Moonrat mentioned the “National Day of Listening” the other day. She suggested we send her links to our own “Day of Listening” stories, which are stories we’ve heard from others rather than ones that actually happened to us (or that we remember happening to us at least), and she’d post them. Most people who took part told either heart warming or heart wrenching stories. Well, I’m behind the times as usual, but it was such a great idea that I’m going to do it anyway. And I’m going to tell one that isn’t so heart warming or wrenching. I had the following tale from one of my brothers.
There was an old house a couple of miles from where I grew up called the Slavely house. Nobody had lived in it for a long time, not since Old Man Slavely hung himself there. One of the gorier details is that he hung there for four days in the summer’s heat until he was found and taken down. Some say he was buried in the yard without a gravestone to mark the site. Some say his rope was buried with him. I can never think of that part of the story without imagining the buzz of flies.
Years passed and the house became a source of scares for local kids, and for many adults too. There were dares for people to spend the night. None did. The usual excuse was that the basement had partially filled with rain and water moccasins and the floor was none too sturdy. You didn’t want to go crashing down among the snakes in the dark.
The weak floor theory wasn’t completely true, because one local family sometimes used the house as a barn to store hay for their cattle. As you might imagine, no one liked hauling hay to that house. Now, I was too young to haul hay at the time this story took place, but I later did go by the Slavely house a few times. One evening I was there at twilight, and the house certainly projected a dark atmosphere as it squatted amid its grove of gnarled oaks. I left the vicinity pretty quickly, wondering if I might, by chance, be stepping on the old man’s grave there in the yard. Believe me, I was glad to shed the aura of that house as I made my way rapidly toward home and light.
On the day of the event I’m relating, two brothers were hauling hay to the Slavely house. I’ll call them Jerry (the older) and Willie (the younger). It was an overcast day, and Jerry made Willie go into the house to actually stack the hay. Willie wasn’t happy with this and kept glancing warily around as he placed the bales one on top of the other on the scratched old wooden floor.
Jerry, knowing his brother was nervous, began repeating, and no doubt embellishing, terror tales of Old Man Slavely’s hauntings. They were unloading the hay through a broken out window into the house, and as the stories grew in horror Willie started stacking bales closer and closer to the window where the sun shone rather than farther back in the gloom-laden room.
Jerry, sensing his advantage, began maneuvering for the kill. He began to unveil the most grotesque of the stories, the one about Mr. Slavely’s anniversary. The anniversary of his suicide, that is. Some claimed that every year on the day of his death, Mr. Slavely would claw his way up through the dirt of his front yard and return to the home he’d once known. He’d drag along his old rope and would then suspend himself from the rafters and hang there for exactly four days.
While Willie’s eyes bulged further with each dreadful word, Jerry suddenly looked past Willie’s shoulder in terror and screamed: “AND THERE HE IS!”
Willie leaped for the window with a shriek. But he jumped so high that his head hit the top of the windowsill and he knocked himself out cold.
Jerry was still laughing when Willie finally came around. And then the younger brother came close to killing the older and burying him in the yard with Old Man Slavely. I’ve always thought it would have been justifiable homicide.
I’ll end with one last thing. Some say that anyone who hears or reads a story about Mr. Slavely will get a strange visit within 48 hours of the experience. The lucky ones will hear no more than the sound of a heavily laden rope creaking slowly back and forth in the shadows away from the light. The unlucky ones? Well: