The Swamp Road Chronicles

"St. Jude's Cemetery Gate"

To The Editor,

I want to share with you a true and terrifying story. I am sending this to you from a public computer at the library in a distant town and I am using an assumed name because I must remain anonymous, as you will soon see. I realize that when I tell you my story you will be skeptical, I don't blame you, I can hardly believe it myself, but I promise you that this story is real.


I used to live on Cherry Lane; I would drive on Swamp Road to get to work and school. My route took me past St. Jude Cemetery on Palmer road as well. One day, as I was passing the cemetery I noticed where someone had driven into the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the graveyard. I later learned that a 16 year- old girl had lost control of her car and hit the fence, doing considerable damage. The fence was one of those old, heavy fences that had spear points on top of the panels; it was well over 100 years old. Very dramatic in appearance and rustic at the same time.


An interesting and creepy side-note to the incident is that she couldn't leave the scene of the accident because the weight of her right front wheel had caused the earth over an old grave to collapse; her wheel dropped down onto the chest of and old woman's corpse. As she spun her wheels in an attempt to flee, she did severe damage to the old woman's body. The township authorities put everything back as it should be. I don't believe the old lady complained to anyone.


After the car was removed from the cemetery and the grave was repaired, the cast-iron gate the teen had knocked down was left leaning against an ancient cedar tree. I drove past there almost every day and I kept seeing that gate leaning against that tree for at least 3 weeks.


I should explain that I was a student of art at Denison University in Granville, with an emphasis on interior decorating and design. I found that gate to be appealing in appearance, the decorative possibilities were many.

I decided that I was going to take that gate and transform it into a head-board for my king-size bed. The gate had such an "air" to it. It had a certain gravitas, a certain air of history and timelessness. I stole it. I know, I shouldn't have done so, but I was sorely tempted, and they weren't using it anyway. Now you can see why I must remain anonymous. The gate was heavy and cumbersome, but I made it to my garage where I sand-blasted it, painted it and added the necessary hardware to connect it to my bed frame. It was magnificent. Meanwhile, the local paper, The Outville Oracle, reported the cemetery gate had been stolen. There were several opinion pieces and letters to the editor about what a "Low-down, no-account piece of human debris" must have done it and prophecies about what the "World was coming to." I didn't care, I really liked my new headboard.


The first night I slept in my bed with the new/old headboard, I didn't sleep well; I tossed and turned and was uneasy all night. The second night was many times worse. I was asleep, it was about 2:30 a.m. and as dark as night; (Oh, wait. It was night.) when I was awakened by a "heaviness" on my chest. I was short of breath and had trouble inhaling. I struggled to sit upright, but I couldn't. I called out, hoarsely and weakly, "Alexa, turn on the bedroom light." With light I could see there were two feet planted on my chest! Attached to the feet were two legs and, further up an old lady!


"Get off me!" I gasped. "Get off me!" She didn't seem to hear me. She had her face very close to the wall and was speaking in a low, earnest way to the wall! I managed to slide to my right and get her off of my chest. She just floated there at the same height above the bed as she had been while happily standing on my chest.

"What are you doing?" I yelled, once I was able to. She turned and looked at me and as she did, another old lady's face appeared from inside the wall and she looked at me too! I thought, "This MUST be a dream."

"Get out of my house!" I shrieked. "Listen, Sonny Boy," she said. "My sister and I have been talking across this old gate every night for nearly 100 years, and we are not about to stop now." The other old lady, apparently the sister, nodded in agreement. I had all I could stand, my nerves were shot. I ran out of the room, slamming the door and went outside and slept in my car.


When I awakened in the morning I assured myself that it had all been a dream, or, more precisely, a nightmare. I resolved to sleep in my own bed and nightmares be darned. Well, as you might expect, I was once again trod upon by the old lady in the middle of the night. I slept in the car again. I know when to give up. That day I took the bed apart and that night I snuck it back over to the cemetery and laid it up against that old cedar tree again, where it had been.


Thankfully, that night I slept very well and was never bothered by the two old gossips again. That week the Outville Oracle reported the return of the fence and there were several opinion pieces and letters to the editor about crazy kids playing practical jokes and the predicted dismal future of the next generation.


I noticed, a few days later, that the old cemetery gate was re-affixed to its proper place and I assume the sisters have continued their nightly, sisterly visits across the cemetery gate.


Thanks for reading my story,


As submitted by Anonymous, July 14, 2023 Athens, Georgia


Copyright 1992-2023, Randal Lenn Hall, All Rights Reserved.