we sat with our cocoa the talk worked its way into other unexplainable things. It was a short leap from there to ghost stories, and we told a bunch of them. Well after while they left and we went to bed. I was just about asleep when the front doorbell rang, “Jack and Thelma must have forgotten something,” but when I got to the door there was no one there. I went back to bed, my head had just hit the pillow when, “ding-dong” the doorbell said, I sighed and got up to look again and nobody was there again. My dad called down the stairs, Marideth, see who’s at the door. Nobody’s there, I said. Check the back door, he answered. Well, of course, but when I went nobody was there too, and the bell rang again. I heard my father grumbling as he came down the stairs in his jammies, before he got to the bottom the bell rang again. Oh, he said, I know what’s happening, Marguerite come down and see this. The bell was now ringing every minute or so. Now my dad was an electrician and he had installed that bell himself, so he knew how it worked. And he explained it to us as we stood there in the cold. The bell button was attached to a plunger which pushed a metal piece up against another metal piece to connect the circuit and cause the bell to ring, he said, but the button and plunger were plastic and they weren’t attached to the metal piece. The bell was shorting out, he said because it was old and the two metal pieces had just gotten to close to one another. Come outside, he said, and I’ll show you. Outside, he pointed to the button, see, he said now the bell will ring but the button won’t move. Well, it moved, and the bell rang, and we looked at each other and back at the bell, and at that point it begins ringing non stop, “ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong!” In fact it rang until he took the bell apart. The next morning he put the bell back together and it worked just fine, and it never rang by itself again. But then, we never told ghost stories at the hotel again either. This is Marideth Sisco wishing you happy haunting from These Ozarks Hills.

Marideth is a Missouri storyteller, veteran journalist, teacher, author, musician and student of folklore focusing on stories relevant to Ozarks culture and history. Each month, she’s the voice behind "These Ozarks Hills.” Sisco spent 20 years as an investigative and environmental writer for the West Plains Quill and was well known for her gardening column, “Crosspatch,” on which her new book is based. Sisco was a music consultant and featured singer in the 2010 award-winning feature film “Winter's Bone.”