Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2014
High School Winners

Third Place

Our third place High School winning entry was written by ninth grader Jake Allen of Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia.

Ghost Story

Jake Allen

It must have been the hottest, stickiest night of the Savannah summer. The night was black as tar and the full, bright yellow moon hung high in the dark sky. The mosquitos were biting and the sweat was still pouring off of anyone still moving. May, a slave, was trying to wash the stench out of her Master's riding clothes from the deer hunt the day before. Almost everything about Master Berchman disgusted May, but most of all, she hated his scraggly old, rat's nest that he called a beard that he made her wash every night.

On this rare night, May was happy. May was a girl the older ladies said was as sweet as an angel and looked like one too. It was her birthday and Master Berchman was in Savannah making a deal on cotton. She was going to have a few hours without him barking orders and hurling insults at her. But most importantly, she believed that Eli, the man she loved, was going to ask the Masters permission to marry her when the Master returned from Savannah.

As she washed the Masters clothes, May thought back to when Eli came to the plantation after being sold in Virginia. Eli was big and strong as a horse, and very nice. May was tiny and shy and he made her feel less afraid of the Master and his rages. After connecting immediately, they would talk all night instead of sleeping because it was the only time they had together.

They would talk about their plans and hopes. They eventually fell in love.

Master Berchman got back from Savannah that night in a rage. His cotton deal had gone bad and he was looking for someone to take his anger out on. One of the young boys on the plantation had stolen bread from the Big House while the Master had been gone. Master Berchman called for the boy. Everyone was afraid. They knew that the Master was mean as a snake when he was angry. They knew what he would do to the boy. The slaves got word to the boy that the Master was looking for him, and the usually gruff, scary overseer on the property cared for the boy and told him, "Run to the river and follow it until you come to a shallow section. Swim across and keep going north. Don't stop."

The boy had disappeared, and the Master was even angrier than before, but Eli was still determined to ask for Mays hand in marriage. He had waited long enough. He knocked on the door to the big house. Mrs. Berchman answered the door and in her cruel, shrill, bird like voice, and asked what he wanted. Eli asked, "May I speak to Master Berchman? I have something important to ask him." He was lead into a room where May was brushing the mans old, scraggly, beard. He shakily asked if he and May could be wed. Berchman laughed a cruel laugh and with glee in his eyes said no, and, "Get out!" Eli ran out of the house.

With tears in her eyes, May rushed out to look for Eli. When she found him, she told him her plan. They were going to run away. She had heard the overseer tell the boy the path to take to get past the river. The river was deep in most places and full of alligators and snakes, but she thought she could remember where the shallow part was and that they could get there. And they went.

They had almost made it to the river, but May wasn't as fast as the boy had probably been or as fast as Eli was now. It was so dark they couldnt see their hands in front of them. The Spanish Moss was sheets draped around them, making it even harder to see. They were going as fast as they could, trying to put distance between them and the Master they knew would be coming. Then May tripped on a snake like tree branch and sprained her ankle. She knew if she and Eli were caught that they would be hurt by the devil they called Master or worse. She told Eli, "Go, this is your only chance. Keep following the path to the river I told you to follow. Go until you get to the shallow end and keep going. Don't forget about me, but I will only slow you down." Eli didn't know what to do. He was afraid. He was afraid to go on, afraid to go back, and afraid to leave May, but she was determined. She wouldn't take no for an answer, so he went on without her. May heard the rustling of the leaves on the ground and the breaking of branches as he ran away. The sounds slowly faded away until she heard silence. Deafening silence. She had never felt so brave or so scared.

May was now alone. The shadows were closing in, the sounds of the marsh were scaring her, and May was getting cold. She was scared, so scared. Then she heard it. The blood curdling, high pitched bark of the dogs. The Master's dogs. It was like the devil himself and his henchmen were coming for her. "Oh no," May said to herself, "Not the dogs." She tried to run, but it was too painful. She tried to climb a tree, but she didn't have the strength. They caught up to her. The dogs got to her first, and then came the Master. The dogs had her surrounded. The barking was deafening and they were baring their teeth. The daggers that some might call teeth, so sharp that they wouldnt just draw blood, they would kill a person with one bite.

The Master still had the gleam in his eye, the same gleam he had when he refused Eli. It was almost as if he had been happy they had run. He was going to make an example of her. He didn't care what it was going to cost him at this point. He told his overseer, Im not going to lose anymore slaves. Three in one night was enough.

The Master decided that a hanging would be the perfect example. He needed to make it clear no one else was going to run. It was a Thursday when they hanged her. May had been brave, even the townspeople said so. You see, he didnt hang her on his property when they returned, like he usually would have done. This time it was going to be drawn out. He had waited until Thursday and had made sure his slaves were there to watch and an audience had been gathered. The townspeople had felt sorry for May and the slaves were devastated. They knew what kind of man Berchman was.

The spot they hanged May is now in a park, a peaceful park in Savannah. There are benches, and statues to war heroes, and people who like to sit and watch. What they will often see on a Thursday is a young woman dressed in 19th century clothing searching for something and looking north, looking like she is looking for someone. Locals will tell you the tree that May was hanged on is still there and they say that on Thursdays it is May you can see, still in the dress she ran away in, limping through the park, looking for Eli. Even more haunting is that the tree that May was hanged on is the only tree in the park that doesn't have Spanish Moss on it. It is as bare as a skeleton, even in the summer.

Locals say they aren't sure if the tree doesn't have moss because the moss reminds May of the tentacles of Master Berchamns scraggly old beard, or if she is afraid of it because of the night she spent in the marsh. Either way, no one is willing to cut the sad, old tree down. It is where May comes back to every Thursday night and it seems she had suffered enough. The tree where she spent her last moments has become her resting place and as the locals say, We leave her be. She dont bother nobody.

No one really knows what happened to Eli and the boy. After May passed, there were rumors they ended up together. They had met up in the marsh somewhere and went north together. But what is interesting is that in Boston, in the freeman cemetery, near the headstone of an Eli, there is an older man who seems to wear clothes that are not what we wear today, who seems to be always searching for something or someone. The stranger thing is... he only looks south and he is only seen on Thursdays.

The End

Continue to the 2nd place story

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