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Ghost stories are a childhood tradition that never fades around a hot summer night. Just the phrase “ghost stories” causes the neck hairs to rise up. This is especially so if you’ve ever met a master storyteller. I did once when I was about 4 years old. His name was Damian Warren of Springfield.
I’m 53 now, so four for me is almost half a century ago. It was a different time, and entertainment was hard to come by. You could read or go outside and play. My choices were narrowed down due to being illiterate.
My family lived on Eddleman Court in Springfield when I was born. The entrance is on Perryville Road next to the “Blossoms and Bows” flower shop. It’s a lot bigger and better now than when I lived there. My grandfather joked, describing our house by saying it had one little room and two littler rooms. It made it rather crowded for the eight in our family at that time.
Go take a look at Eddleman Court sometime, then think about this. That one little neighborhood had 30 kids in it from the Begley, Hardin, Warren, Osbourne, Becktel and Christerson clans when I was growing up.
It was particularly dark that summer night 49 years ago. They don’t make them like that anymore. I mean it was dark! I was sticking close to my four brothers and sisters. Not that I was scared, mind you, but just felt I needed to get all the mentoring I could by soaking up their wisdom.
We ended up at the Warrens’ back porch with the rest of the neighborhood kids. Mr. Warren came out and looked at this pile of kids all over his backyard. He had quite a few himself, so it probably took a minute to realize that he had several extra.
Mr. Warren was a kindly man, and instead of running us off, as I would probably have done in his place, he decided to tell us a few ghost stories.
I don’t remember the stories, except to say there were a lot of golden arms, headless horsemen, and covered bridges involved. This impromptu round of storytelling lasted about 30 minutes.
Was he good at it or what?
There was no need to run me or any of the other kids off after his presentation. He scared the bejeebers out of me along with, well, let’s just say I felt an urgent need to go take inventory of my underwear drawer. I was always a careful planner and forward thinking individual, even at four.
No, sir, he didn’t have to run me off. I’d be out of there as soon as I could get my feet moving from being frozen to the ground, and all my neck hairs carefully padded down.
Fortunately, I had four older siblings with me. Yep, they’d take care of their little 4-year-old brother.
Please! How naive can you be?
I looked around, and all I saw were backs receding into the darkness as they retreated to the safety of our home and repository of my extra set of underwear. It was every kid for him or herself. This was part of the wisdom I gained from their mentoring.
My house was probably only about 100 feet from the Warrens’ during the day. But this was night! It must have been about five miles or more at night!
I began to run for home with my eyes closed, convinced this added layer of protection would help against any evil spirits that might have me scoped out for possible demon possession. I ricocheted off various unknown objects and animals in the neighborhood until my total supply of panic had been burned off and I lay spent on my own bed with my two other brothers.
You know what?
I wish my kids could have had at least one hot summer night of storytelling by Mr. Warren on his back porch. It sure would beat the stuff on television or the Internet you get now-a-days.
I only bumped into Mr. Warren again one time after that night, and I still remember it. That was several years ago when we both happened in on the same family reunion. I talked to him for a minute. I didn’t ask for any stories. I hadn’t inventoried my underwear drawer before I left that morning.