By Chef Wolfenx
//Content is available under CC-BY-SA
A few years ago I was often found with friends exploring old, supposedly haunted, places. One day we found ourselves at the Edisto First Presbyterian Church, where a girl named Julia Legare was buried in her family mausoleum in 1852 after presumably dying of diphtheria.
Passersby reported hearing screams coming from the graveyard during the next week, but never investigated the cause of it. Fifteen years later, when they opened the door of the mausoleum to inter the next family member who died, they found her skeleton huddled in the corner beside the door. Streaks of dry blood remained as a monument to her fierce struggle to escape fate.
Well, when we got there my friends thought it would be a funny idea to shut the heavy stone door of the mausoleum behind me and leave me overnight. I was stranded, unable to move the stone slab without help. For what seemed like an eternity I struggled in vain, just as Julia once had. Eventually, in the complete darkness, I had no choice but to resign myself to the night ahead of me.
I’ve never been claustrophobic, but the stale air held a pressure that made breathing hard. It felt like an overwhelming sadness was literally pushing down on my shoulders. As time slowly slipped by my initial anger faded into a sense of fear and, eventually, despair.
Some time later the scratches began. They were faint at first, I was sure it was my imagination, but they seemed to become louder — clearer– as time passed. Seemed to become more frantic. There was no doubt that something was trying to get in the door… or trying to get out. I huddled into one of the corners farthest from the door and covered my ears, but nothing could drown out the sounds. It only lasted for a few minutes, but each second was an unbearable eternity.
I grew so distraught that I finally screamed, or thought I did, until I realized that the voice was not my own. It echoed through the dark, tiny confines of the mausoleum. It was a wail of unrestrained pain and absolute overwhelming fear. Moments later, I realized that the scratching had stopped. For the first time I could distinctly make out the sound of a young girl sobbing, the pitiful choking gasps of someone without a shred of hope left to them.
I felt such sorrow at the moment, such pain, that I think I forgot how to be afraid. In my heart all her suffering seemed to resonate. The invisible weight of sadness I had felt all along became crushing. Tears filled my eyes as I shook, my entire being wracked with grief. Inexplicably, I even found myself apologizing aloud for what had happened to her between ragged breaths. Some part of me was so wrought with pity that I wanted to reach out and hold this girl in the darkness, a part held back only by the fear that something might truly there to hold.
I can’t say if she heard me or was even aware of my presence. The sobbing never stopped and the scratching at the door soon started anew.
At some point I must have passed out from hyperventilation. When I awoke it was to the sound of the stone slab as it fell away from the doorway and landed on the ground with a thud. Even the pale gray morning light was blinding after the absolute darkness. Thinking my friends had come back, I rushed out into the foggy morning and sucked in a mouthful of fresh air. I was shocked to find nobody around, but more eager to be away from that place.
I stumbled around the front of the church and went into to a small unlocked prayer house. I think previously it was a segregated mini-church for slaves, but regardless, I collapsed against the door and waited, distraught, until my friends finally arrived. I approached them as they clustered around the fallen door, two of them were kneeling next to it with faces of shock. I was sure they must be wondering how I could move it by myself. I was wrong.
In the growing light it was clear. There were dried bloody streaks covering the interior of the door. Some had light scratches where nails had grated across the surface. Many more were smooth as if left by bloody nubs.
When they noticed me, they all jumped. I saw fear in their eyes. My anger must have been clear. They looked down at my hands, thinking I had torn them open in my escape, then they shared a horrified look amongst themselves. They asked what had happened and I told them every detail of what I remembered in halting, angry and equally horrified bits, wanting them to know all that I had been put through.
Finally, after I grudgingly got into the car and we started to head back, someone spoke up. My friend said to me “We were afraid to say anything until you were back inside the car, but take a look at your face.” When I reached from the back seat and adjusted the rear-view mirror, I saw that there was blood caked on my face. Just like the streaks upon the stone slab, there were dark red lines on either side, as if someone had run their torn fingers across my face while I slept, feeling the warmth of another for the first time in over a hundred years.